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Thread: Tripod head options

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    Member Jaded62's Avatar
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    Tripod head options

    Hi all.

    For years I've been using a Manfrotto tripod with a 804RC2 pan/tilt head. Its basic and it works.

    Just spent a great 4 days doing a photography workshop with Dean Cooper who uses a GH-Pro geared head. I was impressed with the precision and ease of use of this device. Just wondering if any of you use a geared head and if so, what model is it and would you recommend it.

    Cheers,

    Mark
    Canon 5Ds, 16-35mm F4 L, 24-105mm F4 L.
    https://mrorchard.myportfolio.com

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    good cheap ballhead: Manfrotto 468MG series.

    With the note that you have the RC2 series plates, my recommendation would be to dump this plate system!(been there, done that )

    I'm not a big fan of Manfrotto, their gear is on the OK-ish side of usable.
    Their RC4 plates are OK, but still not ideal. Their video plates are very strong, but bulky without any real advantage.

    I think I saw that they now also do Arca Swiss style dovetail plate types too now... much better system, more secure, and rigid latching system(than Manfrottos).

    I've had my 'equivalent' 468MG head for a good 10+ years now(I think maybe 13 .. can't remember).
    At first I thought it was great, nice to use, easy to set it up precisely .. but I was wrong.
    I used to do primarily landscapes, and not mush else. Then I started doing a bit of macro, and then more macro. Once I started doing > 1x magnification, basically all my current gear at that stage was junk.
    Usable, but hard to use.
    I then got a Really Right Stuff BH-55, recommended as 'the bees knees'. Load of rubbish .. just more(but expensive) junk. It's very good as a landscape ballhead, but for > 1x magnification .. pretty much hopeless.

    I switched between the RRS BH-55 and back to the 468MG and tested each to see which was more appropriate.
    Note that my 468MG is actually a National Geographic version of the same thing, only difference is that the NG model has a rubber boot over the ball to keep it cleaner.
    Main issue with the 468MG was 'drop', and I had to do something about it.
    What I mean by drop is when you set up the frame with a slight amount of looseness in the ball, find your framing then lock the head down.
    Drop is when you lock it down tight to make it rigid, but the framing then 'drops'.
    BH-55 had less drop than the 468, but still did so. 468 for macro was almost unusable.

    Pulled it apart and found it was 'full of some kind of greasy goop'. Not actually full of it, but enough to probably cause it's issues.
    BH-55 has an exposed ball, so I could see it was clear and clean.
    Anyhow, pulled the 468MG apart, and basically soaked it with carby cleaner and then WD-40 .. I ran out of both over the course of an afternoon, soaking the head with the stuff.
    I sprayed it until no more of this black goop got ejected from the internals, and then let it dry.
    A world of difference!
    Turned out to be a totally different device.
    Allowed perfectly precise framing in high magnification scenes, where a millimeter of movement of the head results in loss of framing on the subject.

    I've also seen that Manfrotto have since added a higher end ballhead above the 468MG, where the 468MG series was top product back when I got it. This new model is the 057, and seems to have a ball at least double the size of the 468MG.
    Care still needs to be taken with the 468MG tho, it's not what you'd call rigid, BH-55 is a bit lot more rigid for when it comes time to actually shoot. DSLR, mirror slap, etc. 468MG can be made to be usable, but more care is required .. mirror lockup, delay, etc, and images can come out fine.
    But ever since I've cleaned the 468MG of it's black goop, framing has then been a breeze. I like the setup workflow of this head, in that it's 'one handed' with the lockdown/tuning adjuster. Pan is a separate item, but that's less relevant for precise framing.

    Never used a 057 head, but it looks more like the BH-55 in that you need to adjust one adjuster, then adjust another, whilst it's still one handed, getting the hand to the right adjuster is less efficient.
    With the 468MG, your hand is on the main lockdown adjuster, and you tweak it's resistance with the hydrostatic tweaking knob which relieves a miniscule amount of resistance and allows you to frame by the millimeter.
    Much easier than the BH-55.

    Don't get me wrong, the BH-55 is a good ballhead. No where near the money they ask for it tho, I think better ballheads exist for the money. it is rigid tho, which is something that is needed at times.

    What you need is really dependent on what you do.
    If you do landscapes .. just about any head will do really. You're generally at low magnifications, so rigidity and precision of framing isn't that much of an issue.
    If you do macro, more precise and more rigid is better, although you can work around each of these issues, the more annoying one to deal with is precision.

    A good ballhead can give you very precise movement if it's a well designed product. Obviously not as well as a geared head, but then again even geared heads can be designed with too coarse adjustments.
    IN saying that, I still have the intention to get myself one as well.
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  3. #3
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    Jaded62's Avatar
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    Thanks again Arthur for the detailed response. I have looked at the 486MG but it seems heavy for the load capacity in comparison to others. The 057 is heavier still. I'm leaning toward the FLM CB-43 FTR at this point.

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Ah! OK, you don't want something bigger and heavier too.

    I was looking for FLM ball heads myself too(some years ago), but were harder to get, than the RRS ballhead.
    I have a link to a ballhead comparo done on DPR some years back, but hard to find in the morass that is my bookmarks compilation!
    FLM 58(something or other) came out on top of many higher priced, better known brands.

    ps. treat weight ratings with many grains of salt too. In real(life) terms, they are meaningless.
    The only real world usage of them is for example to understand that a micro ballhead designed for a actioncam type device(GoPro, etc) won't really work well if you try to mount a DSLR on it.

    I can't recall the exact weight rating of the MG ballhead, but it in real life it was pretty useless. If I hung anything off it, with a bit of leverage(I have a slider arm accessory) it would droop very easily due to whatever the greasy stuff they used in it.
    Post cleanup tho, it's near impossible to get any droop from it.

    There is a site called the centre column, reviews camera support devices.
    If you want a mid sized ballhead, off their info, the Markins Q10i would be the product to go for(obviously depending on your budget too tho).
    They don't have a review for the FLM43, but do for the FLM58(bigger sister!), and the smaller 48mm Markins scored higher(stiffness) than the bigger 58mm FLM ballhead. Wouldn't be illogical to assume that the smaller FLM would score lower again.

    If you want the biggest-best ballhead, Feisol CB-70D is the one to get. 1kg weight tho, so not for everyone.

    My future plans: get CB-70 to replace both MG468 and RRS BH55, for use on the massive Leofoto tripod.
    Once two older ones sold, get Markins Q10i(for more hiking friendly usage, on the Gitzo)

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    Ausphotography Veteran Boo53's Avatar
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    I couldn't give anywhere near as much detail as Arthur, that's a really good post.

    I have, however, gone the way of getting a manfrotto head with an arca Swiss plate.

    I have 1 manfrotto tripod which is great to set up, and the head really suits some styles of shooting, but the manfrotto plate is a pain as all my other gear is arca Swiss.

    I particularly have a peak designs capture clamp on the shoulder straps of all my backpacks and love them but they need a specific type of arca Swiss.

    My heavier tripod is a Benro which is 10+ years old and the head I had on it came apart in Central Australia a few months ago (try finding small screws and springs in the red dirt at sunset 10km the other side of Kings Canyon)

    I found a new head that suited my needs but it was a manfrotto and I really didn't want to have 2 tripods with the manfrotto plate and the capture brackets with arca.

    I found Manfrotto made the head that suited me with an arca plate, which is good, ordered it and like it, but the arca Swiss model was $300, the identical with a manfrotto plate was $200.

    I got my Manfrotto tripod in Alice Springs about 5 years ago, at Harvey Norman. I was just browsing whilst my wife was shopping and saw the tripod. Picked it up and didn't look too bad. Checked the price and it seemed remarkably cheap. Wandered outside of the store and did a Google search on the model and could not get anywhere near the price, so clearly someone had put the wrong sticker on it. Whether I bought it knowing it was a mistake or someone else who didn't know the right price bought it wasn't going to make any difference to HN so I bought it for about $100 under the cheapest anywhere else.

    So I guess I'm even with Manfrotto in the long run
    Last edited by Boo53; 25-01-2020 at 1:35pm.

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