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Thread: Geared Heads - Help Please

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    Geared Heads - Help Please

    Hi people, I'm wanting to upgrade from my current PhotClam ballhead to a geared head for interiors/architectural work and need some advice or reviews.

    As much as I would love something like the RRS or Arcaswiss cube I can not justify $1500+ for a head. Other options I know of are the Manfrotto 405 and cheaper smaller 410. Has anyone used or owned either of these?
    Any other suggestions? Many thanks!

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    Member KeeFy's Avatar
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    What is your budget and the kind of gear going on? Considering it's interior and architecture. You don't need that big of a ballehead.

    Markins, Really Right Stuff and Kirk have good ballheads for about $400 and will hold up to a 3KG telephoto lens easily.

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    Yeah its not so much about the weight, my PhotoClam is on par with the Markins and Kirk. Its more about the accuracy in tilt etc. Geared head allows me that, ballhead means a LOT of fiddling, and guesstimation.

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    Sorry i misread your question previously regarding a geared head. Photoclam makes a geared head as well. It's called multiflex. Have you considered that?
    Last edited by KeeFy; 11-10-2011 at 9:34pm.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KeeFy View Post
    Sorry i misread your question previously regarding a geared head. Photoclam makes a geared head as well. It's called multiflex. Have you considered that?
    Yeah except I cant actually find where to buy one! They dont even sell it on their direct website! Plus its like $1500....

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OwenS View Post
    ..... Its more about the accuracy in tilt etc. Geared head allows me that, ballhead means a LOT of fiddling, and guesstimation.
    Actually, you would be amazed and surprised at how accurate a 'proper ballhead' can be and an excellent ballhead such as an RRS will allow you millimeter perfect accuracy for lining up the framing.

    If you're used to using relatively cheap ballheads that sag and droop by a mil her and a micron there, it's because it's not that good... even tho it was good enough for a purpose way back when your needs were not so demanding!
    I don't know what type of ballhead you currently use, but the Hydrostatic system of the RRS is miles ahead of any of the lesser quality items and allows you super fine control over vertical and tilt movements.
    Hydrostatic is a system where some hydraulic like substance causes the friction of the locking mechanism, and a hydrostatic system allows a very fine control over the pressure.. in addition to the normal pressure control of the ball heads locking mechanism.

    I went from a Manfrotto 488, to one of their larger 468 Hydrostatic ballheads and(with a caveat) the ability to control the very fine adjustments was amazing going from the 488 to the 468.
    The caveat was that the 468 is still not a very good ballhead, as far as the top of the range heads go, but at least it was miles better than the smaller 488. This was way back when.
    Having since played with two RRS BH55's, the difference between this and the pathetic(by comparison to the BH-55!) is immediately obvious!

    The problem with the Manfrotto is the dreaded droop or sag. Not that it eventually sags due to a heavy lens/camera combo. It's more about that you set the hydrostatic adjuster to allow you super fine framing control, and you eventually get there quite easily. The allows you the ability to move with a little, but not much) force, but it's not like a semi locked ballhead in that if left it will drop or flip on 'ya. It sits still for ya and you then lock it down tight. It's easy peasy .. or it's supposed to be, except on the manfrotto(468) when you lock it down via the main locking knob, the framing then moves by a fraction.
    For most people this is 'acceptable' or within their required needs, but (and I know from a bit of experience with interior/architectural shoots) that small amount ends up meaning an architrave or door jam is missed and you have to start it all over again! been there done that .. you have to try it with 2-3x macro to understand the infuriating frustration it causes.

    RRS BH-55 will not do this, it's by far the best ballhead I've ever played with.. even tho those plays were only brief, it's as good as the Manfrotto 400(that I've briefly played with too .. albeit only in the shop)
    it was a good head, and I like it a lot better than the 405 they also had, as it felt more 'solid'. The gangly cantilever design of the 405 series looked less stable .. I would never consider it(irrespective of any favourable reviews it may receive). The considerable bulk of the 400 looked to be worth the effort if you do choose a geared head.
    But it felt old and slow and cumbersome, if you compare it to the RRS ballheads .. which still allow you a similar level of finesse in adjustment.
    For buildings works, I think the set up speed of the RRS would be a better choice, and only for the set up speed.

    The only time I'd choose a geared head over the RRS was if I were doing proper macro photography.. and a lot of it. I'm talking 3x and beyond stuff where you want the framing of a subject to be spot exact, to 1/3mm or so. Usually it doesn't matter too much, as you could loosely frame a little wider and crop a mil off the sides here or there, but for exactness, as you said, nothing can beat the exacting ability of a ballhead.

    BUT!! If you do go with a high quality ballhead instead, I'd recommend at least one sliding (or geared rail) to match it up with. A geared rail allows you to finely tune the framing with the same precision as you get with a geared head, and a sliding rail is a free movement device AND they only work on level planes .... fore aft, or side to side, but NOT tilt and yaw as a geared head does.

    After all of that, I did find that Vanbar(ages ago, when they were still at their Carlton address) had a Manfrotto 410 for about $700 or so, and I cant' remember if it actually came with the required (RC5) plate, but the demo model they had on the floor did have one.
    I seriously thought about it as an option, as I already have a lot of RC5 plates.. but to be honest, I'm totally over Manfrotto. Not that they're not good, they are, but only GOOD.. ie. not 'excellent' to the same degree of quality and ability of the RRS.
    (as they say, you get what you pay for!)

    And now.. separate to all of this too! .... Does your PhotClam ballhead, have a greased up or lubed ballhead? If so.. first point of call is to clean it all off. I used WD40 on my two mafrottos(yeah! I never chuck anything out! ) .. and they do work a whole lot better. The 488 was hard to strip down to all of it's parts, so I simply dowsed it with a can of WD and kept wiping and spraying. Eventually it look all clean of any lube looking goop, and it did help it to stay locked down (hopeless ballhead). But the 468 ballhead stripped down more readily,and I cleaned it to the point of it all being shiny new aluminium/magnesium parts. And the panning locking knob had scored the base of the casting too! I ground it down a bit to stop it from causing annoyance too.
    A lot better, stiffer when needed, and minimal droop when using a really big lens hung beyond the centre of gravity, but it still drops when tightening down unfortunately.

    For 99% of general usage, it's acceptable, as that last millimeter of framing doesn't usually matter. It's now only with macro photography that it's annoying me. Haven't done much of that lately either.

    A couple more $K's of outstanding debts to concern myself with, and then hopefully a fully recovered Aussie dollar, and I'm probably going to order my RRS bits that I've been wanting.

    If you aren't in a major hurry, do a bit of researching on the RRS(or any other) appropriately designed and built ballheads and paraphernalia, before you commit all your money.

    if you are definite abut the ballhead, have a look at the 400 series from manfrotto.
    Haven't been into Vanbar since early this year, and it has been close to two years since I saw it there, so I have no idea if they still have it or stock it. But I remember it being close to $700 or was it $900?? Cant' remember, but had it been close to $1K, I doubt I'd have been interested, as this is how much all the RRS gear is going to cost me(ballhead/clamp/5 plates/and maybe a rail)
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    Quote Originally Posted by OwenS View Post
    Hi people, I'm wanting to upgrade from my current PhotClam ballhead to a geared head for interiors/architectural work and need some advice or reviews.

    As much as I would love something like the RRS or Arcaswiss cube I can not justify $1500+ for a head. Other options I know of are the Manfrotto 405 and cheaper smaller 410. Has anyone used or owned either of these?
    Any other suggestions? Many thanks!
    I've used the Manfrotto mini geared head the 410 for the last 15 years. I shoot a great deal of architectural work and its my one and only head. Its simply fantastic for very accurate adjustments. Its even better at producing multiple images that can be easily stitched together.

    I'd certainly give it a very big tick of approval.

    I do also have a very good Benro ballhead (Model: B-0+PU40) , and while I have various Benro ( Model: PC-0) items that are self levelling heads, and attachments for proper stitched style work. Their quick release plates and associated items are very similar to the RRS, but at a fraction of the RRS price - the Benro Australian stockist is http://www.photo-shop-studio.com/eng...emClass2=BENRO

    However, I find the Manfrotto 410 a great deal more accurate and easier to guarantee exact placement of the head.
    William

    www.longshots.com.au

    I am the PhotoWatchDog

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    To ArthurKing, yeah my PhotoClam is a hydrostatic one just like a lot of the other high end ballheads. Its great but it really isnt easy to make small incremental adjustments in either direction. Its all a lot of fiddling and guess work and luck, and well none of those really cut it for architectural work im realising
    As for RRS, I REALLY want one of their TVC-33 tripods! Amazing.

    Manfrotto 410's are going for about $240 on ebay, $200 from b&h so really quite cheap considering people are getting 15 years out of them like Longshots!

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    if you mention the words 'guesswork' and 'accuracy' of framing in the same sentence, then I'm assuming that your ballhead is also probably greased up.
    I think they do this to make it more fluid(feeling) because aluminium against aluminium is not a very smooth tactile affair. So they grease 'em up to make them feel like new when new, but they quickly feel like goop when nearly new!

    if yours has grease, try cleaning it out first, clean it well and pretty thoroughly with say WD-40 and try to leave a clean film of WD on the ball if you can.

    Probably the main thing you may hopefully notice is that you don't subsequently need to force the main locking knob down as much to get a slightly rigid ball lock situation.
    This is something I instantly noticed when I cleaned out mine, but when locked down tighter for that secure locked head feeling, it then reframed itself(almost always downwards).

    For $200 you really can't go wrong with a 410 tho.

    I'm also a big fan of Benro tripods and heads(that I've seen and played with).

    While really exotic tripod legs are all fun and dandy, the reality(and what impresses me) is that quality at an affordable price makes more sense.
    Carbon Benro's at half the regular top end prices are much more satisfying.

    Note tho, while what William says about the plates(being similar too) each other type, as they are all supposedly "Arca Swiss compatible" they're not always fully compatible with each other(but generally are).

    Someone once took the time to compile a compatibility table of Arca Swiss quick release plates!
    (weird but true, and who is more weird, the guy that undertook such a seriously weird, but appreciated task, or the guy that's bookmarked it, but has trouble finding those bookmarks

    The quality of the aluminium used in the RRS and other top shelf plates and tripod toppings is always more superior on the higher priced American offerings tho!

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    When I said similar I wasnt intending to imply that they should be compatible (my apologies - error in choice of words) - although I can see that being understood. I meant more that the quality of the Benro bits and pieces, their associated plates, L Plates, and Panaromic Clamps is something that I've been impressed with the quality. Yes they are produced in China. Yes I use them and can attest to being very happy with them. The Benro tripod I bought at the same time is tall (always tricky to find a tall tripod that is sturdy, not heavy, and yet workable), and simply great value for money. I'd have to check as to which model number it is - it isnt carbon though.

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