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View Full Version : Are ball heads just a new fad?



ericantonio
11-Apr-2008, 12:08
When I was assisting back in the 80's, nobody used ball heads with 4x5's and 8x10s. Well, it was 99.9% studio work anyway.
Now that I'm using these formats for my personal stuff, I noticed people with 4x5's really want to use ball heads. Is it just sexy to use? I try it on my Cambo 4x5 (its pretty light), but I really don't see much of an advantage.

BTW, I'm home from oral surgery and taking vicodin. Maybe I'm just being a little silly today.

Daniel_Buck
11-Apr-2008, 12:09
I love using a ball head on my smaller cameras, but on 4x5 and 8x10 it's just awkward.

roteague
11-Apr-2008, 12:13
I never use a ball head on any camera. Since I photograph the ocean quite a lot, I need to extra careful to keep the horizon level - something I have trouble doing with a ball head.

Ole Tjugen
11-Apr-2008, 12:37
I only use ball heads - for exactly the same reason that Robert states for not using ball heads...

Ron Marshall
11-Apr-2008, 13:04
For my lightweight hiking kit my 1 lb ballhead is great. For my 5x7 I use a sinar pan tilt that is wonderful.

David A. Goldfarb
11-Apr-2008, 13:09
I think the attraction for the field and travel is the compactness and high strength-to-weight ratio of ballheads, which isn't as important in the studio.

ericantonio
11-Apr-2008, 13:34
I think the attraction for the field and travel is the compactness and high strength-to-weight ratio of ballheads, which isn't as important in the studio.

But I'll get a better workout if I use a 3 way head :)

lenser
11-Apr-2008, 14:37
Other folks love them, I don't use them even though I own a fine light weight Gitzo head.

Every time I try to adjust one axis, I mess up one of the others. It's seems like a never ending cycle.

The only thing close that I use is one of the Bogen hand grip types with the rotation at the base. That one I can use with smaller cameras.

The Gitzo head is relegated to a 1'x2' board for extreme low angle one the ground) shooting and I use that less than a hand full of times in a year.

I'm just better off with the handle and geared heads.

Tim

mrladewig
11-Apr-2008, 15:23
I use a ballhead because it is light and strong, but I prefer a panning head. I typically hike my camera to where I'm going to shoot, so the weight is important.

roteague
11-Apr-2008, 16:34
I only use ball heads - for exactly the same reason that Robert states for not using ball heads...

Good Point, Ole. One size doesn't fit all. Because it doesn't work for one person, doesn't mean it won't work for another.

Eric Woodbury
11-Apr-2008, 17:21
I think vicodin is a fad. That stuff makes me stupid. For oral surgery, I prefer Aleve and bourbon.

Dave Parker
11-Apr-2008, 23:54
Well I have been using various ball heads for over 25 years now, so no, I don't think it is a fad, but the photographer has to decide what is right for them.

Dave

tombob
12-Apr-2008, 01:53
i find it difficalt to trust the design to be honest, i'm a fan of big chunky 3 way heads - old skool technology! trusting a slim piece of metal on a socket joint with my wista scares me to much

Anupam
12-Apr-2008, 05:31
I use them for:
Arca style QR
Weight
Compatibility across various format cameras I use.

ericantonio
12-Apr-2008, 07:02
I think vicodin is a fad. That stuff makes me stupid. For oral surgery, I prefer Aleve and bourbon.
My wife thought I was on esctasy. I was a lot more stupid than before I was taking it.
My gums feel good though, don't hurt at all.

John Voss
12-Apr-2008, 08:06
I've preferred a pan/tilt head over a ball head (except for my 6x6 for which it's fine) for greater precision until I recently got a geared head (from John Kasaian...thanks, John) that beats both p/t and ball. It's the Bogen 410 and it's the easiest of all for both gross and fine adjustments that I've ever used. Because LF cameras don't need to be flopped on their sides, there's usually not a lot of adjustment to make anyway, and the geared head makes that small adjustment a breeze. (It's a lot cheaper than a good ball head too!)

Capocheny
12-Apr-2008, 09:48
Hi Eric,

Didn't like the Arca B1 head but I do like the B2 version... both are ball heads. :)

I didn't like the B1 because you couldn't control one axis without disturbing another axis when making adjustments. However, you can do so on the B2 head.

No, I don't think ball heads are a fad... they've been around for a very long time and will be continue to be. It's all about personal choices... likes and dislikes!

BTW, have you considered the Manfrotto 405 or 410 geared heads? If your camera is pretty light... look at the 410. If you need a bit more support... look at the 405. IMHO, they're both great heads and I regret selling mine off! Just another option! :)

Cheers

Frank Petronio
12-Apr-2008, 09:52
For airline travel it is really nice not to have clunky handles to be knocked off and bent, so even in the 80s when I did annual report type work I used a B1, even with a 4x5. But I do prefer heads like the Gitzo 3-ways for large format.

A good compromise for 4x5 at least (it isn't big enough for 8x10) is the Linhof 3-way because it uses compact and nearly flush levers rather than the big dorky knobs and handles. It seems like it will hold up better than the ball heads, which are prone to damage from impact and grit.

Peter J. De Smidt
12-Apr-2008, 11:16
I love my B1 for 35mm and small medium format cameras, but I can't stand using it with large format. For that I use a Sinar pan/tilt for my Sinar. If you have a Sinar, you'd really like that head. I wouldn't use it for other cameras. I have an old Gitzo rational 5 head with a big honking mounting plate. It great for 8x10 filed cameras. Only one of the knobs stick out a bunch. There's no good reason for it to stick out that far. For light cameras, Manfrotto make a cheap pan/tilt head with knobs that aren't on the end's of poles. I really like this head on top of a carbon fiber tripod for travel work. It's less than $30 new. I also have a Manfrotto 410 geared head, but I haven't used it much. I'll be getting a 4x5 field camera in a few months, and I think I'll give it a try with that.

At work we use mainly Gitzo ball heads and Majestic heads. I really dislike the Gitzos.

john borrelli
12-Apr-2008, 13:12
I never used A ball head with a large format camera until I returned my Tachihara and bought an Arca

Ben Chase
12-Apr-2008, 13:23
I've used the same Arca Swiss B1 for the past 6 years, back when I was shooting 35mm, then 6x7 on a Mamiya RZ, and now 4x5 on a TK45s.

It still works like a champ.

john borrelli
12-Apr-2008, 13:31
Sorry about my previous post; here is the unabridged version. I never used a ball head until I returned my Tachihara and bought an Arca swiss Discovery. The Arca Swiss B1 clamps on to the camera with the most solid connection, there is never any wiggle. It might be like Peter noted with his Sinar that certain cameras work well with certain tripod heads.

mdd99
12-Apr-2008, 14:56
Bogen's junior geared head (410) is a nice compromise between ball and 3-way tilt heads--and easier to be more precise.

timparkin
12-Apr-2008, 15:36
I use a BH55 (Really Right Stuff) with my 45SU and it is very, very stable and progressive in it's applicaiton of tension. Although saying that I would like the perfect pan and tilt if there was one. if yo want fine adjustments of composition, shift and rise/fall does the trick!

Tim

p.s. a UK photographer, Joe Cornish, is regularly using either a BH55 or an Acratech II depending on distance needed to hike.

Sal Santamaura
12-Apr-2008, 15:48
I've been through a number of ball heads. Arca B1, B2. Burzynski. Still use the B1 for medium format but, for large format up through 8x10, now put a Linhof 3663 + Really Right Stuff Arca-type long lever release clamp atop a Gitzo GT3530LSV. That head/clamp combination is in the same weight/volume league as a B1. The only application for which I find it inadequate is 11x14, where a large Slik Professional 3-way Panhead plus much heavier tripod do the trick. The Slik is very massive but I don't transport 11x14 on trails so that's not a problem.

Mattg
12-Apr-2008, 21:12
I've recently started using an Arca Z1 with my Arca 6x9. I am fastidious about levelling the camera and wasn't sure if I'd be able to make it work with a ball head.

I've found that if I level the horizon first I can easily level the camera in pitch by using the end of the monorail that sticks out a long way from the axis of the head. If I only apply force on the monorail I can restrict the movement of the camera to pitch only. Works a charm every time, the horizon is never disturbed.

joolsb
13-Apr-2008, 02:04
p.s. a UK photographer, Joe Cornish, is regularly using either a BH55 or an Acratech II depending on distance needed to hike.

Although most of the time he uses a Manfrotto 410 geared head - as does David Ward (another noted UK LF pro).

I recently acquired a 410 and the difference in ease-of-use is remarkable. In fact, it was so easy, I don't think I shall be going back to using a ballhead for LF.

Charles Hohenstein
13-Apr-2008, 14:01
Is the Manfrotto 410 geared head strong enough to support a heavy 4x5 such as a Technika? It seems to be billed as a medium format head, but I keep hearing good things about them and the weight doesn't seem to be too bad.

Vick Vickery
13-Apr-2008, 14:11
I'm in the boat with many of the folks above: I like the ballhead with my 35mm's, the Hasselblad, and even the Super Graphic, but use other heads for anything heavier or more arkward line the Cambo rail camera...but I admit that the only ballhead I have is on my "light" tripod, a Davis and Sanford DRG that can be used with heavier cameras in a pinch, but is the lightest tripod I own!

Vick Vickery
13-Apr-2008, 14:13
"LINE" in my post above should have been "like"...I oughta proof these things before I post 'em!

Capocheny
13-Apr-2008, 14:26
Is the Manfrotto 410 geared head strong enough to support a heavy 4x5 such as a Technika? It seems to be billed as a medium format head, but I keep hearing good things about them and the weight doesn't seem to be too bad.

Hi Charles,

IMHO, you might get away with using the Technika on the 410 but I think the 405 is a much better route to go with this heavier camera.

I used the 410 with a Dorff 8x10 for a very short while and, although it worked, I never really felt comfortable with the setup.

Just my 2 cents worth. :)

Cheers

timparkin
14-Apr-2008, 16:12
Although most of the time he uses a Manfrotto 410 geared head - as does David Ward (another noted UK LF pro).

I recently acquired a 410 and the difference in ease-of-use is remarkable. In fact, it was so easy, I don't think I shall be going back to using a ballhead for LF.

Joe was showing me a few broken and very wobbly manfrottos and seemed to be suggesting that although he would like to use the 410, it isn't as stable as a good ballhead, is heavier and is ultimately less reliable. I'd love to use a three way if it wasn't a compromise of some sort. I'll vote stability/reliability/weight over ease of use but I can see others may think differently ...

Tim

Martin K
15-Apr-2008, 09:04
Never liked ballheads till I bought one of the Manfrotto hydrostatic jobs. Now I am sold.