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Thread: Help choosing a tripod head, please

  1. #1

    Help choosing a tripod head, please

    I bought some carbon fiber legs (Giottos 8180) in Atlanta a few weeks ago. I would like to find a head with quick-release plates that I can use 35mm, MF, and 4x5 (Speed Graphic for now, probably a different field camera in the near future) on so that I only have to take one tripod when I travel.

    I think that I might like to go with a ball head. Is there a head that will work with all 3 formats?

    Thanks in advance for your help.

  2. #2

    Help choosing a tripod head, please

    Anne, the best tripod head I've found is the Bogen 410 compact geared head. Although I primarily bought it for 4x5 use, it works well for 35mm and even with my old Rollei. You can make very fine adjustments in the three axies independently. Switching over from horizontal to vertical is surprisingly fast, using the coarse adjustment knobs. (I also use the horizontal orientation when I need to shoot with the Rollei at eye level.) Street price should be around $150+. Be sure to get an extra mounting plate or two.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Sep 1998

    Help choosing a tripod head, please

    A quick release can be added to any head very easily. You can get a true quick release where the plate locks as soon as it touches the base so you don't have to secure it by tightening a knob or you can get a quick fastening system where the plate is secure after tightening a knob. The first is usually less accident prone then the second.

    Giotto's makes several ball and pan heads. The 5001 pan head does have a built-in quick release using Giotto's plates. The MH1000, 2000 or 3000 Giotto's ball heads all accept any quick release system.

    Novoflex makes several types of quick releases and quick mounts systems for any tripod heads. The Q=Base is a fully automatic locking quick release for Arca plates, the Q=Mount is a quick fastening system for Arca plates, the MC and MR PROFI are fully automatic systems for Novoflex plates and the MC-MR is a quick fastening system also for Novoflex plates. Novoflex plates are small round plates about the diameter of a quarter.

    Linhof makes two fully automatic quick release systems for Linhof plates.

    Kaiser makes a HD ball head with a built-in automatic quick release.

    Novoflex, Linhof and Kaiser all make ball heads that accept any quick release that will easily do what you need. Linhof also makes ball heads with their quick release system built-in.

    Hope you enjoy your tripod.

  4. #4

    Help choosing a tripod head, please

    I would highly recommend an Acratech ultimate ballhead (see These are beautifully made and extremely light (under 1 lb). I have tried all sorts of other heads and very little comes close. The Arca Swiss ballhead is very nice too, but costs a lot more and is double the weight. The Really Right Stuff ballhead is supposedly a very nice piece of gear too, but there is a six week waiting list for one and it is also close to double the weight of the Acratech head, as well as costing a lot more. These heads all utilize Arca Swiss type quick release plates. For convenience, you should have a specific plate attached to each camera you own. This system probably costs a little more to get into, because of the higher cost of these ballheads and the fact that you really need a plate for each camera you own, but in the long run, it will probably save you money - you may never need another tripod head again. My travel outfit is a Gitzo 1227 CF tripod with an Acratech head on it - I use it with all my cameras - right up to a fairly heavy 4X5 field camera.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Sep 2001

    Help choosing a tripod head, please


    I tried, but didn't like using a ballhead with a 4x5 camera. The bogen geared head is very good, but if you want to keep your system lightweight Manfrotto makes a magnesium pan head that might suit your needs.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2004

    Help choosing a tripod head, please

    All else being equal a pan-tilt head would be best, but... I'll second the motion for the Acratech ballhead, which I use on a Gitzo 1227.

  7. #7
    Photo Dilettante Donald Brewster's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2000
    Malibu, CA

    Help choosing a tripod head, please

    Lots of solid advice -- as always a personal preference. I like ballheads for the smaller formats, and the Bogen/Manfrotto 410 jr. geared head for 4x5. As others have mentioned, a I find a ballhead is difficult to use for large format. I took the gearheads way out and have both. It is easy to switch the heads. That said, if I had to pick just one I'd probably go with the 410 geared head, though the Arca Swiss type quick release system is superior to the Bogen quick release plates.

  8. #8

    Help choosing a tripod head, please

    A third for the Acratech!

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Jun 2002

    Help choosing a tripod head, please

    The Acratech can be abit too light if you buy a larger camera. The benchmark is the Arca-Swiss B1 ball head, and the quick release systems based on the Arca-Swiss system are the most solid and universal. Really Right Stuff makes the best after-market Arca-Swiss quick releases, which can be retro-fitted to most other heads. All of this is expensive stuff, but you only have to purchase it once in a lifetime.

    If you want to economize, why not stick with the Giottos ballhead? I had one and it wasn't bad at all, although you get what you pay for.

  10. #10

    Help choosing a tripod head, please


    I use an Acratech on a Gitzo 1227 for an Ebony S45U. I also used it on my Arca Swiss F-line Field. It is fine for any 4X5 camera. I actually just sold my Arca Swiss B1 and bought another Acratech - I don't intend shooting bigger than 4X5 - only if I did would I consider another Arca. I find the Acratech head more intuitive to use and have never had any issues with slippage or resting creep. Also, you can use it in a dust storm and simply wipe it afterwards (I actually used it on the beach in a pretty reasonable breeze some time ago). I have no issues with the AS, but it is 35% more expensive and weighs double - those two factors count against it very heavily.

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