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Thread: Ball Head for Large Format?

  1. #1

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    Ball Head for Large Format?

    I recently attended a Workshop where several people were shooting Large Format, and was surprised that most seemed to be using ball heads on their tripods. A peek through the "Show me your LF camera" thread shows that is seems to be the preferred system -- again a surprise.
    I've never been able to successfully use a ball head with any view camera. 35mm and digitals, yes; Rolleis, yes; even Speed Graphics so long as I'm using the viewfinder but not if I'm using the ground glass to focus and compose.
    Anybody care to comment?
    Wilhelm (Sarasota)

  2. #2

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    Re: Ball Head for Large Format?

    I use a cheap Smith-Victor BH-8. It's plenty strong for a very heavy Toyo 810G monorail and it cost a whopping $59. For a lightweight 4x5 a BH-2 works fine for me.

  3. #3
    Les
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    Re: Ball Head for Large Format?

    I've never been able to successfully use a ball head with any view camera.

    Why not ? I don't use a ball-head (yet), but am aware that some of them, such as larger FLM type, Arca-Swiss or older Linhoff are capable of doing the job. Well, perhaps not on something like 11x14 or larger. Hmmm, maybe I'm delusional ?

    Les

  4. #4
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Re: Ball Head for Large Format?

    I have one that will easily handle a 4x5 but I VASTLY prefer a geared head. I really want a head that moves in one axis at a time. I actually think a geared head is faster to use than a ball head for LF because it is less fiddly.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    at age 67
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  5. #5
    EOTS's Avatar
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    Re: Ball Head for Large Format?

    I'm into the RRS BH-55 for my 4x5 ...
    perfectly stable and vibrance dampening ballhead.
    Perhaps on the heavier side circa 850g

    For 8x10 however i prefer 3-way heads,
    because the massive beast of an Toyo 810M
    plus lens is tedious to position otherwise...

    Best regards,
    Martin

  6. #6
    Unwitting Thread Killer Ari's Avatar
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    Re: Ball Head for Large Format?

    Ball heads are smaller, lighter and less bulky than 3-way heads; if a ball head can do a good job of keeping things steady, then it's a matter of personal preference whether or not to use a ball head.
    I used a Manfrotto 229 for many years, and loved it, but once I found the right ball head, it added to my enjoyment of shooting, since I could now take the tripod/ball head anywhere, and carry it for hours without complaint as to weight.

    With respect to LF, having a ball head that can move one (or more) axis independently is priceless; as far as I know, FLM and Arca-Swiss are the only manufacturers to have introduced such equipment.

  7. #7

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    Re: Ball Head for Large Format?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill_1856 View Post
    A peek through the "Show me your LF camera" thread shows that is seems to be the preferred system -- again a surprise.
    One of the most recent cameras in that thread is mine, mounted on a Arca Swiss Z1 ballhead. That head just happened to be on the tripod when I took the picture I have used a Manfrotto geared head with two monorail cameras. Tried the ballhead, but found it awfull to use. However I'm going to try that Toyo field with the ballhead. Would make life easier if I could use the same head for all formats when shooting outdoors. Geared head is my choice for any format when shooting inanimate objects in the studio.

  8. #8
    Christopher Barrett's Avatar
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    Re: Ball Head for Large Format?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk Gittings View Post
    I have one that will easily handle a 4x5 but I VASTLY prefer a geared head. I really want a head that moves in one axis at a time. I actually think a geared head is faster to use than a ball head for LF because it is less fiddly.
    Yup.

  9. #9
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    Re: Ball Head for Large Format?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk Gittings View Post
    I really want a head that moves in one axis at a time.
    +1

    OTOH, if a ball head is what works for you, that's cool too.

  10. #10

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    Re: Ball Head for Large Format?

    Like almost everything we discuss, it's a question of trade-offs and compromises. I think almost every one of us would prefer to use a geared head, but the Manfrottos weigh much more than most ball heads, and the Arca geared heads cost about 3 times the equivalent ball head. So I, and many others, use a sub-optimal ball head to save weight and expense. Others compromise with non-geared 3-way heads, or perhaps the non-geared but lockable in separate dimensions ball heads that Ari distributes.

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