View Full Version : Greater ease of use with tripod head?

Leonard Evens
15-Sep-2005, 10:17
I've been doing large format photography for about four years now. Before that I used a Horseman Technical 980 (6 x 9) with a Tilt-All Pro tripod I bought over 30 years ago, which I've found more than adequate for supporting my Toho FC-45X. The tripod weighs about 5 1/2 pounds, which is important to me because of herniated discs and spinal stenosis. I've done some comparisons, and it seems I can't do too much better in the weight department even with an expensive carbon fiber tripod and light head.

With increased used, I've become impatient with the effort required to level my camera just right. The tripod head tends to overcorrect when making small adjustments and I usually have to make several tries to get it where I want it. So I'm ready to consider spending quite a lot (for me) to get something which is light, at least no heavier than the Tilt-All, and which would improve the situation with respect precise control when levelling. Any advice would be appreciated.

Eric Biggerstaff
15-Sep-2005, 10:31

You might consider a geared head. I use the Manfrotto/Bogen 405 (supports up 10 16.5 pounds) on my Gitzo CF and I really like it. Easy and fast to set up, easy to level, no big levers to snag on things, might be worth a look.

John Cook
15-Sep-2005, 10:34
From personal experience, I would highly recommend the style of the small, highly accurate Linhof pan/tilt head, were it not that their manufacturing costs have obviously gotten out of hand:


Manfrotto, I believe, has something similar. But don't go for their large model - it is about the size and weight of a duckpin bowling ball.

Also, don't forget to look through the heads made for video. A braked, fluid movement is very smooth for minor movements with a heavy camera. These days as video cameras get smaller, the video heads are shrinking as well.

Brian Ellis
15-Sep-2005, 10:40
I use the Bogen Manfrotto 410 geared head and am very pleased with it. It weighs 2.75 lbs and supports 17 lbs, costs about $150. I'm not familiar with the 405 Bogen Manfrotto geared head that Eric mentions but since it supports only 10 lbs it might be lighter than the 410 and with your light weight camera you might not need the extra support of the 410. Regardless of the exact model, geared heads are great for the problem you're having with your present head.

Jeffrey Sipress
15-Sep-2005, 10:47
I second the Manfrotto 410. Real easy to fine tune and no locks!

John Cook
15-Sep-2005, 10:52
The heads Brian and Eric refer to are the Manfrotto models I also recommended. I can't believe we are all in agreement on equipment for a change!

Notice the model 400, as the big bruiser I suggested avoiding.


Eric Biggerstaff
15-Sep-2005, 11:11
Sorry folks, I fat fingered some keys.

I use the 410 and it is GREAT.

This is stange, we all agree!

15-Sep-2005, 12:18

I sympathize, Leonard. Old age ain't for sissies.

I use the head shown above, the Ries. Most of the leveling is done at the tripod, and this finesses the rest very nicely.

See www.riestripod.com/headpics.htm#head3 (http://www.riestripod.com/headpics.htm#head3)

David A. Goldfarb
15-Sep-2005, 12:48
Also a Tiltall fan. It may be that your Tiltall is just getting out of whack. I have a very old one that seemed to be getting harder and harder to level, and I think it was that one of the legs wasn't on quite straight. So I got a less old one in better condition (both Leitz versions), and it seems much more manageable.

You may consider adding a leveling head, which allows you to make fine corrections, like the Bogen, Gitzo, Linhof, or the recently introduced Levelhead. The gearhead mentioned above is also a handy solution.

Before I picked up my second Tiltall, I was looking into a replacement, and the carbon fiber Giottos Universal tripods looked attractive, and I believe they have some fine leveling control built in.

Ted Harris
15-Sep-2005, 13:36
I have one of the original Tiltall's circal mid 1950's way before Leitz tookthem on and it is still going strong. However, I would not recommend using it for large or heavy cameras unless you have too. Back in the mid 1970's when it was the only tripod I owned and I was shooting with a Linhof Kardan Color S it was on that tripod and it worked ok .... wouldn't recommend the combo but it did work.

If I were going to make a choice today based on Leonard's specific physical concerns I would agree that the geared heads have a lot to offer. So, too, do some of the ball heads. I believe that properly handled the Acratech,for example can easily be leveled and easily adjusted with whatever degree of tensionyou prefer. As for the Ries 250 head illustrated above,it is a great head but to tighten either of the knobs sometimes requires more finger strengththan some of us with creaky bones may have.

15-Sep-2005, 14:06
I thought that I posted this once before, but Gawd knows where it ended up. Anyhow, keep the Tiltall, but replace the Tiltall column and pan/tilt head with a column from Gitzo and an Acratech ball head (or a Slik 700DX if you prefer pan/tilt head with built-in quick release).

Dan Jolicoeur
15-Sep-2005, 16:09
I just picked up a manfrotto catalog last week from my local photo shop. I had both the 405, and 410 priced. The 405 was over $300, where the 410 was $187. I am sure they can be had cheaper on line. The 410 has a height of 5.1", 2.6 lbs, max weight 11 lbs.

Leonard Evens
15-Sep-2005, 18:05
Thanks for all the good advice. The 410 sounds wonderful, but at 2.6 lbs, I would have to find a tripod weighing less about 3 lbs for the combination to be as light as my Tilt-All. I could be wrong, but I don't think there is such a thing which can support a view camera, even my Toho coming in at about 3.5 lbs. So can we give it another try? Tripod plus head should be less than 6 lbs, if possible, but they don't have to support very much.

15-Sep-2005, 18:45
Leonard, if you do photography only (or largely) where you can roll something like a golf bag caddy, then maybe we can work on a combination setup that converts the handle to a tripod head mount. You stop, drop a leg from the handle, lock the wheels, and snap the head on. Does this sound like it might be a feasible approach?

Eric Wagner
15-Sep-2005, 18:51
My Tiltall dates from 1976 if I remember correctly. When it was new I carefully leveled it up on a floor that I knew was level and then marked the "0" positions on the tilt head by making scratch lines with a Swiss needle file. When I set up the tripod my normal operating procedure is to plop a little bubble level on the head and then adjust the leg length until the platform is level. Then I only need to tilt the head on those occassions when I need more rising front than the ordinary camera adjustments can handle. With practice, this is very fast.

Mark Stahlke
15-Sep-2005, 21:03

This thread is very timely. I just started looking for a pan and tilt head to take backpacking. I'm tired of struggling with a ballhead and I'd like to save some weight too. The head that piqued my interest is the Bogen 3437 (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=productlist&A=details&Q=&sku=186289&is=REG&addedTroughType=categoryNavigation).

Priced at about $85 and weighing in at a mere 15 ounces, it's very tempting It has a spirit level which I'm guessing will be useless with an LF camera mounted on it. The downside? It's only rated for 6.6 pounds. However, my Tachihara with my heaviest lens shouldn't be much more than five and a half pounds.

I haven't seen or handled one of these so I don't know how smooth the movements are or how firmly they lock or how much the head might flex but it's only 15 ounces. I sure would like to take a closer look at one.


Struan Gray
16-Sep-2005, 02:07
I lug my Gitzo 1349 around for everything. For LF I use a Sinar pan-tilt head and no center column, for smaller formats I swap in the column and use an Arca ballhead. It's a bombproof and easy to use system, but over your weight limit. I have never missed geared motion on my heads as I use my monorail's movements for fine tuning of the composition. I really appreciate having heads that don't shift as you lock them down.

If I had the budget for another spendy tripod I would get one of the newish Gitzo CF levelling tripods and put a small video head on it.

Tripods: http://www.gitzo.com/products/metric/tripods/leveling/rightscreen.php3

Gitzo G2380 video head: http://www.gitzo.com/products/metric/video/heads/rightscreen.php3

This will come to just under seven pounds weight. You can reduce that to your six pount limit if you get a smaller head, such as the Bogen 3126 (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=productlist&A=details&Q=&sku=5381&is=REG&addedTroughType=categoryNavigation), but you'll lose a the smoothness of the Gitzo.