A video head has technology that dampens movement of a camera and allows the camera to pan or tilt smoothly without bumps or wiggles. This is typically done with what’s called a fluid head. Such a head uses fluids and hydraulics to reduce random movement of the camera.
Low-priced video heads are simple fluid heads. More expensive heads can give you amazingly smooth movement of the camera, plus they often have additional features such as easily adjusted resistance (which makes for smoother movement) and the ability to balance the camera better on the head. Many tripod manufacturers also make video heads.
In addition to a range of tripods, Daiwa makes video heads for everything from small DSLRs to broadcast cameras. The DST-33 packages a compact, all-metal fluid head with a lightweight, metal video tripod. The head includes a long, quick-release plate for balancing the camera, and the tripod uses a 60mm ball leveler in order to quickly and easily level the camera and head (very important for level panning). At press time, the DST-33 was scheduled to be discontinued but remains available. Its successor, the DST-43, is coming soon and will feature comparable specs. Estimated Street Price: $400.
Manfrotto announced a new video head this spring that’s designed specifically for shooting video with DSLRs. The 504HD head has a unique bridge design that improves the head’s rigidity. It includes a pan fluid drag system, a four-step counter-balance system and a ball-bearing drag system for controlling movement. Estimated Street Price: $400.