Monday, December 7, 2009

Use Your Head

Maybe the most important part of your tripod is the head. That’s why many tripod makers give you options, and most tripod designs have removable heads so you can switch them out or upgrade.
By Jon Canfield Published in Tripods
Use Your Head


Well-known tripod maker Manfrotto also offers a wide range of tripod heads, from three-way pan-tilt to ballhead, in a number of sizes and price ranges. The basic pan-tilt head, the 804RC2 ($73), includes a quick-release plate for Manfrotto's own mounting-plate system and can handle up to 8.8 pounds. The 329RC4 ($110) is a compact-style, three-way head that supports up to 20 pounds. The three bubble levels make it easier to keep your camera level when creating panoramic shots, and the head also features their quick-release system.

On the ballhead side, the unique 222 JoyStick Head ($105) looks more at home with a video-game system than a tripod, but works surprisingly well. With a full-sized grip area that has the locking mechanism in the handle, the 222 is easy to position and keep in place. For a more traditional ballhead, the 468MGRC2 Hydrostatic Ballhead ($250) can support up to 33 pounds. Separate tension and locking knobs give you full control over the motion of the head, and the unique quick-release plate lets you shoot multiple images without moving the head at all.


Novoflex made a splash when it introduced the MagicBall heads. A unique blend of ballhead flexibility with panning head ease of use, the MagicBall is a popular option. The handle and mount give the user full range of motion like a ballhead does, with a quick-locking handle to keep your position. The MagicBall is available in three sizes, from $179 to $299.

The ClassicBall is a more traditional-looking ballhead, but even here Novoflex brings something unique: three slots in the ball housing for easier vertical positioning of your camera. The ClassicBall also uses a friction ring, an adjustable band around the housing that lets you easily set the friction level, even before mounting your camera. The ClassicBall is available in two sizes ($329 and $429).

If you're using a lighter-weight system (less than 22 pounds) and don't need the friction adjustments or panning base, the Ball 40 is an excellent choice ($89). Novoflex heads can be mounted with an Arca-Swiss-style quick-release system from Novoflex, Kirk or Really Right Stuff, or you can use the innovative QBase system that automatically locks the mounting plate to the head.

All Novoflex ballheads employ a design that prevents the ball from shifting when force is applied. This means nothing moves as the head is being locked. Also, Novoflex balls aren't lubricated so they're unaffected by dust, moisture or sand.
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