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Pan-&-Tilt or Ballhead

BillyGoatGruff 14 191 199 England
17 Jun 2011 11:47AM
Thought I'd trawl around for some opinions on the relative merits or demerits of two styles of tripod head.

At some point, when funds allow, I'm going to get a new tripod head.
I currently use a cheapish Manfrotto 460MG, which I bought at the time I got my tripod (Manfrotto 055MF4).
The head was tempting since it's a three-axis head with small knobs rather than long handles, and which are small enough to not protrude and take up a lot of space and as such will fit into realtively confined spaces. And it looks quite cool Wink

I found the head pretty good (not perfect, but, equally, not a real dog either - kind of middle-of-the-road), although it's prone to a bit of creep and is not easy to be extremely precise with: tightening any of the knobs always causes a bit of additional movement which can be a bit annoying especially when trying to get a level horizon. The smallness of the knobs, of course, means that one sacrifices the greater precision provided by longer handles: a compromise of course, but such is life!

I want to get myself an "L" bracket (probably) from Really Right Stuff - a brilliant invention, imo - but have found that they won't fit the Manfrotto proprietary quick release system, meaning that I'll need an arca-swiss compatible head.
OK, no big deal and probably a sensible road to travel when I can afford it.

This has led me to a bit of a conundrum: do I stick with the three-axis style head i.e pan-&-tilt or do I go with a ball head (I'm thinking Markins from a cost point of view)?
I've always felt that P&T was a better and more accurate style of head since you can lock off each axis independently. So I've never, ever used a ball head.

I'd be very interested in any opinions, experience or recommendations.
Anyone gone from P&T to BH or from BH to P&T?
Anyone used a Markins BH or Kirk or RRS?
Anyone have strong feelings either way?

Thanks for any input!

No rush - merely to get some informed advice, really.

newfocus 15 647 2 United Kingdom
17 Jun 2011 11:59AM
I've used both and I find the convenience of a ball head suits me better (I use the Manfrotto 322RC2). As you've suggested you do lose the ability to fine tune one axis while keeping the others fixed but generally I find I can get the shot composed with less fuss and frustration with the ball head.
mattw 17 5.2k 10 United Kingdom
17 Jun 2011 12:00PM
I use a ball head. Nice and quick - only one knob, just lossen, position camera, and retighten.
tommypics 10 3 United Kingdom
17 Jun 2011 12:05PM
I use a Manfrotto ball head on a carbon tripod and I love it compared to my old Slik pan and tilt one. One thing I find is that it is easy for the head to be canted to the left or right and for my horizons to need correcting afterwards. I have a hot shoe spirit level but can't be bothered to use it half the time.
JJGEE 16 7.9k 18 England
17 Jun 2011 12:06PM
Looking at your PF it appears that you tend to go for seascape type images Wink

In which I case I think you should stick with a pan & tilt type tripod head as they are better for levelling / fine tuning composition on any axis.

I have moved from Pan & Tilt ( Manfrotto Junior 410 geared head) to a Ball Head ( Arca Swiss p0 ) for my flower type shots as it does not have any knobs / levers to get in the way and can be adjusted into any angle, especially useful at low levels.
BillyGoatGruff 14 191 199 England
17 Jun 2011 12:14PM
Interesting, interesting!

Thanks guys.
3 to 1 in favour of BH's so far not counting me!

Yes, JJ. I'm primarily a landscape shooter although not always seascapes - it's just worked out that way so far.
As you say, P&T allows adjustments in only one axis at a time, which I have, so far, favoured. Although Matt is using a BH and he's got some super seascapes, so it's definitely possible with a BH without too many issues, apparently.
Not too sure which camp I'm falling in yet!

Keep 'em coming folks! All information is good information! Smile
cameracat 17 8.6k 61 Norfolk Island
17 Jun 2011 12:26PM
Tried most everything else except overpriced gimbal types.....Grin

Now use a Ball Head almost exclusively for everything, For me I find the BH far more versatile in most situations.

This for example works really well

BillyGoatGruff 14 191 199 England
17 Jun 2011 12:39PM
Cheers Vince.

It looks like it's got its own QR system, so may not precisely be the right one for my future plan to get an L-bracket. But useful info/experience nevertheless.
4 to 1 in favour of BH's .... and counting! Wink
JackAllTog Plus
12 6.3k 58 United Kingdom
17 Jun 2011 12:41PM
me - P&T to BH.
As mentioned no long levers to get in the way, less accurate but more flexible. some creep if lock not tome up right. I also tried a manfrotto pistol grip but its also a lever with potential ball creep so i'm not convinced. Next head will probally be a heaver rated BH when funds allow.
mattw 17 5.2k 10 United Kingdom
17 Jun 2011 12:41PM

Quote:Although Matt is using a BH and he's got some super seascapes, so it's definitely possible with a BH without too many issues, apparently.

Thanks Bill.

With Ball heads - you can play with the friction on the ball - is not simply loose/tight, there is some play in between.

My head has a friction adjustment, which I have setup so that even with the head loose, it will not move unless I manually move it.
This makes it easy to correct horisons and make small compositional adjustments before fully tightening for the shot.
All my panos are taken with the ball head too.

If we can setup a meet next time you are in Cornwall Bill, you are free to have a play (with the ball head)
Coleslaw 15 13.4k 28 Wales
17 Jun 2011 12:45PM
With BH, as you couldn't lock any axis, you can't really do pano, which you do sometimes, Bill.
So, P&T would be my suggestion.

BTW, 460 is a real dog, I hated it.
MalcolmS Plus
15 1.2k 13 England
17 Jun 2011 12:46PM
I shoot landscapes predominantly so you would think thatspeed of set up was not of prime importance. However sometimes with low angle shots, particularly if there is nowhere to kneel or get comfortably down to see through the viewfinder for any length of time a BH is very useful in setting a shot up quickly. I could get an angle finder of course, but I don't need one if I can set the shot up quickly.
User_Removed 17 3.3k 4 United Kingdom
17 Jun 2011 12:47PM
I've used a standard ball head and it was okay then I got a second hand Manfrotto grip action type 222 which I loved but am after a replacement. I just borrowed Jim Thistle's Manfrotto 322RC2 joystick control ball head and am going to get one of those, they are really good.

Both of the latter type are very easy to use. You can adjust with one hand and you don't have to take your eye from the viewfinder.
BillyGoatGruff 14 191 199 England
17 Jun 2011 12:53PM
Cheers Matt!

As it happens I'm in Cornwall for a week in July (1st onwards). If events, weather and wife permit I may well take you up on that! Thank you even if it doesn't come off!! Smile
Your thoughts on pano shooting are particularly useful - and is one of the reasons I'm comtenplating and L-bracket. Shooting a pano in portrait orientation on my current 460 head is not easy at all what with the camera hanging overboard as it does! It's alarming unstable...

Off to lunch now, so will catch up later.
Many thanks all and don't stop there! All thoughts welcome please!
MalcolmS Plus
15 1.2k 13 England
17 Jun 2011 12:53PM
It's the Manfrotto 322RC2 that I have as well and used it exclusively for the last 7 years

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