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Tripod head for 300mm 2.8

Scorpio74 11 34 England
9 Jun 2008 3:55PM
Have just purchased a 300 2.8 mainly for wildlife. Need advice on the best head to buy for this?

I've just been given a Manfrotto 190 XPROB tripod (but may look at the 055 range) and have a Manfrotto monopod, so looks like Manfrotto head is the way to go. A couple of people have recommended the 322RC2, for speed and ease of use or spending more on a hydrostatic ball head.

Any advice appreciated, want to spend now and get it right first time. Also the 500 F4 could be on the cards for next year....

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Simon_P 12 487 4 United Kingdom
9 Jun 2008 4:33PM
Not sure how big/heavy the 300mm f2.8 is, but think the 322RC2 may not be the best option for it, a standard ball head will lock off a lot firmer, the 055/055pro is more sturdy than the 190.

You donít need a Manfrotto head for their tripods, some third party brands make heads compatible with the Manfrotto tripods.

Good selection here
stevemelvin 12 675 2 United Kingdom
9 Jun 2008 5:27PM

Not used one myself but I was under the impression these were the business for big lenses and wildlife.

Personally I don't think there's much in it between the 190 and 055 series in terms of sturdiness, unless the body & lens combined are very heavy.

csurry 16 9.2k 92
9 Jun 2008 5:53PM
Depends how much you are willing to spend and what you want in terms of performance and life of the product.

I don't know much about the 190 or 055, so I'll let someone else deal with that side. One question I would ask is do you want to be able to get the tripod flat to the ground for a low viewpoint. If you do then at some time you may want to look at some of the Gitzo tripods, or their equivalent by Feisol and another comapny (that are basically Gitzo copies) whose name escapes me for now.

I know the Manfrottos have an arm that can be set to be parallel, but I've also seen that shear off when a 500mm is mounted on a gimbal head.

So option for head if you want a gimbal style are generally these 4, though there are other makes (eg. black widow). Just do a google search for gimbal.

First and cheapest is the Manfrotto 393. Not much to look at, but lots of people use it to great effect. The web information available on it does not do it full justice according to people that I know use it. Approx £100.

Next in price is the wimberley sidekick - £235 from Warehouse express, but here is the catch, you need a ball head with an arca-swiss style plate holder, so you're looking at another £200+ for that bit of kit. From your description above it does not sound like you have that. The cheapest for a 300 f/2.8 is probably the Kirk BH-3 at £255 from WE. However, it is not recommended for the 500mm f/4, you'd need the BH-1 or equivalent.

Advantage of the sidekick is that if you want to switch and mount the camera and not the lens it is quickly removed.

So next is the Kirk King Cobra, very good bit of kit, approx £399 from WE. No real issues, but I found that mine used to get firmly attached to the tripod and was difficult to remove.

So finally we have the Winberley Gimbal, UK price approx £499! Superb piece of kit, no real drawbacks once you get over the price. For ease of mounting a levelling on uneven surfaces best combined with a levelling head like the Gitzo - another £125. Actually sidekick can also benefit from the levelling head. Though it does restrict ability to get tripod absolutely flat on ground.

So the ultimate kit would be a Gitzo tripos like the 3540, approx £500, the levelling head £125, Wimberley gimbal £499.

As I said there are other brands out there. Black widow I've seen in use and did consider, but they were not in stock at the time.

It's important if you think that you will later get a 500mm f/4 to make the right investment in tripod and head or you'll just end up upgrading.

Worth checking out other brands, Markins and Feisol. Personally I'd steer clear of really right stuff (RRS) as I've heard some not so good reports.

Have fun choosing Smile
conrad 13 10.9k 116
9 Jun 2008 6:39PM
I saw two people using 300mm 2.8 lenses with Sidekicks yesterday, mounted on Gitzo tripods. Looked very handy, very sturdy, and they were delighted with how well the combination worked.
10 Jun 2008 10:02PM
Have a look at the Manfrotto MN 393 its similar principal to a wimberley but a different design and only £99, you can also get Wimberley type heads off ebay from India much cheaper
tigertimb 10 40 66 United Kingdom
16 Jun 2008 3:16PM
I'm one of those people who Cheryl mentioned who likes the Manfrotto 393. Add the camera and lens; slide the plate to get the balance right and you can then swing the camera with one finger anywhere you want and it just stays where you left it. Slightly loosen the tripod collar and you can turn the camera too for that third degree to motion. No effort and great for tracking anything moving. I've no doubt the other options mentioned are better, but this does me just fine for the cost - not that I've tried anything as big as a 500mm f4.

I've also got the 322 though which has the grip, move, release option. Great for a shorter and lighter lens where you can keep the tension low, but I found it to be completely impractical for a long lens: you get tired using it with the tension set to max; there's always a drop after you release the grip which is 1/2 the frame for a long lens and you just cannot make any fine adjustments.
I did get a good solution pairing the 322 on top of the 410 geared head to give the fine control, but very heavy and ungamely and much happier once I found the 393!
suejoh Plus
13 250 United Kingdom
28 Jul 2008 7:30PM
I have been thinking of buying the the Wimberley Gimbal but are you saying that you cannot put your camera body on the Wimberley Gimbal - only a lens?

If so then it sounds like the sidekick and the ball head would be more versatile? I would definitely want it to be a head that is easy to use and takes both camera body or a heavy lens - in case i ever get one.
LenShepherd 10 3.6k United Kingdom
28 Jul 2008 9:43PM
First things first - good long lens technique is critical for consistent sharpness - here is a link http://www.moosepeterson.com/techtips/longlens.html
If money is no object and you want to track birds in flight the Wimberley is the most universally used head among pro wildlifers. The Manfrotto 393 is a much more affordable tracking option.
Most pro wildlife photographers use Gitzo 6x Series 3 or Series 5 tripods because the new leg locks significantly increase tripod security - and either is significantly more stable than the Manfrotto CF options.
I have not mentioned cost - but do not expect change from £1,000 for the full Wimberley and a Series 3 Gitzo.
IanA 14 3.0k 12 England
28 Jul 2008 10:23PM

Quote:(that are basically Gitzo copies) whose name escapes me for now.


Quote:As I said there are other brands out there.



lumix 11 11
29 Jul 2008 9:10AM
You should check this out, I had a good look on the Giottos stand at Focus and these look really well built and great value.

dragarth 14 247 1 Scotland
1 Aug 2008 8:16PM
A friend of mine used my 055 with the 808rc4 head with a 600mm 2.8 and reckoned it was better than his gitzo? never saw it myself he wont let me try itin case I won't give the lens back...LOL
csurry 16 9.2k 92
1 Aug 2008 8:29PM
600mm f/2.8 now that would be some weighty lens Wink
smitbar 9 136 England
1 Aug 2008 10:21PM
600mm f2.8!? Who makes one of those, then?

I have a 400mm f2.8 & thats big enough. As csurry says, Gitzo..... Theyre a bit thin on the ground at the moment. Especially the 3 & 5 series for 10kgs+ loading.

I also own & use a 300mm f2.8 Nikkor, Gitzo 320 + FLM ballhead handle it comfortably. 400mm another matter, i use a Manfrotto MN229 3D super pro head (£140ish from Warehouse Exp) that handles the big lenses ok, up to 10kg loads.

Hope this helps.
Overread 9 4.1k 19 England
1 Aug 2008 10:36PM
As a point for if you consider the 322RC2 - which can support a 300mm f2.8.
The only problem I have with this head is that it is a pain to use with a heavier lens as you need a hand under that lens to support and control it - couple that with one hand on the grip to release pressure for tracking and another hand on the shutter and controls and you are one hand too short!
There is a shutter release cable for the 322 which can be attached to give you a shutter button on the grip - which is a start, but it does mean you settings are out of reach still. A way to combat this is to get one of those platic bag ties (the sort the army and police use to bind prisoners hands together - the pull through type). Place this round the grip when it is almost fully gripped (not all the way you need a little give to release the restraint) and tightn it - you can then slide it on and off like a locking mechanism.

However a ball head would be easier to use methinks - but if you get a new manfrotto tripod with the horizontal centre columns at lower heights then firstly don't have it all the way out (that is when they break!Wink) but keep it close the base - and then the 322 is a real saver as it will return you camera to the normal orientation without having to attach a rightangle adaptor to the head - that works great for a normal head when you know in advance that you will be on the ground, but not so well when just walking around for a shot

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