1. Welcome to NikonCafe.com—a friendly Nikon camera & photography discussion forum!

    If you are thinking of buying a camera or need help with your photos, you will find our forum members full of advice! Click here to join for free!

Ballhead - I don't get it...

Discussion in 'Tripods, Ball Heads, and Gimbals' started by helmet155, Dec 4, 2005.

  1. Are they good for panning when shooting wildlife? Seems everyone gets a wimberly sidekick to use with a ballhead anyway so why not go with a Bogen 3421 for panning stuff?

    What benefit would my art see if I purchased a fancy M20 ballhead?

    I currently have a Bogen 3021 tripos with a 3030 head and a 484rc2 mini ball head that came free with my Sigma 300/2.8...yeah the ballhead is cheesy small but serves it's purpose I suppose...

    On a monopod, is that the best use for a ballhead? or is direct connection to the monopod the way to go?

    Too much gear to analyze, takes away from photo time!!!
  2. Brett, I started using a Kirk BH-3 ballhead and it does work OK for bird and wildlife shooting.....BUT......

    Here are the issues I had:
    1. When the ball is loose enough to enable movement in both the horizontal and verticle directions, I often found that the ball had fallen over to the side. One word, stability.
    2. With a 500mm lens I could maintain almost comfortable stability, with the 600mm, no way.
    3. Vertical motion restricted.

    I then added the Wimberly Sidekick, which is great, and works well for the 500mm, but the 600mm overpowers it. Much better vertical motion, the ballhead it mounts on provides the panning bit. If you have a ballhead that you often use, this is a good way to go. Problem is that it requires the manipulation of all the knobs on the ballhead to lock things down.

    I now have an Eco-Image gimbal, a Canadian company. It is a little less expensive than the Jobu Black-Widow, quite a bit less than the Wimberly. All of these are great. If you are shooting a 600mm, you might want the horizontal mount, or even if you are concerned about mounting your lens "sideways". You want to be sure, however, that the lens is centered over the tripod, and not off to one side.

    Bogen makes a less expensive gimbal, I haven't used it but others say it works well.

    So, for me, less knobs to fret with and better vertial motion coupled with far better stability is why I know shoot exclusivey with a gimbal.

    As to your ballhead, once I moved up from a "basic" head to the Kirk I found that all motion was much smoother, enabled me to not jerk the camera around. That with the added stability is what you gain. I think the RRS, Acratech, Kirk, Markins and Arca are the best of the bunch, and that list is in no particular order. If you upgrade your ballhead and add a Sidekick you will be about the same cost as a gimbal. Look here for info on how to set up your monopod. I have mine set this way and it works really well. Others mount a ballhead and a Sidekick, but when I am on a monopod I am usually moving horizontally more than vertically.

    What benefit would you see in your art? Well, I can tell you that while it put a dent in my wallet, I am now able to maintain focus and tracking in ways I never could have before. That is worth it to me.
  3. Hey Bill, great response - thank you!

    In a nutshell, this is what my method will probably be:

    1. Monopod setup: just like the RRS link you showed me.

    2. Tripod setup: full gimbal type head. I only have a 300/2.8 right now with a set of TCs (2.0 and 1.4) but would like to upgrade eventually to something with some more millimeters of focal length...Twig on the board here recommends the Bogen 3421, I will look into the Eco-Image.

    Last thing, a ballhead seems like an intermediate step, so I am thinking of just skipping it and keeping the mini ball I have now for static / portrait type use and getting the setups I mentioned in #1 and #2 above...does this make sense?

    I still don't see the need for a nice trick ballhead if I have a Bogen 3421 and setup a monopod like your RRS link...
  4. Brett, not a bad way to go at all. I will tell you that the Bogen gimbal is BY FAR the least expensive way to go. If memory serves, it is under $200, more like $160 I think. The others start near $300 and go up from there. I paid about $300 for the Ecoimage, but I don't see any listed on eBay right now. A Google search popped-up a post from me here at the Cafe about these, on page 1 even! The downside of this one is that it does not have a positive lock-out and it does not include an Arca-Swiss style base, those cost another $40-60 dollars or so. Next is the Jobu Black Widow, the side-mount at $399 but it does include what the Ecoimage doesn't. When I went to look for the price, I bought one myself, a refurb demo with lock-out for $300 shipped. From the description the powder coat isn't all nice and shiny, but it wouldn't be after a day or two with me anyway :wink: . Then if you want the horizontal mount with this or the Wimberly you are in the $500 range.

    I don't think you will go wrong with the Bogen, let us know how it all works out.

    You are most welcome for the info, if it weren't for the help and advice of many others, I'd have less of a clue now than I do, not that I have much of one now either :wink:
  5. Flew


    Jan 25, 2005

    I know several folks that are using the 3421, both on a monopod and on a tripod (one guy I shoot with has one on each), and they are very pleased. You can get one for about a third the price of a decent ballhead, and the Sidekick is another $275 or so.

    I think that you are on the right track. That's certainly the way that I would go if I was starting with nothing right now.
  6. genera


    Oct 6, 2005

    I have both the full Wimberley and the 3421. The 3421 has a few advantages over the Wimberley:
    1) At $160 (including plate and clamp) the cost is about 25% of the Wimberley.
    2) Additional QR plates are also cheaper
    3) Lighter than Wimberley at 3.1 pounds vs 4.15
    4) Slightly less bulky

    and it has several disadvantages:
    1) Can't lock down either Tilt or Panning axis (well enough so that a moderately large lens won't move around when you're carrying the tripod over your shoulder)
    2) Can't always adjust balance precisely enough so that lens can be positioned and remain stable without locking it down
    3) 3421 QR Plates are not industry standard (Arca-Swiss)
    4) Motion is not as smooth as Wimberley. Stiction is more noticeable
    5) Camera/Lens access is compromised by vertical arms on both sides
    6) Build quality not as good
    7) Tools required to adjust panning tension are not included
    8) Can't lock down without affecting aim

    The 3421 head will always have the very substantial price advantage and because the plates are cast instead of machined they will probably always be a little cheaper too. The other advantages of the 3421 are about to be erased once the new Wimberley is available later this month. It's a pound lighter and a couple of inches shorter than the current model.

    If you would like to try both heads side by side with your own camera and lenses let me know. Maybe we can meet at SJWS or somewhere else nearby. I'm in Laguna Niguel and since I work from home I can get out almost anytime.

    Gene A.
  7. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    As to original question of "why ballhead", for me it's about versatility. A full gimbal wouldn't do me much good for landscape, macro, etc, whereas the ballhead serves me quite nicely for those things. And then when I am using the 200-400vr I add the Sidekick. I guess if you were going to get a tripod setup _only_ for shooting wildlife with big glass, the full gimbal would be the way to go. But I don't want to bother with having two tripod rigs for different shooting purposes so the ballhead + sidekick works well for me.
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.