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Lightweight ball head for monopod?

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by gpburdell, Feb 19, 2016.

  1. gpburdell

    gpburdell Mu-43 Veteran

    248
    Jul 16, 2014
    I'm looking to replace an old worn out monopod and while I've settled on what will be the new monopod, I am seeking suggestions for a new lightweight small ball head, preferably with quick release.

    I'll be using this with an E-M5 mark II and lenses such as the 12-40 f/2.8 or 40-150 f/2.8.
     
  2. PakkyT

    PakkyT Mu-43 Top Veteran

    764
    Jun 20, 2015
    New England
    Ok first admitting my knowledge of tripods and monopods are rather slim since I rarely use them, but do have a decent Manfrotto monopod so not completely talking out my arse. Still take with a grain of salt...

    I have never really thought a monopod needed a ballhead since it is just a single leg. For a tripod where you need to get the three legs firmly planted on what might not be level ground then use a ballhead to level out the camera. But with a monopod, well YOU are the ballhead. Simply hold it level.
     
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  3. Speedliner

    Speedliner Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 2, 2015
    Southern NJ, USA
    Rob
    The Sirui heads are very nice for the price. The "10" sizes are pretty light and small. Refinement and quality does go up with the more expensive lines though, but still cheaper tha. The high-end lines and just about as good IMO.
     
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  4. PacNWMike

    PacNWMike Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Dec 5, 2014
    Salish Sea
    guess?
    A ball-head besides being unnecessary is downright awkward at best, and a possible hazard to the camera mounted. Loosen the tension and the camera flops. Three hands needed since it won't stand by itself. The cheap manfrotto 3232 or whatever they call it now works fine.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2016
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  5. yendikeno

    yendikeno Mu-43 Regular

    128
    Sep 5, 2015
    Agree with PakkyT andPacNWMike - a ball head on a monopod is unnecessary at best,and dangerous to the camera at worst. All that's needed in a tilt head, something like these:

    Monopod Heads & Accessories | B&H Photo Video
     
  6. Speedliner

    Speedliner Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 2, 2015
    Southern NJ, USA
    Rob
    Oh yeah. Missed the monopod requirement. Like yendikeno said...A tilt head maybe so you can keep an arca plate attached if you use one, and tilting up and down has its limits with a monopod if you need to do so. Support the camera under the lens when you make an adjustment.

    Amazon.com : Desmond DMH-2 & 50mm DAC-X1 Clamp Tripod Tilt Head Arca /RRS Compatible Oversized Knob : Camera & Photo
     
  7. eteless

    eteless Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 20, 2014
    I dislike attaching my camera to the monopod, much prefer just resting it ontop...
    P1260369-1.
    With the stabilization in OM-D cameras I can easily get repeatable 1-2 second exposures with the above setup just standing around in the open, I find mounting the camera doesn't allow longer and just gets in the way of speed (the limit is more the movement of the monopod, leaning it against fences and such I've done longer with the above setup).
     
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  8. danelkins

    danelkins Mu-43 Veteran

    A tilt head on a monopod, not ballhead! The idea and design behind the monopod is to create a tripod from the photographers two legs and add the monopod as the third leg. When using a monopod it should touch the ground in front of your body at a distance equal to the spread of your two feet. A tilt head allows you to use the monopod properly while maintaining horizontal stability. Or, if you are shooting with a 8+ pound setup the monopod is used to carry the weight.
     
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  9. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    USA
    Well, the kindest thing I can say is that this is stupendously ignorant advice.

    Using a monopod with no head limits you to the following: Monopod used as a vertical stick under the camera. Horizontal/landscape format shots. Subjects that are at roughly the same height as the camera. Nothing nearby on the ground, no birds or monkeys high in trees. If that is the entire range of your photographic endeavors (think sports photography from sideline level) then going headless is a tenable idea.

    A tilt head is a only marginal improvement. Absent an L-bracket on the camera, the only way to shoot vertical/portrait format is to use the single movement capability of the head to turn the camera vertical. From that point, it's the same as having a headless monopod. The exception to this is if you are shooting only video/horizontal and have a tilt head that will allow the camera to be tilted seriously upwards and downwards. Then a tilt head works.

    A ball head eliminates most of this difficulty. Admittedly, shooting vertical format is not quite as flexible as shooting horizontal but if that is an issue, an L-plate is the answer.

    Now back to the OP's question: Usually small and light equate to a ball head that is a little "sticky" in motion. The good news with monopods, my experience anyway, is that this is OK because in the vast majority of situations the monopod can be slightly twisted or tilted when a fine movement is needed. Not always, though. For example when i have my monopod lashed to a railing, a tree, or other object it is as solid as a tripod.

    I have two heads that I use on my monopods. One is an Acratech GP that I own for tripod use. It's expensive but at an advertised 1# weight it is quite carry-able. It is not, however, compact. The small head I am currently using is a Fotopro FPH-41Q. It's really smooth and at an inch and a half diameter quite compact. I got it bundled with a small Fotopro tripod; I'm not sure you can find one sold separately. A third option might be one of the mid-size Manfrotto balls. I have a small Manfrotto, a 482, that came to me somehow. It is garbage due mostly, I think, to its tiny ball. Most of the usual suspects like RRS, Kirk, etc. have small ball heads in their lines and I'm sure that any would be fine if you want to spend the money.

    Now let's talk quick release. I am not a fan of Arca-Swiss for monopods because every A-S clamp I am aware of requires that the user operate some kind of knob or lever when the camera is joined to the monopod. A-S stuff was originally designed for tripods and for that application it works well. One hand to hold the camera on the clamp, the other hand to operate the lock mechanism. Fine. Consider, now, standing on a rocky beach in the Galapagos or on a concrete sidewalk somewhere: One hand to hold the camera, one hand to hold the monopod, and one hand to to operate the clamp. Not fine. The type of QR system that I like for monopods is one where the camera automatically locks when its plate is inserted into the clamp. Gitzo has a nice system but it is expensive and bulky. The best IMO is the Manfrotto RC2 system. As the plate is inserted, the clamp lever is released and it springs into clamping position. Once clamped, your camera hand can push the lever to tighten the clamp further and, if you like, engage a safety pin that will prevent the clamp from accidentally being released. In addition to the Manfrotto options, there are many knockoff clamps and plates sold on eBay for a few dollars. If you have A-S hardware for other reasons you can also buy camera plates that can be used on both systems.

    There are some cheap QR systems from people like Velbon. In fact IRRC one came on my FotoPro head. The thing to watch for with these is that none I know of have any kind of safety lock for the clamping lever. So if the tip of the level catches on something you may find your camera dumped onto that rocky beach.

    If you are bound and determined to use an A-S system clamp, then I'd suggest one with a locking lever. Acratech has a nice one. There is also a Chinese one that I have seen, but not tried, on eBay. RRS has a lever clamp but from the pictures I cannot see that there is a locking mechanism. IMO a lever will be easier to operate (without that third hand) than a screw clamp knob.

    Whew! More than you wanted to know.
     
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  10. PacNWMike

    PacNWMike Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Dec 5, 2014
    Salish Sea
    guess?
    Agreeing to disagree is one thing but comments like this are not appropriate.
     
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  11. Harvey Melvin Richards

    Harvey Melvin Richards Photo Posting Junkie

    Feb 15, 2014
    Southwest Utah
    However I think oldracer's opening comment could be applied to the rest of his comment, but I'm not going to say it.
     
  12. danelkins

    danelkins Mu-43 Veteran

    Wow, ok
    Wow, okay! I think many of our response are trying to help guide the OP away from a insufficient gear purchase - ball head on a monopod. Yes a ballhead can be used on a monopod, but it will not result in What a monopod was designed for. Horizontal axis is not an intended factor while using a monopod - for vertical composition use a L-bracket.
     
  13. usayit

    usayit Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    I have both a tilt monopod head and small ballhead that finds itself attached the monopod.

    why ball head at times?

    Because in a pinch, I can use two sticks plus the monopod strapped together with heavy rubber bands or bongo ties (BongoTies - Handy Elastic Tie Wraps for Cables and Other Unruly Items) to create a tripod. Or simply tie the monopod to a post, fence, chair etc... If you had only tilt, your adjustment is limited.

    I use the same ball head that came with the Sirui T005 on a Gitzo CF traveler.
     
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  14. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    USA
    Sorry. Too much morning coffee.
     
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  15. Gary5

    Gary5 Mu-43 Veteran

    310
    Jan 15, 2014
    I only tried a ballhead once, and after a comedy of errors trying to use it, I immediately ordered a Manfrotto tilt head. But I confess, my lens collar rotates, so portrait orientation is not a problem.
     
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  16. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry
    I'm thinking about getting a head for my monopod...
    I tried a head from a mini tripod I have, but I noticed one was a 1/4" mount and the other was 3/8", so make sure you match what you have.

    Barry
     
  17. gpburdell

    gpburdell Mu-43 Veteran

    248
    Jul 16, 2014
    Folks, while I really do appreciate everyone's wish to be helpful, let's leave the discussion of whether or not you think a ball head is useful on a monopod for some other thread.

    I know what works for me based on actual real world experience using a monopod with different heads. I've tried it with no head, I've tried it with a tilt head, and ended up with a ball head because I find a ball head much more useful and convenient for my needs. I'm fine if others feel differently, but end of discussion as far as I'm concerned. Okay?

    If you have suggestions for lightweight ball heads suitable for monopod use, please post them. My 15+ year old 3262QR works fine, but is a bit heavy and I'd like to go lighter. I hadn't mentioned it specifically so as to not inadvertently guide suggestions; I see now that I should have been more explicit that I'm replacing a setup that I know works for me rather than buying my first monopod setup.

    Thank you to usayit, Speedliner, and oldracer for some suggestions I'll follow up on. Yes, I agree that a snap-clamp works better for my needs than the screw-clamp. Much as I understand the limitations of the Manfrotto RC2 QR system, I'm still considering it from the benefit of snapping in one-handed. I am looking at Arca compatible options such as the Desmond plates even if I go elsewhere for the ball head since my tripod heads are A-S compatible. Still, I already have a couple RC2 clamps and plates so may stick with that if there's nothing better available.
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2016
  18. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    USA
    Yes. There are adapters, though. This one: 1/4" Female to 3/8" Male Threaded screw Adapter TN-2 should adapt your mini-tripod to 3/8" thread. Alternatively, you can bush your head down to 1/4" with an adapter like this: 1/4" Female to 3/8" Male Threaded screw Adapter for Tripod/Monopod. I keep at least one or two of each type in my tripod/head junk drawer as I seem to be always messing with various combinations. I try to use the adapters to standardize everything to 3/8" threads.
     
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  19. Exposed

    Exposed Mu-43 Regular

    136
    Apr 13, 2011
    Central Washington State
    Randy dawson
    This is the one I have been using for over 5 years with an el-2 then em-5 and now and em-1. Never a problem. Light, small and works great.

    Giottos MH1304-110C Professional Mini Ball Head
     
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  20. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    USA
    One of life's little mysteries for me is why no one has made an RC2 workalike clamp sized for A-S plates. There are no technical barriers and probably no patent barriers either. It seems like it would be a logical product for the RRSs and Acratechs of the world and maybe even for Manfrotto.

    I have modified the RC2 clamp now on my FotoPro head so it works with A-S plates but it was a lot of work and required sacrificing an A-S clamp to get some needed parts.
     
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