Panning [?] Ballhead for Tripod

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by Aushiker, Oct 6, 2016.

  1. I currently have a Sirui T-025X tripod with what I believe is the Sirui C-10S ball head. For my use the tripod is probably a bit on the light side or I should be using a weight bag at times but anyway it will do me for now.

    My bigger concern however is the ball head, well I think it is. My main use of the tripod is down at the harbour photographing ships. I use it combination with my OM-D E-M1 and currently the Panasonic 100-300mm lens but would like to upgrade to a Olympus Pro lens in due course.

    What I find is that (a) the Sirui ball head does not handle the weight of the camera/lens combination as well as I would like (some slipping evident); (b) I find it is not the best at making finer adjustments and (c) most importantly I can get it right say for a ship approaching the entrance channel but as the ship moves closer and I wish to pan the camera I need to re-adjust the level of the camera.

    Now this may be the nature of the beast of ball-heads but I am what little research I have done seems to suggest that a "panning" ball-head may overcome my "panning" problem [(c) above]. Is my thinking right on this?

    Amusing my thinking is correct I am open to suggestions on ball-heads or where to look to get a better understanding of them and hence I can do some more extensive research in the right direction.

    For example would something like a Really Right Stuff BH-30 or a BH-25 be a suitable design? I am just using them as example of what I should be looking for BTW in terms of features/specification. I am sure there are other options which may be lower cost but which would probably suit my needs.

    Anyway any advice or suggestions on heads would be appreciated.

  2. Hypilein

    Hypilein Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 18, 2015
    If you want your picture to stay horizontally aligned when panning, you need to be sure that you are panning on a level axis. That means that either the top of the plate needs to pan (I think there is an acra-tech ballhead that you can turn on it's head for this effect) or that your tripod needs to be levelled as well.
  3. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    Yes. The Acratech GP series. I have the GP-S with the lever style clamp and it is a sweetheart. It should be just fine for ships as the level horizon with the subject effectively at the same height as the camera is just what you get. There is a video on the AcraTech web site that shows how it works.
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  4. Repp

    Repp Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jan 27, 2011
    Seoul, South Korea
    Yes, there are four options you can go with.
    1. Tripod with a leveling base. (worst option imo)
    2. Ball head with a leveling plate.
    3. Panoramic gimbal.
    4. Pan/tilt video rig, the better ones also have a leveling base.

    If you don't plan on doing multi row panos and already use an L-plate, a solid tripod/ball-head +leveling plate and a nodal slide rail are all you pretty much need. If you feel like you might want to do more later on, look at a gimbal setup.
    I went with the RRS BH-30 and PG-01. Really nice setup, but a bit pricy.
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  5. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    Worrying about nodal points (actually, zero parallax points) etc. is completely unnecessary unless you are talking panos that include multiple foreground objects. Panos of ships and harbors probably do not fall into this category unless you are including objects on the dock where you are standing. And even then, the parallax issue only arises for nearby objects that are on stitching borders. If the near object(s) can be centered in a frame so that they are not involved in stitching you are still good to go. I have never actually shot with a nodal rail (although I bought one once to play with) and I have many very nice scenic-type panos.

    The one below was done in-camera by my GX7 with me just holding the camera and pivoting at my waist. The camera was apparently smart enough to place the elephant (about 3 meters away) where it was not subject to stitching. I do also have one shot from a sailboat where the railing in the foreground (maybe three feet from the camera) has a couple of bad splices; that one needed a zero-parallax pivot.

    [​IMG] upload_2016-10-6_17-59-40.png

    A little more info and an example here: Lens for landscapes and sometimes for general use

  6. Thanks for the details. I recall you mentioning this one before but couldn't remember the details. Quite pricey but, so will have to think about whether I can justify it.
  7. Thanks for confirming what I thought. Whilst something like the Acratech GP would be nice they are pricey. I will have a look around for a less expensive ball head with a leveling plate and see how it goes before spending more $. If anyone has suggestions on good suitable ball heads I am all eyes.
  8. Repp

    Repp Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jan 27, 2011
    Seoul, South Korea
    Instead of a full ball head, you could try just replacing the plate of your current one, most of them are removable (check to confirm!). This is not a cheep one, but something like RRS - Clamps or a less expensive Benro PC0 Panning Base PC0 B&H Photo Video would both work well.
    Add an inexpensive hotshoe spirit level and this would be a good start. Would not let you shoot in portrait mode without an L-plate though.
  9. sriracha

    sriracha ballistic photons Subscribing Member

    Jan 22, 2011
    if you want to pan with the ballhead get the RRS BH-30... or better yet, BH-40 for better overall fine tune control. if you go with ballhead + RRS panning clamp you can use the BH-25.

    i will say the extra tension knob on the BH-40 makes a world of difference for control when you have something heavy. BH-25 is a difficult to work with when you have a large(er) camera or lens.
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  10. dornblaser

    dornblaser Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 13, 2012
    David Dornblaser
  11. SVQuant

    SVQuant Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 20, 2015
    SF Bay Area, California, USA
    If you don't want to spend too much money, but want to upgrade, the Sirui G-10KX Ball Head looks pretty good. I was looking at it to go with the T-025X when I was considering getting rid of my venerable (and heavy) Manfrotto tripod. I have a Manfrotto 498RC2 head which is a panning ball head and does the job for me.
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  12. Clint

    Clint Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Apr 22, 2013
    San Diego area, CA
    With a great ball head and legs you should be able to adjust the head so that you can move the camera, and then the camera stays in place when you let go. And when you press the shutter, or better yet use a remote shutter release with a short delay before release, the legs will keep the ballhead/camera from moving and quickly dissipate the slight movement caused by the shutter release. Look through the viewfinder, just tap the end of lens, you’ll know you have a great setup when you see no movement or it subsides in a second.

    Requirements for the longer focal length becomes more stringent with increased focal lengths. So it is not just the weight to be considering.

    The RRS BH-30 might fulfill that need for the head, the BH-40 would be a better choice. But your legs ideally would be more substantial than what you have. The Arcatech Nomad would probably be in the same category as the GH-30.

    For 300-400mm I’d pick a RSS BH-50, Arcatech GP, or the one I actually own the Arca-Swiss Z1. All of these having panning ability, and a properly adjusted ballhead you allow you to pan and raise or lower your aim, let go of the camera, and it would stay where you pointed.

    At 300mm you really need a tripod with greater than 28mm tube diameter. A Series 2 Gitzo or RSS legs would be a minimum.
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  13. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    Yes. eBay is our friend in this, however. Mine, with the premium lever clamp, cost me $250 on a BIN. Looking at recent "Sold" items it looks like it is quite feasible to get a GP series head for under $300. I don't know how it is in Oz but if you find one in the US where the seller won't ship just PM me. I'd be happy to receive it and send it on for whatever the shipping cost is.

    Though the Acratech heads seem to be somewhat scarce on eBay, there are always tons of RRS heads. I don't know if this is simply a reflection of relative market share or if people that buy Acratech heads just don't let them go. Regardless, eBay is a good source for some of the other heads being mentioned here.

    Personally I would not, however, go for the RRS lever clamp. AFIK it has no locking mechanism, so can be knocked open accidentally. The Acratech lever has a lock that must be released before the clamp can be opened. The lock release is easy but is unlikely to happen accidentally.
  14. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    Thinking about your issue, I decided to look at the Chinese products on eBay. I don't think I'd go with Chinese for a ball head since the smoothness of operation is so critical, but I have had very good luck with other bits like a nodal rail, Manfrotto RC2 style hardware, and Arca hardware.

    I found this interesting item: Precision Leveler Leveling Horizontal Base screw Adjustment for Camera Tripod From just looking at the photos it seems to be quite a clever design that, when set up, gives you a level panning base for heads without a panning feature. I know you don't like your ball head for other reasons, but this is at least a cheap alternative that would give it panning capabilities
  15. Repp

    Repp Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jan 27, 2011
    Seoul, South Korea
    One issue with the panning base being between the tripod and the ball head is that your camera is not going to always be perfectly straight up-and-down/centered for panning, which will cause your camera to tilt/be off axis when panning. I love the RRS BH-30 ball head, but find that function pretty useless for good panoramic shots. I'd advise getting a panning plate/clamp that goes above the ball head joint.
  16. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    Actually for multi-row panos it is necessary to "tilt/be off-axis" (in the vertical/pitch axis) with the camera as it sits above the above the (level) pano base. A ball head is not particularly handy for this because it is hard to ensure that the camera is tilted only in the vertical/pitch axis. It can be done, however. I am not shilling for Acratech, but I am familiar with their stuff and their pano head (Panoramic Head) video illustrates a method to provide reliable pitch axis tilt. Other vendors do it in different ways. One might be able to do it, too, with one of the "monopod" heads that have only a pitch axis tilt.

    To do what @Repp@Repp suggests while using a ball head, one can also put the leveling base under the ball head and level it, then also level the clamp surface of the ball head. This effectively takes the ball head out of the equation and allows you to mount the camera in the clamp and shoot panos with the horizon in the center. Functionally, that's about the same as using the Acratech GP head in its upside-down pano position.

    I am not much of a multi-row pano guy. Maybe someone else can explain this more clearly.
  17. Thanks for your kind offer and I will keep it in mind for sure. I am also a bit of an eBay junkie and had setup a series of searches last night, including worldwide ones as it does look like the Australian offerings a bit scare. I am a patience shopper [still to get my monitor for example from this thread as I am waiting for a good price option] so happy to keep an eye on discussions and eBay etc for a better price/option. If I can get a decent ball-head and/or tripod second hand for a more reasonable price I will be happy with that outcome.
  18. Thanks for the heads-up. I have also been poking around Aliexpress as sometimes they have "surplus" named branded or copies of same going at reasonable prices (and not so reasonable prices too).
  19. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    @Aushiker@Aushiker, there is an Acratech GP on eBay today: Acratech Ballhead and it looks like the guy will ship internationally. So that might be something to watch -- still almost a week to go in the auction, though. It has the screw knob Arca clamp, but IMO that's not a big deal unless you are regularly using it with a monopod.

    You mentioned looking at tripods. There is a very unusual Gitzo on auction right now: Gitzo 320 S Safari Series 3 Studex Tripod This is a 3-series model which will be like mounting your camera on a rock, but at the cost of some weight. It is a 320S; I have a 320 and it weighs 3kg. I wouldn't advise it for backpacking, but if you are traveling by car and not hauling your tripod great distances it may be worth considering. The neat thing about the 320S is that the legs operate "upside-down." The largest diameter leg is at the bottom, so you can set up in dirt, mud, manure, or whatever and it will not be drawn into the telescoping joints when you collapse the legs. I think that unusual things like this are kind of fun; don't know about you. It's being sold by KEH "for parts" but from the description it appears that it is functional. I think I'd contact KEH for details, though. Maybe it's "for parts" because it is a bit beat up.
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  20. JoJo Gunn

    JoJo Gunn Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 13, 2016
    Dan Gunn
    Get a video head. Trey are made for panning. Even a cheap video head can do a great job. I use one of mine for birding! Following action is sooooo much easier than a ball head.
    • Agree Agree x 2
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