"Upside Down" Ball Heads, Help Me Understand

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by oldracer, May 28, 2016.

  1. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    I have an Acutech GP ball head. One of its claims to fame is that it can be configured as a leveling base for shooting panoramas, essentially using it upside down. I also see the Arca Swiss P0, which is a native upside down design. Pix:

    full. full.

    Typical ball heads have a pano feature in their base and most of Acratech's advertising photos show the GP in that configuration. To use the pano-in-base designs, you first have to level the tripod (or add an expensive leveling base) and then you have to level the camera platform on the ball head. With the upside down design you just level the camera platform and you're done.

    As far as I can see, the upside down design provides the same camera movements as the conventional design.

    So I have been thinking about this (Dangerous, I know) --- Why is this not a better configuration for all ball heads? Why wouldn't it be better if Acratech just built the thing upside down from the beginning? Why doesn't everyone build them this way? What am I missing?
  2. faithblinded

    faithblinded Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 25, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    1. it places all the weight of the head in the moving part, as opposed to being firmly locked to the tripod. the less weight you have to move, the easier it should be to control.
    2. it is only convenient if you want every panorama you shoot to be level with the horizon. if you use the head the normal way, and level the tripod, or use a leveling base, you can make a level rotation with the camera pointed any direction. that means you can stitch large images in addition to shooting panos, and generally is a more comfortable way to work. It's not very often that the panoramas I shoot are actually at the same level as myself. I also prefer a 2/3 alignment of the horizon, or even more extreme, and using the head this way locks you into pretty close to center alignment of the horizon.
    It also puts the panning lock knob very close to the camera, which is less comfortable than down on the tripod where it's easier to manipulate(depending on your tripod).

    I have an acratech head and I tried this with it once, and immediately switched back. It's much easier to have a proper leveling base on the tripod. Then it works with all your heads, and allows you complete freedom of positioning, with level rotation. There's also the good old fashioned method of actually leveling the tripod with the legs. I dont have the patience. I eyeball it, and use my leveling base if I need a level platform.
    • Informative Informative x 1
  3. min

    min Mu-43 Rookie

    Jun 3, 2011
    That's fine for eye level panning but if you had to tilt up of down you'll end up with an arch shape panoramic.
  4. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    Got it. I'm not much of pano guy, but I now see the issue of wanting the horizon somewhere other than in the center of the frame. Truth be told, most of my panos are single-row hand-held landscapes.

    Re weight, especially with the Acratech at under 1# I don't think it is much of an issue to substitute the weight of the cage for the weight of the ball but I guess that could be different with some of the bigger, heavier designs.

  5. dwig

    dwig Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 26, 2010
    Key West FL
    I have an old (circa 1980) unbranded ball head from a long forgotten mfgr. or distributor which allows for this type of inverted configuration. I've been using it inverted as a leveling head for panos for well over a decade. I have a couple of custom built L-brackets that hold the camera properly so that the lens nodal point is properly located. The larger metal L-bracket provides for both level single-row panos and for two row panos, though my smaller plastic one is technically for single rows only though it works well enough with distant scenes when doing dual row panos.

    There's a pair of pix of this head in this post: Shooting Panoramas - and a special head for µ43´tiny cameras
  6. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    This is why I don't shoot landscapes except for the occasional quick one frame click. Way to much damn work, my time is better spent crawling closer to things to photograph (the more dangerous the animal the more fun the stalk).
    • Funny Funny x 1
  7. faithblinded

    faithblinded Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 25, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    This is why I go out before the sun, and switch to wildlife when the light gets good enough. I only use my tripod for landscape when i'm doing long exposures or when I just cant get a handheld shot at low iso. Most of my panos and stitches are handheld, and you'd never know.
    • Like Like x 1
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