Best tri­pod head for stills

Which is best, a con­ven­tional three-way tri­pod head or a ball head?

NPhoto - - Nik Pedia -

Based on a con­ven­tional three-way de­sign, the X-PRO three-way is crafted from alu­minium and features locks for tilt, pan and swivel move­ments, with dual fric­tion dampers. Three built-in spirit lev­els as­sist lev­el­ling in both land­scape and por­trait ori­en­ta­tion shoot­ing. Ad­just­ments can feel long-winded with the three-way head, as you have to re­lease and tighten three knobs to en­able move­ment in all three axes. There are also two knobs to ad­just tilt and swivel fric­tion damp­ing, to suit heav­ier cam­era and lens com­bi­na­tions. One of the main ad­van­tages of any three-way head is the po­ten­tial for very pre­cise po­si­tional ad­just­ments, par­tic­u­larly for macro and ar­chi­tec­tural shoot­ing. A bonus is that you can make ad­just­ments in one axis, while keep­ing the other two axes locked in po­si­tion. As with any three-way head, this one has a ded­i­cated clamp for the pan­ning axis, so you can leave the tilt and pivot clamps locked and ro­tate the head in only a lat­eral di­rec­tion. It’s use­ful for pan­ning, and for tak­ing se­quen­tial shots to stitch into panoramic im­ages. The three-way head takes up more room than its ri­val, and this de­spite the re­tractable arms for the tilt and swivel clamps, which slide into their grips. The three-way head also weighs twice as much as the ball head, but has a lower max­i­mum load rat­ing. A re­place­ment for the pop­u­lar Man­frotto 498RC2 ball head, the XPRO has a ball and socket de­sign, with the main body being built from sturdy yet light mag­ne­sium al­loy. It features a main lock­ing clamp, pan­ning clamp, fric­tion damper and two bub­ble lev­els. With a sin­gle main lock­ing clamp, ad­just­ments in all axes of move­ment are quick and in­tu­itive. Sim­i­larly, only one ad­justable fric­tion damper is needed, in­stead of the two on the three-way head. Both heads use the same 200PL-14 quick re­lease plate. The ball head can’t beat the three-way head for pre­ci­sion in fine ad­just­ments but per­for­mance is still very good. It’s aided by very lit­tle sag when re­leas­ing the cam­era after mak­ing ad­just­ments, as well as the fric­tion damper and pan­ning clamp (see be­low). Like many cur­rent de­signs of ball heads from com­pet­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers, this one features a ded­i­cated pan­ning clamp. It there­fore gives you the same op­tion as a three-way head, to leave tilt and swivel locked off and en­able only lat­eral move­ment. The ball head re­quires com­par­a­tively lit­tle room in your kit bag, es­pe­cially if you tilt the ball back­wards through 90 de­grees. It weighs just 500 grams (ver­sus the one kilo­gram of the three-way head), yet has a greater max­i­mum load rat­ing of 10 kilo­grams.

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