Best style of tripod head for product photography ?

Discussion in 'Commercial/Product photography' started by MidnightUK, Jan 17, 2018.

  1. MidnightUK

    MidnightUK TPF Noob!

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    I am doing more product photography. I have not looked at heads for 15 years or so, so I am totally out of touch with developments with styles of head and with mounting plates. I have no loyalty to any brand.

    I have been using a pan and tilt. Should I consider a ball head that can take heavy loads to reduce slippage risk, or perhaps a pistol grip - or is it most effective to stick with a pan and tilt?

    Are there any helpful features I should look out for in a modern head and mounting plate system, or anything I should avoid?

    Thanks for any ideas on this.


     
  2. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Pistol grip heads? Mostly garbage. A HUGE "NO, no way!" on those.

    Pan and tilt heads or ball head...either way...

    Most pan and tilt heads cinch down tightly, and allow pretty good adjustments...ball heads OTOH can for some people, be problematic with getting all the different camera axes in the right order. MANY people cannot for their life, get a level horizon...and a ballhead means that many times they'll end up having the camera set up all caddywhompus.
     
  3. Don Kondra

    Don Kondra Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    :)

    I use these >Manfrotto 322RC2 Grip Action Ball Head 322RC2 B&H Photo Video

    With a ball head you are basically holding the camera with one hand while trying to tighten a knob. On a grip action both hands are supporting the camera and you simply have to release your grip to set the position.

    Cheers, Don
     
  4. Jamesaz

    Jamesaz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Take a look at "Magic Ball". There are 3, I believe, different sizes depending on what needs supporting. They are pricey but a really good product.
     
  5. ac12

    ac12 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    There is also a geared head.
    It is a 3-way pan/tilt, but with the addition of gear so that you can fine tune the adjustments by turning a knob. And for making tiny/fine adjustments, that is the way to go.
     
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  6. 480sparky

    480sparky Chief Free Electron Relocator Supporting Member

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    Yep! No other choice but geared.
     
  7. cgw

    cgw No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I like the Manfrotto 322RC for its quick adjustability, especially landscape/portrait shifts. Fine corrections, though, can be a bit frustrating. Manfrotto makes two nice geared heads: the pricey, large QR plate, higher weight capacity 410; and the more affordable, smaller RC2 plate, slightly plasticky, lighter load limit XPro. Both have quick/fine 3-way adjustments. More experience with the XPro which works great with medium weight and lighter gear. The 410 can easily handle heavier loads like MF film cameras.
     
  8. Designer

    Designer Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Why not continue with the pan and tilt head that you're now using?

    Remember; a ball head that is loose enough to move the ball will move in all directions with equal ease and all at the same time. If you need that kind of flexibility, then a ball head is for you.

    With a pan head, you can leave one axis tight while moving your camera in another axis. You can get the camera level, then move whichever other axis you need to frame without letting go of the level setting.

    As to QD plates; Do you have multiple tripods set up in different parts of your studio, and therefore you take your camera to another tripod regularly? Or do you have multiple cameras that switch places on the one tripod regularly? Or does someone else bring his camera into your studio regularly? If this is you, then you should use a fairly common make of QD plate system in all of your tripod heads. Get all of your tripod heads with the same QD plate system or it won't work.

    If that is not you, then why be concerned with any particular style of quick-detach plate system?
     
  9. petrochemist

    petrochemist TPF junkie!

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    I actually find my AF2100 Pistol grip to be brilliant. Maybe because I use it with fairly small mirrorless cameras.
    I admit it didn't work well with my DSLR & a 300mm lens, but I wouldn't want to use such a lens for product work.

    When it comes to 3-way vs Ball, It is very much a matter of personal preference as to which a user prefers. I got fed up with a 3-way head years ago (& have never fitted a camera to one of the 1950's style tiny ball heads which struggle to hold a flash).

    Given that product photography requires precision rather than speed I'd think a geared head would be ideal, I've never used one they just don't appear in my price range. A shame, there are times they could be very useful but the price ensures my GAS doesn't get another outlet.
     
  10. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    A few thoughts:

    1) Geared head - this is probably the best for what you are doing. Products don't move fast so you don't need fast tracking, what you need is firm support and easy positioning. Geared heads give you fine control in each of the 3 axis of movement. So you can move it around and make very fine adjustments (they also have a pressure release to make bigger movements as required)
    The Manfrotto Junior Geared head should suffice for most users who are not using a medium format camera or super heavy setup.

    2) Ballheads - these are great for tracking moving subjects and being fast to adjust. You can lock off all the pressure and just have the head supporting the weight of the setup or you can pan and tilt (good ones often have a panning plate so you can pan without releasing pressure on the ball itself).
    For products ballheads will be faster to position initially but you might find them a pain to make fine adjustments in a single axis without affecting the others.

    3) 3 way heads - your basic pan and tilt head. Much like the geared head, but without the fine control options. You've already got one so if its working for you - great no need to update - if its not working for you identify the weakness/issue and see which other heads will suit.

    4) Pistol Grip heads - some people love them, others hate them. Personally I had an earlier pistolgrip from Manfrotto and it was well made and fast to adjust, but, in the end, it was a pain. IT didn't have a pressure lock-off feature so that was one downside (I believe newer ones mostly do) as you had to have one hand on the pistol grip all the time to remove pressure if you wanted to track a moving subject. Furthermore you can't make adjustments in one plane at a time (again a weakness they share with ballheads).


    Personally if I were doing product I'd use my geared head without question, however honestly mostly any head would work for most general products. The geared would just be the best overall.

    On the subject of plates my preference is Arca Swiss (produced by Arca Swiss and Kirk). These are expensive and bigger than many other plates, but they have a unique design for each camera body (different for with and without camera grips) and lens collar. This design accounts for a metal lip on the plate which bumps up to the edge of the camera/lens collar - this means that it cannot turn on the tripod screw thread. Many plates (eg manfrotto) only have a rubber surface to prevent rotation and, often as not, you have to screw them down very hard to avoid any rotational slippage (esp if you're using varied angles).
    You will need adaptors for things like manfrotto heads (since they use different quick release plates and using a manfrotto quick release plate on the base of an arca swiss one defeats the point of using the arca swiss). The Geared head mentioned above (Junior geared by manfrotto) uses a unique quick release plate design (so the generic manfrotto adaptor for arca swiss won't work). There are adaptors for it out there, so do search for them if you go down that path.

    Of course there are also tripod heads out there that have arca swiss mounts on them from the start so you can always get a geared head built with one attached (or any other head type). I don't own a geared head like that so I can't suggest a product name.
     
  11. Christie Photo

    Christie Photo No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Just what sort of products? Not that it matters what's in front of the lens, but I'm trying to envision the shooting environment. I have two different models of tripods that I use (I do nearly all product sort of stuff). They are all equipped with a pan/tilt sort of head.

    I make the choice of which to use depending on the situation. Stability is essential in my mind. Of course, I don't want to worry about any shake, but sometimes I need to combine a couple (or more) images to achieve what I need. So I want sequential images to as near to exact as possible.

    I've not used a ball head, so I can't tell you if one will afford you the same consistency from frame to frame.

    I wonder too about getting the camera plumb. The levels on all my tripods have been damaged through the years, but I can come really close watching through the finder a I make adjustments. I imagine it's a bit tougher to do this with a ball head.

    Good luck!
    -Pete
     
  12. MidnightUK

    MidnightUK TPF Noob!

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    Thank you everyone for a whole lot of info and plenty to think about before I buy, all of your comments are very helpful.
     

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