Tripods: 3-way Pan head vs. Ball head

frXnz kafka

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What's everyone's opinion on these two tripod heads? I've only ever used a pan head on a cheapo tripod, and it seems to me that the ball head would be more likely to slip with a heavy camera.

So if you have experience with both, tell me the pros and cons of each.
 

MikeBcos

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I have one of each, I much prefer the ball head, it is far easier and quicker to set up.
 

Alex_B

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for most things i do... ball head.
 

250Gimp

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Not really a fair comparison, but I really like my manfrotto ball head compared to the cheap pan head I have.
 

reg

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One of the major advantages of using a ball head is the simple operation it provides. A single knob is faster and easier to operate than multiple handles and levers. While one hand takes care of the knob, the other can be on the camera and positioning it as you look through the viewfinder. When you find that spot you’re looking for, give it a twist and away you go.
In addition to the simple activation of controls, the motion provided is equally elegant and simple — you might even say intuitive. A full range of rotation means there are no limits to which direction you can point the camera, and the motion feels quite natural and uninhibited. Your own hips and shoulders work on the same basis as the ball head: the ball and socket joint.
But besides the ergonomics and ease of use of the ball head, they’re also generally more compact than a pan head. There are no adjustment arms that hang off the head, and the single socket can be designed to occupy much less space than three separate hinge joints.
Plus they look cool.

Now of course there are downsides to every good thing out there. In the case of the ball head, it’s mainly the price. For a ball head of equal quality and capability to a pan head, the ball head will almost always cost more money. The main reason they cost more is because that precision ball and socket joint is much more difficult and expensive to manufacture than three decent clutched hinges.
The other downside of the ball head is with the strength and precision. Ball heads that are comparable in price to pan heads will typically support less weight (important for folks with big heavy lenses). The motion and the ability to stop the motion will also be of lower quality and capability than the pan head. It’s not to say that you can’t get a ball head to carry a heavy load with smooth operation — it’s just going to cost more.
 

table1349

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Heads are like everything else they all have their place. You need to decide what fits your needs the best. Here are the three most common.

Pan/Tilt heads: Easy to adjust in very small increments with out skewing the whole thing up. Excellent for panoramas, macro work, architectural, studio and precision work.


Ball head: Quick to adjust. Takes more time and care to make minor adjustments. Compact for travel. Excellent general use head. Most adapted for field use, nature, landscape. More expensive ball head with an independent panning feature are good for panorama's as well.


Grip style ball heads: Very quick to adjust and control. Excellent in the studio. A modified 322RC2 head is my preferred head in the studio for portrait work.
 

Alex_B

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Could you say why? I'm not terribly concerned with speed when I'm shooting on a tripod, so what other advantage is there to a ball head?

I could!


but it is all said by reg already :)
 

Jeff Canes

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---The other downside of the ball head is with the strength and precision. Ball heads that are comparable in price to pan heads will typically support less weight (important for folks with big heavy lenses). The motion and the ability to stop the motion will also be of lower quality and capability than the pan head. It’s not to say that you can’t get a ball head to carry a heavy load with smooth operation — it’s just going to cost more.

I use a pan head now, but by first high end head was a Manfrotto ball only model, quick found that I did not like it because you could not simple rotation on the center axis, some the top end models like the Gitzo 1377M or Manfrotto 468mgrc in $250ish range will rotation on the center axis, so you also get side to side pan
 
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table1349

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slapshot™;1451932 said:
Correct!

Panhead = video
Ballhead = still photography


Incorrect.

Panhead = precision movement, more cumbersom to adjust.

Ballhead = harder to move in small precise movements. Quick to adjust for general usage.

Fluidhead = Video.
 

Josh66

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I personally prefer pan/tilt heads for the precise adjustment. I tried using a ball head once...I did not like it at all. That doesn't mean that they suck, you just won't find one in my bag. ;)
 

Phranquey

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Pan/tilts are great if you always have time to set up your shots. Ball heads are the way to go if you need to react quickly.
 

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