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Old Jul 27, 2009, 7:26 AM   #1
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Default Panning Ballheads

I am looking to acquire a ballhead to complement my tripod. I would like it to pan to support panoramas. I came across the Acratech GP Ballhead that does have a lot of appeal, in that when needed, I can flip it over, mounting it on the tripod upside down - and I am ready to go. The most weight I will be mounting is 2.75 pounds (Pentax K20 with a DA 12-24 lens), the ballhead supports up to 25#. The Acratech also provides gimbal support.

So the question is - any downside to this combination? It appears that the GP model is quite new, however others have used their other ballheads in this manner, and the idea has filtered back to Acratech. Has anyone used their other ballheads in an inverted manner?



[August 4, 2009] I'll just add on to this. The unit came yesterday and was waiting for me on the kitchen table. My wife - the Chancellor of the Exchequer, quipped as I was opening the package, that it had better be gold plated and jewel encrusted - preferably emeralds. So, its small, very well made (the machining is outstanding), mounts on the tripod quickly and easily. The quick release plate mounts on the camera easily and then the camera mounts on the ballhead again easily and quickly. Inverting the ballhead is again easy and quick - you do have to use the allen wrench to move the leveling plate to the other end. That went quicker than expected. It pans, swivels, easily locks into any position - and with the camera/lens mounted on the tripod the entire assembly is very stable (even when setup on an incline). The design is radically different than any other ballhead - and after playing with it, the design and implementation works extremely well. So all in all I am very happy - and my wife even approved (I even got dinner). I now am obligated to take pictures of her guinea pigs for a presentation she is giving.

I took it out for a set of test shots - panning and it worked extremely well - much easier than what I was use to. I cannot see that it could be any easier.

Its quite a bit less ($175) than the RRS (Really Right Stuff) panning ballhead - and half the weight (better for my traveling setup).

So - all in all, it is a success. It is a new product and of the few distributors, fewer have it in stock. I used Rodgers in Indiana, who had it in stock earlier, but was out of stock on them (slight discount to the MSRP and free shipping), so they offered to have it dropped shipped from the manufacturer, which was effortless on my part.

I will say, this entire tripod / ballhead odyssey has been a learning experience. Without using my old $10 plastic & aluminum tripod (an evilbay special) for the last couple of years, I would not have known what to look for in a new tripod/head combination - what would work for me and what would have been a disaster.

[September 27, 2009] I received an email with a question - which I answered, but I thought that I would just add to this post yet again. Which sort of turns this posting up side down - why would someone want a panning ball head as opposed to just a regular ball head. Well - in a perfect world you would not need one. I go, find a spot that I want to take a picture of, pull the tripod out, and if it is in the car, the legs are already extended and the ball head is on it, I just pull the legs out from the center and extend the center column. I might roughly adjust the legs to make sure that everything is stable and will not fall over, especially if the ground is on an incline. In theory, you are suppose to level the tripod out so that the top of the tripod is level - but I have found that this is an endless series of leg adjustments - that I can never get right, such that when I am through, there is still some slop. So, if I were to use a regular ball head with the azimuth setting below the ball head, when I swing it around, I am either going up or down hill - i.e., its not level.

A better solution for me, is the panning ballhead, where by I make sure the tripod is stable, forgetting about it being level, attach the camera on the ballhead - and I have a bubble level attached to the camera's hotshoe. Then I use the single knob on the ball head to roughly level the camera looking through the viewfinder with the horizon. Then - since it is dark out - I take a pen light and shine it through the hotshoe level, and then I finely adjust the ballhead to be level in the azmiuth. All of this takes about 15 to 20 seconds - well less than a minute. And its very stable, and perfectly level. Note - I said level in the azmiuth (or horizon), I might have the camera pointed up or down depending on where I am going to take the picture.

so .... hope that helps ...

Last edited by interested_observer; Sep 27, 2009 at 1:01 PM.
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