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-   -   Ball Head Reccomendation for Tripod?? (

baltochef920 Jun 13, 2007 7:26 PM

Since I needed a decent tripod for the photography class that I am enrolled in, today I purchased from B & H Camera the Giottos MT-9360 Aluminum Tripod Legs with Multi-Position Center Column..

Weight= 5.5 lbs.--- Max. Hgt.= 64.2"---Min. Hgt.= 20.5"---Max. Load= 17.6 lbs.---Length Folded= 22.8"---Cost delivered to my door= $144.95 plus $4.95 S,H,& I=$149.90..

Until I can afford a lighter carbon fiber tripod sometime next year, this one should fulfill all my needs..

What I need are suggestions / reccomendations / personal experiences with tripod ball heads from the Pentaxians on this forum..

I need a ball head that is capable of supporting the K10D, a battery grip w/ battery, a Tamron BBAR 70-350mm f4.5 zoom lens w/ BBAR 2x teleconverter & Adaptall Pentak K mount (this is my heaviest lens combo at 5.2 lbs.)..

Ultimately, it should also be able to support something like the Wimberly mount as well as a single / double flash bracket with one / two flashes for macro / bellows work..

Altogether, I'm guessing that the ball head will need to be able to support approximately 12-15 lbs. (including the weight of the ball head itself)..

Since I cannot afford the obvious choices, ie. Arca-Swiss, Markin M20, Really Right StuffBH-55, & others in the $350.00 plus price rangeI need a lower cost alternative..

Do any of the posters here have experience with the lower cost ball heads, & if so how did they work for you??

All comments / suggestions / opinions gladly accepted / collated / computed / data stored /spindled / & mutilated!!!

Thanks, Bruce

snostorm Jun 14, 2007 12:56 AM

Hi Bruce,

I don't know if this helps, but here's my experience.

I have and use the lower end 484RC2 and 486 RC2 Bogens, and although they do a respectable job, their lack of a tension control while released didn't cut it when I started using heavier lenses (which was pretty much right away). They also droop significantly and inconsistently when locking, and are frustrating to position precisely with a long lens.

Let me mention that I have a few reasonably good tripods, though my shooting style dictates that I don't use them that often. I tend to like versatility, and have a Uni Loc System 1700, a Benbo Tracker I, a Bausch and Lomb Advanced Titanium for a very lightweight full sized pod, and a very small and light Velbon Ultra Maxi for travel and light digicam use. All but the Velbon were found on Ebay at ridiculously low prices -- the Uni Loc was the most expensive @ $112 USD.

Back to the ball heads. The models that you mentioned are all superb, with the Markins and the RRS leading the pack, AFAIC. Add some Arca Swiss blocks, and the prices get very high very quickly. Used ones, even on Ebay, don't sell for significantly less -- and I watched for quite a while. Unfortunately, the most viable alternatives that met my criteria aren't that much less expensive. I finally narrowed it down to the Acratech Ultimate and the Bogen 648MG RC2. I was leaning towards the Acratech, but won an auction for the Bogen for $175. There aren't too many of either of these offered for auction without a significant reserve, so I got lucky.

The RC2 QR is not really up to the task for reasonably heavy lenses like a 300/2.8 (over 5 lbs for the lens alone), but my Tamron SP 300/2.8 and the DS balance well on the tripod ring mount, and I really don't have any trouble using it. I would, however, NEVER carry the camera mounted on the tripod any distance more than a couple of feet to adjust an angle. I use a Camdapter grip strap on all my cameras and ALWAYS dismount the camera before I walk with it so it's always secure.

The RC2 will also not be of any use if you want to mount a Wimberly or Jobu gimbal mounts -- they all use the Arca Swiss clamp. The problems with the A-S system for me are the block cost, the fact that I was already pretty invested in the RC2 system, and I was used to and pretty satisfied with it, even given its significant limitations. There are, however, some reasonable looking and relatively inexpensive gimbals available coming out of India that I'm looking at since I really doubt that I'll be using anything substantially heavier than what I already have. These don't need an A-S block. If I decide to get one, it'll probably be a bit later this summer. The Bogen gimbal is also a lower cost alternative that has a lot of fans -- it's not as elegant as a Wimberly or Jobu, but it works. even with very heavy lenses.

Both the Acratech Ultimate and the 648MG RC2 are light -- less than a lb. Both are adjustable for unlocked tension, but the Bogen is easier to adjust. Both have great build quality with the Acratech getting the nod for quality finish and smoothness. The Acratech is undoubtably cooler looking. The Bogen is much easier physically to lock and unlock due to its hydraulic mechanism. The A-S clamp is definitely superior, but the RC2 system is a lot less expensive and faster -- at least for me.

The 648MG RC2 is about perfect for me. Compared to the Acratech, it's a tad less smooth and not nearly as cool looking, and would be tougher to clean if that became a factor (which it hasn't). Even with a pretty heavy lens/cam combo, position can be easily adjusted, unlocked tension is easily set with the micro-click resetable tension adjustment knob, and the hydraulic locking mechanism is very easy to set with just a touch and locks absolutely solid.

Let me say that I think you're on the right track considering the higher end tripods and heads and trying to consider future needs for your current purchase. I hope that I've added a little insight and information from my thoughts on these models.

BTW, those Giottos legs were on my short list before I lucked into the Uni Loc. It was a little to massive at the leg joint, so I was leaning towards the bent bolt designs anyway. The similar Gitzo was just too expensive. I later picked up the Benbo really cheap from another auction that I couldn't pass up and it serves a purpose. It's lighter and just as versatile, but not nearly as well made nor as solid.


baltochef920 Jun 14, 2007 8:12 AM

Hello Scott

Thanks for the post as it was very informative.

They mostly talk about the high end ball heads, or in generalities on the tripod forum here at Steve's..

Areyour A/S -style Q-R plates actually from ArcaSwiss, or are you using anothermanufacturers??..

The RRS plates are supposed to be quite good from what I've read..

Any suggestions as to what style plate that fits under the K10D??..What did you choose & why??..Can you explain the relationship between the weight of the camera / lens combo & the length of the Q-R plate needed??..

I gather that longer Q-R plates allow you to choose multiple positions so as to achieve a "neutral" balance point??..

The charts provided on some of the sites that I looked at were not very informative as to what the various plates listed were intended to be used for!!..

I'll be checking out the Bogen 648MG RC2 as soon as I've finished posting this ..

Thanks, Bruce

baltochef920 Jun 14, 2007 12:35 PM


Are you positive about the Bogen 648MG RC2 Ball Head????

I can find NO reference anywhere on this item!!

Discontinued?? Wrong number??


snostorm Jun 14, 2007 1:19 PM

Hi Bruce,

Sorry, it's the 468MGRC2. a little it was late and looked right at the time. I knew the model # was close to the lower end 486, but with numbers jumbled and switched the wrong two.

RRS makes Arca Swiss type plates for the K10 with and without the grip;Tp=&Bc=

Kirk also makes plates for the K10 with and without the grip.

And the new Kirk BH-3 looks like it might meet your requirements also.

I haven't been keeping up with new developments in ballheads since I got the Bogen, so I wasn't aware of the availability of the BH-3 until I visited the site to get the Plate URL.

You are correct about the length of the plates allowing you to more accurately balance. If you call or e-mail RRS or Kirk Ent, they are both very helpful in answering specific ??s about ball heads and plates. The Kirk site, though they don't give too many specifics about the size of the plates, has a pretty comprehensive lens/plate matching system. IIRC, Arca Swiss is the most cryptic about their plates. Acratech has plates also, but a much more limited selection. Their CS people are also very knowledgeable, and their plates are generally less expensive. Realize that it's been a while since my search for a ball head, and things change. . .


BTW, I use the Bogen RC2 QR system myself -- it's a decision I made for mostly economical reasons, and I don't necessarily recommend it, but it works for me realizing its limitations. the A-S QR system is universally acknowledged to be the best and most secure, but it would be too pricey for me to change at this point -- I don't say that I won't, but I haven't yet. . .

baltochef920 Jun 14, 2007 1:53 PM


Thank you for the correction & the links..

Much appreciated!!


baltochef920 Jun 14, 2007 4:45 PM

After MUCH internal debate[ like do I make the correct / most cost effective purchase once.. Or do I buy increasingly more expensive / appropriate pieces of gear so that I end up with a "collection" of equipment, much of which I would then have to sell / allow to sit unused] I ordered the following today from Really Right Stuff:

1. BH-55 Pro ball head

2. BD-BG2 plate to fit K10D battery grip

3. B97L long plate to fit the Tamron BBAR 70-350 f4.5 lenses' tripod foot

4. Total cost w / shipping $538.00--OOOOOOOOOOOOOUCH!!!

I got the thumb screw style Q-R so that I have the option of using Arca-Swiss style Q-R plates other than the ones manufactured by RRS & Wimberly..

I had budgeted approximately $450-500 for the tripod & head, & had hoped to be able to spend a bit less..I'm now at $697.00 for tripod & head, about $200.00 more than I really wanted to spend right now..

Since I'm having a good bit of trouble transitioning from film to digital I decided to spend up for the RRS balll head..Anything that will let me focus more on the shot & less with fiddling with the equipment to make things work right is money well spent..

Many thanks to you Scott for your advice


snostorm Jun 14, 2007 5:13 PM

Hi Bruce,

I think that you made the right call. The "Pros" use this level of equipment for exactly the reason that you stated -- it allows you to just take the shot with minimum of playing around.

Unfortunately, I seem to have to learn this the hard way, buying things that will just do the job, then finding that I would have saved a lot of money, time, and frustration if I just followed my first instincts and popped for the good stuff the first time. It's just so hard to spend that much money on something that so small, and "just" an accessory to the "real" gear -- the camera and lenses. I guess that going through the frustration of using marginal equipment is a necessary step for me to really appreciate the benefits of the really good stuff. . .:-)

I know that you'll thank yourself later, after the pain of writing that check has worn off.


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