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UL ballhead for DSLR?
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Will Webster
UL ballhead for DSLR? on 02/05/2011 10:17:43 MST Print View

I'm looking for a good, lightweight ballhead to support a 39.5 oz still camera (Canon XTi + Tamron 17-50 + CPL) on top of either a Gorillapod Zoom or a hiking stick monopod. Right now the top contender is the Giottos MH-1104, which has a quick release (important to me) and weighs in at 2.8 oz (although one website lists it at 4.8; I'm trying to get confirmation). Anybody with experience using this ballhead, or with suggestions for an alternative?


Edited by WillWeb on 02/05/2011 10:20:34 MST.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: UL ballhead for DSLR? on 02/05/2011 11:06:12 MST Print View

Hi Will,

No experience with that model, which the maker lists at 80 g and 2 kg capacity and is pictured with no top plate.

I've found small ballheads can balance a fairly big camera carefully centered atop a tripod but if I have to flip it (vertical composition) the head won't handle the weight, due to the leverage. My Gitzo 1077M can hold a dslr and small lens, but only in landscape mode. I use a Linhoff (can't recall which model, one of their small ballheads) for larger lenses, but must use the tripod collar to keep the rig centered over the head shooting vertically

I'm saving up for an Acratech, which will handle about anything but at about a pound just for the ballhead.

Back to your challenge. At 2.5 pounds I suspect you'll need a bigger ballhead than what you're considering. Despite the 2 kg rating I'll be surprised if it can manage that kind of weight, reliably.

Good luck,


Will Webster
Re: Re: UL ballhead for DSLR? on 02/05/2011 12:41:15 MST Print View

Thanks Rick,

As you surmise, I am concerned about the ability of the Giottos to hold the weight - 2.8 oz is mighty light, considering that my Arca Swiss Z1 weighs in at 24 oz. OTOH the Z1 can support a 500 mm lens and pro body; an order of magnitude heavier than my backpacking gear.

BTW, what I'm looking at is actually the MH-1104-330, which adds the 330 platform and quick release to the ballhead - see the link I added to my original post.

Has anybody tried this combo with a small DSLR?


Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: UL ballhead for DSLR? on 02/05/2011 13:55:48 MST Print View

Looks fine for a short zoom, but that is it. Good weight and price. The caveat in using a ball head is that they "creep" a little after tightening down, particularly if overloaded. That is more of an issue on a tripod and doing very exacting alignment like macro or with long telephotos. That is where you see people using what seem to be oversize ball heads. On the other hand, you will be holding the camera, so you can "assist" a ball head. If I were going to use the Giotto head on a tripod, it would be point and shoot stuff.

Using a camera on a monopod really only needs a one axis tilt for up up/down. 99.9% of the time you will level the pole for the other axis, so a tilt head may be of more use and stronger for longer lenses. Finding a truly light one might be a challenge. The Manfrotto 234RC is a good example, but 270g/9.5oz --- probably equal to the weight of your monopod/trekking pole.

With any that use a 1/4"-3/8" adapter bushing, add some Loctite to the threads to keep it in the ball head.

Some of the first tripod heads were simple hinges, which might be an interesting approach for a MYOG tilt head.

FYI, I use one of these, but it is 500g.

Manfrotto 3d Junior head

Edited by dwambaugh on 02/05/2011 13:58:27 MST.

Brian Austin
(footeab) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: UL ballhead for DSLR? on 02/05/2011 19:33:22 MST Print View

Will, I see no reason why that ball head won't work. I use the same thing practically for a +2lb camera setup. It has a larger tightening lever on mine and its painted grey.... Otherwise identical and attached to a small tripod, though I saw the MYOG tripod on this forum and am looking into attaching said head to such a setup for a heavier camera, not sure it is really doable though. Back to this ballhead. I will say that its a bit fiddly at that weight and fine adjustment is not super easy, but then again if you are putting a camera on its side, you hardly need speed generally. Bascially, you are taking ??? waterfall shots? Canyon shots, and sunrise/sunset shots or night time shots. All of those except sunrise/sunset aren't all that time critical and most sunrise/sunset shots you don't really need a tripod rather buy faster glass for your panoramas? Oi, the $$$ word. If its a monopod, then just move said monopod to desired angle and set timer and hit the button.

Will Webster
Re: Re: UL ballhead for DSLR? on 02/05/2011 20:06:11 MST Print View

Thanks Brian. Is your ballhead a Giottos or another brand? What is the model number?

Intended uses with the Gorillapod are moving water shots, very low light, and getting myself into the frame.

With the monopod, the intent is to be able to shoot up or down, in landscape or portrait mode. I used to carry a Manfrotto 3229 monopod swivel but I'd have to decide when I mounted the plate whether I wanted up/down or portrait/landscape. A mini ballhead would be a lot more flexible than the swivel - both good and bad points depending on circumstances. If I'm carrying the bh for the G'pod anyway I'll use it with the monopod too - no point carrying two gizmos when one can do the trick.

I don't understand your last sentence: "If its a monopod, then just move said monopod to desired angle and set timer and hit the button". The only times I've used self timer on a monopod was with a P&S when the ground/snow was soft/deep enough that it could remain standing without me hanging on to it.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: UL ballhead for DSLR? on 02/05/2011 20:40:54 MST Print View

"I don't understand your last sentence: "If its a monopod, then just move said monopod to desired angle and set timer and hit the button". The only times I've used self timer on a monopod was with a P&S when the ground/snow was soft/deep enough that it could remain standing without me hanging on to it."

Pushing the shutter button jiggles the camera. Using the self timer works like a cable release, allow the camera to stop vibrating before the shutter goes off--- admittedly more effective on a tripod.

Shooting a camera hand held is just like target shooting-- same techniques in bracing with the neck strap, breath control, squeeze the release, just like a trigger. I used to do NRA target shooting as a teenager and I could use at lease one shutter speed slower than my classmates because of my paper punching skills. For that matter, bracing on a tree or rock is just as effective with a camera as it is with a rifle. Laying prone like a sniper is better than standing, etc, etc.

Another trick is to attach a cord to the tripod screw on the bottom of the camera and then step on it, forming a brace. Take lots of shots below 1/60 with a normal lens, more so with a telephoto.

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
UL ballhead for DSLR? on 02/05/2011 21:51:13 MST Print View

Linhoff 01 is worth a look. As is Both may be a bit heavier than you were looking for.

Neil Johnstone
(nsjohnstone) - MLife
Ballhead for SLR on 02/06/2011 04:02:53 MST Print View

Having tried several options, I have ended up with the RRS "Ultra-light" ball head.

I do not have the weight available (I am not at home), but with a Gitzo GT0531 tripod the total weight is 31.1 oz. This is the lightest combination that I have found that actually works.

RRS head

Edited by nsjohnstone on 02/06/2011 04:04:18 MST.

Will Webster
Re: Re: Re: Re: UL ballhead for DSLR? on 02/06/2011 08:26:35 MST Print View

Dale, thanks for the advice.

I routinely use self timer or a remote release (and mirror pre-fire) to reduce vibration when I'm shooting from a tripod. If I'm holding the camera - whether freehand, braced, or on a monopod - I'd rather be able to use the same riflery techniques you mention and squeeze my shot off when I'm ready. I can't imagine that anyone's success rate would improve if they started using a rifle that fired two seconds after they squeezed the trigger.

Using a riflery stance and breath control I can reliably shoot a stop slower than the 1/(effective focal length) rule of thumb freehand with an SLR, and I go to 1/4 second with a P&S. That's not the point though. I'm looking for a solution for those times when a tripod is needed to get the shot.

If I posed this question on fredmiranda I would expect to hear that I need at least a BH-50 and full-sized Gitzo, with a 5D Mk II and a bag full of fast primes. This is backpackinglight, though, and my aim is to push the limits of lightweight equipment.


Will Webster
Re: Ballhead for SLR on 02/06/2011 08:31:12 MST Print View

Neil, could you go into a little detail on the lighter options you've tried, and the equipment you were mounting on them?


Neil Johnstone
(nsjohnstone) - MLife
Ballhead for SLR on 02/06/2011 10:47:47 MST Print View

I can't go in too much detail, as all my notes are in diaries at home, but others I have tried include:

Linhof Ballhead 1
Novoflex mini Magic Ball
Small FLM head
Small Leica B+S

The Novoflex just did not hold anything firmly, the FLM become very rough very soon and the Linhoff I remember as good, but very heavy.

The Leica head works extremely well, but it's screw thread only and I have become too used to QR plates.

I have also tried a Gitzo tabletop CF tripod (0027?), but found it too small - it does not extend high enough to hang anything below the centre column to stabilise it.

All used with a Leica R6 and lenses up to an 80-200/4, so not exactly lightweight equipment!

I do not go for the "you need a 50lb wooden tripod" arguement, but there is a point where lower weight is counterproductive.

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
UL ballhead for DSLR? on 02/06/2011 14:36:32 MST Print View

One thing I found that really helped when using the combo of a Linhoff 01 and a Gitzo G01 was to fill a small stuff sack with rocks and attach it to the tripod so that it was just touching the ground. This was especially helpful when shooting verticals. I have had a number of images published using this set up.

John Nausieda
(Meander) - MLife

Locale: PNW
UL ballhead for DSLR on 02/06/2011 15:42:36 MST Print View

I use a Velbon 343e when traveling and backpacking. That and the Slik Sprint are decent choices. It also helps to balance the entire camera and lens combination on a dual camera mount bracket like this one on ebay
I use a perfected Photo Products quick clamp on one of the mounts and their quick release plates. A lighter option is a Slik DQ-S quick release adapter -all magnesium with two spirit levels and a robust plate.I can balance a Pentax K SLR and a long tele with a prop under the lens or Kenko small scopes on a digital. Not pretty but it works .

Will Webster
Thanks on 02/06/2011 16:02:45 MST Print View

Thanks, all, for your insights. I decided to go ahead and get the Giottos; if it isn't adequate for my intended use I can still use it with a P&S, and in a year or so when the market matures a bit I'll probably go mirrorless for my hiking camera anyway. I'll report back on my experiences with it.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: UL ballhead for DSLR? on 02/06/2011 16:37:59 MST Print View

I can't think of anything that will substitute for a tripod without having three legs. No free lunch.

What I would love to see is a single telescoping leg with a ball head and two swiveling clamps that will turn your trekking poles into a tripod. THAT would be a hiking photographer's dream-- you are hauling two perfectly good legs already. I could see it turned out in the 12oz range without much trouble.

You could also cut two legs from an UL tripod, leaving enough to strap/clamp to your trekking poles.

Voila! Using re-usable zip ties. 11.5oz and a $3.95 thrift store Sakar tripod. I could squeeze a little more by working on the handle and the center column. I would love to see clamps that would go to the metal pole and be more secure.

Cut down tripod with trekking poles

Cut down tripod with trekking poles

Cut down tripod with trekking poles

Cut down tripod with trekking poles

After some thought, a coordinated system could use a pair of flick-lock pole lower sections and a fairly standard tripod arrangement, with two stub legs sized to take the trekking pole parts and a full third leg would be included with the tripod, made by the same manufacturer as the trekking poles. With a 3/8" or 1/4" stud, regular tripod accessories could be added. The two lower sections on my Black Diamond Trail poles would provide 36" legs.

This would be so simple for someone like BD, Leki or Komperdell to turn out. I could see outdoor photographers dropping major dollars on a setup like that.

Another way to go about it would be to have sockets in the handles of the trekking poles to accept the stub legs on the tripod. That would avoid the need to disassemble your poles--- just plug them in with some sort of ball catch/detent.

Edited by dwambaugh on 02/06/2011 23:32:24 MST.

Andrew Tettenhorst
(tettenhorsta) - MLife

Locale: Socal
Second RRS BH-25 on 02/07/2011 00:53:39 MST Print View

Much like Neil I use the RRS BH-25 and Gitzo 0531. After several days research I narrowed it down to that ballhead and tripod. The issue with other ballheads as I found out is a lot of them have the "creep" issue brought up previously. With the BH-25 its stable enough to handle a 70-200mm lens occasionally as stated by the RRS website, from the feel of mine it could definitely handle it, though I have yet to test it out. If you're just shooting with the wide angle lens it should be fine and you shouldn't have any problems. I shoot with a Canon 5DII and a 17-40Lmm/24-105Lmm, both combinations are stable on the ballhead. If you do go this route you will also have to factor in the weight of the quick release plate. The RRS quick release plates are very nice though, they are specifically machined to each camera model eliminating any additional "creep" that comes from the camera spinning on a generic quick release plate stud which I've frequently encountered on my larger Giotto ballhead.

Cary Beuershausen
Re: Ballhead for SLR on 02/10/2011 11:47:11 MST Print View

I'll have to check out this RRS "Ultra-light" ball head. I love the RRS stuff and have some of their L brackets and lens mounts. The Arca Swiss system is awesome.

Edited by Kudzu on 02/10/2011 11:47:46 MST.

Will Webster
Giottos MH-1104-330 on 02/11/2011 16:16:22 MST Print View

OK, so the Giottos arrived in the mail today and I tried it out - drum roll please - it works fine, both in portrait and landscape positions! Weight is 3.5 oz including the quick release plate; I'm assuming that the widely quoted 2.8 oz is without the QR assembly. There is a touch of sag when I first tighten down the ball and let go of the camera, but I consider it quite acceptable for backpacking where I won't be using a truly rigid tripod anyway. As noted in my first post, I'm using it to support a relatively light DSLR (Canon XTi) with a short zoom (Tamron 17-50 f/2.8). Body plus lens weighs in right around 39 oz / 1 kg. I'd probably overwhelm this little ballhead if I threw my 7D and 70-200L on it, but that's not what I bought it for. It looks like it will do what I want at a weight and price I'm comfortable with; I'm a happy camper.

Frank Deland

Locale: On the AT in VA
L Plates on 03/17/2011 05:58:47 MDT Print View

L plates are nice when going vertical. Reasons explained in this video from Real Right Stuff:

My Gorilla tripod came with a ball head. There is a comparison of ball heads vs. others at RRS.

Here is a review with pictures of the GT0531 and BH 25 mentioned above:

Edited by rambler on 03/17/2011 06:03:57 MDT.