I’ve been learning a lot about tripod heads recently.
You see, the tripod head that I’ve been using for the past 6 years finally bit the dust.
So, I started looking for a new one. Here were my 5 prerequisites:
It needed to be a ball head, not a 3-way video pan head or a pistol grip style head.
It needed to be light weight. Travel friendly. (I travel a lot.)
It needed to have a load capacity of over 8lbs. I weighed all the equipment that I could think of that I would ever put on the ballhead and it weighed just under 8lbs.
I wanted to experiment with an Arca Swiss quick plate release system. All I’d ever used up to this point was Manfrottos RC2 release system, and I wanted to try something different.
It needed to be a reasonable price. A reasonable price to me right now is around $100.
Well, after searching around for a while, I bought the Vanguard TBH-100.
It met all the requirements and I was pretty excited about using it! It even had two perks: a built in level and an independent panning knob.
However, I didn’t use it long before I ran into three major problems. Two of the three problems I could have lived with, but the third, well, it was the straw that broke the camels back:
The quick release tightening knob sat directly underneath the DSLR, making it only possible to tighten down with the tips of my fingers. The tips of my fingers can only get things so tight (especially when they are sweaty/dirty/wet like mine always are in the field), so I could never really know if the quick release plate was ever actually tightened down securely. This made me feel uneasy about the new ball head from the get-go.
The quick plate safety pin wasn’t compatible with my new Peak Design Capture Pro Clip. I use the Capture Pro Clip all the time, so in order to make the ball head compatible with it, I had to disassemble the safety pin, opening the door to a whole host of potential problems (especially if I wasn’t able to get the quick release knob tightened down properly!).
The independent panning knob hindered rapid control and fine-tuned adjustment of the ball head. What I thought would be a perk turned into a nightmare. I now had to untighten/tighten two knobs instead of just one to make just about any sort of adjustment when shooting vertically. And what if I forget to tighten down one of the two knobs? At best, my composition wouldn’t be locked in…at worst, it would allow the camera to drop and bang against things. Unnecessary potential for damage, in my opinion.
So, what did I decide to do?
I decided to return the Vanguard TBH-100 and buy another Manfrotto 496RC2. I’m glad they’re still selling ‘em! The RC2 quick plate release system is faster and more reliable anyway.
If you have any recommendations for a tripod head that has worked well for you and that is relatively close to the prerequisites I mentioned earlier, please feel free to leave a comment! I’d love to hear from your experiences.
If you would like to learn more about photography, feel free to pick up my free ebook, The Secret to Shooting Like a Pro.
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