I need a new tripod head and I can’t decide which one to get

So I need a new tripod head.  Mine was a fairly cheap one when I got it about 6 years ago but it has developed a lot of play between the mount and the unit, so isn’t actually stable any more.

Doing some reading of reviews and asking around on forums I have decided on two potential brands

Acratech

Acratech GP Ball Head

GP

Really Right Stuff

RRS BH-40 LR with Pano option

BH-40 Ballhead

Both of them cost about same in USD and I have to pay for shipping and probably customs which will add 10-20% to the price.  Neither have a supplier in NZ therefore no service options should there be a problem.  With the extra bits I want the RRS is slightly more expensive

Both have options for L brackets, tho the RRS has brackets specially shaped to fit most popular brands and models of cameras.

Both have an option for a Pano mount, but the Acratech has to be taken off and mounted upside down to use it.

Both have node rail options (which could be used for my macro lens)

Here are some reviews on Acratech ballheads:

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/arcatech.shtml

http://www.fredmiranda.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/226

http://www.johnbirchphotography.com/2013/07/acratech-gv2-ballhead/

Some reviews on RRS ballheads:

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/accessories/rrs-bh55.shtml

http://www.wandersandwonders.com/2013/04/14/stuff-that-works-really-right-stuff-tripod-ballheads

http://bobsimmerman.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/review-really-right-stuff-tvc-33s-versa-series-tripod-and-bh-55-lr-ballhead-package/

What do I Want?

– solid long lasting construction

– lever action (not screws)

– pano feature would be a bonus

– L bracket option

– levelling bubble would be a bonus

Both brands come with most of the options above.  Both websites have useful videos and information about using the heads and other useful tripod related info.

Its a really hard choice, I really like the RRS stuff as an idea, I like the specifically shaped L plate and the fact the pano mount functionality can be used without taking off the head.

However I also really like the Acratech design, I like the concept and the accessibility the unit gives you.  It has all the features I need and some I want with some compromises and is a little cheaper in price.

HELP I CAN’T DECIDE!!!

Does anyone out there have experience with these brands?

Would love some thoughts, recommendations or advice

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About lensaddiction

Mad keen photographer figuring it out as she goes!
This entry was posted in For Beginners, Tech Tips, Waffle and Burbling and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to I need a new tripod head and I can’t decide which one to get

  1. Jeff Sinon says:

    You’re in luck, as I’ve owned that exact RRS head, and currently use an Acratech Ultimate. Both are truly works of machined aluminum art and both function perfectly. The reason I sold my RRS and picked up the Acratech was weight. I do a lot of photography in the mountains, which means I have to carry everything on my back in my pack. So if there’s a way to save some weight I’m all for it. And the Acratech, being only slightly more than half the weight of the RRS was the perfect choice.

    • Jeff Sinon says:

      I should add that I thought I was going to miss the lever of the RRS head when I got the Acratech, and much to my pleasure I don’t miss it at all. And in case you’re wondering, the Acratech works perfectly with my RRS “L” plate.

      • lensaddiction says:

        Hey! Thanks for visiting and for commenting! I really like the idea of the Acratech but just not sure how annoying it would be to have to take it off and put it on upside down to do pano shots. Admittedly I don’t do a lot of pano now but only cos I dont have the right kit. It is something I would like to get into more once I invest in a decent head.

        So the RRS is LOTS heavier? Hmm, I dont do major hikes but I do lots of day trips so weight is to be considered. I hadnt considered getting the RRS L plate with the Acratech head cos of double freight cost (its expensive to ship to NZ) but it makes a lot of sense and the savings on the Acratech would balance out the extra freight.

        Thanks Jeff, you have given me some good things to think about!

        BTW had a quick look at your page yesterday, love your eye and the depth of colour and realism in your photos, its what I would like to see in my work. Hope you can make it to NZ some day!

      • Jeff Sinon says:

        “Take it off and put it on upside down for panos?” Why would you need to do that? I have been doing panos with mine without having to. All I do it level the whole mess, tripod, head, and camera as best I can and fire away.

        I’d love to make it to NZ someday. I tell you what, you send me a plane ticket and let me curl up on your couch for a few days and you can have my ball head 😛

      • lensaddiction says:

        LOL well the offer for the couch is there either way but if I could afford the plane ticket I would be turning up on YOUR doorstep LOL

        Im fairly sure I read somewhere on the Acratech site that you had to turn the base unit upside down to get the pano capability. will need to research further.

      • Jeff Sinon says:

        Hey what do you know, I have a couch too! 😀

        I’ll have to do a little digging to see what they’re talking about.

        All I do is level my tripod, by eye since I don’t have a bubble level on it. Then level the camera/ball head, then when I think I have it pretty close I’ll bring up the internal level on my 7D and swing the camera from side to side to make sure the line stays green, or pretty close to it. Fine tuning the camera or tripod as needed.

        Then when I shoot the pano I just use the lines on the base of the head to measure how much to move the camera for each exposure and ensure I move the same amount each time. I try to overlap each shot by about a third.

      • lensaddiction says:

        Aha! I found it – on the Ultimate GP Ball head description

        “But what really sets the Ultimate GP Ballhead apart from all our other ballheads is that it is also designed to be used upside down, allowing the ball to be used as a leveling base for stitched panoramic images.”

      • Jeff Sinon says:

        That sounds like way too much work. As I mentioned in my other reply, I just level by eye. And so far, as long as I’m pretty close, meaning the camera stays pretty close to level throughout the series of shots for the pano, Photoshop has done a marvelous job of stitching them together. I’d have to see the “upside down” thing in action to get what they are talking about though.

      • Jeff Sinon says:

        I just checked it out. That is pretty slick. If I were dedicated solely to shooting panos I can see where that would come in very handy. But since as of right now panos are only a small part of my landscape photography, so flip flopping the head while I’m out shooting would be too much of a pain in the butt. But if you’re serious about your panos, then I really do like that feature. And if I were in the market for a new head I’d probably spend the extra money on that head. But if you only plan to shoot the occasional pano, I’d save the money and get this one http://www.acratech.net/ultimate-ballhead-qr-with-detent/

  2. Murray Foote says:

    I currently have an Arca-Swiss head for my RRS tripod. I toyed with getting an Acratech one at the time but wasn’t sure it had enough carrying capacity for a Nikon D3s with a 300mm f2.8 (over 4kg). I now have in the back of my mind to get a smaller RRS tripod for longer walks and a Acratech head with that. That is with a Fuji system at least initially rather than a full-sensor Nikon but is likely to be OK for the 300mm f2.8 anyway.

    The RRS BH-40 will be very well made but it locks you into using all RRS components with it. RRS is one of the manufacturers who diverged from the original Arca Swiss standard. Their head has no adjustment so many plates, rails and L-brackets from other manufacturers will not fit. The lever clamp on the Acratech head though also has a screw so you can adjust it for any plate, rail or bracket. Plates from China, for example are much cheaper than RRS ones and they are just a bit of metal so quality is not an issue (Chinese mechanical items are usually pretty good anyway).

    Another reason for preferring the Acratech is that it is much more open and much easier to clean where you risk getting sand or grit in it. It also has another interesting feature where it doubles as a pseudo-gimbal head, eg for tracking birds with a long lens.

    • lensaddiction says:

      Ah this is really good info, thanks Murray. I didn’t realise their heads were not adjustable and that their plates were a proprietory size.

      Personally I prefer the idea and concept behind the Acratech but as it was nearly the same price as the RRS I need to make sure I really do make the right choice.

      My biggest issue with the Acratech was you had to take it off and turn upside down to do pano, but really, how many times do I do a pano 🙂

      • Murray Foote says:

        That’s a furphy though too. In any other head, the equivalent function is to use a pano clamp such as this one: http://www.scvphotoideas.com/2012/10/sunwayfoto-ddh-02-compact-panning-clamp.html

        You can still do that with the Acratech if you want to. It’s just offering you an option so that you don’t need to carry an extra item with you.

      • Murray Foote says:

        I suppose I should add: You can still do panos by turning the head around from the base. Using a pano clamp or turning the Acratech head over allows you to have a perfectly level base for the camera (maybe plus pano rail) to rotate around.

        Using a pano rail and rotating around the nodal point is only necessary if your pano is to be in focus from very near to far. If your pano is only of objects in the distance, especially using a normal to telephoto lens, you’re not going to encounter any perspective effects you need to compensate for.

      • lensaddiction says:

        When you say the nodal rail is only needed for near to far focus, do you mean if you have foreground objects as well as the background you need it.

        But if you are doing middle or further distance with nothing in the foreground then its not required?

        One of the reasons I was going to get a nodal rail was that I could use it for my macro lens as well 🙂

  3. Murray Foote says:

    That’s right. Here is a hand-held multi-row pano incorporating HDR and focus bracketing comprising 153 images. http://murrayfoote.com/2011/05/14/18th-april-iguazu-falls/

    I only has my 105mm lens (full-frame) and 15 minutes before I had to leave for the plane so no time to go back for a different lens. I was surprised I could get it to work but it just goes to show you don’t need to be fully rigorous on all panos.

    Yes, a rail can be useful if you’re into macros. Here is a useful site on thos sorts of things even though it hasn’t been updated for a few years: http://www.dentonimages.com/Gear_Guide.php?guide=Tripods+and+Support

Love to hear your thoughts on my post!

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