Author Topic: Tripod head for lightweight long lens application  (Read 982 times)

Ilkka Nissilš

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Tripod head for lightweight long lens application
« on: December 29, 2018, 17:10:16 »
Hi everyone,

I got the 500 PF a month ago, and have been trying it out on suitable subject matter which includes birds, sports and landscape details.

I find that it's difficult for me to hold the focus point on the subject for a longer period of time when hand holding, and I've mostly used the lens on a monopod. However, the monopod doesn't stabilize the lens in the lateral direction and pointing the lens up or down requires my to unlock the monopod head, tilt, and then tighten. This is OK for static or slowly moving subjects, and I appreciate the really light weight of the kit, but I want to try to use a tripod with this lens.

I mostly use Arca Z1 ballhead on tripod but this isn't ideal for moving subjects. I have looked into some gimbal and fluid heads but I suspect many of them are overkill for the 500 (because of the light weight of the lens), and I would like to hear if there are any suggestions of heads that I should try.

I have a Wimberley Sidekick and an inexpensive Manfrotto fluid head that I managed to buy second hand that I can start with. The problem with the gimbal is that while it's more stable than hand-holding, and allows easy movement, it's not quite a stable as using just a ball head, so I am interested in looking into options that dampen vibrations while hindering movements as little as possible. I will try both moving and static subjects with the different heads that I presently have and see if I can come to some conclusions.

2kg head weight is too much for me, I would like to stay as close to 1kg as possible (1.5kg may still be ok). Compactness is also a beneficial characteristic as I try to limit the amount of gear I carry. I will probably use the new head both on monopod as well as tripod.

I don't have tripod legs with a bowl but I could get an adapter.

Thanks for your suggestions.

Bill De Jager

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Re: Tripod head for lightweight long lens application
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2018, 18:50:35 »
You may want to look into the Acratech ballheads .  The manufacturer states that with the clamp dropped over to the side, the ballhead can be used as a compact gimbal head.  I used this feature to photograph the America's Cup races in 2013 and it worked quite well.  I was using the Nikon 70-200/4 with TC which is lightweight but also fairly short.  These ballheads weigh under 1/2 kg and are quite compact.  They are well made and operate very smoothly.

Another possibility is the Acratech long lens head.  I found this head to be very usable with a small telescope when star gazing.

The problem is that whether or not these items would meet your needs would have to be determined by actually trying them out.  They tend to not come up much in used markets.

Kim Pilegaard

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Re: Tripod head for lightweight long lens application
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2018, 22:40:44 »
I suggest the Jobu Jr.3 Deluxe gimbal head. It is very lightweight at 680g and can easily handle the 500 PF. Check it out here: http://www.jobu-design.com/Jobu-Jr-3-Deluxe-Kit_p_16.html
Kim

RoyC

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Re: Tripod head for lightweight long lens application
« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2018, 02:26:31 »
Ilkka, your statement that a gimbal is not quite as stable as a ball head suggest that you are not properly balancing the 500mm + camera on the gimbal. If you are not already familiar with this see the video below on balancing.
https://www.tripodhead.com/products/WH-videos.cfm




Ilkka Nissilš

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Re: Tripod head for lightweight long lens application
« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2018, 12:16:25 »
Ilkka, your statement that a gimbal is not quite as stable as a ball head suggest that you are not properly balancing the 500mm + camera on the gimbal. If you are not already familiar with this see the video below on balancing.
https://www.tripodhead.com/products/WH-videos.cfm

Thanks for the pointer to the video. The gimbal I have is the Sidekick so it doesn't have the vertical adjustment. Horizontally I do use the lens in the correct position where it stays in whatever orientation I point it at. In that sense it is easy to use.

I was referring to vibrations when the shot is taken. I got the impression that with the Sidekick, there is some more vibration from the shutter/mirror than when using the ball head by itself but that was just not a result of a rigorous test. I will try to do more controlled testing when the weather co-operates.


Ilkka Nissilš

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Re: Tripod head for lightweight long lens application
« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2018, 12:25:48 »
Thanks for the suggestion of the Acratech heads. They seem to be difficult to find in Europe, but I did find a store in the UK that I could order from. However, there is no easy way for me to get to try them out without purchasing. I am intereted in the Long Lens Head as it would allow keeping the lens on top of the head rather than off center, as would be the case with the ballhead in the gimbal orientation.

Ilkka Nissilš

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Re: Tripod head for lightweight long lens application
« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2018, 12:35:39 »
I suggest the Jobu Jr.3 Deluxe gimbal head. It is very lightweight at 680g and can easily handle the 500 PF. Check it out here: http://www.jobu-design.com/Jobu-Jr-3-Deluxe-Kit_p_16.html

Thanks for the suggestion.  It seems amazingly light.

Hermann

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Re: Tripod head for lightweight long lens application
« Reply #7 on: December 31, 2018, 10:11:32 »
What I'd do is look at lightweight video heads like the Gitzo heads for birdwatchers. I use the Gitzo 2180 for my scopes, and I've used it with a 400mm on a monopod as well. Works very well. And it's lighter and more compact than any gimbal head.

Hermann

RoyC

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Re: Tripod head for lightweight long lens application
« Reply #8 on: December 31, 2018, 14:08:54 »
Thanks for the pointer to the video. The gimbal I have is the Sidekick so it doesn't have the vertical adjustment. Horizontally I do use the lens in the correct position where it stays in whatever orientation I point it at. In that sense it is easy to use.

I was referring to vibrations when the shot is taken. I got the impression that with the Sidekick, there is some more vibration from the shutter/mirror than when using the ball head by itself but that was just not a result of a rigorous test. I will try to do more controlled testing when the weather co-operates.


As to vibrations from taking the shot solutions are offered by a number of firms. RRS has their "Long Lens Support"
http://www.reallyrightstuff.com/plates-brackets/long-lens-support


These items are generally described as providing an additional 10% of IQ when deployed. In my expierence, that 10% or so improvement in IQ is there. I use the RRS support with a 800mm lens and with test subjects at 150 yards that subect IQ is clearly there.


Ilkka Nissilš

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Re: Tripod head for lightweight long lens application
« Reply #9 on: December 31, 2018, 15:01:29 »
What I'd do is look at lightweight video heads like the Gitzo heads for birdwatchers. I use the Gitzo 2180 for my scopes, and I've used it with a 400mm on a monopod as well. Works very well. And it's lighter and more compact than any gimbal head.

Hermann

Thanks. I am hoping to buy an Arca-Swiss QR compatible head. I'm considering this one:

https://www.manfrotto.us/gitzo-2-way-fluid-head

It seems to be a new model but in stock in one UK store that I found so far, and the price and weight are something I could digest.

Ilkka Nissilš

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Re: Tripod head for lightweight long lens application
« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2018, 15:02:18 »

I have used some two-point supports and agree it does help.

Hermann

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Re: Tripod head for lightweight long lens application
« Reply #11 on: December 31, 2018, 15:47:43 »
Thanks. I am hoping to buy an Arca-Swiss QR compatible head. I'm considering this one:

https://www.manfrotto.us/gitzo-2-way-fluid-head

It seems to be a new model but in stock in one UK store that I found so far, and the price and weight are something I could digest.

Yes, that's a new head. Mine is a few years old, 5 or 6 or so, and it still has one of Gitzo's proprietary quick release systems. These small Gitzo heads have got quite a good reputation in the birding community.

Hermann


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Re: Tripod head for lightweight long lens application
« Reply #12 on: January 01, 2019, 16:47:11 »
I have the RRS monoball head that tilts only in one direction and has a screw-down Arca fitting, not their quick release which I believe the current model is. Mine is (or was) a discontinued model (do not have it with me at the moment as I am 4 to 5K miles from home). Found it on their site - http://www.reallyrightstuff.com/MH-01-Monopod-Head?quantity=1&custcol60=3 Maybe they are making them again. It works well. I also have an old Kirk monoball head that also works but is not quite as elegant. I have used them mainly with a Gitzo CF monoball - the large diameter model. I bought it a number of years ago specifically to use with a vintage 400/2.8 Nikkor as it is quite heavy. It is easier to hold this lens by the "handle" with the handle upwards in my dominant hand (right) and to attach the monopod to it rather than the other way around. I use my left hand to hold the monopod in an inverted position above it. Being CF it makes light weight it easy for my left hand to do this job. Enough free fingers on my right to lock the Arca fitting. With the monopod collapsed but locks loose, I have done this inside a vehicle (makes for a good blind) so I am almost ready to shoot on getting out. Much of our wildlife in AK will tolerate vehicles but not people outside them for long!

Ilkka Nissilš

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Re: Tripod head for lightweight long lens application
« Reply #13 on: January 25, 2019, 18:51:42 »
Thanks again for everyone for your suggestions.

I decided to for the time being work with the Wimberley Sidekick (mounted on Arca Z1) and see if I get used to the side mounting concept. In the past I haven't felt it was as vibration free as using the ball head directly but then I was using a 3-series Gitzo CF tripod and now I have a stiffer 4-series, and that seems to make a big difference in a vibration free experience. What I like about the Sidekick is that one has the regular head always available for shorter focal length shots and of shots of static subjects.

With the bigger tripod, Z1, Sidekick and 500 PF I find myself quite satisfied with the experience once it has been properly set up. If I use the D850 without vertical grip, the balancing is easy enough, but if I use a body with vertical grip then I have to reverse the quick release plate to find the right balance point and I find that sometimes my right hand fingers are a bit annoyed by the narrow gap between the camera's grip and the end of the QR plate. When working with a head where the tripod collar stays below the camera, there is no such annoyance. Admittedly it is a minor point but I want the shooting experience to be comfortable. :-)

Once I had a situation where in the -20C temperatures the Arca was getting a bit frozen up and stiff and because of this I had not noticed that the head was not fully locked, and the Sidekick and mounted lens started to turn downwards but I caught it before it hit the tripod legs or anything. In some ways I find the Sidekick not quite to the same user experience as a normal gimbal head where the lens collar is below the lens. I have to be more careful when using it, for sure.

So, when I take care and use it properly the Sidekick seems up to the task of supporting the 500 PF and D850 and the ease of turning the lens up and down, and left and right is nice. And I don't have to carry a separate head for shots with other lenses.  On the lighter 3-series I find that if I extend the legs, there is quite a bit of vibration but if I kneel down, even that gives a good experience. So I will probably be using the 4-series with the 500mm lens most of the time, because I like to shoot from a standing position. With knee pads shooting from a lower position is ok, but I sometimes forget to bring the pads along.

I love the experience of shooting the 500mm from a tripod; when I started using the lens, I worked with a monopod and also did some hand held shots, but I just prefer the tripod experience because one doesn't have to hold the rig while waiting for something to happen. When aiming the 500mm hand held, although it is a light weight lens, it's still frustrating to try to keep the focus point squarely on the subject. On a solid tripod and gimbal, it's just wonderful and I can wait while the tripod does much of the work.  :)

I will probably continue to study the question of the ideal head to use, but for now I found that what I already have is quite good for the purpose, given the mentioned precautions.

Here is a recent photo from the D850 and 500 PF taken with the Sidekick and 4-series Gitzo. It was f/5.6, 1/640, ISO 1000, so a bright sunny day (the winter is starting to be quite good now, with lots of snow and some bright days). The image was cropped from the 45MP image to 3060 x 3060, so it's about 2-3x crop. As I am inexperienced with bird photography, I am very happy to get such a result in such a short time of use of the new lens. I can say that if I had purchased the 500/4 G, my back would have done a whole lot of complaining already.  ::)

MILLIREHM

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Re: Tripod head for lightweight long lens application
« Reply #14 on: January 25, 2019, 22:30:10 »
I am late here - and the decision is already made

nevertheless my 3 cents:
I would recommend the Acratech long lens head it is compact and lightweight and more than capable of stabilizing the 500 PF. It is not a true gimbal (so is the Sidekick) but thats not a disadvantage under all circumstances. Bought it for opportunities when i need compactness that can't be provided by my fLuid head and the Wimberley, it can stabilize also heavy long lenses and working with it is faster than with any ballhead.
Wolfgang Rehm