ballhead vs 3-way for 8x10 field : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I have chosen a tripod, now I need to select a tripod head (for an 8x10 field camera). I am curious to hear other's experience regarding ballheads vs. 3-way heads. What advantages do you perceive? Also, what brands and models, and do they perform to their advertised maximum loads? Thanks in advance, Mark

-- Mark Audas (, January 13, 2000


Response to ballhead vs 3-way

Ball heads are faster and easier to use. However, you have much better control of each axis of rotation with a pan tilt head. For LF photography, I find that a pan tilt head is the way to go; it makes you go a little slower and more methodically, which is what you want to do with LF. You can make fine adjustments to your camera on each axis separately, which works quite well when looking at the ground glass trying to get the best composition.

-- Les Moore (, January 13, 2000.

Response to ballhead vs 3-way

Are you asking about a 3-way pan head or a 3-way levelling head like the Linhof one John Sexton uses?

-- Bob Salomon (, January 13, 2000.

Response to ballhead vs 3-way

You may want to look at the Ries head - it gives ~110 degrees front to back and ~30 degrees side to side movement. It is more convenient than a pan head and more secure-feeling than a ballhead (IMHO). Don't forget about geared heads either(Majestic and Bogen among others).

-- Wayne DeWitt (, January 13, 2000.

Response to ballhead vs 3-way


I have both and use both, but here's my take on them.

I use a ballhead for 35mm work only. For LF, my biggest problem with this head type is that there is nothing on the head to grab hold of when you release the lockdown lever. That means you have to hold onto the camera. In my case, that just doesn't feel very comfortable, and the balance can be way off center, resulting in difficulty maintaining gradule adjustments of the camera. Yes, you can play with the friction knob to help hold it, but unless the mass is balanced over the head, that is of limited utility. And you still have the problem of having to use the camera as a lever to make adjustments.

I use the tilt-pan head (Bogen 3047) for LF to eliminate these problems, and for one additional benefit. You can lock down the whole thing, and then release one axis of movement at a time. When doing something where you want to correct for converging lines, this can be very useful. Before I got a ballhead, I used this head for everything.

If I am travelling light with only one tripod, than the ballhead comes along, since I shoot far more in 35mm than LF. If I'm travelling very light only one camera system, then it depends on the system I have along. If I'm travelling extremely light (backpacking), I use a smaller tilt pan variation (Bogen 3028 I think) on a very small tripod, regardless of the system I have with me.

Note that these comments are for field use. In a studio, there may be no reason to use anything but one of the very large ballheads, that I'll leave for someone with experience in the studio.


-- Michael Mutmansky (, January 13, 2000.

Response to ballhead vs 3-way

3-way panheads are a much better choice. Bogen 3047 or one of their geared heads will work and are reasonably priced.

-- V. Nair (, January 13, 2000.

Response to ballhead vs 3-way

I use my Arca Swiss B1 for 35mm and have been using it with an RRS plate on my Linhof Technikardan for convenience. it truly is not a solution, and for LF work, you need separate control of each axis. I love the Bogen (Manfrotto) 410, the geared movements, but will not buy one until they offer it without their quick-release. I have too much invested in RRS and Kirk plates to fall back on Bogens solution. extend the Linhof out, doing 1:1 and they tell me that things are shakey with the 410 in that mode. Bogen ... listen up!

-- Daniel Taylor (, January 13, 2000.

Response to ballhead vs 3-way

Daniel, try the Arca Swiss B2, it is the best dual axis head I have tried, but then I haven't tried the 3 way leveling Linhof head Bob S. recommends. Ries heads are also very good. The Gitzo 1570 head is also very fine, especially for 8x10.

-- Ellis Vener (, January 13, 2000.

Response to ballhead vs 3-way

I shoot with an 8x10 Wisner, and I have finally settled on a head after doing much searching. I like the Gitzo 1570M. This is the light weight magnesium head. It has an excellent weight/support ratio, and has long handles (some people don't like these) that stick out far enough to clear the base of the camera. This head also has a very large top plate, so you get great support. A Bogen 3047 weighs more than the Gitzo head, and is not made to support more than 4x5. I would stay away from ball heads. If you don't like the long handles of the Gitzo, Bromwell make a panhead (the Master Panhead) that is designed for 8x10, and resembles Bogen's 3D heads.

-- William Marderness (, January 13, 2000.

Response to ballhead vs 3-way

I've used both Bogen 3047 3-way and Arca Swiss B-1 Ballhead for 8 X 10 and _much_ prefer the latter. With spirit levels on the camera, especially if you can see both axes simultaneously as I can on my Ebony, you can very quickly get the camera set perfectly level. The Arca Swiss is rated at 90 lb, and is rock solid, esp. with the Really Right Stuff plate -- much more solid than any three-way I've used, though I've not tried Ries or Linhof. The added advantage of a much smaller head --> easier-to-carry tripod was what really sold me. I found the long handles made it difficult to strap the tripod to my back pack. Just another point of view.


-- Nathan Congdon (, January 13, 2000.

Response to ballhead vs 3-way

Looks like I'm out numbered here, but, my preference is the ball head with my 4x5. I've been using this set up for over 10 years now and prefer it to the pan heads. I have no problems making fine adjustments etc. If I were using a video or motion picture camera, then I would us a pan head...


-- Jim Billups (, January 13, 2000.

Response to ballhead vs 3-way

I will preface my remarks by saying that I am not related to Bob Solomon and am not affiliated with Linhoff, but I splurged on the Linhoff 3-way levelling head and it has proven to be one of the best purchases I have ever made. It is lightweight, small, smooth and stunningly rigid. I really like not having handles sticking out in every-which direction. I have compared it to the Bogen geared head, and although the gearing is nifty, the Linhoff head is simultaneously much lighter and more rigid.

I would agree that the Arca B2 is a wonderful choice as well, but it too is substantially heavier than the Linhoff. If your in the studio the B2 is great, but for packing, I prefer the Linhoff

-- Glenn C. Kroeger (, January 14, 2000.

Response to ballhead vs 3-way

I use an Arca-Swiss B-1 ballhead with my Arca-Swiss F-line 4X5 camera, and find the ballhead to work very well. You DO have to be a little careful when making front-to-back tilts to not change the side- to-side orientation, and, of course, vice versa, but overall, I really love the B-1 ball with my 4X5. You can adjust the tension on the ball to allow just enough "give" to allow for ready adjustments without having the whole shebang go flopping over. As a large added bonus, the Arca-Swiss cameras are very quickly and easily removed from or placed in the quick release atop the B-1. Good Luck and happy shooting!


-- Ken Gewant (, January 14, 2000.

Response to ballhead vs 3-way

I too use a ball head, and find it is easier to use than a a pan and tilt (though I am thinking of buying the Manfrotto 029. I use the Manfrotto/Bogen 168/3055, and find depite the low weight limt of 8kg just adequate for my needs for the foreseeable future.

-- David Kirk (, January 15, 2000.

Response to ballhead vs 3-way

This is a tough one. Everyone has their own working methodology. I own two Arca-Swiss B1's and I recently bought a Ries double tilt head. I have used the B1 on my 4x5 and now 5x7 Canham MQC. I must say that I prefer the Ries head for Large Format. I find it much easier to adjust the camera one axsis at a time. With the B1 I have to be very careful not to throw the other axsis off during adjustment.

I have fitted the Ries with a Really Right Stuff QR B2 clamp. I can attach any and all of cameras to any of my tripods or heads. For 35mm and medium format I would not be without an Arca B1. But for LF my choice is the Ries.

-- Mike Kravit (, January 15, 2000.

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