Tripod heads for 4x5 : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I've been reading the response to the "What head for 4x5?" and have received some good advice on the side from some of you on this topic. Now I'm sure the Arca Swill and Linhoffs are wonderful heads and all but a couple things have me concerned:

1) They aren't that light in weight and are designed to hold 8x10 camers on up. This seems to me like overkill if one is using a field camera weighing less that 5 lbs, kinda like buying a Mack truck for grocery shopping trips. If you're hiking or bakcpacking with the gear, the weight adds up all too quickly.

2) Also they are very expensive. For the price of some of these heads I could buy a new lense or about 350 sheets of velvia.

Isn't their a high quality, light wiehgt alternative designed for small 3x5 field cameras? Someone mentioned Kack Dykinga uses such and such brand ... well, I've seen pictures of John Fielder with his camera and I'll be darned if that Linhoff isn't sitting on what has to be a Bogen Super 3D head ( about $35), I can't imagine using this head but is stuff seems sharp. So I was wondering what else might be out there that can be recommended?



-- Todd Tiffan (, February 10, 2000



I don't recall if I contributed an answer to your original question - short term memory is one of the first things to go...

I've owned two Bogen heads - one was their original ball head and the second was one of their 3D heads. The 3D head was quite stable, but seemed heavy and clunky for the strength it had. As I recall, it didn't move smoothly either. I've seen the new Bogen ball heads and their new 3D heads, and still don't think much of their movements.

I sold it and purchased a Gitzo 500 series 3D head. Now this is overkill, as you say, even for my TK45 with my heaviest lenses (e.g., 600 mm Fuji tele). But the head is relatively light and has very nice movements over temperatures from -25 to +80F. I think that Gitzo has replaced this series of heads with different models, but I would expect the same high standard of performance. I don't recall that I paid all that much for it - $150 or so. I haven't priced the new Gitzo 3D heads, because mine is still going strong, despite exposure to sea spray, blowing dust, etc. You do get what you pay for. Bruce

-- Bruce M. Herman (, February 11, 2000.

I use a Gitzo 1570M low profile head for 8x10. It is light, being made of Magnesium. For a smaller head for 4x5, try a 3 series low profile head.

-- William Marderness (, February 11, 2000.

Todd, I don't want to side track your question, but it does seem like there is a general perception that as you progress in format size you must neccessarily increase the weight and sturdiness of the tripod and head. Even the Gitzo catalog somewhat supports this. As a hiker who wants to find a loophole in this to keep weight to a minimum, I have to wonder why the same sturdy outfit that would work for an F3 and a 105 lens at a little under four pounds would't work for a lightweight wooden field with a half pound lens at about 5 pounds. A respectful amatuer, Roger

-- Roger Rouch (, February 11, 2000.

Todd, a good candidate for the weight of your camera is Bogen Compact gear head 3275($140). It weighs 3.12lb according to B&H web site. (You may consider it not light weight.) Although I don't have a personal experience with this head, I have heard several positive comments in

I'm not sure which way you're going, either a pan or ball head but as long as you have a bubble level (2 way, like a Hama stuff; or the one meant to level on tripod), a ball head is a good choice. B1 weighs only 1.7lb.

-- Masayoshi Hayashi (, February 11, 2000.

A suitable ball head is probably the lightest and most compact head for backpacking 4X 5.

My favorite is the Standard ballhead from Benbo. It has a large 1.5" diameter head and weighs only 15oz in the non-panoramic version. I have used it with a field 4X5, Horseman technical cameras, and a Hassy with a 250 lens. B&H's catalog lists it for $65.95. I suspect that the Really Right Stuff quickrelease can be screwed right on the head after the "top plate" is removed.

The head tends to lock up when not used. That is easily remedied by thightening the locking screw even harder and the backing off. Also, I had to tighten up the base screws.

The focal length of the lenses being used are just as important and the weight of the camera on determining the strength of the tripod/head combo needed.

-- Bob Eskridge (, February 11, 2000.

after packing around my Technikardan and Arca Swiss, I quickly realized that ball-heads don't do well with LF. at least not for me. I bought the Bogen 3275 geared head and love it. the secret was purchasing the RRS plate, which allows me to slide the center of gravity over the head. much smoother and much greater stability. this too, is an overkill for backpacking. you just have to make compromises somewhere to keep the weight down, and I would select the new Bogen magnesium mount. costs $30 as I recall, and nothing fancy about it, other than two axis lightweight attachment to your tripod. understand these constraints, work within them, shed the weight.

-- Daniel Taylor (, February 11, 2000.

If your camera has a rotating (or switchable) back and you don't mind fiddling with the tripod legs while setting up you can replace the head with a ball-leveller or even a simple tilting plate. On my Gitzo the top platform can rotate if I loosen the locking nut, so for many shots I can get away with no extra hardware at all. With my Benbo, the centre column has plenty of degrees of freedom (too many for some :-) and I attach a Manfrotto hex plate adapter directly to the end of the column.

-- Struan Gray (, February 11, 2000.

Todd... I will add another perpective to your tripod head inquiry. I currently use a Schoon ballhead which is very suitable for 8X10. I also use a head call a Giotto MH1001 ball head to support a Linhof Technika 4X5. This is a very very good low cost head. I think I paid about $85 for it new. I have used a number of the Bogen heads and i keep coming back to the ballheads. If you are on a budget, buy the Giotto. If you are not on a budget, buy the Schoon, Linhof, Arca, Brom or Gitzo heads. Good luck!

-- Ron Lawrence (, February 11, 2000.

I do have experience with the Bogen geared head, #3275 ("410"), and it's an excellent head for 4x5. I especially like the gear drive on all three axes, with a quick release on each axis. I'm not quite so fond of the quick release plate that screws to the camera, but it works well enough. It's plenty sturdy for 4x5, and it's lightweight. David

-- David L. DuPuy (, February 12, 2000.

The Arca Swiss head is expensive but it should last a lifetime and is a pleasure to use. So if you like ball heads it will serve you very well. It has a capacity of up to 90 lbs so no matter what format you use, from 35 mm to 8x10 or theoretically even larger, it will easily support your camera and lens and you don't have to go to a larger, heavier head every time you move up in format size. However, as others have said, I personally don't think a ball head works too well with a larger, heavier 4x5 and up camera. I used to have a Tachihara, which weighs under 4 lbs, and my Arca Swiss worked fine with it. I now have a Linhof Technika V, which with lens weighs around 7 lbs, and the ball head is marginal with that. As you get up in camera size and weight you just have so much size and mass moving around when you try to adjust the head that it's hard to set everything exactly as you would like it. I've started using a Bogen 3047 head with the Technika and I like it fine.

If your camera has a revolving back one thing to check before buying any head is the ability of the back to rotate without bumping into the head. With some heads (e.g. the Arca Swiss if situated so that the head is parallel to the back of the camera, and the Bogen 3037 head, which I also tried) it is impossible to rotate the back without it bumping into the head. If your camera has a reversible back (i.e. if you remove the back in order to switch from horizontal to vertical and vice versa) this isn't a problem.

-- Brian Ellis (, February 13, 2000.

Although I own, and highly recommend the Linhof 3-way levelling head, I used a Bogen 3047 head for many years and was very happy with it. I also used several Gitzo heads at work and they also worked well, although I found them to be a bit springy. The main reason I switched to the Linhof is that I hated handles protruding every which way from the head. Packing the thing up for travel meant taking all the handles off. Bogen does make some 3-way heads without handles, including the new geared head, which are very nice. The Linhof is slightly more compact and lighter, but I am not sure it is worth the tremendous cost difference today. When I bought mine, it was used and I got it for less than $400. So there are many good 3-way heads available at very reasonable prices. The Linhof head is a wonderful head at an unreasonable price.

As for ball heads, I think the story is different. I personally don't like a ball head with 4x5, but many do, and they are certainly quicker to set up. I find them more difficult to carefully adjust, but it depends on the weight of the camera, and how easy it is to see the levels on the camera body. That said, the Arca-Swiss is clearly leaps and bounds better than any other ball head I have used. The variable radius on the B1 prevents the "flop of death" that can occur in a moment of carelessness with other ball heads. And, as mentioned above, the B2 is really a 3-way head in ball head clothing.

-- Glenn Kroeger (, February 13, 2000.

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