Ballhead or Geared head ?? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I am looking at upgrading my Bogen ballhead as I find it to be a little bit unstable when I mount Toyo a 45A on it. I am looking at Kirk Photo's BH-3 or the Bogen 3275 (410) geared head. Anyone who has experienced in any of these items.

What I am trying to decide on is a ballhead vs. geard head.

Thanks much !! Thanks much !!

-- Peter (, April 06, 2002


The Bogen, every time. njb

-- Nacio Jan Brown (, April 07, 2002.


I use the manfrotto (Bogen?) 410 head. Some weeks ago a post on this forum indicated a method of tightening the rack & pinion drives and the head works a dream for architecture where small accurate increments are essential. However, I would not always count on it being rigid enough for the Nikkor-M 450mm.

Walter Glover

-- Walter Glover (, April 07, 2002.

A ball head will always be quicker than anything else, having said that, the geared head will offer precision which the ball head cannot achieve. good luck

-- andrea milano (, April 07, 2002.

I have and use the Manfrotto 410 head a lot. I have nothing but good words about it. Precise, easy to use and reliable.

I read somewhere in a photomag that a new geared 405 head is introduced. Has the same excellent plates; don't know what is been changed.

-- Wim van Velzen (, April 07, 2002.

I use a 410 head. It's really great, very easy to level, and make small adjustments. Compared to a ballhead, however, it's heavy--a consideration if you're carrying, especially on a tripod that's already heavy.

-- Jay Wolfe (, April 07, 2002.

I've been using the Manfrotto (Bogen) 410 for several years now with all my cameras. It works great with a field camera. The only complaint is when I use it with a 35 mm camera my beard gets caught in the knobs sometimes! I really like the precision of adjustment. It is heavy, but I can use the exercise! Also it is a bargain compared to the better ballheads.

-- Tony Galt (, April 07, 2002.

An Arca-Swiss B1 Monoball will be a better head for 4x5 work than the Kirk BH-1 head, primarily because of the progressive cushioning . The Bogeh 10 is also a fine head. i understand that there is a new version ofthe 410 that might be stronger, it is the model 405.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, April 07, 2002.

Peter you did not say which tripod you will use the 410 on. If it is a Gitzo, then there will be a problem aiming the camera up because the knob on the head hits the larger tripod plate.

Another annoyance is two handed panning. To pan very far, you need to hold open the catch (it does not lock open) with one hand while panning the camera with the other.

-- John Hennessy (, April 07, 2002.

I meant to write: The Bogen 410 is also a fine head. i understand that there is a new version ofthe 410 that might be stronger, it is the model 405.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, April 07, 2002.

The Bogen 3275 (410) geared head is not rigid enough for even light monorail use.

-- Andre Noble (, April 07, 2002.

Hello Peter: Ballheads can be very precise

if they move smoothly yet firmly. (IMO Smoothness and firmness are key to precise positioning. Few ballheads work that way. The smoothest ballheads I know are Foba and Arca monoball both made in switzerland and in both you can adjust the firmness according to the size/weight of your camera. Kirk has an excellent reputation too though I have no experience with it.

I avoid the Arca because it can lock up and when it does that may be the end of your photography for that day. The Arca doctor in this forum has remedies for that but if you avoid the problem you will not need the remedies.

Foba makes a truly beautiful and functional product which is badly promoted and better priced than Arca. It does not lock up. With the biggest Foba and Arca you carry about 1.5 Kgs, their medium heads weigh about half that. Bogen ball heads, everyone I tried seemed very rough and jerky. They are coarse looking things that look and work as if they were made at a horsehoe foundry of the last century. The several Gitzo and the new Linhof balls I have tried are nicely made but move jerkily also.

Try before you buy. When your camera will be mounted, you will move the camera with the ball partially tightened or the friction control tightened enough to prevent your camera flopping over. To test the head, adjust it first as you would if you had the camera mounted and see if it jerks as you try moving the ball (camera). If it does, you will find it difficult to position the camera precisely. Another quirk of heads can be that of shifting position when given the final tightening. You can test for that with a long lens on.

The next step up in control are pan/tilt heads. A good one for LF will probably weigh as much as the large Foba or Arca.

Finally you have the geared heads, which are smooth but heavy and are suitable only for local work but not for anything else because of weight. Those are more likely to be used with TV cameras. For photo field work those seem to me redundant.

-- Julio Fernandez (, April 07, 2002.

"I avoid the Arca because it can lock up and when it does that may be the end of your photography for that day." pardon my french, but that is just pure horsesh*t.

If you do manage to lock up a B1 Mononball it takes all of about one minute to remedy the user induced problem.

While the Foba Superball is a terrific head, it is also twice the size and weight of the B1 Monoball and because it has a spherical ball and not the eliptical ball design used in the Monoball you do not have as fine of control which is essential for using a view camera user when leveling the camera base. iknow because I have used both.

Now if you don't mind levelingthe camera just fore to aft then the best large format head I've ever used is the Sinar Pan Tilt head.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, April 07, 2002.

The Manfrotto 400 is a great geared head, I have a 600mm lens, Sinar p, 2x convertor and Hasselblad 555ELD on mine now.

With the 10kg Manfrotto 161 tripod, it weighs 22kg. I do pre-release the 'blad, but the most inportant tip is not to walk about the room during an exposure.

Ball heads are a pain with heavy gear.

-- Dick Roadnight (, April 07, 2002.

"The Manfrotto 400 is a great geared head, I have a 600mm lens, Sinar p, 2x convertor and Hasselblad 555ELD on mine now. "

All at the same time?

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, April 07, 2002.

How about neither one? The Bogen 3047 works great for me. Totally solid, 2 levels built-in, big stout knobs, relatively cheap too! I don't understand the excitement for ballheads.

-- Henry Ambrose (, April 07, 2002.

Thanks a lot guys/gals for the input. Based on the recommendations, I am leaning towards the Bogen geared head.

Wim, I did look at Bogen's website in regards to their new 405 geared head. This head is rated at 16.5lbs, weighs 5.3 lbs cost $340.00 (B&H). Compare these numbers to Bogen 410 which is rated at 11 lbs., weighs 2.7 lbs and costs $163.00, I think the 410 will suffice my requirements in regards to weight and load capacity plus costwise, the 410 is $73.00 cheaper. The longest/heaviest lens I have is a Fujinon 250/6.3 which weighs a tad more than a pound (1.2) and also use a Polaroid 545i for proofing and shoot color slide films. I am going on a trip to Asia, so I try to be as 'light' as possible.

John, the tripod I use is a Bogen 3021. With your advice, I will bring my tripod with me to the store and check it agains these two geared heads.

Again, thanks a lot to everyone for your advices !!

-- Peter (, April 07, 2002.

...I guess the gods of math deserted me for a moment....the price difference between Bogen 405 and Bogen 410 is $173 (not ($73)...

-- Peter (, April 07, 2002.

Used teh Bogen 410 head with the 3021 tripod as my travelling setup for several years, and swapped the head off to heavier legs as I could. The only reason I got rid of it was that while it was wonderful with the 4x5, it wasn't strong enough to be steady with the 8x10. Now I'm trying to get used to a ballhead.

I shall have to give the 405 head a look.


-- Anthony J. Kohler (, April 08, 2002.

Balance that $173.00 difference against the cost of your trip and your photographic materials.

If your camera has a rotating back I'd give a serious look at the other head I mentioned: the Sinar Pan Tilt head. It isn't geared but the single tilt joint is massive as compared to the similar mechanism on all other tripod heads and the head weighs no more and also has a lower overall height than either of the Bogen heads and the ballheads we have been discussing.

Why has no one has jyet mentioned the Reis heads. Is Ries still in business?

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, April 08, 2002.

Yes, Ellis. "The Manfrotto 400 is a great geared head, I have a 600mm lens, Sinar p, 2x convertor and Hasselblad 555ELD on mine now", I use the Sinar p as a bellows for the Hasselblad, with the official Sinar- Hasselblad camera adaptor. I do not know how well the 600mm Apo-Ronar will perform at infinity, but I have taken some test shots. 1,200mm is a great length of lens for landscapes, on 66 or 69. I have the magasine adaptor on order to avoid vignetting problems with shift, and for lenses shorter than 150mm (90 + 47).

-- Dick Roadnight (, April 08, 2002.

Very cool set up Dick! Are you limited in movements by vignetting from the H'blad body depth/ It seems to me that a rollfilm back would be easier to set up as opposed to the motorized blad body, although i like the idea of a motorized film advance. Are you also using a metering prsim?

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, April 08, 2002.

Sorry, should have read the last part of your post more carefully.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, April 08, 2002.

Ellis: For a series of plates, I set up the tilt, and focus with the geared column if required.

For complicated shots the binocular reflex finder and the asymetric tilt system work better, but you can set up the tilt, then re-focus with the Hasselbald and meter with the prism. TTL flash would be handy e.g. fo macro, but the Gossen starlight is usually OK.

-- Dick Roadnight (, April 09, 2002.

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