Basketball Head
Creative Commons License photo credit: auer1816

Since we just talked about tabletop tripods, it got me thinking about tripod heads. Personally, I’m a fan of ballheads, but some people swear by 3-way panheads. So which is it for you? And why do you have that preference? I’m sure there are a few folks out there who are looking to get their first tripod, and having some insights on tripod heads would be helpful.


Also be sure to check the results from last week’s poll having to do with autofocus methods. Almost 50% of us use “Single Shot” autofocus, while 25% use “Auto”. And as always, take a read through the comments for some additional insights from fellow readers.

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I find it easier to get my shots straight on a ballhead. Ballheads also seem more flexible to me.

April 30, 2008 1:19 am

For myself its about speed and flexibility. For this reason I use a ballhead tripod head

April 30, 2008 1:30 am

I agree with Dillon and Jim. The reason for me to get a ballhead was that I think it is more flexible and also faster in adjusting.

April 30, 2008 1:38 am

I’m right there with you guys. I’ve got a nice panhead, but I’ve completely stopped using it since I got my ballhead. One hand operation that gives full rotational freedom is totally worth the few extra bucks.

April 30, 2008 1:57 am

I’ve never had enough money for a ball head :D

I do like my panhead though I wish I had gotten the size up. It’s struggling with my bigger medium format cameras.

April 30, 2008 3:38 am

I have a Manfrotto 322RC2 pistolgrip (I believe that’s the word?) ballhead. It replaced a Giottos ballhead with three different scres for all directions. The Manfrotto is so much better, not only with the ease of use, but also much stronger. Two screws broke off he Giottos head in 1 year time…

April 30, 2008 4:36 am

Looks like I will be adding a ballhead to the to be bought list. I am still using a $40 Ambico special from 1993.

April 30, 2008 3:00 pm

I’m with you guys, ball heads are more flexible and quicker. I don’t regret buying mine. I have a Manfrotto 486RC2 and a Manfrotto 190 pro tripod.

April 30, 2008 8:08 pm

I’ve always wanted to have a ball head for general photography, but have never been able to splurge on one.The equipment that sits atop my tripod tends to get a bit heavy, and I like the security of the pan/tilt model for that.

Having said that, I to use the spirit level a lot, and tend to take a lot of panned shots, so the pan head suits me more.

May 4, 2008 12:24 pm

Yeah, the thing about ballheads is that they can’t support as much weight unless you get one that’s built for that kind of thing — and those are pretty spendy.

About panning… I don’t know how other ballheads are, but mine has the ability to pan or lock the pan. Then again, mine’s not a traditional ballhead — it’s one of the pistol grip ballheads.

May 4, 2008 7:30 pm

Well, I cant say that I’ve used a ball head… but from what I’ve seen of them they dont look like they can pan and not tilt at the same time… Need to look into the pistol grip thingie though! Sounds like it could be fun “shooting” with it…

May 4, 2008 11:54 pm

I forget the model number, but I have a ball head from Manfrotto that also has a pan with a degree scale in the base. I tend to use the ball first and then the pan second.

May 5, 2008 5:02 pm

Comment now!