What to Look for in Tripod Heads


Tripod Heads

Tripod Heads

By Anne Ahira

Though the design is as simple as simple can be, over the years experts have made many adjustments and alterations to the traditional tripod. You might be wondering what they could conceivably add to improve it.

After all, a tripod is nothing more than three legs and a and a center column that lets users raise and lower the camera… right? Well, kind of. There are also tripod heads.

These heads are attached to a flat platform that is mounted on the center column with a threaded screw.

There are basically three different kinds of tripod heads–the ball head, the tilt head and the three-way pan. In this article we are going to take a closer look at all three tripod heads.

Three-way Pan Heads

This tripod head is easily the most popular kind and it is known as the classic or traditional head. The great thing about it is that it is extremely versatile.

You can rotate it, tip it forward, back, or side to side. Because the movement can be easily controlled, three-way tripod heads are ideal for shooting architecture and other work where straight lines are critical.

However, the three-way pan can be a pain to pack and unpack because it relies on three separate handles to properly adjust. So, if you are involved in nature photography or anything that requires you to move fast and light and to setup your tripod heads quickly, then you may want to steer clear of three-way pan heads.

Ball Heads

The ball head is the accessory of choice for photographer who needs to setup and move in a hurry. Not only are they typically much smaller and lighter, but they are also easier to use. By comparison, an experienced user can setup ball head tripod heads in a single motion and take their shots.

Though they have many uses, ball heads are extremely popular with nature and sports photographers, since they can often be stowed in an average-size backpack or case. They also don’t have all the awkward and uncomfortable handles that the pan-tilt heads have.

The only real drawback of ball heads is that that are expensive. The average ball head costs between $250 and $400. Though the price tag is of primary concern for most new shutterbugs, many are converted after a single use.

The Tilt Head

While it is surely a quality head, the tilt head is easily the least popular tripod head. What does it do? Well, the tilt head lets the user pan the camera while it moves in any direction, even in a complete circle.

These tripod heads are idea for photographers who are shooting moving subjects. Like ball heads, they are primarily used by nature or sports photographers. And though they are heavier and take more time to assemble than ball heads, they are also much cheaper.

Here's Tripod Heads Selections: