Gimbal Alternative

Discussion in 'Nature' started by lou_buenaflor, Apr 10, 2007.

  1. Hello all. I have recently acquired a 500 f/4 P and a Gitzo 1325, and not have
    much of a budget left for a Wimberley gimbal, I am now looking for alternatives.
    I will not have funds for a Wimberley for quite some time, but would like to
    start using this lens. I am pairing the lens with an f100, and thought a
    beanbag would help, but I simulated a bean bag with towels and found focusing to
    be problematical. I would like to use this lens in a "hide" shooting Whitetail
    deer, and maybe birds at the bird feeder.
  2. I have recently ordered a Bogen 3421 gimbal. I too had budget constraints. works excellently, no restraints so far. takes some getting used to. of course it is not wimberley/ king cobra / sidekick .but it more than serves the purpose, I was pleasantly surprised. check some pics here.

    one of the best birders in philipines uses the same support

  3. It's not as nice, but you can use a normal ball-head. When doing so, remain vigilant: act as if it is on a monopod, not a tripod.
  4. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    I have had 500mm/f4 lenses since 1992 and in the first 14 years, I simply used them on regular ballhead and other heads. It wasn't until late last year that I bought a Wimberley head. Of course the Wimbeley is much better and I wonder why I didn't get one much earlier, but you can get by with a ballhead.
  5. I'm still using a B1 ballhead with my 500/4.5L. Works just fine. Maybe a gimble head would be better, but it would also be just one more thing to carry around.

    The Wimberly and other gimble mounts are great for tracking fast moving targets, but for birds at a feeder they are really not needed, and unless the deer are running, you won't need them for whitetail either! In a hide you really won't be able to track moving subjects easily anyway.
  6. I got myself the Gitzo G1267M head for myself and shooting birds and wild life My budget is real short :} so I checked around and came up with this head which has two Knobs for three actions on the head!
    Take a look at it , Maybe you will like maybe you will not: Good Luck::\\\\Lauren
  7. Thanks for the help. Looks like I'll try the ball head route, I couldn't see buying a Wimberley for just one lens. If I buy a ball head at least I can use it with many lenses. I'm sure I'll be fine to "limp" by for a while, until I can afford a gimbal.
  8. You don't need the full Gimbal support for that lens, the Sidekick at a fraction of the price will
    do just fine, and will make a world of a difference compared to using just a ball head. The
    beauty of the Sidekick is that you can buy it later when you have the funds, but make sure
    that it will mate to the ball head you choose now. I use the Sidekick with a 600mm F5.6, and I
    must admit that it is the best photo accessory I ever bought so far, in terms of price vs
  9. I'll second the suggestion for the Bogen 3421. I love that head, and I can't believe how incredibly cheap it is compared to the Wimberley. There may be some advantages to the Wimberley, but not an extra $400 worth. My only real complaint with the Bogen is that they don't provide any way to completely lock the head, so that when you're carrying everything over your shoulder it makes it awkward. But, a drill and tap and a bolt was all that was needed to make a quick and easy diy locking "mechanism".

    If you want to get into off-camera flash and battery packs, again the Wimberley might have an advantage as it takes standard Arca-Swiss (I believe) plates, and manufacturers make flash brackets that clamp onto those. But again, I ended up fabbing up my own flash bracket that does everything I need it to do out of a $5 piece of aluminum flat bar and some spray paint.

    Personally I wouldn't even waste my time with a ballhead for a big lens like that. (I know because I struggled with a 600/f4 on a 3-way head). Once you've experienced a long lens on a gimbal head, you'll never go back to anything else. Especially for the reasonable price of the Bogen.
  10. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    I can tell you that my Wimbeley head worths every penny it costs over my Arca Swiss B1. The nature of its design makes it a stable set up without any outside force so that there is no "flop" issue. It lets you pan very smoothly both horizontally and vertically, making it very suitable for action photography.

    If you are a long lens user and can afford one, I highly recommend it, but I managed without one for 14 years such that I wouldn't say a gimbel head is required. However, I should have gotten one a long long time ago.
  11. If you use a ballhead on its own a lot, the Sidekick might be a good option for you. That way you always have the ballhead with you, but also have a side-mount gimbal as well.

    With the release of the WH-200, there are used Sidekicks and WH-101s (previous model full Wimberley Head) on the market, you may be able to find one or the other for a good price.

    Good luck, and congrats on the 500 f4!
  12. king cobra's are great. they are light weight, and very simple to operate. I picked one up on ebay, exellent condition, for $250!
  13. I second or third the Sidekick. It will work just fine with that lens and is much less expensive than the full Wimberley.
  14. I used a Kirk BH-1 ball head on my Gitzo 1325 for years with my 500mm f 4.0 P with a f 100 with the battery pack before I got my Wimberley. It worked fine mainly because the lens is so well balanced to begin with. One of the tricks is to get a long lens plate to attach to the base of the foot on the lens. I got the longest one available (longer than the one recommended by Wimberley or Kirk or Really Right Stuff) with two screws so I could rebalance the rig on the ball head depending on what teleconverter or extension tube, etc I had mounted to the lens and camera. The same trick also applies if you get the Kirk King Cobra which is an excellent alternative too.

    The 500mm f 4 P makes an excellent macro lens. Pick up a set of Nikon Ext tubes for it including the PN-11 tube. Both Nikon tcs--the 14B and the 301 work great with the F 100 and this lens.

    Another trick to get better images with a ball head is never to extend the third leg on your 1325. Less height means more stability.

    If I was photo graphing birds at a feeder I often attahced the smallest Nikon ext tube so I could focus closer. No loss of light and you did not lose the shot if the bird got too close. You have made a great purchase. Enjoy!

    Joe Smith
  15. If you are considering a ball head with the possibility of adding a gimbal (Sidekick) later, make sure that the ball-head can be rigidly locked down! If the ball head is not fully secure when the Sidekick is mounted, it can really flop over very hard when the lens is added. I use a Kirk BH-1 head to hold my Sidekick, Nikon F4S (or F5), 500mm f/4P, and often the TC14b teleconverter. My first full size ball head was one of the earlier Bogen/Manfrottos which wasn't too bad. When I gave my tripod to my son, that head went with it. I then bought a Gitzo 1228 CF and their offset head. The legset is fine but the head was poor. I "bit the bullet" as they say, and bought the Kirk. No problems ever since.
  16. WOW! Thanks to all for the great opinions. I found a great deal on a Wimberley from Midwest Photo Exchange and will go the full gimbal route. Looks like the ball head will have to wait, as I can't wait to use the 500mm.
  17. I think that gimbal heads are to some degree an over-rated fashion trend; some high profile pro's used them so everyone thinks you have to have one.
    Well, I bought one for my 600mm f4L IS, based on the overwhelming number of recommendations, and found that the number of pin sharp shots I got reduced dramatically compared to using my previous head a Manfrotto 136 fluid video head.
    As soon as I went back to the fluid head the sharp shots increased again.
    The damping on the fluid head prevents any tiny movements from depressing the shutter etc. being reflected, see-saw like, at the front element end. These movements are not damped on a gimbal head as it just hangs loose.
    The fluid head is also lighter and much smaller than a gimbal.
    In the end, I suppose different solutions work for different users and you may find the omnipotent Whimberley is right for you. Just remember you don't have to have one to get sharp shots.
    You'll also notice from the photo that I didn't get sucked into the GBP?80 for a lens cover either. Just GBP?10 for a pair of ex-army cammo trouser, cut off one leg for my 600mm f4L IS, and the other for my 300mm f2.8L IS - works for me!
  18. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    The advantage of a gimbel head such as the Wimberley is that it is very easy to use it to follow action, such as birds in flight. At least I am not talking about locking things down.

    The problem is that a gimbal head is great for long lenses but that is about it. You cannot really mount a camera body on it with a wide angle to shoot landscape. A ballhead such as the Arca Swiss B1 is good for a lot more applications. That was why I had only a B1 for a decade before adding the Wimbeley last year.

    The Wimbeley is also bulky for air travel.
  19. Do not forget long lens technique. This is needed no matter what tripod and head you use. Go here for more info:
    Joe Smith
  20. I agree with Matt Sellis. I shoot Tely R 560mm/F6.8 and shutter and mirror movement is the biggest enemy ( Iam using it on Gitzo Studex and Arca Monoball). I never tried a fluid video head. This will be my next trial but I don't know which one to select, perhaps the Bogen 516. It's weight is 4.4 lb and can load up to 22 lb. Any suggestion out there?
  21. The two setups I use most with my 560mm f/6.8 Telyt (the same lens Sandor is using) are
    either a shoulder stock & monopod (used, total cost approx US$60) or an ancient Eastman
    Commercial tripod with a used Gitzo 3-way head, total cost US$70. The shoulder stock &
    monopod get the bulk of the use because I favor mobility and portability; I can hike for
    hours up & down mountains and through dense moose-hiding willows and not regret
    having brought it along.
    The Gitzo-headed Eastman is for when I can work within a half-mile of the truck and want
    the additional stability of a solid tripod. The Gitzo head isn't a fluid head but it's well-
    built and its movments are all very smooth, and it locks very securely. IMHO a gimbal
    head is overkill when working from a hide.

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