If you are into photography, then you would have used a tripod at some point of time, or you might be a regular tripod user. There are different types of tripod heads available for a photographer. So, selecting the right one can be tricky.
Each tripod head type is designed with a particular type of photography in mind. So, are you sure that you are using the right tripod head type? Let us find out.
What is a Tripod Head?
Tripod head is the tripod accessory that connects the camera to the tripod legs. You can also mount the camera directly on to the tripod if the threads are matching. Tripod head gives you the flexibility to align your camera in multiple angles and orientations.
Some tripod comes with integrated tripod heads. So, you cannot use any other head with such tripods. These tripods are low-cost ones targeted towards the point and shoot camera users.
Different Types of Tripod Heads
Now, let us have a look at the different types of tripod heads. Understanding each type of head will help you to choose the right one for the kind of photography you are doing.
1. Ball head
As the name suggests, it makes use of a ball structure to move around. If you look any ball head, then you can see a spherical ball resting on a groove, and the ball will have a piston at on end which gets connected to the mounting set up. The mounting method varies with manufacturers.
It is one of the most popular tripod head. The ball structure allows you to position your camera in almost all angles.
2. Pan and Tilt Tripod Head
If you are not interested in the multiple angle option and you want to restrict your camera movement to two axes, then Pan and Tilt heads are a good option. It will come with two handles, one for horizontal movement and one for vertical movement.
If you want to move the camera horizontally, then you need to lock the tilt head and loosen the pan head and move it around. For vertical movement, lock the pan head and loosen the tilt head and move the tilt handle. So, it is more useful to shoot videos.
3. Gimbal Head
If you are doing wildlife or bird photography, then you would be using the 500mm and 600mm super telephoto lenses. Here, you need to get the perfect balance and stability with your camera and lens combination to get the shot, if you are using a tripod. So, you need to go with a Gimbal head for your tripod.
Gimbal heads are available in the different price range. You need to select one in such a way that it can handle the weight of the lens and camera. To get a perfect balance, you need to align the camera and lens combination in the center of gravity.
If you add any teleconverters or any other accessories to your camera, then you need to re-align your center of gravity position.
4. Fluid Head
If you are a person who is interested in shooting videos along with your photos or if you are a dedicated videographer, then the fluid head would be the ideal tripod head choice.
The fluid head is a type of Pan and Tilt head which make use of hydraulic damping system for smooth and steady shots.
Fluid heads allow you to adjust the friction, which helps you to get the pan speed of your choice. So, if you are taking videos, then you will get a smooth transition between the frames. If the movement is not smooth, then you can see the jerks in your video, which causes a distraction to the viewer. Fluid heads are costly when compared to other tripod heads.
5. Motorized Tripod Head
Who needs a motorized tripod head? If you are doing panoramic photography or time-lapse videos, then a motorized tripod head can be an excellent addition to your camera kit.
As the name suggests, this tripod head makes use of a battery powered motor to get the precise movement. Most of them make use of a rechargeable battery as the power source, and you can vary the speed and precision using inbuilt buttons in the head.
Some high-end models even come with a smartphone supported application to set these parameters, and you can control it remotely. The main thing to be checked while buying a motorized tripod head is its payload capacity. It should be able to take the weight of your camera.
Motorized heads are also referred to as Geared heads as they make use of gear mechanism for their movement.
6. Tilt Head
If you are using a monopod for your photography, then a tilt head can be a good option. They are specifically designed for monopods.
Only vertical movement is possible with a tilt head. For the horizontal movement, you need to rotate the monopod in your hand. You don’t have to depend on the head for the pan movement.
7. Pistol Grip Head
Pistol grip head is a kind of ball head with a pistol grip. So, Is it just a handle change? No, the pistol allows you to control the ball joint tension by pressing the trigger button.
When you are ready with the camera position, you can remove your fingers from the trigger button, and the head gets locked to that particular position. I haven’t seen many photographers using pistol grip heads.
8. Panoramic Tripod Head
If you are a panoramic shooter who doesn’t have the budget for motorized heads, then the standard panoramic heads would be the right choice. Here, the tripod head allows you to make camera movement in horizontal directions.
The base plate will have markings in degrees to know the camera movement angle. So, you can take individual images and later stitch it together to get the panoramic picture.
9. Three-way heads
If you are looking for a precise movement, then three-way tripod head is an excellent option. It is similar to the ball head, which allows you to position your camera in all the three axis.
But, a three-way tripod head will help you to get a precise position. If you use a ball head for the same purpose, then you will have to do lots of trials.
It will have three lever handles to control the three-axis separately. The main disadvantage of this type of tripod head is that it is time-consuming, for camera positioning.
Now, you have a good idea about different types of tripod heads. So, whenever you are looking to buy a tripod head, then make sure that you list out the requirements and select one accordingly. Otherwise, you will end up wasting your money.
If you are looking to buy a tripod, then consider reading, Tripod Buying Checklist. It will help you to choose the right tripod.
Also, don’t go for the cheap low-quality tripod heads. It will result in instabilities in your camera arrangement over some time as they are made of low-quality materials.