Getting stability and freedom of movement when using large, heavy lenses is paramount. In our latest group test we’ve taken six of the top gimbal heads and alternatives on the market to find out which offers the best stability and ease of use.
Some of the telephoto lenses weigh up to 2kg, making handheld shooting a real strain. You can ease this by using a sturdy monopod or tripod, but there’s a catch.
Even when using the mounting collar and foot typically supplied with heavy lenses, the weight is only centralised when you’re shooting on the level.
If you need to tilt the camera and lens upwards or downwards, the weight shifts dramatically to the rear or front respectively. This can make the setup very unstable, as well as risking the camera and lens crashing to the ground.
Gimbal heads keep the weight of the camera and lens centralised when shooting upwards or downwards, while aiming to enable smooth, effort-free tilting and panning. They are particularly popular for shooting birds in flight, or aircraft being put through their paces at air displays, as well as a variety of other sports and wildlife photography.
Best gimbal head: 01 Benro GHA Gimbal Head
Not quite a full gimbal head, the GHA is designed to attach to a regular ball-and-socket head that features an Arca-Swiss mounting platform.
A likely candidate is the Benro BRN2 ball head, which has a maximum load rating of 12kg.
With the underlying ball head in portrait orientation, the GHA enables a tilt facility, while relying on the ball head for panning operation.
Light in weight at 470g, the GHA nevertheless has a maximum load rating of 15kg.
It comes with an 85mm Arca-Swiss quick-release mounting plate and has a single locking clamp for its tilt function.
However, the addition of a separate ball head compromises stability and the tilt action is a little lacking in smoothness.
Pros… Relatively inexpensive, lightweight and very compact.
Cons… Requires an additional ball head with Arca-Swiss mounting platform.
WE say… A suitable ball head adds about Price: £80 to the overall cost, so it’s not cheap.
PAGE 1 – Best gimbal head: 01 Benro GHA Gimbal Head
PAGE 2 – Best gimbal head: 02 Manfrotto 393 Long Lens Monopod Bracket
PAGE 3 – Best gimbal head: 03 Benro GH1 Gimbal Head
PAGE 4 – Best gimbal head: 04 Triopo DG-3 Gimbal Head
PAGE 5 – Best gimbal head: 05 Wimberley WH-200 Mk II
PAGE 6 – Best gimbal head: 06 Custom Brackets Gimbal LS Head
PAGE 7 – Five things to look for when choosing a gimbal head
Best photo backpacks: 6 top models tested and rated
Best budget tripods: 6 top models tested and rated
10 common camera mistakes every photographer makes
10 reasons why your photos aren’t sharp (and how to fix them)