What is a gimbal head? Put simply, a gimbal head is a device that keeps the weight of your camera and lens centralised when shooting with large, heavy telephoto lenses. In this quick guide we answer all the questions you might have about gimbal heads, such as when and why you might use them.
What are gimbal heads?
These are specialist heads for use on tripods or monopods, ideally suited to heavyweight lenses like super-telephoto primes and zooms. They mount directly to the tripod or monopod, in place of more conventional two-way, three-way or ball heads.
How do they work?
Gimbal heads are designed so that the centre of gravity remains fixed when tilting the camera and lens upwards or downwards. This makes supporting heavy lenses very much more stable, greatly reducing the risk of the camera and lens toppling over, or slipping out of position when the clamps of a conventional head are fully tightened.
Who makes them?
Prices range from about £250 to £500. That might seem expensive, but it’s a much easier cost to bear than an accidentally smashed super-telephoto lens and camera body. Popular makes include Wimberley, Kirk, Manfrotto, Custom Brackets, Benro, Induro and Triopo.
When should I use them?
Considering that many super-telephoto lenses are simply too heavy for handheld shooting, a gimbal head is useful any time you’re shooting with this type of lens, especially in wildlife and sports photography where you need a much greater freedom of movement.
How do I attach them?
Gimbal heads attach to the tripod foot of heavy lenses, rather than to the camera body. To switch between portrait and landscape orientation shooting, you simply rotate the lens within its tripod collar. Most gimbal heads use an Arca-Swiss style quick-release clamp, but you may need to buy additional mounting plates to ensure compatibility with specific lenses.
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