If you’ve considered buying a ball head mount to replace your three-way lead, you may be wondering how best to use them. In this tutorial we explain the best way to use a ball head tripod mount to ensure the sharpest pictures possible.
Three-way heads are good when you need to make precise adjustments, but ball heads are much faster when you want to make adjustments in a hurry.
When buying a ball head tripod mount, it’s a good idea to measure the diameter of the circular platform at the top of your tripod’s centre column, and to get a head that has a similarly sized base (typically either about 40mm or 60mm). This ensures the most solid connection possible.
The thread of the mounting stud may also be either 1/4-inch or 3/8-inch. Step-up thread adaptors are cheap and widely available, but you can’t fit a head with a smaller 1/4-inch head to a platform that has a larger 3/8-inch thread.
How to use a ball head tripod mount
1 Lock it down
Many tripods feature locking screws in the platform of the centre column. Use these to lock the head, rather than over-tightening the head on the platform’s main attachment stud.
2 Friction damper
An adjustable friction damper is useful when using heavy camera and lens combinations. It reduces the risk of the camera falling forward when the locking clamp is loosened.
3 Straight and level
Some tripods and heads have spirit levels, which help you to ensure that the camera isn’t tilted when shooting. Another option is to use the camera’s own virtual horizon, if featured.
4 Portrait orientation
For portrait-orientation shooting, swivel the camera to the right (when viewed from the rear). This stops the camera loosening on its tripod attachment thread.
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