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The best gimbal heads for tripods in 2022: heads that handle big lenses with ease

Included in this guide:

best gimbal heads for tripods
(Image credit: Future)

With one of the best gimbal heads, you can effectively make your camera weightless! An absolute boon to a heavier setup, a good gimbal head effectively hangs the camera in suspension, giving it a lower centre of gravity and allowing it to be held indefinitely in any position you place it in, even if the tilt lock is loosened. 

This is great because it gives you a rock-solid and stable base for panning shots even if you're using an ultra-heavy telephoto lens. Gimbal heads are geared towards those who are fielding these kinds of heavy setups; if you're not, a more standard ball head or video head might be more what you're looking for. 

Gimbal heads are oriented towards experienced and professional users. It takes a little practice to get your head around setting them up, as they need to be aligned to ensure proper balance of the mounting plate. Also, if your gimbal head is of the type that allows vertical panning as well as horizontal, then you need to ensure the centre-line of the lens is parallel with the gimbal's tilt axis. If you are fairly new and all this is a little confusing, then click to jump to our section on five things to consider when buying a gimbal head, where we look at the key features of these heads. 

Gimbal heads are not only oriented towards pro users in terms of their functionality, but also their price. These are sophisticated pieces of kit, especially if you opt for a premium one made out of a stronger but more expensive material like carbon fibre, so you need to be prepared to pay more than you would for an average ball head. 

That's why we've scoured the shelves to find the best gimbal heads available. From various different manufacturers, these are the gimbal heads we reckon offer the best bang for your buck right now. 

So let's get to it! Below are our picks for the six best gimbal heads you can buy right now...

Best gimbal heads in 2022

Best gimbal heads: Benro GH5C

(Image credit: Benro)

1. Benro GH5C

Carbon fibre construction makes this head lightweight and strong

Specifications
Construction material: Carbon fibre
Load rating: 29.94kg
Weight: 1.1kg
Reasons to buy
+
Fluid panning movement
+
Strong and light
+
Vertical and panoramic scales
Reasons to avoid
-
Expensive

What's so good about the Benro GH5C? One major ace in the hole for this gimbal head is its carbon fibre construction. This material is both stronger and lighter than the other main construction material for heads and tripods – aluminium – and means that you'll be able to support heavier payloads with the head, and have an easier time ferrying it to and from your shooting locations. And we do mean heavy payloads, with the GH5C (no relation to the Panasonic GH5) able to support a whopping 29.94kg of kit, which is more than enough for even chunky pro video setups.

Benro has outdone itself with the engineering here; the movement of the GH5C is smooth as butter, even when it's loaded up to the nines. Panning movements are made ridiculously easy, on both horizontal and vertical axes. It comes at a cost, but this is a tool made for and marketed to professionals, so that's to be expected. 

Best gimbal heads: Wimberley WH-200 Version II

(Image credit: Wimberley)

2. Wimberley WH-200 Version II

Technically the best, but you’ll need to justify the outlay

Specifications
Construction material: Aluminum
Load rating: 68kg
Weight: 1.4kg
Reasons to buy
+
Great build quality
+
Super smooth operation
+
Extensive lens compatility
Reasons to avoid
-
High price

The Wimberley WH-200 Version II is an all-around excellent gimbal head, with a well-deserved reputation in the industry. Offering superb freedom of movement even with the largest lenses, the WH-200 Version II has a redesigned panning base compared to the original, with zero play, and its pan-locking knob has been moved to the side for easier one-handed operation. The knobs themselves are grippy and ergonomically designed, making them easy to adjust even when you're wearing gloves. 

In use, it's absolutely sublime, both fluid and firm when it needs to be. Wimberley has gone over this head from top to bottom to ensure tight tolerances, and the pan and tilt axes turn with exceptional smoothness. The standardised Arca-Swiss mount ensure broad compatibility, and Wimberley even supplies replacement low-profile lens feet to ensure compatibility with lenses that have a taller than average foot. It's only the higher-than-average asking price that keeps this out of the top spot, but if your budget goes this far, it's absolutely worth it. 

Best gimbal heads: Benro GH2

(Image credit: Benro)

3. Benro GH2

The best value gimbal head

Specifications
Construction material: Aluminum
Load rating: 23kg
Weight: 1.44kg
Reasons to buy
+
Great value
+
No-nonsense design
+
Smooth rotation
Reasons to avoid
-
Short on customisation

Benro doesn't only make expensive heads – the GH2 is a great budget option for those who need gimbal head stabilisation and don't have as much to spend. It's not quite as sophisticated as some of the other heads we've got on our list – the Gitzo is more stylish, and the Custom Brackets option is more modular. However, it's still an excellent head to use, with easy-locking knobs on pan and tilt, enough adjustment on the vertical arm for mounting tall lenses, and an Arca mounting plate that makes it compatible with just about anything.

The movement is also delightfully smooth – perhaps not quite as silky as some of the pricier heads, but delivering well on all axes. We tried it our with a 4.5kg 400mm f/2.8 setup and had absolutely no problems at all. This is a good opportunity to save yourself some cash if you don't need the absolute top of the range.

(Image credit: Gitzo)

4. Gitzo GHFG1 Fluid Gimbal Head

Italian design from the king of tripod manufacturers

Specifications
Construction material: Magnesium & aluminum
Load rating: 8kg
Weight: 1.35kg
Reasons to buy
+
Great build quality
+
Lots of lens support
Reasons to avoid
-
Disappointing fluid dampening

You can count on Gitzo products being beautifully designed and well engineered, and accordingly, the GHFG1 Fluid Gimbal Head looks and feels fantastic. Its fluid dampening system works decently enough, though perhaps not as well as one might have hoped, but this is still a really solid gimbal head that'll support even hefty kit setups. While the maximum capacity isn't as enormous as the Benro GH2's, in practice 8kg is going to be more than enough for anyone's support needs, so wildlife and outdoor action photographers can rest easy.

Control knobs are easy to operate, and the Arca-style plate makes it easy to balance and detach equipment when necessary. Really, you can't go wrong with anything Gitzo-branded, as this high-quality head goes to show. 

(Image credit: Custom Brackets)

5. Custom Brackets CB Gimbal

Hugely impressive, but the price is hard to justify

Specifications
Construction material: Aluminum
Load rating: 100kg
Weight: 1.5kg
Reasons to buy
+
Silky smooth operation
+
Highly versatile
Reasons to avoid
-
Expensive
-
Variable friction control ineffective

Named appropriately, this gimbal is all about customization. There are no fewer than nine knobs dotted around the bracketry, with separate pan and tilt drag knobs to control resistance independently of the locking clamps. The complexity is also a result of this being a collapsible, modular design, where the horizontal and vertical arms can be separated for more streamlined storage. 

Another thoughtful touch is the scalloped-edge base plate that you can grip directly when mounting the head to your tripod, rather than using the pan lock for extra leverage.

As you’d expect for hardware with a premium price, build quality is top notch. Everything clamps down securely, there’s no lateral play in any bearings, and the plethora of adjustment options makes it a cinch to mount lenses of all sizes. Once on board, even the heaviest glass will move effortlessly.

(Image credit: ProMediaGear)

6. ProMediaGear Katana

A stunning gimbal, if overkill for most non-pros

Specifications
Construction material: Aluminum
Load rating: 22kg
Weight: 2.4kg
Reasons to buy
+
Uncompromising build quality
+
Large enough for supertelephotos
Reasons to avoid
-
Pricey
-
Hard to find outside US

The Katana looks more like a piece of weapons hardware than a camera support, owing to its macho design and huge 33cm height. Being such a tall gimbal does mean there’s plenty of vertical adjustment to perfectly balance even the largest lens.

The stellar build and material quality results in a load capacity of 23kg, ensuring any lens this side of the Hubble Space Telescope will have a stable footing. The only drawback of such strength is that, at 2.2kg, this is the heaviest gimbal here.

Maintenance-free steel ball bearings give perfectly smooth tilt and panning motion, and with no bearing slack when the locking knobs are undone. These are large enough for easy use in all weathers, plus they can be repositioned for more convenient access. You can also partly tighten the locking knobs to increase friction without introducing any jerkiness, and when fully tightened, your camera is held steady.

While this head is available outside the US, it can be difficult to find. If you're struggling, ProMediaGear keeps a list of international stockists, which you can find here

Five things to consider when buying a gimbal head

Gimbal heads are a very specific type of accessory, with a distinct list of features. While they tend to be oriented towards a more advanced photographer or videographer, everyone who gets one is going to be a first-time buyer once, so with that in mind we've put together a quick guide to the things to look for. 

1. Vertical adjustment
You don't necessarily need to get a gimbal with vertical adjustment to feel the benefits of a gimbal head, but if you want to achieve complete weightlessness then you'll need it. The more vertical travel it has, the better.

2. Precision engineering
Loosening the clamps locking the pan base and tilt arm on cheaper gimbals, can introduce slack and wobble in the joints. Better designs will have tighter tolerances.

2. Precision engineering
Loosening the clamps that lock the pan base and tilt arm on cheaper gimbals can unfortunately introduce unwanted slack and wobble in the joints. However, better (and usually more expensive) designs will have tighter tolerances.

3. Ergonomics
While small dials and controls can look stylish and tidy, any wildlife photographer knows that it's easy to get caught short in bad weather. Set yourself up for success by looking for a gimbal head that has large controls that are easy to grip through gloves.

4. Mounting methods
All of the gimbal heads that we've featured in this guide use the Arca-Swiss mounting plate standard. If you purchase a gimbal head with a long plate, then you'll also get better adjustment.

5. Don't skimp on the legs
Mounting a gimbal head on a cheap travel tripod is akin to fitting a state-of-the-art lock to a flimsy wooden door. Look for sturdy, rigid legs, even if the combined weight will be unwieldy. 

Read more:

Best ball heads for tripods
Best pan and tilt tripod heads
Best geared heads for tripods
The best tripod for your camera
The best travel tripods right now
The best carbon fiber tripods

Ben is the Imaging Labs manager, responsible for all the testing on Digital Camera World and across the entire photography portfolio at Future. Whether he's in the lab testing the sharpness of new lenses, the resolution of the latest image sensors, the zoom range of monster bridge cameras or even the latest camera phones, Ben is our go-to guy for technical insight. He's also the team's man-at-arms when it comes to camera bags, filters, memory cards, and all manner of camera accessories – his lab is a bit like the Batcave of photography! With years of experience trialling and testing kit, he's a human encyclopedia of benchmarks when it comes to recommending the best buys.