Gitzo introduced the updated Ball Head Series 4 in April 2021 with its 30kg maximum payload and hefty build seeing it pitched at wildlife photographers using 400-600mm lenses.
It's made from high-tolerance steel and aluminum components and uses a large hollow ball that's designed to move smoothly in extreme conditions and temperatures between -30° and 70°C. There's also a thermo-stable fluid pan cartridge (plus a dedicated pan control) that helps deliver jerk-free movement when following subjects moving horizontally.
Along with the large locking knob, there's a friction control wheel to help give the degree of movement that's required with different camera and lens combinations.
Gitzo makes two versions of the Series 4 Center Ball Head, the lever lock version (GH4383LR) tested here and a screw version (GH4383QD) with a screw-tight knob to fix the release plate in position.
For safety, there’s a button on the clamp release lever of the GH4383LR head which must be pressed to allow it to open fully.
Base diameter: 60mm
Controls: ball lock, friction, pan
Plate compatibility: Arca-Swiss
Maximum load: 30Kg
Build and handling
The design and finish of the Series 4 Center Ball Head make it instantly recognizable as a Gitzo product. It also has the high-quality feel that we expect from the respected manufacturer.
Gitzo has made the head to complement its Series 3, 4 and 5 Systematic tripods, which are aimed at professional photographers, and consequently it has a wide (60mm) base diameter that may overhang less beefy tripods.
The quick release plate supplied with the head is a Gitzo D profile plate, which is Arca-Swiss compatible but much longer than those supplied with heads such as the 3 Legged Thing AirHed Pro and Benro GX35. This large size should give the camera a more stable platform but it also increases the chance of the battery compartment door being covered.
There’s a flip out D-ring on the quick release plate bolt, which makes it easy to get it finger-tight, but there’s also a coin slot and a hex socket (a key is supplied). However, neither the slot nor the hex socket are quite deep enough so the key doesn’t fit satisfactorily and it’s a little too easy for it to slip, meaning you have to be extra-careful when you tighten the bolt. It’s disappointing with a brand like Gitzo and with such an expensive head.
All three of the knobs on the Gitzo head have a ridged rubbery covering that give very good grip. The ball-lock knob has two rows of rubber to make it easily distinguishable from the friction control which has one band of rubber. This control also clicks subtle as it’s rotated so you have a clear sense of the degree of adjustment.
While some photographers like the friction control and ball lock to be separate, as they are on this Gitzo head, it takes a while to find the right balance between the two controls for each camera and lens combination. With that done, however, it becomes easier to move a camera and long lens into position and to find the perfect composition before locking the ball tight.
Even with the heft and controllability of the Gitzo Series 4 Ball Head, it pays to ensure that your camera and lens are correctly balanced and use the tripod collar on a long optic. If you mount a long heavy lens on a camera and mount the camera directly on the head, you can expect to see a little droop when you let go of the kit after locking the ball, but it’s less than with smaller ball heads.
While the Gitzo Center Ball Head Series 4 weighs 900g and is large for a ball head, it can support long heavy lenses and is smaller, lighter and more convenient to carry than a gimbal head. It also makes a more practical option to use with smaller lenses than a gimbal head, so it’s a bit more versatile. However, it’s designed to be paired with a tripod with a large mounting plate, such as the Gitzo Systematic Series 3, 4 or 5 range. A tripod set-up is only as strong, stable and supportive as the weakest component and if this head is mounted on a small tripod, it won’t deliver optimum performance.