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I need a better ball head for my G9 setup


I have Panasonic G9 with 50-200 lens. Weighs about 3.3 lbs, (1.4 kg). The camera uses the usual connection to a on the bottom of the body.
The ball head I am currently using, is an Aoka "professional" 33 and it's making me nuts ( or nuttier than usual)
1) It sags when I am zoomed out to 200 mm. I will choose my composition, lock it down and it will ever so slowly sag to a lower position. Yes I could start out higher and let it settle to where I want it (maybe) but why????
2) it is useless in cold (freezing and below ) the thing locks up solid and I cannot adjust anything.
I know this is a bit of a 'rabbit hole' there must be thousands of ball heads out there, so I posted here hoping someone has a setup they are happy with.

What ball head have you used with good success?
Not know your ball head, but my Nest ball head should be alright for your setup below 10Kg IIRC.

Might google for Nest NT-63X (might have different number in different zone).

As a matter of fact, ball head is controlled by the friction between the ball head and it's housing unit. Might try to uncrew it open, add some things in between (had tried a very thin tiny piece of plastic skin) the ball and the housing unit for extra friction. It might make it tighter for added stability.
For anything as heavy as a G9 with reasonable size lens (say) Olympus 40-150/2.8 a gimbal type head is recommended. These need an Arca-Swiss type mount plate and the theory is that the mount is capable of sliding on the gimbal base back or forth until the camera/lens combo is balanced so that it does not droop forward or backwards when the gimbal locks are feed up. Once set up there is no weight or friction in the movement and the outfit can be swung up and down and from side to side with hardly any effort. It is magic and it can even be left unlocked and the lens will keep facing the direction that it was left in.

Gimbal heads have traditionally been used with very heavy birding lenses, but there is no reason why smaller combinations cannot work as well. I have older heavy tripod outfits with gimbal heads which can easy handle lenses as heavy as 5.5Kg which can be swung this way and that with very little effort.

Based on this I bought a very nice lighter Pergear gimbal head and it is a ver nice free moving tripod head. Since I have been sold on the type I would not be parted with mine. The big-bazza version can be quite expensive. But a lighter Pergear version was quite affordable.
I agree that a gimbal is a better solution but you might try a (much) longer Arca-Swiss plate that will allow better balance of the rig on the ball head.

You can get plates in the 100mm-200mm range from Amazon for $10 or so.
I just bought a new Manfrotto tripod and added a Manfrotto MHXPRO-BHQ2, which you can get with Manfrotto or ARCA-Swiss clamp. It’s a very solid piece of kit and handles a 300/4 or 40-150/2.8 with MC14 easily. Also copes with a Sony with 100-400GM, which is even longer and heavier.

You are right about endless options of type and model. It’s even worse if you want a tripod as the starting point.

Back to the hobby horse .... when I started using huge lenses many years ago I quickly worked out that any standard tripod head was not suitable and even when mounted srewed down they were in great danger of tipping the tripod over. A longer arca-swiss mounting system is necessary and the longer the lens the longer the mount plate that might be necessary. Lenses with a tripod mount are essential if the lens is of any significant size.

I have just checked my eBay for price reference and been amazed at just how cheap gimbal heads have become. As low as AUD$60 (about US$40). They were once the prerogative of specialist US manufacturers who sold them for lottery prices. Prices I could not afford so I bought a couple of them from India for AUD$200-something (the exact price I cannot remember). They work ok and are strongly built but suffer a bit from 'stiction'* I have modified my bearing surfaces to reduce the stiction effect.

But, as mentioned, I later bought a Chinese made Pergear version. This is a smaller gimbal head and not suitable for my larger lenses. But it is impressively well made and has no stiction. It also has an adjustment to enable it to fit lenses with a larger diameter (or a camera body if the lens has no tripod mount). Like all good gimbal heads it is a delight to use in practice. They look a little complex but once set up with the camera-lens on point of weight balance the tripod takes all the weight and the combination is in balance and sure footed - it would take a push to make it fall over. The locks can be released and the lens swung in every which manner that the gimbal design allows (which is a lot). It feels weightless and using this lens is not tiring at all. It is a good feeling to be able to walk away from the tripod with the gimbal locks released and the well adjusted lens will stay pointed exactly the way it was left.

I was a fan of Manfrotto but their gear is hideously expensive and equal quality cna be found much cheaper. Their standard mount plates are bulky - too bulky to be left on camera/lens and they were also expensive if you needed more.

* 'stiction' is the very slight sticky start to a fluid movement. Resulting in micro jerks every time the lens was panned and making precise adjustments annoyingly unpleasant when they stick (slightly) then start quickly and this is reversed (repeat). It is the bane of cheap gimbal heads as I found out. With a really large lens there is the leverage of its length to somewhat compensate for the stiction effect. I found it is all about the sliding surfaces of the joints and perhaps my cheap Indian made ones had there mating surfaces slightly out of angle kilter. I don't know but there were nylon rubbing surfaces and even backing the lock right off still left some stiction effect. I thin I ended up with some thin washers with tiny roller bearings embedded in them. But the Pergear had no stiction out of the box and was cheaper. Smaller lenses of course probably made a difference.

Danny (NZMacro) will have forgotten more about gimbal heads and large lenses than I will ever know and would be a good source of advice.

Gimbal heads will fit on any tripod set of your personal choice.
I don't use tripods or monopods much at all as I prefer to walk around and hand hold. But I do have a older Manfrotto tripod, and a Manfrotto monopod, that I bought over 20 years ago. Here in the USA they weren't that expensive back then, they were reasonably sturdy, and their quick release system was perfectly adequate for my film cameras with shorter lenses. But, getting into bird photography, which necessitated longer lenses like my Nikon 200-500 and 500 PF, I soon realized that a ball head and those small QR plates just weren't going to cut it. So, I replaced the collar and foot on the the zoom, and the foot on the prime with Arca-Swiss compatible versions, bought an inexpensive Neewer gimbal and finally a Wimberly (that I splurged a little on) Monogimbal for my monopod.

I might not be much of a tripod or monopod user these days but I would never go back to a ball head unless maybe if it was with small, lightweight lenses.
What ball head have you used with good success?
None really, unless its for a home setup where I can afford to spend a little time getting it just right.

Like you, the sag is annoying, even tightening it up it shifts. My use is no doubt different to yours but for me with bird photography I either use a monopod with an up/down pivoted head (Sirui L-10 Tripod Tilt Head) or a gimbal head on a tripod. The beauty of the gimbal is that the weight of the camera and lens is optimaly set below or at the pivot point, it stays put even with the lightest of lock.
Okay, let me try this.

For years I've used gimbal heads on both monopods and tripods. I use 300 F/2.8L, 500 F/4.5L and the 800 F/5.6L. Someone suggested something a couple of years ago and I looked and was doubtful I must admit. However, it's the best head I've ever used and holds the 800mm just fine and this is highly recommended. It's replaced all my gimbal and ball heads, it's smallish and as strong as an ox.

Lefoto head

There's a video on that page as well, I suggest you watch it.

There is one with a rotating mechanism as well, so you can rotate horizontally, you would have to hunt that out. BTW, Lefoto makes superb gear. I do have an expensive heavy duty friction adjustable ball head as well and my gimbal heads are also heavy duty, they have to be for the 800 F/5.6L. That lefoto head handles it well. As an example my tripod weighs in at 6.5kg and that head sits on it very nicely. Ball heads I gave up on years ago.

If it holds an 800 F/5.6, it will hold anything you have by a long way and it's still reasonably small.

All the best and how's that Tom ;)