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Chances are that when you first got into photography, you considered getting a tripod. There is also a reasonable chance that you assumed that the tripod and head came together, perhaps inseparably in one package. You may have even learnt the hard way, buying a cheap combined tripod and head only to find it could be moved by a person walking too fast past it.
The fact is, tripod and tripod heads should be treated as two separate purchases. You need to determine which legs suit your purpose and equally which type of head will most compliment your photographing style. Today we are going to look at heads, to get an overall picture of tripods in general have a look at our article here.
There are two, common types of tripod heads then a number of others designed for more specialised purposes. Lets take a look at the two common ones first.
The Ball Head
The ball head is the smallest of the different types available. It is, as its name suggests, a simple ball and socket that can be locked off with a thumb screw. It allows for a 360 degree movement in the horizontal plane. There is a groove cut through the socket section to all the ball and camera platform to rotate to the vertical format. Although this might sound as if its not particularly secure, in reality these heads can lock your camera off very firmly.
The caveat is that you need to select a suitable one. Firstly you need to make sure the baseplate of the head matches the baseplate of the tripod. Secondly ball heads are rated by how many kilograms they can support. Check what weight your camera will max out at with its heaviest lens on and add a little to that figure for safety.
The advantages of a ball head are that they are highly adjustable and very quick to reposition. Better, more fluid heads can even be used unlocked to enable the photographer to pan the camera but maintain a degree of support.