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Author Topic: Acratech Ballhead for panorama photography and what pano base?  (Read 6039 times)
simonstucki
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« on: September 26, 2012, 07:14:47 AM »
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Hi everyone,

I'm looking for a tripodhead (tripod will be the rrs 24L) for general use that is also usable for panorama. I have thougt about this for a long time now and have come to the conclusion, that I want a (high quality of cours) lightweight head that allows me to tilt the camera 90 or more (not just 45 or even less like with the arca swiss p1 head) I also want a native 3/8" stud or thread to attach the pano base on top of the head (unfortunately many many well respected manufacturers use 1/4" which I don't understand at all. 1/4" just seems so unnecessarily tiny).
so the acratec ultimate ballhead seems to be just what I want, but I wonder how convenient it is to level the camera with that "onesided" head (of course it is possible in every situation but I would like to hear from someone who uses it)
I'm also considering the gp or gp-s head but I would like to put a second pano base on top of the head instead of using it reversed so I would not need the quickrelease clamp that comes with it and since you can't get the head without it I'm not happy with that situation. I also don't know weather that head has a 3/8" thread or 1/4" maybe someone can help here?


another question is the pano base, i would like a sturdy but lightweight pano base. Is there something lighter but just as good (with integrated arca type quickrelease clamp) than the rrs or novoflex versions?

I'm looking forward to read you opinions

simon
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k bennett
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« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2012, 10:06:04 AM »
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RRS makes a panning clamp that can replace the standard clamp on top of the head. It has a 3/8 attachment. Not sure about attaching it to the Acratech, haven't actually held the Acratech head in my hands.

One can also attach a quick release plate to the bottom of the panning head, using the 3/8 mount, then quickly attach it to the standard clamp on the ball head. See photos at the link above.

Finally, I'm not sure how much the 90-degree tilt matters if you use an L-plate for your cameras and the tripod collar for your long lenses.
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Ellis Vener
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« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2012, 01:21:07 PM »
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For panoramic work a panning platform on top of the head is possibly more important than one in the base of the head. The head then can be the leveling device. Wha yare you not considering oen of the Really Right Stuff ball heads with a PCL-1 on top?

My favorite head for standard and panoramic work these days is the Arca-Swiss D4M unless I need something really heavy duty and then I go for a Foba ASMIA head with a PCL-1 on top.
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Ellis Vener
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DanielStone
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« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2012, 01:36:37 PM »
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The Acratech GP & GV2 ball heads can be used as a leveling base, just remove the quick release clamp from the balls stem, and re-attach it to the base.

Watch this video to see what I mean:

http://m.youtube.com/index?&desktop_uri=%2F

The part I'm referring to starts @ the 1/2way point in the video, fyi

Cheers,

Dan
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simonstucki
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« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2012, 04:30:00 PM »
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RRS makes a panning clamp that can replace the standard clamp on top of the head. It has a 3/8 attachment. Not sure about attaching it to the Acratech, haven't actually held the Acratech head in my hands.

One can also attach a quick release plate to the bottom of the panning head, using the 3/8 mount, then quickly attach it to the standard clamp on the ball head. See photos at the link above.

Finally, I'm not sure how much the 90-degree tilt matters if you use an L-plate for your cameras and the tripod collar for your long lenses.

the problem is not the pano bases they all feature a 3/8" thread, but many heads don't (they still work with the pano bases but I want a 3/8" screw to connect the base to the head) and the 90 tilt is not something I will be using a lot but I still want to have the possibility (of course I'm planning to use L-brackets).
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simonstucki
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« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2012, 04:52:19 PM »
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For panoramic work a panning platform on top of the head is possibly more important than one in the base of the head. The head then can be the leveling device. Wha yare you not considering oen of the Really Right Stuff ball heads with a PCL-1 on top?

My favorite head for standard and panoramic work these days is the Arca-Swiss D4M unless I need something really heavy duty and then I go for a Foba ASMIA head with a PCL-1 on top.

yes of course the pano platform on top of the head is what I need. the rrs heads have a 1/4" thread and only take rrs clamps or pano platforms I don't like that and frankly don't understand that at all (otherwise I really like rrs and I think it is a great company). I have tought about the d4m long and hard but in the end I didn't really see the advantage (for me, I had a large gitzo 3d head and didn't really like that I had do adjust all the dimensions separately that somehow didn't really work well for me) of a separate movements ungeared and I also read some rather bad things about the build quality (in one case at least, was apparently one of the first heads delivered, and that made me not want to order one without having had my hands on one first (and beeing from switzerland it is unfortunately quite hard to find a local dealer that has one (I know arca-SWISS) but it really is hard). so I decided to get a very lightweight head first (I'm not using long lenses, and mostly mft and aps-c at the moment) and maybe something really sturdy later if I need it. so that I will have both something light to carry around and something rock solid.
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simonstucki
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« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2012, 05:02:24 PM »
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The Acratech GP & GV2 ball heads can be used as a leveling base, just remove the quick release clamp from the balls stem, and re-attach it to the base.

Watch this video to see what I mean:

http://m.youtube.com/index?&desktop_uri=%2F

The part I'm referring to starts @ the 1/2way point in the video, fyi

Cheers,

Dan

unfortunately I can't watch the video, there is something wrong with the link. and yes I know the gp heads can be used reversed I might consider that but maybe I still want a second pano base on top of the head to keep the one below the head for convenience. what I don't like is the way the clamps that come with the gp heads attach to the bottom of the head. they seem to rest on the protruding "teeth" that interlock with the "starshaped" upper part of the stem of the ball from the gp head I don't know if that really is the best for the stability. I also already have a quickrelease clamp that I could use with the gp head so I don't like to pay for the clamp that comes with the gp heads. but I'm still considering the gp head if it really is better suited to my needs or at least substantially more convenient to use for my purpose than the ultimate head. so I'm still hoping for some user experience insights.   
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DanielStone
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« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2012, 05:12:04 PM »
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unfortunately I can't watch the video, there is something wrong with the link. and yes I know the gp heads can be used reversed I might consider that but maybe I still want a second pano base on top of the head to keep the one below the head for convenience. what I don't like is the way the clamps that come with the gp heads attach to the bottom of the head. they seem to rest on the protruding "teeth" that interlock with the "starshaped" upper part of the stem of the ball from the gp head I don't know if that really is the best for the stability. I also already have a quickrelease clamp that I could use with the gp head so I don't like to pay for the clamp that comes with the gp heads. but I'm still considering the gp head if it really is better suited to my needs or at least substantially more convenient to use for my purpose than the ultimate head. so I'm still hoping for some user experience insights.   

sorry, I was replying on my tablet at the time I wrote my reply, still getting used to android vs ios Wink

here's the link, again, the point in the video I was referring to was about 1/2 into the video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0K_QVrV_-M

cheers,

Dan
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Ellis Vener
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« Reply #8 on: September 26, 2012, 07:49:50 PM »
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yes of course the pano platform on top of the head is what I need. the rrs heads have a 1/4" thread and only take rrs clamps or pano platforms I don't like that and frankly don't understand that at all (otherwise I really like rrs and I think it is a great company).

If by "the rrs heads have a 1/4" thread" you mean that the fitting for attaching the head to the tripod you are wrong - the base of the head is threaded to take the 3/8ths inch stud.

Quote
I have tought about the d4m long and hard but in the end I didn't really see the advantage (for me, I had a large gitzo 3d head and didn't really like that I had do adjust all the dimensions separately that somehow didn't really work well for me)

That could be. I find that for panoramic work it is easierto set the x and y (or pitch and roll) levels separately but to each his own.  I also have an older Gitzo Rational No.3  and  No. 5 heads and have owned or tried several different but similr designs. The D4M is in a different league from all of them. First of all tyhe action is smoother, secondly there is almost no creep as you lock the head down. It may be the most logical tripod head I've worked with.


Quote
and I also read some rather bad things about the build quality (in one case at least, was apparently one of the first heads delivered, and that made me not want to order one without having had my hands on one first

I've been using one for about three or four months now with quite heavy pano rigs  (RRS CB18 camera bar, RRS PG-02VA + clamp , RRS MPR-II nodal slide + EOS 1Ds Mark III and EOS 1D X bodies with prime and zoom lenses) and it is first rate with no problems. The D4 and D4M have been out for about a year and a half I think. If there were problems with very early ones that could be the case or it could have been just that one instance. You just never know with internet reports.

Quote
(and being from switzerland it is unfortunately quite hard to find a local dealer that has one (I know arca-SWISS) but it really is hard).

Is there a dealer who stocks Arca-Swiss products near you and they just aren't ordering it or can't get it into stock?

Quote
so I decided to get a very lightweight head first (I'm not using long lenses, and mostly mft and aps-c at the moment) and maybe something really sturdy later if I need it. so that I will have both something light to carry around and something rock solid.

Arca just announced the  Monobal Z1g+. I havent seen it though: http://rodklukas.com/716/arca-swiss-news-photokina-2012/

THe only other panning camera platform I am aware of is a smaller copy of the RRS PCL-1 made by Sunway Foto http://www.sunwayfoto.com/html/news/201209/327.html

I tried a very early version of this but wasn't impressed . However it looks like they have revamped it so it is probably much better than the one I have. I like the look of the  inclusion of a level in the new version and the reworked controls.
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Ellis Vener
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #9 on: September 27, 2012, 01:55:27 AM »
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Hi,

I have used my Arca D4 about one year now, for anything up to 800 mm (400 + 2X extender). No issues. I have replaced the QR with one of RRS quick release levers.

What I presently use is an RRS 3 series tripod with a leveling bowl. That allows me to use the bottom rotation on the D4, which I find very useful as you can tilt up and down and rotate without introducing yaw.

Best regards
Erik
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DennisG
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« Reply #10 on: September 27, 2012, 05:00:10 PM »
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I've used the Acratech GP inverted head for about 3 years on a D90 & it is rugged, reliable, cleanable & steady, even with the RRS omni package with a fisheye.  The clamp only friction fits the rotor when inverted, but the design ensures a tight non-slip assembly with a 3/8 bolt.  This might not be the case with a 3rd party clamp designed to fit on a threaded nipple.  What I really like, besides the light weight, is that the rotor has markers every 30 degrees, allowing me to stand in one place while keeping track of the rotation stops:  overlooked by most designers (Why? Haven't they used their stuff?).  Ever hit a tripod leg with your foot mid-sequence?

Based on your needs, MFT/APSC, you won't be disappointed.  But, like you plan to, I upgraded.  With full frame, I've moved to the Arca-Swiss D4 (the geared version) - order of magnitude better - set "once & done".  Heavier, but still portable & foldable within my Gitzo 1541T.  Miss the rotor markers though.

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Neil Vanderwolf
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« Reply #11 on: September 27, 2012, 05:03:10 PM »
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I have the following as my set-up for regular and/or panoramic photography.

Gitzo GT3532LS Tripod with long spikes
Acratech GP Ballhead
RRS PG-02 Omni-Pivot Package w/ MPR-CL II nodal rail
and a set of LensCoat 18" LegCoat's for carrying comfort.  Wink

I have absolutely zero issues with stability with this set-up. The Acratech GP head saved me a bit of weight (and money) in that it has the rotating base 'built-'in'. This was planned as I was looking for the lightest/strongest set-up for multi-row panos out in the field.

You really don't need to be concerned with the Acratech GP with respect to stability in the rotating base 'mode'.
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Neil
vjbelle
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« Reply #12 on: September 28, 2012, 08:30:53 AM »
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I also purchased the GPs version Acratech head and can say that it is a joy to use.  I particularly purchased that head because of the convertibility and I can also attest that it is very stable in either mode.  I did not purchase the flip lever and can highly recommend the standard quick release as it easily adjusts to various plate widths.  The rubber coated knobs are easy to use and don't slip even with gloves.  Highly recommended!!

Victor 
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Rand47
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« Reply #13 on: September 30, 2012, 09:19:47 AM »
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yes of course the pano platform on top of the head is what I need. the rrs heads have a 1/4" thread and only take rrs clamps or pano platforms I don't like that and frankly don't understand that at all (otherwise I really like rrs and I think it is a great company). I have tought about the d4m long and hard but in the end I didn't really see the advantage (for me, I had a large gitzo 3d head and didn't really like that I had do adjust all the dimensions separately that somehow didn't really work well for me) of a separate movements ungeared and I also read some rather bad things about the build quality (in one case at least, was apparently one of the first heads delivered, and that made me not want to order one without having had my hands on one first (and beeing from switzerland it is unfortunately quite hard to find a local dealer that has one (I know arca-SWISS) but it really is hard). so I decided to get a very lightweight head first (I'm not using long lenses, and mostly mft and aps-c at the moment) and maybe something really sturdy later if I need it. so that I will have both something light to carry around and something rock solid.

The clamp load of even a grade-2 1/4" bolt is 723 lbs.   Grade-8 is over 1500 lbs.  I don't think there's much to worry about.
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Neil Vanderwolf
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« Reply #14 on: September 30, 2012, 02:28:17 PM »
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I also purchased the GPs version Acratech head and can say that it is a joy to use.  I particularly purchased that head because of the convertibility and I can also attest that it is very stable in either mode.  I did not purchase the flip lever and can highly recommend the standard quick release as it easily adjusts to various plate widths.  The rubber coated knobs are easy to use and don't slip even with gloves.  Highly recommended!!

Victor 

Just an FYI, he Acratech lever clamp adjusts to various plate widths as well, it's nicely designed (different than the RRS Lever Clamp).
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Neil
Glenn NK
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« Reply #15 on: September 30, 2012, 07:47:13 PM »
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Good information on this thread; I was considering the Acratech GP Ballhead, but hadn't heard any comments from actual owners/users so was a bit reluctant to mail order one.  A recent online purchase of what seemed like a good head turned out to be a real bummer.  The design and features of the Gitzo 3750 are very good for close to the ground macro work, but the ballhead is so sticky I'm tempted to throw it in the ocean.

Thanks to those that have this head and responded to the thread.

Glenn
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simonstucki
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« Reply #16 on: October 01, 2012, 03:57:39 PM »
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If by "the rrs heads have a 1/4" thread" you mean that the fitting for attaching the head to the tripod you are wrong - the base of the head is threaded to take the 3/8ths inch stud.
no I was refering to the attachement of the clamp. the one for the tripod is of course 3/8"

That could be. I find that for panoramic work it is easierto set the x and y (or pitch and roll) levels separately but to each his own.  I also have an older Gitzo Rational No.3  and  No. 5 heads and have owned or tried several different but similr designs. The D4M is in a different league from all of them. First of all tyhe action is smoother, secondly there is almost no creep as you lock the head down. It may be the most logical tripod head I've worked with.

I've been using one for about three or four months now with quite heavy pano rigs  (RRS CB18 camera bar, RRS PG-02VA + clamp , RRS MPR-II nodal slide + EOS 1Ds Mark III and EOS 1D X bodies with prime and zoom lenses) and it is first rate with no problems. The D4 and D4M have been out for about a year and a half I think. If there were problems with very early ones that could be the case or it could have been just that one instance. You just never know with internet reports.


thanks for sharing your experience, I hope I can try one sometime myself, because as you are pointing out, one internet report says one thing and the other the opposite.



Is there a dealer who stocks Arca-Swiss products near you and they just aren't ordering it or can't get it into stock?

there are several dealers that could order it, but the price would be about 1.7x higher than if purchased from Germany over the internet.


Arca just announced the  Monobal Z1g+. I havent seen it though: http://rodklukas.com/716/arca-swiss-news-photokina-2012/

I know, but the Z1 would be more interesting (the g version has a bigger ball which I don't need).


THe only other panning camera platform I am aware of is a smaller copy of the RRS PCL-1 made by Sunway Foto http://www.sunwayfoto.com/html/news/201209/327.html
I tried a very early version of this but wasn't impressed . However it looks like they have revamped it so it is probably much better than the one I have. I like the look of the  inclusion of a level in the new version and the reworked controls.

thanks, I'll have a look. and thanks for the detailed response.
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simonstucki
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« Reply #17 on: October 01, 2012, 04:00:54 PM »
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Hi,

I have used my Arca D4 about one year now, for anything up to 800 mm (400 + 2X extender). No issues. I have replaced the QR with one of RRS quick release levers.

What I presently use is an RRS 3 series tripod with a leveling bowl. That allows me to use the bottom rotation on the D4, which I find very useful as you can tilt up and down and rotate without introducing yaw.

Best regards
Erik

thank you for sharing your experience. what head did you use before? 800mm seems quite long for such a small head. so I guess it's pretty well made.
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simonstucki
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« Reply #18 on: October 01, 2012, 04:10:58 PM »
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I've used the Acratech GP inverted head for about 3 years on a D90 & it is rugged, reliable, cleanable & steady, even with the RRS omni package with a fisheye.  The clamp only friction fits the rotor when inverted, but the design ensures a tight non-slip assembly with a 3/8 bolt.  This might not be the case with a 3rd party clamp designed to fit on a threaded nipple.  What I really like, besides the light weight, is that the rotor has markers every 30 degrees, allowing me to stand in one place while keeping track of the rotation stops:  overlooked by most designers (Why? Haven't they used their stuff?).  Ever hit a tripod leg with your foot mid-sequence?

Based on your needs, MFT/APSC, you won't be disappointed.  But, like you plan to, I upgraded.  With full frame, I've moved to the Arca-Swiss D4 (the geared version) - order of magnitude better - set "once & done".  Heavier, but still portable & foldable within my Gitzo 1541T.  Miss the rotor markers though.


ok now I really don't know. "order of magnitude better" sounds like the GP head isn't that good (or do you just mean the handling and ergonomics, or the stability? are your pictures sharper with the d4? cause that of course is my main concern. well if it literally takes an hour to level the head that would be bad to of course but if it takes 30s vs. 10s I don't really care) or the d4 is a hell of a head. It doesn't look that sturdy on the pictures though (if you look at the burzynski head you know that this head is going to be rock solid, if I see a picture of the d4 I really can't tell)
but thank you anyway Smiley
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simonstucki
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« Reply #19 on: October 01, 2012, 04:15:10 PM »
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I have the following as my set-up for regular and/or panoramic photography.

Gitzo GT3532LS Tripod with long spikes
Acratech GP Ballhead
RRS PG-02 Omni-Pivot Package w/ MPR-CL II nodal rail
and a set of LensCoat 18" LegCoat's for carrying comfort.  Wink

I have absolutely zero issues with stability with this set-up. The Acratech GP head saved me a bit of weight (and money) in that it has the rotating base 'built-'in'. This was planned as I was looking for the lightest/strongest set-up for multi-row panos out in the field.

You really don't need to be concerned with the Acratech GP with respect to stability in the rotating base 'mode'.

now that is a response I like Smiley thank you. I'm probably going to try that gp-s head for economic and portability reasons. I wonder however why not just use it reversed all the time? (ok you lose the "gimbal" but I won't be using that anyway and I don't think it is all that usable with long lenses anyway (compared to a real gimbalhead).
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