CI Team Pick: Our Favorite Tripod Heads
Dave Gallagher: Arca Swiss Monoball p0+
Before I start discussing the Monoball let me first say that there has never been a better photographic camera head then the Arca-Swiss C1 Cube, period. It is the tripod head that all other heads ever made should work towards modeling themselves after. I use that head in and around the studio if I can pry one out of Brad Kaye’s hands. With that said, the majority of my shooting needs are associated with travel photography. This means the weight and the size of the Cube are not desirable for me personally. And with travel needs, my go-to head is the Arca-Swiss Monoball p0+.
Arca-Swiss Monoball p0+
Weight: .95 lbs
Height and Width: 2.4 x 3.4 inches, 2.4 x 3.7 inches
Load capacity: 44 lb
Base size: 53mm
Degree of Movement: 0 to 90 Degrees
Cost: $337 to $488
After many years of packing too heavy, this old guy cares about weight and size. Having a sturdy tripod head weighing under a pound works for me. Taking out the long column insert of my tripod, my head and legs weigh less than 4 lbs. When I travel I am bringing a Leica M and a Phase One on my tech camera. Those are always my choices off of our shelves that have every imaginable option. Both are the highest quality optics and capture in the smallest possible configurations. So I don’t need nor want the heaviest geared tripod head. I would rather carry more glass in my bag if I want extra weight. So the p0+ fits my size needs perfectly
One of the single things that I love the most about Arca-Swiss heads is that they keep the weight of the camera on a single fulcrum as close to the axis of the tripod as possible. Keeping the weight centered and low helps to drastically reduce shake or vibrations. Hence, you can use a smaller Arca-Swiss head and be just as sturdy as a much larger competitors. The design of their heads are just superior to anything else on the market. The strength of my 1 lb, 3″ head is remarkable.
And finally, the last reason I use the Arca-Swiss Monoball p0+ is its ease of use. In changing or harsh conditions I want to be able to set up my system quickly and easily. One single locking ring is a great design. There are no extra knobs to get caught on clothing or cause issues. One hand leveling adjustment with aid of the bubble level, lock and you are done. And of course still having the pano after leveling is essential too. It just doesn’t get easier than that. To summarize, the Arca-Swiss Monoball p0+ is the combination of the smallest and lightest tripod head with the best design for ease of use and sturdiness. What is not to like?
Steve Hendrix: Arca Swiss L60 Leveler
Ok, this is going to sound weird, coming from me. Since I often am configuring camera systems like a Phase One IQ4 150 and an XF Camera with a 4 pound monster lens (like a 40mm – 80mm Blue Ring Zoom). But the L60 is my favorite tripod head, not my only tripod head, and dammit, Brad claimed the Cube. And besides, despite it’s small size, it’s rated up to 44 pound capacity.
So mine is the Arca-Swiss L60. Even if the Cube is available, it’s the L60 anyway, most of the time. Most of the time I am shooting with an IQ4 and a tech camera, like a Cambo/Alpa/Arca, or an XT, sometimes with the XF body. Sometimes it is with my – now considered ancient – Canon EOS 6D. In either case, weight is not an issue, the L60 can handle it easily, despite it’s tiny size.
Arca-Swiss L60 Leveler
Weight: 16.2 ounces
Height and Width: 2.4 x 3.3 inches
Load capacity: 44 lb
Base size: 60mm
Degree of Movement: +10mm/-10mm
Cost: $600 to $667
You can’t really answer which Tripod Head is your favorite without disclosing which tripod you use it with, because they’re a matched pair. My personal tripod and the one I use 95% of the time is an Induro CT213. It’s 25” to 64”, and 3.3 pounds. I’ve owned this tripod for 9 years. The Induro CT213 has a 60mm base, so the L60 matches perfectly.
Why Do I Like the L60? First and most importantly, because it is geared. My favorite head has to be geared. I’m not super OCD, but I do appreciate precision, and I do not feel precise when I use a ballhead, I feel ambiguous. So it has to be geared. But gearing adds size. However, the L60 is one of the smallest – if not THE smallest – geared head you can buy. And yet, the gearing feels like quality Arca-Swiss gearing. The price is reasonable – a bit over $600.
What are the downsides? Limited gear travel. You have 10mm travel in each direction. For many, that is not enough. For me, it has been enough most of the time. There have been a few occasions where I have needed to adjust my tripod legs. But not many. I try to pre-visualize if I will need to go over severely, on top of a hill looking down, or shooting a yellow jacket nest in the ground, 4 feet away, like I did last weekend. For that, I’ll bring a different head. But most of the time, the L60 is great to use as a super light, precise, geared head that is Arca-Swiss quality, and very affordable. I didn’t say it would be my only head, but it is my favorite.
Brad Kaye – Arca-Swiss C1 Cube Geared Head with Flip-Lock Quick Release
For more than 13 years, the Cube has been my go to head for all of my architectural and product work. The refined movements, the adjustable tension, the ability to hold heavy cameras and still adjust them subtlety is this head’s strong suit. With full articulation, it is also possible to shoot your camera at 90º from the base of the head.
Dimensions: H: 4.2 x W: 3.3″
Weight: 2.3 lbs
Load capacity: 88 lb
Base size: 60mm
Degree of Movement: 0 to 90 degrees
Price: $1,557 – $2,228
While there are ‘classic’ friction tensioners available for grasping the camera, I vastly prefer the double locking ‘flip lock’ camera plate engagement, as it provides perfect safety when the camera is at odd angles yet releases safely and predictably with two distinct steps of completely different finger movements necessary to release the camera.
True, it’s a heavy chunk weighing in at about 2+ pounds for its 3″+ square form, but I rarely run small cameras and I rarely shoot in ways that don’t require precision, so it’s exceptionally rare that I shoot with anything else but this head. There are no detents for the panning motion, however, so if panoramic images via panning are your gig, there are likely better options for you that offer detents rather than having to visually align to degree marks on the panning portion of the unit.
Tech Note:Word to the wise, we’ve seen damaged units that have been treated poorly that needed some fixing because they were slammed in/out of travel and storage with other ‘dumb’ grip. My cube rides in my camera bag next to my lenses and is as perfect in its movements and tolerances today as when I purchased it more than a decade ago. (treat it like a lens, not like a C-stand)
Personal Note: When I first started working at the shop 5+ years ago, our ‘house’ cubes were often unavailable for use because they were out on rental, being used at trade-shows or were otherwise taken, so I started using my personal unit in all of my testing and have since. Gallagher would have to do more than ‘pry it from (cold dead) hands’ to rob me from using it.
Chris Snipes: Arca-Swiss Monoball p0 Hybrid Ball Head with Classic Quick Release
Tripod heads are like camera cases, you are always in search of the perfect one. The Arca Swiss Cube is the tripod head in which all others will be compared. I find it to be the best tripod head in the world, and rarely does anyone want to return it. The shear precision you feel when moving it a few degrees on the X or Y axis, is really like driving a fine sports car. The Cube can be a little over kill from a weight and size stand point, and that is why the smaller heads appeal to me the most.
I think the most innovative tripod head in years is the Arca Swiss p0 Hybrid Ball Head Classic Quick Release. This unique design combines the light weight and straight-forward simplicity of the original p0 head with the geared precision movements of the C1 Cube. The p0 Hybrid employs an aspheric ball with 3-point locking that enables smooth adjustments and secure lockdown, allowing the 1.1 lb support to handle loads up to 44 lb.
Weight: 550 grams – 590 grams
Dimensions: 4.9 x 3.3 x 2.4 – 4.6 x 3.3 x 2.4
Load capacity: 44 lb
Type: Geared/Ballhead Hybrid
Degree of movement: +10mm/-10mm geared, 0 to 90 degree, ball
Cost: $958 – $1,032
I have been personally using the Arca Swiss 60 Leveler since it was designed and released. I came from the old school practice of leveling the camera first, then make your adjustments. I cannot tell you how many times, clients have used my tripod head in a demo and went to tweak it left right, tilt down slightly, and they say “oh, that is nice and smooth”. And they usually end up adding it to their system. I am using this head with a variety of camera systems, including Phase One XF/IQ, Phase One XT, Fuji GFX100, and Sony A7rIV.
I think that the L60 Lever has some limited movements when it comes to tilting the camera in positions that are simply out of the geared range. The L75 helps by adding another 5 degrees of gear movements. So instead of 10 degrees like you get on the L60, you get 15 degrees on the X and Y axis.
On a recent outing in Moab, one of our night photography gurus said “Okay the shot we thought was special is pointing your camera almost straight up, looking thru that arch, while the Milky Way trails shows thru the top”.
My good friend says to me, “I bet you wish you had the p0 Hybrid that I just purchased” He had no problem using the ball head to tilt the camera to the desire angle, then use the geared movements to fine tune everything on his Phase One XT Camera system. I struggled to get the L60 close to the angle I wanted, even with my tripod legs being adjusted.
So as you do your research on the vast variety of tripod heads out there, I think the most productive one is the Arca-Swiss Monoball p0 Hybrid Ball Head with Classic Quick Release. This also comes in a Flip Lock configuration. You may want to consider renting a few of them from us to compare before making your final decision. We call that a Try before you Buy, (link for Rental or Try before you Buy)