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A Brief History of Photography - Part II (Video Tutorial) Read More

A Brief History of Photography - Part II (Video Tutorial)

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What's the best tripod head for video DSLRs?

Greg House , Aug 26, 2009; 11:07 a.m.

Hi guys,
I'm looking for suggestion from someone experienced in shooting videos with DSLRs. I got the new Nikon d90 and I'm starting to take videos. I'm thinking about upgrading my tripod with something useful for still photography and video as well. Today I have a Manfrotto 190XB + 486RC2 ball head. I think the biggest problem is the head. Fluid heads usually don't have the portrait position so they are not good for classic photography. On the other hand, classic 3D head are not fluid and then not useful for videos......
any suggestion?


Danny Wong , Aug 26, 2009; 01:09 p.m.

Get one head for video and one head for stills. The 486RC2 comes off and is replaced by the fluid head.

Craig Shearman , Aug 26, 2009; 03:28 p.m.

Manfrotto offers several variations of fluid head and that's what you need for video if you're going to pan or tilt while shooting. Even the smallest ones should support a DSLR easily. If you're not going to move the camera while shooting, you might be able to get by with your existing ball head.

Greg House , Aug 27, 2009; 03:00 a.m.

Going around carrying two heads is a nuisance considering the extra weight you get. The perfect solution could be a 3-ways head with fluid movement.....but I don't know what's in the market....

Edward Ingold , Aug 27, 2009; 08:51 p.m.

For video, you need to level the head so that the panning axis is perfectly vertical. That way the horizon stays level and the camera doesn't dip during panning. That done, you can use a standard 3-way or ball head for both video and still pictures.

There are several ways to level the head. One is by adjusting the legs of the tripod, which can take a long time. The other is with a leveling platform, which fits between the tripod (or column) and the base of the head. Gitzo makes a leveling platform (G-1321) which replaces the entire column assembly in a Systematic tripod. Bogen/Manfrotto and Acratech make a device which screws to the top of the column.

Edward Ingold , Aug 28, 2009; 10:14 a.m.

There's no substitute for the right head with video. You need fluid action, a long handle for control and a counterbalance so the camera stays put with your hand off the handle. Don't be surprised if a suitable head costs more than the camera. That's overkill if you shoot an occasional clip with a DSLR, but essential if you use a serious video camera.

It's easy to swap heads with a Gitzo G-1321 leveling head. I save a place in my backpack for the head not in use. It's a different mindset between video and stills, and I seldom have occasion to do both at the same time.

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