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4th Generation Design Action Head

Joseph Cheng , Nov 02, 2008; 08:47 p.m.

I'd like to get a lightweight tripod head for my recently acquired Canon EF 500/4.5 L USM (weighing 6.6 lbs) for traveling overseas for shooting wildlife. What I now have in mind is one of the 4th Generation Design Action Heads, M-2.3, M3.5, or M3.5a, as per links (http://www.4gdphoto.com/, http://www.birdsasart.com/mongoose.htm). I have searched the internet and photo.net; but been unable to find any users feedback on their products. Would anybody out here offer their experience and insight, please? Any other comments are also welcome.


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Steve Henry , Nov 02, 2008; 10:06 p.m.

I have seen one of these at a photo workshop I took with Rod Planck last year. Some things come to mind: The attachment of the lens to head is on the side, which may not be as stable as, say, a Wimberly. Also since it's on the side, if the attachment comes loose, the camera/lens falls down. I also seem to recall some problems getting it to hold still. Probably this is an idea in evolution, and you might be better served sticking with Wimberly, Kirk, Really Right Stuff. I just got back from an Alaska trip with my 500 and a RRS BH55 and was quite happy with the stability and flexibility of this head.

John MacPherson , Nov 04, 2008; 01:40 p.m.

Lightweight and robust - ArcaTech Ultimate ballhead?


John MacPherson , Nov 04, 2008; 01:41 p.m.

oops of course should be ACRA not arcatech

Joseph Cheng , Nov 04, 2008; 02:51 p.m.

John, thank you for introducing another head. But do you own one of these and, if so, would you kindly tell me about your experience, upside and downside?

Shun Cheung , Nov 05, 2008; 07:38 a.m.

I don't think it is a good idea to use a 500mm/f4.5 lens on the Acratech Ultimate Ballhead. That is a small head and IMO even a 300mm/f2.8 is not stable on it. If it is a bit windy outside, you are merely asking for trouble.

Last week I went on a photo trip to Mexico. We had a group of 19 photographers and there were like over a dozen Really Right Stuff BH-55 there. I was a bit surprised how popular that head has become. If you want a ballhead, the BH-55 or the Arca Swiss B1 are good choices for the 500mm/f4, f4.5, but a gimbal head such as the Wimberley would be even better.

Joseph Cheng , Nov 05, 2008; 10:57 a.m.

Thank you, everybody. Keeping search over the internet has just come up with some interesting comments on the pros and cons of gimbal heads (wimberley vers mongoose action head), esp those made by Art Morris as per link (link)

There are also good discussions from some of the users in (link)

I've just posted here for anybody who is interested. Any further comments are most welcome.

John MacPherson , Nov 13, 2008; 06:47 p.m.

Hi Joseph -- yes I own one. I use an ArcaSwiss B1 on a carbon Gitzo and the Acra on a small bogen/manfrotto. It works very well and I've also had it on the Gitzo temporarily when I've had the ArcaS serviced and it handled a 300 f2.8 nicely (with hands on - see Shun's comments). It will lock tight with a 500 f4 on it but does not handle as well as the Arca.

Upsides? Lovely to use, locks up tight, very fine engineering. Downsides? Need to get it oriented correctly to drop the lens as the shape of the surrounding frame of the ball restricts the angle- not really a problem though - its similar on the ArcaS.

Preference? ArcaS B1 is superb.

AcraT is excellent but not as versatile as B1.

Joseph Cheng , Nov 13, 2008; 07:54 p.m.


Thank you for your feedback. Which model of Acra do you use, Acratech Ultimate Ballhead? Joe

John MacPherson , Nov 14, 2008; 02:29 a.m.

The Ultimate - with rubber knobs which are kinder to hands. If you really really want the lightest most flexible and most well enigneered and robust ball the Ultimate is the one in my opinion. Not much to go wrong, easy to clean, and it is light. The lightness factor is the thing with it - its really skeletal, but whats been removed to make it light is the 'fat' that you get on other ballheads. I've used it a few times with my 500 f4 and it was fine for the work I was doing - grabbing dolphins leaping off the shore - it was fine for that sort of hands-on work.

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