Thursday, April 29, 2010

What is a gimbal head? Why it might help your video DSLR!

Have you ever seen the way telescopes are mounted?  They pan fast and don't have any vibrations? They have what looks like a J or Y looking yoke on their tripods? These types of supports are available for your DSLR lenses as well. It is a favorite among wildlife photographers but it can also be helpful for video setups -- typically not possible for high definition video cameras in the past due to the bulk of their size, video DSLRs can actually take advantage of this device!

Gimbal heads essentially mount long telephoto lenses with this one goal: create a weightless environment for your shooting needs.  You can pan fast with as little vibrations as possible.  Without gimbal heads to balance your camera and the lens in their natural center of gravity, you have potential issues like your equipment tipping over or your lens/camera slowly goes towards the center of gravity.  This is the downside of ballhead designs that use friction to fight against gravity.  Instead of using gravity as a tool, it tries to fight against it.

Unlike ballheads, gimbal heads CANNOT flop over. You can move a 6 lbs lens with one flick of a finger. Unfortunately, most gimbal heads are very very expensive.  But there is a quality alternative from Manfrotto that I recommend. Most quality gimbal heads run from $300-$600, but Manfrotto's 393 Heavy Duty Gimbal Type Telephoto Lens Support is only $180. For folks that want sturdy support, this is the best value for the buck.

Thanks, -Don Sausa

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