The Importance of a Good Tripod and Ball Head

Have you ever tried to hand held your camera in super low light trying to get a shot only to have your photos come out blurry? I bet you wish you understood the importance of a good tripod and ball head so you could have got that shot you were after. It doesn’t matter what type of photography that you do whether portrait, wildlife, landscape etc. a good tripod and ball head will help you grab those incredible images you’re after. I can’t count how many times a good tripod and ball head have saved me from blurry shots.

I was one of those photographers who would try to convince myself I could take a photo at a shutter speed of 1/10th of a second and have no blur in my photos. Sure I may have gotten lucky and got 1 semi-decent shot out of like 100. When I realized that I’m not as steady hands as I would believe I bought into the whole notion of having a good tripod and ball head could propel my photography further. The thing with me is that I’m stubborn and I admit this freely so I usually fight something until I realize I need it. Of course this happened in the beginning stages of my photography career and I hadn’t really thought about investing into it as much as I do today.

I started off just photographing landscapes and city scenes during the middle of the day. Then I bought a Sigma 50-500 for birding. There was no way I was going to hand hold that so I began to research tripods and ball heads. I had basically two options for a tripod, aluminum or carbon fiber. I went with a more affordable route for me at that time, an aluminum Manfrotto tripod. I think I paid around $100 for it from B&H Photo.

The ball head research was a little more in depth. Gitzo, Giottos, Manfrotto etc. all have ball heads. Again I went the affordable route and went Manfrotto again. I’m not saying Manfrotto has cheap products because by no means do they, but their prices worked with my limited budget. I ended up getting a ball head similar to the 055 Series they have out now.

In a lot of products you get what you pay for. I bought basically their bottom of the line products and expected miracles and that wasn’t the case. Many times just the slightest vibration would permeate through my tripod and ball head and I would get blurry photos. I’ll admit it was frustrating. What frustrated me more was if I wanted a vertical shot I basically had to flop the ball head down to the side and try to take a photo with me hunched over. Not the most ideal situation.

I stayed with this combination for a couple of years. All the while knowing I need the absolute perfect conditions to get a night photo or bird photo. It basically wasn’t working for me. I began to save up and research new tripods and ball heads. Around this time a co-worker introduced me to Really Right Stuff ball heads. I was instantly hooked. The BH-55 ball head was the one I had my eye on. What really had me was their “L” brackets for my camera. No more awkward angles to compose a vertical photo. Just flip my camera and I was ready to go.

Since I already knew the ball head I wanted, all I needed was a tripod to compliment it. I definitely wanted to go the carbon fiber route. They weighed less than aluminum and I felt more sturdier as well. I went to the B&H store a few times and played around with many of their tripods they had on display. I finally found the one for me the Gitzo GT3531S 6x CF systematic tripod.

The moment I mounted the BH-55 on top of the Gitzo GT3531S tripod, I knew I had a winning combination. The duo were solid like a rock. Once I locked the BH-55 into position it did not move for anything. The Gitzo GT3531S was just as reliable in not vibrating or shaking. The number of my low light keepers rose exponentially. Not to mention the combination weighed so much less than my previous aluminum tripod and ball head combo. I swear it feels I like I forget it sometimes because it’s so light and unnoticeable to me.

Using the “L” bracket was amazing. I would just detach it from the BH-55 and flip it from horizontal to vertical and that was it. Two seconds, if that, was all it took. It was like an epiphany. The angels sang when I attached the “L” bracket on my camera and then onto the BH-55. Okay, maybe no angels were singing but I think I did hear some humming or chanting.

After spending the last two years using this tripod and ball head combination, I now truly understand the importance of a good tripod and ball head. There are plenty of different tripod and tripod heads for you to choose from. Not to mention many for any budget you may have. For me, I found saving up for the best quality was well worth it. I don’t regret it. To each their own, but I found what works for me and I’m going to stick to it and continue to take photos using it.

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