How To Choose The Right Tripod Head

camera on tripod in a rocky scene

A tripod head is an essential part of a tripod, and without it you have no way to stabilize your camera while you’re shooting. The head attaches to the top of a tripod’s legs, and attains its stability either through tension, using a spring mechanism called a Leatherette or compression.”

What To Know About Tripod Heads

The first thing is the ball head style: single axis or 3-axis. Single axis heads are more user friendly but 3-axis heads create more stable imagery. One thing to note is that the older ball heads (from the ’90s) are not as sturdy as most modern models. Thanks to their design, they have a tendency to wear out over time.

What To Look For In A Tripod Head

Straps/Connectors: The head should have a quick-release plate so you can detach it from the bottom of your tripod. Leash strap: The head has a leash strap that you need to engage or you’ll accidentally drop the head from your tripod. This is critical because once a head is detached from the tripod, it will feel like it’s in free fall, and will make it difficult to control.

Head Parts: There are 2 types of head parts: Top Plate (i.e. the panning platform) and Base Plate (i.e. the tripod mount). Be sure to get a top plate that has a smooth surface so you can apply less pressure when carrying your camera on your shoulder under heavy loads.

Bottom Plate: From what I’ve heard, about 90% of all heads are of the ball type. Ball heads are great because they’re very versatile and user friendly. Some of their downsides are that it takes a little more effort to release your camera but once you do, it’s much easier to control because it’s not attached to your body anymore. As with any head, there is some trial and error involved in learning how to find the right balance between too much or too little tension.

Top Plate: The face plate has to be secure. Make sure that all the parts of the plate are tightened correctly and don’t have any gaps. As with any tripod, there is a balance between too much pressure and too little.

Head Price Range: Depending on the head’s quality, you’re looking at prices in the range of $100-$900 and up. As far as quality/value is concerned, Manfrotto makes some great heads that won’t break your bank. The best one is their 055XPROB Pro Tripod Head with Quick Release System & Ball Joint Lock .

Bottom Line

Hopefully, this article will help you pick the perfect tripod head for you at a price that suits your needs. There are many more specific tripod guides on the site so a simple search will give you what you’re looking for.