- Get the Specs and Pricing on the Sirui G-20X Ball Head
- Explore Sirui's Lineup of Ball Heads for Photography and Videography
So, you've done a little research on tripods, and much to your surprise, you've found that most of them are not total packages.
By that, I mean that many tripods don't come with a head. That means you have to buy one separately.
You might be wondering why you need a head if you can just attach your camera right to the tripod.
The answer is simple - a tripod head makes your work easier.
So, is a ball head or a pan head the better choice?
In this guide, I offer a quick rundown of both types of heads and outline their pros and cons so you can make an informed decision.
An Overview of Ball Heads
A ball head is a simple device that's essentially a ball in a socket, as you can see in the example above, the Sirui G-20X.
That means that they are incredibly easy to use because they usually have a screw that's used to tighten the head to hold your camera in position.
What's more, you can adjust the tension of the ball head to make it either easier to move, which is advantageous if you've got a lot of action happening, or you can make it more difficult to move, which is ideal for situations in which you have a static subject, like a portrait or a landscape.
Because ball heads are so simple and intuitively designed, they're easy to operate. With the ability to make such quick adjustments, a ball head is a perfect choice for sports photography, wildlife photography, and active portraiture in which your subject is on the move.
Some ball heads offer additional adjustments so you can fine-tune the positioning of your camera.
For example, the Sirui G-20X has separate adjustment knobs for locking, friction control, and panning.
Likewise, it has two integrated bubble levels so you're sure you can align your shot on both the vertical and horizontal axes.
Another feature that sets some ball heads apart from others is their build quality.
In the case of the Sirui G-20X, it's rugged metal locking knob provides a solid grip for making adjustments and is built to resist wear.
The head is precision-built to offer the smoothest of operation and vibration-free shooting.
Additionally, the G-20X has Sirui's unique locking mechanism that allows you to apply unparalleled locking force, even with heavy loads (up to 44.1 pounds).
So, when looking for a ball head, bear these qualities in mind. You certainly want something that's easy to use, but be sure that the ease of use doesn't come at the expense of poor build quality.
Also beware that all ball heads have a few disadvantages, depending on what you need to do.
For example, because of their ball-in-socket design, ball heads are less precise than pan heads.
That means that when you loosen the screw to make an adjustment to its positioning, you're moving and adjusting it on multiple angles and planes.
For a hands-on look at the Sirui G-20X, check out the video above from Camera Bag Reviews.
An Overview of Pan Heads
Pan heads, like the Manfrotto MHXPRO-3W X-Pro shown above, are a little different from ball heads in that they are more complicated to use, but offer more robust load capacities and a finer level of adjustment and control.
As you can see in the image above, there are knobs and levers that give you pinpoint control over every plane of movement - horizontal, vertical, and tilt.
That means that unlike the ball head, in which one adjustment requires adjustment to all, with a pan head, you can individually adjust each.
Naturally, this much more precise level of adjustment is a bonus for photographers that don't need to adjust their camera shooting position all that much.
Landscape photographers, for example, and portrait photographers as another example, would likely choose a pan head over a ball head, specifically for the greater level of control they offer.
Pan heads typically have a higher load capacity as well, meaning you can get a beefier pan head for less than what you would pay for a similarly weight-rated ball head.
Naturally, a pan head's strength - it's precise control - is also its weakness.
Sports and action photographers, for example, wouldn't want a pan head simply because they'd spend all their time adjusting the head and have no time left to actually take photos.
Pan heads aren't small, either, with knobs and levers sticking out that make them a little harder to transport.
So, when it comes down to a head-to-head matchup between ball heads and pan heads, which is best?
Unsurprisingly, the answer to that question is this - it depends.
If you usually photograph subjects that are on the move, a ball head is the way to go. If you photograph static subjects like landscapes, a pan head might be more appropriate.
Either way, be sure to do your due diligence when selecting a tripod head.
As noted earlier, Sirui has a reputation for building high-quality, easy-to-use heads that help you get better photos.
They also have a complete line of top-quality tripods as well as heads for videography, too.