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Author Topic: Ballhead Drift  (Read 83009 times)

MBehrens

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Ballhead Drift
« on: September 12, 2017, 12:50:59 AM »

Can anyone explain the physics of why a ballhead will drift after tightening with the smallest of weight applied to it.

Here is my story.
I had been using a Giottos MH1300 BH. It is not the most expensive BH around and I was always frustrated with the drift that would occur after locking it down. Though it seems to be a very solid piece of equipment, as I'm handling it and writing this it still does.

Thinking that I simply had not spent enough money on this BH (it never came out on any comparison lists, must be junk) I researched and settled on the Induro BHL2S. This if fairly highly regarded in some circles and 3x the cost of the Giottos, it must be much better. Well is is somewhat better but I'm surprised by the amount of drift that occurs with it as well. Note I am not over loading this BH, my go to rig these days is a Fujifilm X-T2, and the 55-200 lens is my biggest glass. With battery grip the whole package is probably ~4lb. This is a BH rated at 26lb.

I would think that if I tighten this down that the grip on the ball would be solid, but the view in the camera slowly drifts down a bit. It does stay put once drifted into position, but this initial drift seems like some kind of design flaw. Maybe I'm using it incorrectly, but it seems pretty simple, point camera, tighten BH... not sure where I might be amiss.

Hopefully someone can explain this phenomenon.

Thanks, Morey
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Rob C

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Re: Ballhead Drift
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2017, 03:37:29 AM »

If this happens in vertical shots, it might be associated with not the head itself but with the screw that holds camera to head. On my massive Gitzo triopod with an equally massive twin tilter head, the 180mm on a Nikon combination slowly loses its position and rotates downwards when in vertical mode. In this case, it is the moment about the point - the turning force from gravity around the screw between head and camera - that is the flaw. In my own case I was able to fix it by putting a cut piece of perspex into a slot at the back of the plate. This perspex rib holds up hard against the rear of the camera and so no turning can happen anymore.

I see no way of doing that with a ball head if it's the ball itself that slips within its base. The easier solution would be one of those camera grips that goes from vertical to horizontal without the need to readjust the top of the support head. However, the weight might still be enough to induce turning moments. Ball heads have always felt less than ideal to me. The last one I owned was a Linhof, and I didn't like it much either.

I have "favourited" a video of Peter Lindbergh fighting a Pentax 67 doing exactly the same turning trick during a studio shoot... trouble is, there are so many of his that I can't remember which it was that had the clip. Suffice to say that with all his financial success, if he couldn't fix it...

Rob

jrsforums

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Re: Ballhead Drift
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2017, 09:14:55 AM »

Another area to look for "drift" is the clamp and plate.  I found that Manfrotto RC2 System often had built in "wobble". Good Arca-Swiss stuff, not so much.
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John

Jim Metzger

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Re: Ballhead Drift
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2017, 11:16:42 AM »

Arca Swiss B1 has a slight "oval" ball on their head to eliminate drift when tightened down. I am not sure about the ball from companies like RRS (BH55). RRS also designs "anti-rotation" flanges in their plates to prevent camera twist about the mounting plate.

I believe it is this level of engineering that commands the premium price of these heads and plates.
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rdonson

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Re: Ballhead Drift
« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2017, 05:29:05 PM »

Check that 26 lb rating on the ball head.  Sometimes those ratings are deceiving as they refer to vertical load, not when you're off the perfect vertical axis.  I use a Sirui K-30x with my X-T2 and up to a 100-400 Fuji lens.  Its rated at 66 lbs and if I had a heavier lens that I was using I might move up to the K-40x (77 lbs).
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Regards,
Ron

MBehrens

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Re: Ballhead Drift
« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2017, 06:57:50 PM »

If this happens in vertical shots,

The easier solution would be one of those camera grips that goes from vertical to horizontal without the need to readjust the top of the support head.
Rob
Happens in all positions, hor/vert.
Haven't been a fan of the L Bracket either, also have never used one. Just seems like a lot of gear hanging off my trim X-T camera.
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MBehrens

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Re: Ballhead Drift
« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2017, 07:11:41 PM »

Another area to look for "drift" is the clamp and plate.  I found that Manfrotto RC2 System often had built in "wobble". Good Arca-Swiss stuff, not so much.
This is an area that I had to resolve an issue with this setup. The thread increaser (1/4"-20 to 3/8"-16) has a collar that was preventing the base of the BH to meet up with the base of the tripod. I found a large flat washer that I adhered to the tripod base, it is thicker than the collar, so the BH meets up with the tripod base, via the washer, very solidly.

I don't think the tripod is the culprit. Slik Pro724CF seems very stable. This tripod doesn't have the set screws to lock the head onto the base, but I can tighten it down very solidly.
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MBehrens

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Re: Ballhead Drift
« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2017, 07:29:24 PM »

Check that 26 lb rating on the ball head.  Sometimes those ratings are deceiving as they refer to vertical load, not when you're off the perfect vertical axis.  I use a Sirui K-30x with my X-T2 and up to a 100-400 Fuji lens.  Its rated at 66 lbs and if I had a heavier lens that I was using I might move up to the K-40x (77 lbs).
They don't go into detail on this rating. Simply "Payload" is all it says.

Your Sirui has the same size ball (44mm) as my Induro, wow 66lb. It has the more traditional locking mechanism, the Indro is an Arca-Swiss style. Guess these weight ratings aren't to be taken literally.

I have another tripod with a 3/8 post (no adaptor) and set screws. I'll mount it up and test it out. Good excuse to get out and shoot.

Thanks for the replies.
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Michael Erlewine

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Re: Ballhead Drift
« Reply #8 on: September 14, 2017, 05:40:29 AM »

Exactly why I no longer use ballheads. I have used the Arca-Swiss Cube C1 rectangular geared head for years, using only the knob version, and not the quick-release. And I have replaced the Arca-Swiss knob with a Really Right Stuff large knob. For close-up, stacked images, I have no interest in the slippage that is natural to most ballheads, not to mention patience. Of course, I don't shoot action shots.

I have a lot of old ballheads, and had to use one recently and was surprised at how difficult it was to use. I am so used to moving the head exactly to the degree I want.
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Michael Erlewine
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Kevin Raber

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Re: Ballhead Drift
« Reply #9 on: September 14, 2017, 06:59:37 AM »

Sometimes I found that the drift is not the ball head but IBIS or Lens IS being turned on.  Make sure when you are using a tripod that IS is turned off.  The exception is if you are in a windy situation and you can actually feel the camera or tripod shaking or vibrating.  Then I have found that IS a benefit to leave on.  Also, the adjustments of the tension, as well as the lock knob, may help. 
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Colorado David

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Re: Ballhead Drift
« Reply #10 on: September 14, 2017, 12:28:46 PM »

I believe there is a small amount of flex in all the parts above the ball including the lens mount and the lens itself. If you are supporting the weight of your kit while framing your shot and then let go, you'll see some settling. You notice this especially if the weight of your kit isn't perfectly balanced squarely over the ball.

rdonson

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Re: Ballhead Drift
« Reply #11 on: September 14, 2017, 12:34:49 PM »

Exactly why I no longer use ballheads. I have used the Arca-Swiss Cube C1 rectangular geared head for years, using only the knob version, and not the quick-release. And I have replaced the Arca-Swiss knob with a Really Right Stuff large knob. For close-up, stacked images, I have no interest in the slippage that is natural to most ballheads, not to mention patience. Of course, I don't shoot action shots.

I have a lot of old ballheads, and had to use one recently and was surprised at how difficult it was to use. I am so used to moving the head exactly to the degree I want.

Yikes, Michael!!!!  That is one pricey piece of kit!!!
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Regards,
Ron

stever

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Re: Ballhead Drift
« Reply #12 on: September 14, 2017, 02:19:39 PM »

some ballheads are better and some are worse - helps a lot to use a pano rail and balance the camera/lens assembly over the head

the cube is probably the ultimate in precise location, but tilt/pan heads and gimbals are also an improvement - without the full flexibility of a ballhead
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NancyP

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Re: Ballhead Drift
« Reply #13 on: September 14, 2017, 11:25:25 PM »

If you need precision and don't mind the time dealing with 3 axes, there's something to be said for the old Manfrotto 410 geared head, with aftermarket (Hejnarphoto) Arca-Swiss DIY conversion kit. Cheap/affordable, darn solid with AS conversion, not the most refined, not lightweight either, and yes, you can find good examples used.

AS Cube, that's a dream kit.  :)  I intend not to let myself go near one....could be an expensive visit.
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MBehrens

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Re: Ballhead Drift
« Reply #14 on: September 16, 2017, 02:38:39 PM »

I believe there is a small amount of flex in all the parts above the ball including the lens mount and the lens itself. If you are supporting the weight of your kit while framing your shot and then let go, you'll see some settling. You notice this especially if the weight of your kit isn't perfectly balanced squarely over the ball.

Hmm, this is a good point. Since with the ballhead we are positioning the base with the camera, the bits of tolerance in all of the pieces then settle out. There are the heads with a grip attached to the head, I wonder if they suffer the same drift that is seen with the heads that are positioned with the camera. I didn't like the concept of the grip ballhead, but maybe there is a purpose.
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Eric Brody

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Re: Ballhead Drift
« Reply #15 on: October 28, 2017, 01:31:47 PM »

As RobC stated, it's the moment off axis. Use of an L plate radically decreases the angle necessary for portrait orientation images. My Arca Swiss B1 has an elliptical ball. When tightened its TIGHT. My Acratech, while much lighter, has a spherical ball and tends to drift sometimes unless REALLY tightened. Clearly the Cube, not a ball at all, is the solution though heavy and expensive.
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StephaneB

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Re: Ballhead Drift
« Reply #16 on: November 04, 2017, 10:32:16 AM »

If you need precision and don't mind the time dealing with 3 axes, there's something to be said for the old Manfrotto 410 geared head, with aftermarket (Hejnarphoto) Arca-Swiss DIY conversion kit. Cheap/affordable, darn solid with AS conversion, not the most refined, not lightweight either, and yes, you can find good examples used.

AS Cube, that's a dream kit.  :)  I intend not to let myself go near one....could be an expensive visit.

There is *a lot* to be said for the Manfrotto 410! I find it excellent. It is heavy, though, but I use it with my Berlebach tripod, which is not exactly light to begin with.

I also use the Manfrotto Hydrolastic 486MG, which is pretty light and has *zero* drift when tightening. BTW, tightening with that head is a matter of a small twist of the know, with almost no force to apply. It is rock-solid. I replaced its proprietary quick release with an Arca-Swiss compatible one from eBay that works perfectly.
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Stéphane

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