After being very disappointed in the quality of my $150 Opteka gimbal head, I decided to give a
different brand a try. I did not expect much for $100, after all, my Wimberly head cost six times that
However, I had already sold the Wimberly and was looking for something inexpensive to try out my
Nikon 200-400mm lens with, and did not want to spend a lot.
Even though a head is inexpensive, there are some things it should be able to do just as part of a basic
1. Be able to handle a heavy telephoto lens up to 10 lbs.
2. The swing arm should be able to swing smoothly without binding or jerking. It should be possible to
balance a lens so that it stays in whichever position you want without tightening the lock. Ball bearings
3. The horizontal rotation should be smooth and not bind or jerk when panning.
4. The tightening mechanisms for vertical and horizontal should loosen and tighten fully and be user
5. The finish should be free from obvious flaws like scratches or areas where the paint is chipped.
6. It should be able to mount a Arca-Swiss compatible plate.
7. My final test is that it should be able to track a flying bird swiftly and smoothly with a heavy lens.
1. The Coralpix is rated at 13 pounds, and is made of a aluminum casting which had absolutely no
discernible bending or flexing with the approximately 9 lb rig I mounted on it. I think it could take a lot
2. The swing arm rotated smoothly and easily balanced my lens / camera combination so that it stayed
put even though a touch of my finger could move it to a new position, where it stayed.
Less satisfying and a concern for longevity were the plastic bushings located in the swing arm housing,
and the plastic thrust washer on the swing-arm side of the housing. I'd be concerned about galling,
and possibly cracking with heavy use. (see the black parts in the tear down photo)
The end near the adjustment knob had a sandwich of two cheap sloppy tolerance washers with a
roller bearing thrust washer between them. It seemed to work fine.
3. The horizontal rotation had way too much play, but with a 6mm hex wrench, it was easily removed
without reducing the ability of the unit to rotate horizontally. No matter how loose or tight, it was
smooth but did have a small amount of jerking when trying to move it in fine increments. I did not tear
it down to see what was inside.
4. Both the horizontal and vertical adjustment knobs required about 1/4 - 1/2 turn from loose to
locked. It was difficult to tighten them such that there was friction but still smooth movement, it
worked better with them loose.
5. The finish was reasonable, there were obvious rough places in the casting, but they were well
covered. I could not tell for sure if the finish was paint or powder coating, but it looked like powder
6. The swing arm is able to accept a Arca-Swiss compatible plate, and a short plate was provided. (As
though you are going to use this with something needing a 1.5 inch plate??)
But ... there was a problem with the clamp. The supplied plate, and any plate that you'd want to use
with a big and expensive lens has stop screws to keep it from sliding out of the clamp by accident. The
clamp would not open wide enough to accept the supplied plate, or any of my pates, for that matter! I
used a hex wrench to back off the adjustment screw, since It opened freely to a point, and then was
very stiff. This worked, but the screw suddenly became loose and easy to turn. Being curious, I
finished backing it out. The lip of the clamp was nicely designed with a spring on either side to allow
for even clamping. The screw had some sort of thread locking material on the end which kept it from
opening wide enough and was apparently functioning as a retention method. It dosen't retain any
longer, but is in no danger of falling apart.
7. In the finanal analysis, I wanted a gimbal head that could move easily in the vertical and horizontal
planes to track a flying bird without jerking or binding, and I'm happy to say that it passed the test with
The CoralPix CPGH Aluminum Gimbal Tripod Head exceeded my expectations as far as price-
performance. It functions very well for a low cost unit and did not disappoint. Compared to the
Opteka GH1 head, it was larger, made of cast aluminum instead of steel, and had much smoother
operation and adjustment. (I gave the Opteka a FAIL).
At the price I paid ($100) it was a very good buy.
The use of plastic parts inside the vertical swing-arm housing.
The lack of cover plates for the adjustment screws, which will allow dirt and debris to fall into them and
make a otherwise nice looking head look cheap.
The poorly adjusted horizontal pivot, how hard could it be to adjust it properly?
So, you might ask, am I switching to Nikon? My answer is that they are just a tool, and I feel comfortable with either one. I stumbled across a deal on the lens and was able to add the camera and gimbal head for far less than what the lens normally sells for used. I'll probably sell it but keep the head and camera. I'm not really into the use of large lenses, I prefer to hand hold them. Suprisingly, I can handhold the lens for long enough to get good shots. Packing it around for hours is out of the question, but a younger person might do just fine. For BIF though, the gimbal head comes into its own.
Coralpix left, Opteka Right
Swivel Arm disassembly, the black bushings are plastic.
It comes packed in a nice closed cell foam protective support and includes good instructions, a rarity for a low cost item.
Here it is with my Nikon 200-400mm f/4G VR lens with a D300s attached. even with the large lens, it has no problems and can take something bigger and heavier. The lens does not balance well due to Nikon's habit of putting a foot on the tripod ring that is too short. Fortunately, I has a 6 in Kirk Plate with two mounting screws, and it was still almost at the rear limit. With a heavier D3 or D4, it would balance better.