Precision Gear Tripod Head

analoggrotto

EOS 80D
Aug 27, 2016
126
72
I have a basic Manfrotto tripod head with friction adjustments. Its generally fine. But now I'm finding myself wanting more precision adjustments for deep sky shooting in the future. The Manfrotto geared heads appear to be widely used but seem to have a lot of reliability problems.

I'll be mounting a 5D4 + 2.0x TC + 300mm F2.8L (original)

Any recommendations?
 

Bennymiata

EOS 6D MK II
I use a Manfrotto 410 geared head, mainly for product shots.
it is a very tough and HEAVY head. I've had mine for some years and have never had a problem with it.
There are now some smaller and lighter geared heads from Chinese makers but if you're using big lenses I wouldn't recommend using a light weight head.
Gitzo make a nice geared head too,but it's very expensive.
 

privatebydesign

Would you take advice from a cartoons stuffed toy?
Jan 29, 2011
8,428
1,915
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I have a basic Manfrotto tripod head with friction adjustments. Its generally fine. But now I'm finding myself wanting more precision adjustments for deep sky shooting in the future. The Manfrotto geared heads appear to be widely used but seem to have a lot of reliability problems.

I'll be mounting a 5D4 + 2.0x TC + 300mm F2.8L (original)

Any recommendations?
Yes!

Get an Arca Swiss D4, you will not regret it, I got mine used on eBay and couldn't be happier. I have owned and or used the Manfrotto 400, 405 and 410, and the SunwayPhoto GH-Pro (the newer MkII looks better).

BUT please understand, the only two heads in this list that will handle your 300 f2.8 let alone with a 2x TC are the Arca Swiss D4 and the Manfrotto 400 (which weighs a ton).
 

Mt Spokane Photography

I post too Much on Here!!
Mar 25, 2011
15,809
941
I have a 410 that I bought from Chris Hejnar with his AS compatible plate, it was one he had used to develop the plate. I used it for the solar eclipse with my 100-400L and 5D MK IV. That was pushing its capacity, but it did work. I've thought about getting the 405, I wasn't aware of the 400. In any event, my 410 just sits. The grease gets hard in them just sitting, I had to clean it out and relube it.

I can't justify a $2,000 head.
 

scottkinfw

Wildlife photography is my passion
I have a basic Manfrotto tripod head with friction adjustments. Its generally fine. But now I'm finding myself wanting more precision adjustments for deep sky shooting in the future. The Manfrotto geared heads appear to be widely used but seem to have a lot of reliability problems.

I'll be mounting a 5D4 + 2.0x TC + 300mm F2.8L (original)

Any recommendations?
You are getting into longer heavier lenses. Have you considered a gimbal head? I have been using this one for my ultrawides and longer lenses (300 2.8 II, 100-400) and it works great. It is stable, doesn't drift, no grease problems. https://www.amazon.com/Wimberley-WH-200-Gimbal-Head-II/dp/B005JXEZEK.
The RRS is excellent too but more costly. I recommend getting the full gimbal. https://www.reallyrightstuff.com/pg-02?quantity=1&custcol19=4
 

Joules

EOS 7D MK II
Jul 16, 2017
680
678
Hamburg, Germany
I was put off by the reports of play in the Manfrotto 410, so I went with a Benro GD3WH instead. It's Was a little bit cheaper a the time and is a good bit lighter. I don't have anything negative to report about it as of right now. I have used it for Astro a few times by having it as a base for my Fornax Lightrack II, with the a ~200 g Ball head, EOS 80D and Sigma 150-600mm C on top. What I do miss is a way to fixate the axis, like a clutch. I feel like it moves slightly under the load if I accidentally apply torque by pushing too much on the lens.
 

StoicalEtcher

EOS RP
Jan 3, 2018
280
191
Yorkshire
I have a basic Manfrotto tripod head with friction adjustments. Its generally fine. But now I'm finding myself wanting more precision adjustments for deep sky shooting in the future. The Manfrotto geared heads appear to be widely used but seem to have a lot of reliability problems.

I'll be mounting a 5D4 + 2.0x TC + 300mm F2.8L (original)

Any recommendations?
I can second pdb's recommendation of the Arca Swiss D4. It is expensive, but you get what you pay for and it is really great to use - very stable, excellent for small adjustments (and quick for larger ones too, using the alternate knobs).

If you're into that sort of thing, it is also a pleasure to use just from a tactile point of view alone.

It would be perfectly capable for astro shots. But, if you are after deep sky astro (not my area), then you may be wanting a tracking head, and could be better off going for something down that line ( though you may be able to mount the D4 onto that. )

I also have the Wimberley gimball head that Scottkinfw mentions, and while that is great for using big whites on, and makes them almost weightless, I'm not sure I'd recommend it for fine tuning and holding the lens in place for long night exposures of the stars (though it can do this).

Good luck - and let us now what you plump for.

Stoical.
 

analoggrotto

EOS 80D
Aug 27, 2016
126
72
I was put off by the reports of play in the Manfrotto 410, so I went with a Benro GD3WH instead. It's Was a little bit cheaper a the time and is a good bit lighter. I don't have anything negative to report about it as of right now. I have used it for Astro a few times by having it as a base for my Fornax Lightrack II, with the a ~200 g Ball head, EOS 80D and Sigma 150-600mm C on top. What I do miss is a way to fixate the axis, like a clutch. I feel like it moves slightly under the load if I accidentally apply torque by pushing too much on the lens.
Exactly the reason I avoided both of them.
 

Joules

EOS 7D MK II
Jul 16, 2017
680
678
Hamburg, Germany
Why not getting a specific mount for astrophotography then? One able to track will also allow longer exposures.
A tracking mount is typically required in addition to a good tripod head. And an astro wedge.

I for example, I use a geared head instead of a proper wedge (budget reasons), on which the tracker sits and on that I have a ball head on which the camera sits. I can get away with a ball head since I use a zoom for deep sky. Find the target on the wide end, than zoom in
 

LDS

EOR R
Sep 14, 2012
1,651
190
With such setup you're going to put more stress on the geared head (as the load is not well ditributed), and basically you need one axis movement only. You'll need a sturdy enough head. I had no problems for the four years I've been using a Manfrotto 410, but my load is lighter.
 

Mt Spokane Photography

I post too Much on Here!!
Mar 25, 2011
15,809
941
I can second pdb's recommendation of the Arca Swiss D4. It is expensive, but you get what you pay for and it is really great to use - very stable, excellent for small adjustments (and quick for larger ones too, using the alternate knobs).

If you're into that sort of thing, it is also a pleasure to use just from a tactile point of view alone.

Stoical.
I started looking into the D4. Apparently, there is no geared pan movement, I'm not sure what to think of that. I used the vertical plus the pan movement. The hilt from side to side to level it.
 

privatebydesign

Would you take advice from a cartoons stuffed toy?
Jan 29, 2011
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I started looking into the D4. Apparently, there is no geared pan movement, I'm not sure what to think of that. I used the vertical plus the pan movement. The hilt from side to side to level it.
Very few geared heads, particularly the higher end ones, have geared panning. The OP’s best option is the Manfrotto 400 (not the 405 or 410), this has geared pan and the weight capacity they are looking for.
 

StoicalEtcher

EOS RP
Jan 3, 2018
280
191
Yorkshire
I started looking into the D4. Apparently, there is no geared pan movement, I'm not sure what to think of that. I used the vertical plus the pan movement. The hilt from side to side to level it.
I've never really thought about that actually.

You're quite right that it does't have a geared pan - I can''t think that I've ever thought about it, or needed it, but now you mention it, I guess I can imagine situations where I would use it if it existed. Somehow though, it is always tilt in the other two planes that I'm adjusting - think I always line up in the right direction (pan) to start with, before tilting anywhere :cool:

If you like geared panning, the D4 isn't for you then. But if you can live without it, do try one out sometime; other than the cost, it is compelling.

Cheers.
 

Mt Spokane Photography

I post too Much on Here!!
Mar 25, 2011
15,809
941
Very few geared heads, particularly the higher end ones, have geared panning. The OP’s best option is the Manfrotto 400 (not the 405 or 410), this has geared pan and the weight capacity they are looking for.
Yes, since it was suggested as a better solution, I started looking at it, and read a lot of reviews which is where I first noticed a mention of the panning. I also noticed that newer versions have the clamp locked in place with glue, so changing it to a RRS or similar clamp was difficult. There is a less expensive version with a monoballfix QR head ($850) which can have the clamp changed out if I wanted to tackle the glue. Apparently the trick is to first tighten the Allen head screw which cracks the glue loose. A few tries might be needed.

The reviewer that mentioned the panning said it was no issue, but I thought I'd mention it since the OP might have missed the difference. I'm also wondering if the level indicators being on the side rather than the top is significant, I'm used to a level being on the top, but it might get obscured by a L bracket.

I wanted to use my geared head last week, but it was buried out in my studio and did not want to go out and get it.

From all the reviews I've read, I would have probably originally gone for the D4 instead of the 410, but I'm sort of winding down with my photography and wonder about adding expensive accessories. I may want a R5 instead.
 

privatebydesign

Would you take advice from a cartoons stuffed toy?
Jan 29, 2011
8,428
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Arca Swiss do make a version of the D4 with a geared pan but it is very hard to actually buy. https://www.arca-shop.de/stativkoepfe/getriebeneiger/d4-serie/d4/779/d4-geared-pan-monoballfix?c=840
and here

The Loctite they use on the newer heads to secure the clamp just needs heating to release so it will be 262 Red or an equivalent, it can be done safely with a soldering iron on the main Allen head bolt, it is commonly used in machinery.

But for the OP even the d4 is at the limit of stability with a 300mm f2.8, 2x TC and a body hanging off it. The Manfrotto 400 is the best of the bunch for that application and has geared pan.

The d4 is great for considered photography like product, architecture, still life etc as the pan (yaw) really isn't difficult to set precisely manually whereas the roll and pitch do greatly benefit from the precision gearing gives for those subjects. For the OP I can see having geared yaw would be an advantage.

As for the levels the d4 has three of them, one tube for each axis on the side and one circular bubble level on the top clamp, I used to set my tripod up by the top bubble level but I now use the camera level on the rear screen and find it to be plenty accurate enough for stitching and even 360º x 180º spherical panoramas.
 

Mt Spokane Photography

I post too Much on Here!!
Mar 25, 2011
15,809
941
I found the geared pan version at B&H, its by special order, 1-2 week delay. The price goes up, of course. They are $1250-$1275 more or less. The gearing is in the top of the head, so if you level the camera first, it would work out nicely.

 

analoggrotto

EOS 80D
Aug 27, 2016
126
72
Thanks everyone for the advice. I also have a 200mm F2.0L which is a little heavier than the OG EF 300L. ( I carry the 200L in a Think Tank retrospective when traveling as a testament to my sanity). The Manfrotto 400 is sounding like the direction I should shift my focus towards.
 

Valvebounce

EOS 5D SR
Apr 3, 2013
4,421
334
53
Isle of Wight
Hi PBD.
Another method I have used to free loctite is to steam it, holding it over a boiling kettle (yes whilst holding down the switch!:rolleyes:) I realise that this is not the ‘official release temperature of 250°c) but it seems to release the bond sufficiently to enable easy dismantling without damaging the components.

Cheers, Graham.

The Loctite they use on the newer heads to secure the clamp just needs heating to release so it will be 262 Red or an equivalent, it can be done safely with a soldering iron on the main Allen head bolt, it is commonly used in machinery.