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Optimal tripod and ball head for heaviest Hassy load


Active Member
I'm planning to change my general purpose tripod (Manfrotto 099 and 410 geared head) for a CF sturdy tripod and a ball head. I plan to continue using the Hassy QR system.

My purpose is 2-fold. 1. the aluminium Manfrotto is a bit heavy now my chronic illness and full-time pain have made dragging that stuff about nearly impossible for me. 2. I really do not like the 410 geared head now - a bit counter-intuitive to use, very heavy and hard work for my now very skinny hands.

But as an all purpose tripod I would like the replacement to handle my heaviest Hassy "load" very securely and as free of vibration as practical. I

I would like the ball head to enable free movements and tilts as I may put my Linhof Technika on it occasionally (less weight than my heaviest Hassy kit). So the ball head should have adjustable tension too; be very strong and sturdy within good weight limits.

I'd even prefer to be able to use the tripod without its centre column but am unsure of how that procedure works. Seems sensible as all these things are only as good as the weakest link - do Gitzo and Manfrotto CF options enable centre column free use? How does one mount the head or what other bit do I need to mount the head on?

My heaviest Hassy load is: 503cw with CW winder, PM45 prism, back, CF 250mm lens plus 1.4XE extender.

I suppose that manufacturers' quoted load/weight limits are one thing but I should add some factor in as well to ensure dependable sturdy performance. Agree?

Thanks for comments about what you use, pitfalls and tips. I'm especially interested in the experiences of those who've used many in the quest of the optimal solution.
I'd even prefer to be able to use the tripod without its centre column but am unsure of how that procedure works. Seems sensible as all these things are only as good as the weakest link - do Gitzo and Manfrotto CF options enable centre column free use? How does one mount the head or what other bit do I need to mount the head on? >


I think that a center column allows far more convenient adjustment and I do prefer a geared adjustment, especially with heavy loads.

Good Luck:


BTW: at least your not looking for a bag-to me that is a real chore.
Thanks Gilbert. Yes agree with geared column. I have a big Manfrotto geared alloy tripod for real heavy duty purposes; this one is the every day all-rounder that I could carry more effectively "in the field".

I also have the smallest Gitzo CF for when I am physically beyond anything more than it and my Xpan. It will even adequately support my 501cm and a 50mm at a pinch only partly extended. It's nice and super-light.
Hi Simon, I'm currently considering the replacement one of my Gitzos with the new Gitzo G-1257LVL Mountaineer. This tripod features a new 6 layer carbon fiber process for the legs that is actually supposed to be stronger and more stable without adding any weight.

What is interesting about the unit is that it has two new features that may be of practical use in the field: Twist type leg locks that have a single twist feature to extend all leg sections by pulling; and a leveling center column that allows adjustments without having to deal with re-adjusting the legs.

Quick Specs:
17.6 lbs max load. 62.4" max height using 2/3 leg sections (whatever that means); 53.9" without column extended; 13.6" minimum height. Weighs 3.5 lbs (without head); 26.2" folded size (w/o head).

I would recommend use of the center column even when not extending it because all these tripods now feature a center column hook to hang your camera bag or a sand bag from for super extra stability (these really do work).

Ball head assuming you already have the Hasselblad QR: Arca Swiss Mono ball. Locks down like Fort Knox. I've tried a zillion heads including the Arca Swiss rip-offs and none of them measure up in practical use.

Obviously, none of the above is inexpensive. But then, neither is the gear that it will be supporting.

If you are comfortable with Gitzo CF tripods, and preferred to use one with a platform only to mount a ball head on it, then one of their system tripods such as the 1325 comes into mind. The 1325 has a load capacity of 12 kilos, extends to 148.1 cm, and weighs just over 2 kilos (4.5 lbs.), and comes with a center platform rather than a column. Many nature photographers find it to be a solid mount for a Wimberley head with a fast 600 mm. telephoto attached -- should handle your Technika or 'Blad with a 250 + teleconverter 'without a sweat'.

I do not own a 1325, but the plethora of reviews I have read reveal a consensus that it is highly recommended. My general-purpose tripod combo is a Gitzo 1228 with an Acratech ball-head; I switched-out the standard column with a short column (very rarely extended) since I often shoot low. This suits my usual needs fine; but then I also own a Ries wooden tripod, and generally use that with a RRS BH-55 attached when stability rather than light mobility is my principle concern. Of note is that I do use the BH-55 on the 1228 on occasion, but find this combination to be top heavy -- that head or a Arca-Swiss B-1 (relatively the same weight) would be suitable, comparable quality matches for the 1325 though. If I didn't need the features unique to a wooden tripod, I would have gone with the 1325 without reservation.

Since I am not familiar with your needs or shooting style, I am offering this information as a FYI rather than a recommendation. As far a ball-heads go, you may want to invest the time in scouring the net for reviews/forum commentary on the Arca-Swiss B-1, Acratech, Linhof Profi II or III, Markins M-20 (essentially a B-1 clone without an elliptical ball), and RRS BH-55 as all are commonly regarded as front-runners in the $US 275-425 range. From personal experience, I can offer the following:

Acratech Ultimate: fairly solid for being roughly a pound lighter than the others; handles a 503CW with a 150 or 100 w/1.4XE teleconverter attached quite solidly; not certain if it drifts down during multi-minute exposures but a few reviews (a minority) noted this possibility; easy to maintain and clean;

Linhof Profi-II: similar in weight to B-1/BH-55, but definitely cannot bear the same load (probably comparable to the Acratech in this respect); placement of controls well-designed to ensure against accidental change but main control often requires excessive force to tighten adequately;

RRS BH-55: controls are well-laid out and intuitive; oversized main control knob allows blind manipulation, and doesn’t require excessive torque to tighten; a 503CW w/short tele + 1.4XE doesn’t drift at all during long exposures; low profile lowers center of gravity somewhat; tension control has little effect in comparison to the Linhof head.

As far as tension control goes: in my opinion this is a mixed bag and I often wonder how useful it really is. All three heads that I mentioned offer a degree of controlled movement when the main control is eased off slightly; in fact, Acratech factory-locks their tension control since even they find the concept to be of possibly dubious value. Their take on the matter – to which I agree – is that if you need to step away from a mounted camera, it is good policy to make certain that the camera is actually secured sufficiently before letting go of it ;-)

If you are considering the 1325 or other Gitzo system model you may want to look into their 1321 leveling column. Personally I don’t see much value in using it with a ball head -- or mounting a LF camera on a ball head -- but if you ever get into panorama formats larger than the Xpan a leveling column or platform may prove quite useful. Of ancillary value is that the 1321 has a locking lever that serves to tighten heads securely without over-torquing. A problem I have found with any head that screws onto the tripod bushing directly is that it is easy to loosen them inadvertently when making blind adjustments when composing a shot. On that note, one feature of Ries tripods that I love is that they have a spring-loaded bushing that secures a head much to the same effect as the 1321’s locking lever – if one wanted to, a camera could just be mounted sans a head of any sort without concern for damaging the camera through over-torquing.
I use a GITZO 1228 (carbon) with center column for all my HASSELBLAD gear and find it strong enough . I also use an ARCA-SWISS monoball B1 (best ball head i have ever worked with) but i prefer my MANFROTTO geared head 405 , also with the GITZO 1349 (carbon) which i use for my ARCA-SWISS 4x5 . Here the 405 geared head is just great . In any case , a center column is of great help , (geared or not geared) when fine adjustment in height is neccessary . No need to adjust three tripod legs .
I think , the GITZO 12xx family is sufficient enough for MF cameras . Look up the technical data tables on the GITZO homepage and you will see the tripods weight and what they can carry . But don't forget , you will have to carry all the stuff together , and therefore you will have to find the best compromise .
Many thanks to each of you Marc, Wayne and Jurgen for the very comprehensive comments and thoughts. It's of enormous help to me. Now I have plenty to guide my investigation and selection.

Kind regards and thanks. Happy Christmas.