Gimbal heads and ball heads are two camera support systems designed to support your camera and lens while photographing. They’re both used on a tripod base. One of these days, I will write a separate review on both ball heads and gimbals and describe their many advantages and disadvantages. But today, I’ll compare these two support systems and find out which is better suited for wildlife photography.
First, the ball head. Ball heads are a simple ball and socket joint design with a ball with the mounting base plate on which you connect the camera via the mounting tripod collar (in case you’ve connected the camera to the mounting base directly). The socket joint freely rotates within the case as long as you don’t tighten the knob. Once you tighten the knob, the camera and lens lock into position, and the ball and the mounting plate.
As a wildlife photographer, it becomes a lot easier if you’re using a ball head because you can quickly change the composition; unscrewing the ball head, it becomes loose, and with it, you can freely move the camera in three axes. You can tilt, roll and pan your camera according to your requirement.
When you’re happy with the composition, you can lock the ball and joint at that moment, and with it, your camera and take the shot.
Gimbal heads are different in the sense that with these gadgets, there is constant support being provided. You don’t have to screw a knob every time you’re ready to let go of your camera. With ball heads, when you’re not using your camera, you’ve to make sure that the screw is tightened so that the ball head supports the camera’s weight. Not so with the gimbal head. as long as it is appropriately set up and balanced, it supports the camera.
Let’s say that you find a bird and you’re panning with it. You take a few shots, and the bird settles down on a branch. You can continue to shoot without having to make any adjustments. When the bird flies away, and you don’t have anything to shoot, you can let go of the camera, and immediately the gimbal steadies the camera in position. So that when you resume shooting, you can pick up from the exact spot you started.
With gimbal heads, you have a much better time working with a heavy camera.