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FORUMS General Gear Talk Tripods, Monopods & Other Camera Support 
Thread started 27 Feb 2018 (Tuesday) 09:24
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Gimbals versus Video heads

Senior Member
481 posts
Likes: 33
Joined Dec 2011
Location: Georgia, USA
Feb 27, 2018 09:24 |  #1

I hand hold most of the time when using the 100-400 or 150-600 + 80D. However, when using a tripod I have a small Mongoose Gimbal which works really well. In the event of getting a larger big white it will require a new head.

I came across this photo and was wondering if this would be a viable alternative. I know nothing about video heads. Not sure if they would be able to balance the lens/camera in any position like a gimbal?

Your thoughts on this would be appreciated.

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Senior Member
305 posts
Likes: 61
Joined Sep 2013
Feb 27, 2018 11:23 |  #2

In theory, (I’ve not tried a super-telephoto on a video head):

A gimbal or side kick acheives balance by moving the load forward and back on a long lens plate. If you have zoom, the balance will change as the lense elements move out - the load may get front heavy. Very little effort is required to track a moving subject. The head may damp the movement to smooth things out a bit. Overall, a gimbal is really a simple device - a couple arms and a couple pivots.

In video heads, balance is acheived by counterbalance springs. The more you tilt, the more a spring is compressed. Inexpensive video heads provide a single level of counterbalance. More capable heads provide adjustable counterbalance over a range.

It’s not as simple as “I have a 6 pound rig, I need a 6 pound counterbalance”. With a spring system, weight that is further from the pivot point has more force to be balanced. For example, if you hang a bag from your upper arm, you can hold it longer than if you hang it from your hand at arms length. So, a fair amount of determining counterbalance spring strength depends on how long and how high your rig is, in addition to weight.

The single counterbalance setting of an inexpensive video head may work for a particular rig, but when you put a different lens on it the head may no longer be right.

I have a Sachtler FSB6 video head that can dial any of 10 steps of counterbalance. IIRC I paid almost $2000 USD for that and a set of nice CF sticks.

The next feature of video heads is adjustable drag, so that you can very smoothly track a moving subject *while shooting*. Money helps here, too.

All this means that video heads are fairly complex mechanical devices compared to gimbal heads. Good engineering is where the money goes for both, but there’s just more stuff in the video head.

If the cost differences don’t mean much to you you might rent a nice set of video sticks and head, and see if it works for you. for an inexpensive video head, I’d want to try my rig on it in-person to see if it balances, because it’s difficult to impossible to tell from specs.

The gimbal is a simple device that works really well for it’s intended purpose!

From the upper left corner of the U.S.
Photos, Video & Pano r us.
College and workshop instructor in video and audio.
70D, Sigma 8mm, Tokina f2.8 11-16, Canon EF-S f2.8 17-55, Sigma f2.8 50-150 EX OS, Tamron 150-600VC. Gigapan Epic Pro, Nodal Ninja 5 & R10.

3,814 posts
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Joined Apr 2010
Location: Wales
Feb 27, 2018 18:00 |  #3

Just my personal view.

My Fluid head is too small for large lenses but I have used other peoples setups where Fluid Heads are combined with large (500 F4 +) lenses. Having had some use of fluid heads when I bought my first large lens (400 F2.8) I didn't even consider a fluid head - they just were not on the radar - I went straight to a decent Gimbal and haven't looked back!
The balance and movement is far superior for my (Wildlife) uses. For reference I use the Wimberley 2 but there are other nice ones out there.

Life is for living, cameras are to capture it (one day I will learn how!).

Cream of the Crop
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Joined Jul 2004
Location: Gilligan's Island
4 hours ago |  #4

I've done lots of video shooting with video fluid heads, and one thing I never really liked about these heads is the stick. Of course, the stick is a necessary component of video shooting which typically involves smooth panning, but I don't know how many times that my clothing caught the stick. For photography purpose, I'd avoid going the video head route although it's an economical alternative.

"Life is short, art is long..."
My Gear & DIYs

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Gimbals versus Video heads
FORUMS General Gear Talk Tripods, Monopods & Other Camera Support 
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