As the quality and feature sets of consumer cameras escalate and people aregetting more bang-for-the-buck on their camera purchases, there is a natural progression for shooters to get more serious about their photography. Getting great enlargements from your 12 MP camera often requires the use of a tripod. Most people have some sort of a tripod, but it’s probably stored away and gathering dust in a closet. One of the reasons for this is that the style of the tripod head is most likely a “twisty-stix” type, one that has a couple of handles for making vertical and horizontal adjustments.
These are called pan and tilt heads and by the time you get it set up, your lighting or subject may have disappeared.
A great addition to your photo gear might be a replacement tripod head called a “pistol grip” or a “joystick” depending on the manufacturer. Although not new in the marketplace (I’ve had mine for around 30 years), I don’t see a lot of them in use. Many people may think of them as a luxury or gimmick, rather than as a tool, but the beauty of the pistol grip head is that it just takes a moment to squeeze the trigger and aim it at your subject. Then you release the trigger and your camera is locked down either horizontally or vertically. The one I acquired many years ago was made by Bogen which is now sold under the Manfrotto label (model 222 Joystick Head).
It’s all aluminum with no plastic parts and screws onto just about any tripod made by Bogen/Manfrotto as well as most other brands, so you may not have to replace your existing “legs”. It’s pretty heavy-duty and can support a large digital SLR and telephoto lens like those made by Nikon and Canon. The street price is around $115.
There wasn’t much else available back when I got mine, but there are many more choices in several price ranges now. Slightly less than the above unit, is the Slik AF-2100, which is also heavy-duty and sells for about $100 street.
If you prefer to not make this big of an investment, the Sunpak Pistol Grip Ballhead may be the ticket for half the price ($50). With a six pound load rating, it can still handle the larger cameras as well as the pricier models.
For those with cameras smaller than DSLR’s such as advanced point and shoots or Micro four thirds, the Manfrotto 785B Modo Maxi might be a possibility. This unit includes the tripod with the head and sells for about $70.
It’s rated at 2.2 pounds capacity and might be a little flimsy at the top of that weight range, but should work fine for any point and shoot and could work in a pinch for larger DSLR’s. The head is not detachable from the legs, so it must be bought as a package. A big advantage for this model is that it weighs just over 2 pounds and collapses to 17 inches, so it’s extremely portable and light-weight.
All include quick release plates and all but the Modo Maxi have a bubble level to help keep your horizons straight. In making your decision, just be sure to check manufacturer information or with your camera store to ensure compatibility of the tripod and the head. I think the speedy operation of the pistol grip will certainly enhance your photographic experience as well as the quality of your photos.