Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Wimberley Head

Last summer, I purchased the SMC Pentax-A* 400mm f/2.8 lens. This is a very large and heavy lens and really is almost impossible to use with a typical ball head like my Kirk BH-1 ball head. That sent me on a quest to get a gimbal-type head. The choices I came up with were the Kirk King Cobra, Wimberley Sidekick, and Wimberley WH-200 Head. I read about the pros and cons of each type of head.

The Kirk King Cobra can handle the weight of the 400mm lens but I did not like the design where you have to rotate the tripod collar 90 degress in order to mount it on the head. This puts lots of stress on the tripod collar. It should work but I did not like the design.

My second choice was the Wimberley Sidekick. This is an interesting design that uses an existing heavy duty ball head like my Kirk BH-1. The ball head actually provides your pivoting. The arm just allows you to connect the lens in a more efficient way. Go to the site and look at it. It is hard to explain. I like this idea because it uses your existing equipment and you just have to add the Sidekick arm to your current setup. The problem is, once again, you have to rotate the tripod collar on the lens 90 degrees. The bigger problem is that this setup is not nearly as strong as a dedicated solution. It would be fine with a 400mm f/5.6 lens or something smaller. It might just work with a 500mm f/4 but a 400mm f/2.8 or 600mm f/4 is just too big. I am not really excited about stressing the mount when the lens costs as much as it does.

That brings us to the final choice, the Wimberley WH-200 Head. It is the most expensive of the options but seems to be the most highly recommended. Its immediate advantage is that the lens can be mounted right on the head without rotating the tripod collar on the lens 90 degrees. This is also a full head design that very nicely accomodates even the largest lenses. The 400mm f/2.8 and 600mm f/4 lenses of any manufacturer can be beautifully balanced by adjusting the location where it is attached to the quick release plate. It works great with smaller lenses as well if needed. I am very glad I chose this head. Take a look at the WH-200 head at their web site,

I should also add that the people at Wimberley are just fantastic to deal with. I ordered my head directly from Wimberley and needed a matching quick release plate for the lens. I took some measurements of my lens and they checked around regarding another person who had the same lens and found exactly the right size plate. I think it was the P-20 plate. I also use Kirk Photo for some things but they have not been as friendly to deal with. Of course, for the most part their products are different. Wimberley makes the WH-200 head and Sidekick as well as universal lens mounting plates and a universal camera plate as well. Kirk Photo does make the King Cobra head but its primary products are the BH-1 and BH-3 ball heads as well as custom quick release plates for many cameras and lenses. Of course both companies make flash brackets but their product lines are different. I particularly like Kirk Photo's custom L brackets. They make it much easier to mount your camera in either portrait or landscape orientation on your ball head. Anyway, both companies offer great accessories for a professional photography setup.

No comments: