A gimbal tripod head allows you to perfectly balance the weight of your photographic camera and a telephoto lens so that it can be effortlessly moved vertically and horizontally while photographing wildlife. With a perfectly balanced gimbal, even the heaviest setups, such as a 600mm lens and pro-sized photographic camera body, can exist moved with only your pinky finger.
A photographic camera mounted to a gimbal tripod caput is ever ready to go because you tin take your easily off it without locking any of the controls. When the activity starts, you need merely catch the camera and spin it quickly towards your subject field, saving precious seconds that might make the difference betwixt getting the shot or not.
Gimbal tripod heads come in a variety of shapes and sizes. In this gear guide, we’ll examine the elevation options on the marketplace today at diverse price points, and I’ll brand recommendations for the ane that will all-time suit your photography.
Tabular array of Contents
- In a Hurry? My Top Selection
- Photography Gimbal Vs. Video Gimbal
- Side Mount vs Cradle Mount Gimbals
- Best Gimbal Tripod Heads
- ProMediaGear GKJr. Katana Pro
- ProMediaGear GT2 Tomahawk
- Fotopro Eagle East-6H
- Really Right Stuff PG-02
- Really Right Stuff FG-02
- Gitzo Fluid Gimbal
- Wimberley WH-200
- Wimberley MH-100 Monogimbal
- Wimberley Sidekick
- Oben GH-30
- Induro GHB1
- Sirui PH-20
- Protecting Your Gimbal
- Utilise Your Gimbal With a Skimmer
In a Bustle?
If yous’re in a hurry and need a quick solution, you tin can’t go incorrect with the infrequent GKJr Katana Pro gimbal from ProMediaGear. This is an incredibly lightweight gimbal (ii.4lbs), yet it will easily concord any size of telephoto lens and maintain perfectly smooth motion. This gimbal’s weight-to-operation ratio is unmatched, making information technology an like shooting fish in a barrel recommendation that will suit most people’due south needs. I’d recommend buying directly from ProMediaGear to get free US shipping or very reasonable international shipping rates.
Photography Gimbal Vs. Video Gimbal – Not the same!
Googling the word ‘gimbal’ can be confusing because you’ll get mixed results talking about photo and video gimbals. If this is your first gimbal purchase, you don’t want to get the two confused. Even if you search ‘gimbal’ on B&H Photo, yous volition run across many video gimbals in the search results. To assist yous, the better search term is ‘tripod gimbal‘ considering video gimbals are not designed to proceed a tripod. In dissimilarity, photography gimbals are exclusively intended to proceed tripods.
A photography gimbal – what we are discussing in this guide – doesn’t have whatever electronic parts. It’southward designed to be put onto a tripod, where you tin can manually residuum it to hold your camera and a telephoto lens without needing to lock the tilt or pan axis.
A video gimbal is a stabilizer to hold your camera level while yous move information technology around. It contains motors, rotating gyros and a ton of electronic wizardry designed to resist the inertia of your camera while you move. Video gimbals are designed to work paw-held or sometimes attached to a moving vehicle.
TLDR; if you lot are shooting photos, do not buy a video gimbal from DJI, Zhiyun-Tech or any other similar product. If you are shooting video, just buy a video gimbal if y’all want to motility around with the camera. If you’re going to shoot a video of wildlife with a long lens from a static tripod position, use a photograph gimbal with a fluid cartridge or a video fluid head.
Gimbal Heads: Side Mount Vs. Cradle Mountain
Gimbal heads come in two unlike mount styles, and it’due south essential to understand their pros and cons when deciding which suits you. Some manufacturers offer both mount styles for the same gimbal so that yous can go precisely what you want; for example, the ProMediaGear GKJr Katana Pro is available with either a side mount or a cradle mountain, as are the Wimberley WH-200 and the RRS PG-02. Some gimbals, such as the Sirui PH-twenty and the Fotopro Hawkeye Due east-6H, include everything you need in the box to switch betwixt the two mounting styles.
The more traditional fashion is definitely the cradle mount, where the foot of the lens is mounted on an Fifty-shape arm that comes downwardly from the vertical pivot betoken and cradles the lens human foot underneath the lens. The side mount manner of gimbal does away with the Fifty-shaped cradle and puts a clamp straight on the vertical pivot. This means the lens foot is ninety degrees off from where it is with the cradle mount.
What’s the difference between the cradle and the side mountain?
Gimbals with a cradle mount are heavier, bulkier and unremarkably more than expensive than a side mount version of the same caput. Still, a cradle mount is easier when mounting a heavy lens to a gimbal considering gravity is on your side. The cradle can back up the weight of the lens while yous tighten the quick-release clamp. With a side mount gimbal, y’all must support the camera and lens with one paw while tightening the clamp with your other hand. Information technology’s fair to say that there is slightly more than potential for an expensive blow when mounting a photographic camera to a side mount gimbal. Still, I near always opt for the side mount to salve some weight in my purse.
From a functional point of view, in that location is also a slight difference that many people are unaware of. When a side mountain gimbal is perfectly balanced, letting go of your camera will render it to a horizontal position. When a cradle mount gimbal is perfectly balanced, both in the fore/aft position and in the up/down part of the cradle, letting go of your camera will do nothing. The camera will perfectly maintain its position at whatever angle you leave information technology.
In the latter instance, with the full cradle, at that place might be some situations where information technology is beneficial to leave your gimbal unlocked just pointing upwards or downward. Perhaps towards an fauna’due south nest or den. Maybe this tiny time saver, not having to reposition your camera a few degrees, might make the difference between getting a shot or not when the subject finally appears. Is that possibility worth the actress gimbal weight? Or does information technology mean you should, at least, consider a gimbal that has the selection to swap between the 2 types of mounts?
I’d take the lighter weight option nine times out of ten, but your opinion might be different. As I get older, my confidence in ane-handing a 600mm lens into a side mountain gimbal without dropping it will likely lessen, too. And, should I develop arthritis in my hand or fingers, I’k sure the easier mounting of the cradle gimbal will all of a sudden seem more appealing on a cold morning.
The All-time Gimbal Tripod Heads
This table shows you the list of products that I’m going to be reviewing further in this guide. I didn’t choose these products blindly, so if it made it as far every bit existence included in this gear guide at all so it has already shown some merit. If y’all don’t accept time to read the in-depth guide so these links might save y’all some time.
|ProMediaGear GKJr Katana Pro –
|ProMediaGear / B&H / Amazon / Adorama||Complimentary US aircraft direct from ProMediaGear. International aircraft is available.|
|ProMediaGear GKJr Katana Pro Side Mountain||ProMediaGear / B&H / Amazon / Adorama||Free Usa shipping direct from ProMediaGear. International shipping is available.|
|ProMediaGear GT2 Tomahawk||ProMediaGear / B&H / Amazon / Adorama||Convert your ball head into a gimbal. Complimentary Us shipping direct from ProMediaGear. International shipping is available.|
|Fotopro Eagle East-6H||Amazon / B&H / Adorama|
|Really Correct Stuff PG-02 –
|B&H||Currently out of production.*1|
|Really Right Stuff FG-02 –Best for video||B&H||Currently out of product.*ane|
|Gitzo GHFG1 Fluid Gimbal||Amazon / B&H / Adorama / WEX / DigiDirect (Aus)|
|Wimberley WH-200||Amazon / B&H / Adorama / WEX|
|Wimberley Sidekick||Amazon / B&H / Adorama|
|Wimberley MH-100 MonoGimbal||Amazon / B&H / Adorama / WEX||A gimbal for your monopod!|
|Oben GH-thirty||Amazon / B&H /|
|Induro GHB1||Amazon / B&H / Adorama|
|Benro GH5C||Amazon / B&H / Adorama|
|Sirui PH-20||Sirui / Amazon / B&H / Adorama||Save five% on the PH-20 by using the discount code SHUTTERMUSE on the Sirui web shop.|
|Magnus GH-M1 –
Low budget option
RRS Gimbal Stock Find
– The Really Right Stuff PG-02 and FG-02 RRS gimbals are currently out of product and have been for a while. RRS has said they are redesigning them, but this was first mentioned over two years ago, and in that location is still no sign of a replacement. It is unusual to discontinue a product while an update is existence designed. The existing gimbals were already all-time-in-course products, so why non go on to sell them in the meantime? I don’t have an answer.
In recent years, getting a hold of many RRS products has become tough. Most tripods and tripod heads are perpetually out of stock. Although I honey RRS products, I have to say that these days, if you need something soon, say, for an upcoming photography trip, you should not concur your breath and hope it will become available. It is best to buy one of the other in-stock gimbals on this listing. Information technology is anyone’s guess when, or fifty-fifty
we will see an update to the RRS gimbals get available. If it happens, which I hope it does, yous tin be sure I volition purchase them, test them and update this guide.
At but 2.4lbs (1.08kg), the GKJr Katana Pro gimbal from ProMediaGear is one of the lightest gimbals on the market place despite existence made from aluminium and not carbon fibre. As you can see from the photos, this is achieved past machining a skeleton-like construction out of a solid block of aluminium. Despite the weight-saving pattern, the Katana Jr. gives upwards nothing as far as support stability is concerned. This head will easily hold the biggest lenses on the market place, such every bit 600mm or 800mm. As, it’southward at home when paired with much lighter options such as the Sony 200-600mm lens seen in the photos or a 100-400mm.
Not but is the GKJr Katana Pro light, only it’s too relatively meaty compared to heads like the Wimberley WH-200 or the Gitzo Fluid Gimbal. If you opt for the cradle mount version, the cradle is easily removed from the caput to help pack it into your bag. For ultimate portability, the side mount version of the caput drops the weight down even farther to i.8lbs.
This gimbal is a personal favourite because the weight-to-stability ratio is unmatched past any other gimbal on this list. If you’re someone that travels with your gear or wants to carry both a gimbal and a ball caput, so weight and packability are always a concern. It easily manages heavy loads, and the smoothness of the bearings in the pan and tilt mechanisms matches the other acme gimbals on the market place.
The ProMediaGear GT2 Tomahawk is all-time described as half a gimbal. Comparing the Tomahawk to the GKJr. Katana Pro, you lot can see information technology closely resembles the vertical part of that gimbal, using the same clamp and bearings. The dovetails on the lesser of the Tomahawk permit you to clamp it onto a brawl caput, thus using the ball head’south panning base of operations for the gimbal rotation.
Wimberley first developed the half gimbal concept with their Sidekick model. ProMediaGear has taken this concept further by adding 1/4″ 20 and 3/8″ 16 female person threads that allow the Tomahawk to be used on top of a monopod. This ingenious design tin can negate the need to conduct a separate monopod caput or a full-sized tripod gimbal if y’all are already travelling with a ball head.
Fotopro Eagle E-6H
Fotopro is a Chinese manufacturer that has a broad portfolio of support products. Unlike most companies, they oasis’t chosen a pricing sector of the market to concentrate on. Instead, they manufacture everything from sub-$200 tripods up to $1400 tripods. This is a very unlike style of doing things. Imagine if Gitzo or Actually Correct Stuff fabricated sub-$200 tripods and their elevation-of-the-line offerings, or if Ferrari fabricated a inexpensive iv-door sedan?
I don’t recall this approach helps people’s perception of the brand’southward products, but I’m here to tell you that their high-cease Eagle Series products are the real deal, and any qualms should exist put aside. The Fotopro E-6H is an first-class gimbal head and deserves your consideration, with some weight capacity caveats.
The Eastward-6H gimbal is tiny. It’southward roughly half the size of whatever of the other gimbals in this guide, and it’s easily the lightest at 911g with the cradle or a mere 700g in side mount way. Despite its small size, it has some of the smoothest pan and tilt motions of whatever gimbal in this guide. Information technology’southward so shine that I had to ask Fotopro if it used fluid cartridges because it’s smoother than the Gitzo Fluid Gimbal. As it turns out, it does not. Just you certainly wouldn’t know information technology by using information technology.
This gimbal is total of features that don’t exist on other gimbals. Firstly it has click stops that can be engaged on the panning base of operations for panoramic photographers to get perfectly repeatable results. Secondly, the vertical arm tin be swivelled forwards or backwards up to 180 degrees. This means you tin can shoot directly up to the dark heaven or down to the ground for macro work. Alternatively, fold it down for more than compact travel.
Other unique features include toolless swapping betwixt cradle mount and side mount and locking spiral-lock knobs on the Arca-Swiss clamps. It even comes with a panning handle so you tin employ the head for filmmaking. And yes, this caput is smoother than many cheap video heads, then that’due south an entirely plausible scenario.
Actually Right Stuff PG-02
The Really Right Stuff PG-02 is a modular gimbal head that tin can be synthetic with either a side or cradle mount. The matter that showtime attracted me to the PG-02 was the two-slice blueprint. The horizontal and vertical arms can be separated and clipped together in parallel to make them easier to transport. This modular design likewise means that yous can use the horizontal track as a nodal slide for panoramic photography by adding an RRS FAS clamp.
Everything about this gimbal screams quality. The design and machining are beautiful, and the gimbal’southward movement is buttery polish, even with the heaviest camera setups. The PG-02 is rated up to a 50lb load, but with even a 600mm lens on a pro body barely tipping the scales at 12lbs, you will never need that capacity. Suffice it to say; that whatsoever gear you lot put on this thing, information technology barely breaks a sweat and vibration dampening is extremely good.
The Really Right Stuff gimbals are the absolute gold standard in terms of build quality and robustness, merely you pay the price for that. At $766 for the side mountain version, y’all’re looking at a couple of hundred dollars more than than other fantabulous options similar the ProMediaGear or Wimberley. You won’t get ameliorate photos by choosing the RRS gimbal, but yous become the functional modularity and the best gimbal head that doubles as a multi-row panoramic head.
Adding a nodal track such every bit the MPR-CL II to the PG-02 side mount version of the gimbal volition turn it into a multi-row panoramic head. This is but possible considering yous tin adjust the horizontal position of the vertical arm so that the lens’ optical centre is precisely over the point of rotation. Just adding a nodal slide to a regular gimbal, such every bit the Gitzo or Wimberley, doesn’t work. With that, you would but exist able to adjust the fore and aft positioning of the optical middle, simply unless yous tin move the camera left and correct, as you lot can with the PG-02, you can’t use information technology for genuinely perfect panos.
What About The Smaller PG-01?
Really Right Stuff FG-02
The FG-02 has many of the same features and blueprint characteristics as the PG-02, then I’m non wasting time repeating myself on all those points. The chief difference is that the FG-02 uses fluid cartridges in the horizontal and vertical panning joints, which makes the gimbal motion much smoother. This smoother move is hugely benign when shooting video because even the slightest jitter in your pan or tilt can be amplified to a massive caste when shooting with long focal lengths.
The resistance of the move is also adaptable in 4 steps, which is beneficial when making long sweeping pans for a video, compared to small adjustments when looking through the viewfinder for still photography. Two buttons cleverly control the resistance. Pressing them individually gives you lot two dissimilar resistances; you have a third when they are both pressed and a fourth when neither are pressed. An elegant solution that adds very niggling bulk to the design.
Gitzo GHFG1 Fluid Gimbal
The Gitzo Fluid Gimbal is surprising in a few means. Firstly this is a fluid head, and so fluid cartridges dampen rotational resistance of the horizontal and vertical panning joints. Fluid heads deliver a much smoother panning motion, as discussed in the RRS FG-02 fluid gimbal section. A panning bar is included in the package to assist with smooth motility when shooting video.
The relatively low toll point is the second most surprising thing about the Gitzo gimbal head. Gitzo products are known to be of the highest quality, and many photographers aspire to ain them, but the price betoken can sometimes be prohibitive. In the instance of their GHFG1 Fluid Gimbal, the toll is a bargain when you compare information technology to other models in this gear guide. It’s much less than half the toll of Really Right Stuff’s fluid gimbal, and information technology’due south cheaper than some of the most popular gimbals, such as the Wimberley WH-200.
The main downside of this gimbal is that they do not offer a side mount version, which would have saved a little weight and size. The overall pattern is likewise significantly bulkier than many other options, such as the ProMediaGear Katana Jr or the Fotopro Eagle. It’s likewise lacking a bubble level. Something that is offered past the PMG Katana Jr, the RRS gimbals, the Fotopro E-6H and more.
The Wimberley WH-200 design has been around for decades and is pop with many photographers. The design is bland, but they are amongst the smoothest gimbals on the market place, and their durability and general robustness have been proven over fourth dimension. If you tend to beat up your camera equipment in harsh environments and don’t heed the sterile, industrial wait, the WH-200 is i of the best options.
Wimberley MH-100 MonoGimbal
This product is an outlier in the gimbal guide, just I don’t call back the guide would be complete without it. The WH-100 MonoGimbal is designed primarily to act every bit a pocket-size gimbal for your monopod. Even so, the base of operations of the head is an Arca-compatible dovetail, which means you could attach information technology to a regular ball head to requite it some gimbal characteristics (encounter photograph below).
The Wimberley Sidekick is an interesting pattern for someone who must carry both a brawl caput and a gimbal head. Instead of switching heads entirely, this handy gadget converts your existing brawl head into a gimbal. To do this, your ball caput must have a separate panning base lock knob and an Arca-Swiss compatible clench.
To install the Wimberley Sidekick, release the brawl lock and flop the clamp into your drop notch, positioning information technology vertically, then tighten the ball as much as possible. At present clamp the Sidekick into the now vertical ball head clamp and loosen the ball head’s panning base lock knob to rotate the gimbal.
Choosing the sidekick instead of a proper gimbal will give you some weight savings, but, equally with the ProMediaGear GT2 Tomahawk discussed before on this page, the head’s effectiveness depends on the smoothness of your ball head’due south panning base. Ball heads are not designed to have heavy weights levered on one side while rotating. They are designed to be locked down tightly. Even some of the all-time ball heads on the market struggle to deliver a shine horizontal pan when used in this out-of-scope mode.
In my testing, the RRS BH-twoscore and BH-55 ball heads produced the smoothest pans with a telephoto lens and the Sidekick. Many other heads can concur the off-centre weight, but the pan fluidity is slightly compromised. Still, this might be a worthwhile tradeoff for the overall weight savings if you otherwise need to carry both a brawl head and a full-sized gimbal.
At almost $250, y’all save a significant chunk of change with the Sidekick compared to the full Wimberley gimbal ($550), but it’s only really a saving if you lot already ain a loftier-end ball head to pair it with. If you demand to buy a new ball head, your total nib volition undoubtedly be larger than the cost of the Wimberley Gimbal or the better ProMediaGear gimbal.
The Oben GH-30 deserves a spot on this listing because it brings gimbals downward to a toll bespeak that makes them attainable to many more people. At just $250, this is an excellent beginner option for people who don’t practise much wild animals photography merely want something that volition brand life considerably easier for them on the odd weekend excursion. Information technology’southward also a practiced budget option if y’all accept booked a costly wildlife photography vacation and all of a sudden realize that you should accept a gimbal with you but don’t want to break the banking concern.
The Induro GHB1 is a moderately sized side mount gimbal with a 22lb capacity and a relatively low weight of 1.7lbs. It is suitable for smaller and lighter telephoto lenses, such as a Sony or Nikon 200-600mm, a Canon RF 100-500mm, Nikon Z 100-400mm or a Nikon Z 400mm f/4.five.
The Sirui PH-20 is a carbon fibre gimbal that comes equipped with an Arca-compatible cradle and an included option to remove the cradle and catechumen it to a side mount gimbal. Sirui strangely does not mention the included side mount selection on its website, despite being one of its best features. In full cradle mode, the PH-20 weighs 1163g or 2.56lbs. When the cradle is removed and the smaller side mount clamp is installed, the gimbal weighs 899g or 1.98lbs. These are the measured weights on my digital scapes. Ignore the lower weights suggested past Sirui.
Protecting Your Gimbal
Use Your Gimbal With a Skimmer
Nigh volition use a gimbal head on a tripod, merely there are many times when a lower point of view is benign. While it’southward possible to spread your tripod’s legs to attain that low angle, it’s cumbersome to repeatedly lift a tripod and adjust its position while lying apartment on your abdomen. The heavier your lens, the harder this becomes.
Which Gimbals Do I Use?
For many years I have used an RRS PG-02. It’s built like a tank but as well has the exquisite finishing that nosotros accept come to expect from RRS. I love that it can be cleaved down into two pieces for travel, but a meaning downside is its considerable weight. When this PG-02 gimbal went out of production, I started my search for a replacement. It’s all well and good having my own PG-02, but I can’t very well recommend an out-of-production product to readers.
My search led me to the ProMediaGear GKJr. Katana Pro, which has now go my gimbal head of choice, and number one recommendation. The buttery polish bearings, combined with its fantastic chapters-to-weight ratio, make this an fantabulous gimbal tripod head for any size of super-telephoto lens. If it falls within your upkeep, you lot won’t exist disappointed.
When using a monopod for wildlife photography, I adopt to have a gimbal head on it, just as I do on a tripod. Information technology gives me an Arca quick-release and makes it much easier to aim my lens at subjects above and beneath my centre line. All the same, gimbals designed for a tripod are too big for a monopod and create an unwieldy top-heavy setup. The solution for most people will be the Wimberley MH-100 Monogimbal. I rate this equally the overall best monopod head and detect the sub-$200 cost very reasonable.
The second monopod gimbal I use is the ProMediaGear GT2 Tomahawk. Essentially, the GT2 Tomahawk is the top half of their top-rated GKJr. Katana Pro Gimbal and can be used on its own as a monopod head or combined with a ball head to create a gimbal tripod head. I love this head, but the well-nigh-$400 price point makes information technology more than twice the price of the Wimberley Monogimbal and, therefore, much harder to recommend to people who simply need a monopod head. Instead, the GT2 Tomahawk is best chosen when yous also want to utilise its power to convert a brawl head into a gimbal head.
If unremarkably, you would travel with a tripod, a monopod, a brawl head, a gimbal and a monopod head, now, with the GT2, you can but carry the tripod and monopod, along with a ball head and the GT2. You are saving yourself the weight of the monopod head and much of the weight of a full-sized gimbal. Brilliant for travel, if you lot don’t mind the rather steep cost!