Ball Head vs Fluid Head Tripods | How to choose the right one?

Ball head tripods use a ball and socket mechanism to position the mounted camera. They are easy to set up and can be very useful in capturing fast action scenes. A Ball head tripod provides the ability to easily rotate the camera without any prior adjustment lets you track a moving subject or talent effortlessly. A fluid head tripod, on the other hand, is a great choice for shooting videos. People often refer to these tripods as video tripods. Let’s compare ball head vs fluid head tripods and understand the differences in order to make the right choice.

Ball Head vs Fluid Head Tripods

Why is there a Ball Head and Why do you need one?

Tripods are used for shooting videos or photos. But, the results really depend on the head you’re using with the tripod. Ball head tripods are best suited for fast-action photography. These tripods are light, portable, and moreover easy to setup.

The ball-socket mechanism in the tripod allows the photographer to track the subject or talent easily without using a lever or any other adjustment. You can simply turn your camera and track the subject right away.

Ball Head tripods have 3 control points, let’s say knobs, with which we can control the friction of movement, panning, and the lock which makes the mounted camera unmovable. The friction control knob lets you set the resistance you feel while moving your camera whereas the pan control knob loosens or tightens the ball head for panning horizontally. Lastly, the lock switch locks the ball head in the position you set, and then it cannot be panned or rotated. You can easily master these mechanisms to shoot interesting photos and make yourself creative.

On the downside, ball head tripods are not reliable for video recording and offer bad panning results as we have to use our hands to hold the camera and pan it. The use of hands to hold a camera may induce what some call the earthquake effect. While panning horizontally, you can see a shake the moment you touch the camera and when you stop the camera. This is what an earthquake effect generally means.

Advantages

  • Ball heads are easily portable and light-weight.
  • A higher degree of freedom horizontally and vertically.
  • Switching from hand-held to tripod mount or vice-versa is rather simple and fast.
  • Lets you track fast-motion subjects without adjusting any level or knob.

Disadvantages

  • Not reliable for shooting videos.
  • Could be really shaky while taking a pan shot.
  • Lack of leveling base to level the camera while taking a movie or a landscape photo.

Where do the Fluid Head tripods come in?

As mentioned earlier, ball head tripods can hold up their worth on photography. When it comes to professional-grade filmmaking, we need fluid head tripods. A fluid head tripod has fluid cartridges inside it. These fluids provide resistance to motion when we are moving the mounted camera. Further, the resistance dampens the motion when we are panning. When we are about to stop the pan, the dampening allows almost even braking so that there are no visible shakes.

The dampening of movement while stopping or starting a movement in a fluid head tripod makes it a great choice for video recording. A fluid head lets you control the pan drag as well as the tilt pan. Models like Manfrotto 504X feature a counterbalance system that lets you further stabilize the weight across the tripod using a counterweight.

Fluid head tripods are exceptional for video recording. The dampening you get while shooting a pan or tilt is very satisfying. Note that you can always use any stabilizer (like Warp Stabilizer in Premiere Pro) in post-processing to eliminate the shake or jitters in the video. This will give you a very smooth motion. Don’t hesitate to buy a fluid head if you are a professional, rather, it’s a must-have. Avoid going with low-end models as they might make your camera see some dirt.

Advantages

  • Fluid heads are very stable.
  • Very efficient in reducing earthquake effect while recording videos and a pan or tilt is involved.
  • Very smooth transition.
  • Suitable for landscape photography.

Disadvantages

  • Design is very complex and thus adding to the total price of the equipment.
  • Expensive than other tripod heads.
  • Not suitable for all types of photography
  • Bulky and heavy.

Conclusion

A ball head tripod is a full-fledged photography tripod whereas a fluid head is made for professional filmmaking. A ball head tripod will suit you if you are a fast-action photographer. However, this is not the right option if you are looking to capture panoramas, you can go for pan head tripods in that case. To know the difference between Ball head and Pan head tripods, click here.

Here are a few great examples of Fluid Head tripods:


To know more about different heads for tripods, visit the following articles:

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Adarsh R

A blend of a photographer, a movie lover, and now a writer.