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Best Tripod Ball Head [2021 Review]

In: 
Published: 23/07/2021

A ball head lets you angle the camera in almost any direction, ensuring precise shooting for interiors and exteriors. We've selected the best ball heads for each price category to get you started, along with practical features you should consider when buying a ball head.

Our Top Tripod Ball Head Reviews 

A ball head is a lightweight tripod head with a socket that enables you to make pan-tilt motions for your camera. Considering friction control, QR plate, support, and price point, the Gitzo GH1382TQD is the best ball head for real estate photography.

We've also found other options for the best ball heads for tripods that could suit various cameras to give you more ways to control angles and compositions.

Brand
Best Overall
Gitzo GH1382TQD
Best for the Money
Induro BHL3S
Best Cheap Pick
Vanguard Alta BH-250
Product
Gitzo GH1382TQD Center Ball Head Series 1 Traveler...
Induro Tripods BHL3S Ball Head (Black)
Vanguard Alta BH-250 Ball Head
Item Dimensions
4.3 x 3.5 x 5.1 inches
4.65 x 3.35 x 4.13 inches
4.2 x 4.2 x 4.6 inches
Item Weight
0.86 pounds
0.95 pounds
1.3 pounds
Rating
-
Best Overall
Brand
Gitzo GH1382TQD
Product
Gitzo GH1382TQD Center Ball Head Series 1 Traveler...
Item Dimensions
4.3 x 3.5 x 5.1 inches
Item Weight
0.86 pounds
Rating
Price
Best for the Money
Brand
Induro BHL3S
Product
Induro Tripods BHL3S Ball Head (Black)
Item Dimensions
4.65 x 3.35 x 4.13 inches
Item Weight
0.95 pounds
Rating
-
Price
Best Cheap Pick
Brand
Vanguard Alta BH-250
Product
Vanguard Alta BH-250 Ball Head
Item Dimensions
4.2 x 4.2 x 4.6 inches
Item Weight
1.3 pounds
Rating
Price

Best Overall Tripod Ball Head: Gitzo GH1382TQD

The Gitzo GH1382TQD Center Ball Head is the best ball head for interior and exterior photographers because of its screw-knob and pan that stabilize gear to ensure fluidity and precision of camera movements.

Gitzo GH1382TQD Center Ball Head Series 1 Traveler...
  • Supports up to 24lbs. Its quick-release plate is kept locked with a screw-knob and a bubble level...
  • Built in quick release system
  • Designed to fit between the folded legs of series 1 and 2 Traveler Tripods

It weighs 0.86 pounds, which is lightweight enough that you can easily carry it from one place to another. Despite its weight, it can support up to 24 pounds and suits most camera models that use medium-length telephoto lenses. 

Although the Gitzo GH1382TQD is way pricier than our other reviewed products, this ball head offers remarkable flexibility for shooting real estate photos from any angle. It allows 360-degree panning while also tilting -90 degrees up to +40 degrees. 

It is also Arca-Swiss compatible, like the Induro BHL3S. This quick-release plate system guarantees a higher level of versatility that allows you to use it with an array of tripods. Its body can even fit between the folded legs of Traveler tripods.

Another of the many Gitzo GH1382TQD attributes is the low-friction design that makes adjusting controls easy and smooth. Besides, it comes with a separate for-aft clamp to enhance stability when panning.

Pros

  • Low-friction design that offers smooth operation and stability
  • Aluminum body for lightweight yet robust construction

Cons

  • Weight limit is only 24 pounds, although this is enough for a compact camera and lens setup
Gitzo GH1382TQD Center Ball Head Series 1 Traveler...
  • Supports up to 24lbs. Its quick-release plate is kept locked with a screw-knob and a bubble level...
  • Built in quick release system
  • Designed to fit between the folded legs of series 1 and 2 Traveler Tripods

Best Tripod Ball Head for the Money: Induro BHL3S

The Induro Tripods BHL3S is one of the excellent tripod ball heads that offer amazing support, stability, and precise movements without denting your budget. For starters, it has a highly controllable plate and top lock mechanism, which are not easy to find at this price point. 

Induro Tripods BHL3S Ball Head (Black)

While heavier than the Gitzo GH1382TQD, Induro supports a larger payload capacity of about 35 pounds. This allows you to use it with either full-frame DSLRs or mirrorless cameras.

Induro also uses oversized knobs that give you more control over setting up the tripod ball head. Its tilt capability is remarkable at -90 to +45. The adjustable ball tension and clamp ensure safety for your camera and lens.

Furthermore, the Induro BHL3S contains an Arca-Swiss style quick-release system, enabling you to try a different QR plate or bracket if necessary. Meanwhile, it has a height of 4.13 inches from base to plate.

The construction is sturdy enough thanks to its aircraft-grade magnesium alloy body, like the 3 Legged Thing AirHed Pro. Despite being lighter than Vanguard, its design allows easier handling, especially when wearing gloves for exterior shoots.

The sturdy body combined with the considerable weight limit provides versatility and durability that are rare to find in most ball heads. For this reason, you won’t have to worry about heavy cameras when using this ball head.

Pros

  • Magnesium body has a high load capacity of 35 pounds
  • Highly usable with its oversized knobs with superb tilt capabilities

Cons

  • Bulkier compared to the other ball heads because of its large locks
Induro Tripods BHL3S Ball Head (Black)
  • Oversized head lock knob provides a good all-weather grip for smooth camera positioning and locking...
  • Unique integrated lock limiter tension control permits rapid independent adjustment compensation for...
  • Separate pan action lock and graduated base scale makes 360-degree horizontal camera positioning...

Best Cheap Tripod Ball Head: Vanguard Alta BH-250

Among the Alta series tripod ball heads, we found the Vanguard Alta BH-250 as the most affordable one with exceptional features such as the high load capacity, ergonomic friction control, and locking mechanism. That means you can use it to hold a broad range of cameras, including full-frame models. 

Vanguard Alta BH-250 Ball Head

Despite the small price, the BH-250 is a much better option than the other ball heads if you're after a high payload limit. It has a support capacity of 44 pounds, also similar to the 3 Legged Thing AirHed Pro. 

The weight matches its payload capacity, though, and we suggest choosing it if portability is not an issue. You will find it great for most real estate photographing needs with its adjustability and robustness. 

Like Induro, this ball head has an aluminum body. This makes the frame strong for large cameras yet lightweight enough to allow portability. This also ensures the mounting safety of your plate, camera, wide-angle lens, and external flash.

The easy-to-grip knobs make using this ball head comfortable. There is also a removable pin that helps prevent a slip of the plate for safer use of your tripod head. 

Additionally, the head can rotate a full 360-degrees and tilt up to 90 degrees vertically, making your camera angles more versatile.

Pros

  • High-quality aluminum body for sturdiness and lower price
  • Uses dual bubble levels for quick finetuning and seamless positioning

Cons

  • Heaviest body, which may not be ideal if you need a highly portable head
Vanguard Alta BH-250 Ball Head
  • Never Waver – 3 independent knobs (easy-to-grip main ball lock, ergonomic friction control, and...
  • Rapid - Intuitive positioning in a matter of seconds and Robust - Aircraft aluminum for lightweight...
  • Precise: 2 Bubble levels and Smooth: Oxidization anodized surface

Best Adjustable Ball Head: Manfrotto MHXPRO-BHQ2 XPRO

All of the ball heads we reviewed enable you to make versatile adjustments for panning and tilting. Yet, the Manfrotto MHXPRO-BHQ2 XPROworks best for taking panoramic shots of massive properties, neighborhoods, and vast lands. 

Manfrotto MHXPRO-BHQ2 XPRO Ball Head with 200PL...

It contains a triple locking system that ensures stability for camera position and tripod legs. You only need to push down the safety lock to pull back the QR plate trigger.

In effect, you gain superior friction control to balance the weight of your gear. This Manfrotto ball head even uses polymer rings to ensure smooth and less jerky transitions.

More than that, a leveling bubble finetunes your adjustments while keeping the locking knobs open. This feature helps keep your lines straight for landscape orientations and spaces with tall vertical lines. 

The Manfrotto MHXPRO-BHQ2 XPRO contains a metal locking lever, compared to flimsy ones that use a plastic lever. The adjustment levers and friction dial provide you with more precise control for panning the magnesium ball head up to 360 degrees.

Unlike the others, the package originally comes with a Manfrotto 200 PL Plate. However, you can use a separate Arca-Swiss compatible quick release plate. Either way, the body can support up to 22 pounds of payload.

Pros

  • Allows panoramic adjustment with smooth friction control
  • Top lock and clamp ensure consistent tension

Cons

  • Load capacity is only 22 pounds, although this is enough for most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras
Manfrotto MHXPRO-BHQ2 XPRO Ball Head with 200PL...
  • Triple Locking System - 3 wedges enclose the sphere to guarantee camera position & stability
  • 2 Leveling Bubbles - for fine adjustments with the locking knobs open
  • Polymer Rings - no more messy grease while maintaining smooth and accurate movement

Best Lightweight Ball Head: Benro Triple Action

The Benro Triple Action is the best ball head for photographers looking for another budget-friendly head yet has excellent build quality for tripods and monopods.

Benro Triple Action Ball Head w/ PU60 Quick...

It is a much better option if you need a small and light model, as it only weighs 0.84 pounds. Moreover, it only stands 3.9 inches in height when folded. 

While it weighs 0.02 less than Gitzo, its maximum payload limit can only support 17.6 pounds. This should be enough if you won't be using long lenses too much.

Like Manfrotto, the use of magnesium alloy makes this ball head lightweight. Consequently, easier control of panning and tilting movements. You can also use the 90-degree notch if you need to switch to portraits.

To ensure safety, it uses individual locks for dragging and moving the actual ball. Likewise, a locking knob helps support the ball for smooth panning.

Pros

  • Mainly comes with a PU60 QR Plate, although it can also use an Arca-Swiss QR plate
  • A bubble ensures the head is level to the appropriate shooting height for real estate

Cons

  • The payload limit of 17 pounds is only ideal for lightweight setups
Benro Triple Action Ball Head w/ PU60 Quick...
  • Can hold up to 17.6 lb, stands at 3.8" high, and weighs in at 12.8 oz
  • Features a large locking knob that enables control of the ball's motion and 360 Degree panning, and...
  • A numbered scale on the base of the ball head assists with accurate repeat pans, and a bubble helps...

Features to Consider for a Tripod Ball Head

When selecting the best ball heads for your real estate photography needs, we recommend you look at aspects such as payload limit, knob support, release plate, and price.

ProductPayload LimitRelease PlateLocking Mechanism
Gitzo GH1382TQD24 poundsArca-Swiss compatible Screw-knob and pan lock
Induro BHL3S 35.3 poundsArca-Swiss compatible Dual safety lock
Vanguard Alta BH-25044 poundsArca-Swiss compatible3 independent knobs 
Manfrotto MHXPRO-BHQ222 poundsManfrotto PL plate and Arca-Swiss compatibleTriple locking system
Benro Triple Action17.6 poundsPU60 plate and Arca-Swiss compatible3 locking knobs

Tripod Head Load Capacity

The tripod head load capacity refers to the amount of weight that the ball head can hold. The weight limit is closely related to the ball diameter. Generally, the larger the diameter, the higher the weight limit.

We recommend that you choose the best ball heads that offer a high enough load limit. Large cameras or those with longer telephoto lenses will exert more weight on the ball head. Therefore, your gear should be easily supported, or your photography will not be smooth and comfortable.

The Vanguard Alta BH-250 has the best payload limit at 22 pounds. If you usually have a compact setup, the 35-pound limit of the Induro BHL3S or Gitzo GH1382TQD's 24-pound capacity would be enough. The Manfrotto and Benro ball heads can only support less than 24 and 17 pounds, respectively. 

Camera on a tripod ball head

Tension and Friction Adjustments

The best ball heads for tripods enable a camera to move about when unlocked and cannot provide enough tension. These include those that use separate knobs to adjust the locking mechanism. 

Friction control impacts the smoothness of your pans and tilts. However, the tension adjustment should also hold your gear appropriately, without fear of falling over or moving around. 

Ball Lock

In addition to ball tension, consider a ball lock mechanism that securely supports your camera. The lock should provide that with only a single twist of the knob. If it doesn't, you're likely to experience oscillating and unstable gear.

Pan Adjustment

The best ball heads for tripods have 360-degree swiveling motions that you can either loosen or tighten. The pan adjustment lets you rotate cameras without changing the tilt angle or ball position. You want this adjustment feature to be as fluid as possible. 

Some ball heads offer one of the smoothest pan adjustments. For instance, Gitzo GH1382TQD and Induro BHL3S have dual-locking mechanisms. If you need better locking controls, opt for ball heads with 3 knobs, such as Vanguard, Manfrotto, and Benro.

Knob Size and Grip

When setting up the ball head or adjusting the controls, you will primarily be using knobs. For that, ensure that they are ergonomic enough and easy to hold. 

The right size and shape of the knobs will make a ball head either easy or difficult to operate. You do not want them too big and uncomfortable or too small to be difficult to grip.

Quick Release Plate 

A quick-release system allows you to mount and unmount your shooting gear instantly. These could come in different sizes and designs. Make sure the quick release plate or mount is compatible with the type of tripod head, or you will not be able to use it.

This is why we chose the best ball heads for tripods that are Arca-Swiss compatible, allowing you to attach a mount and safely lock your gear quickly.

Sony camera on a ball head tripod

Frequently Asked Questions

What Subjects Are Ball Heads Good For?

A ball head is ideal for static subjects, especially for real estate, since interiors and exteriors have mostly stationary objects. Despite having a sturdy plate, its ability to pan and tilt offers flexibility in transitions for videography.

What's the Average Price of Ball Heads?

The price for the best ball heads for tripods ranges from $50 to $400, depending on the materials and traits. Make sure to balance cost, quality, and functionality when choosing a model. Otherwise, your shots may suffer from motion blur.

Conclusion

The best ball heads from this list would give you a stable way to shoot properties. In effect, you can produce quality real estate photos for buyers, sellers, and realtors. Make sure to consider your budget and shooting style when looking for ball heads for tripods.

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