Most photographers are probably familiar with the struggle of buying an accessory and then realizing they need an accessory for their accessory. With so many different camera add-ons out there, it can be hard to know which ones you actually need and which ones you can live without. That largely comes down to what kind of photography or videography you’re looking to do. But for many photographers, a tripod is one of the essentials. But, your tripod is nothing without the best tripod heads.
Tripods are especially useful for outdoor photography, and there are some situations where a tripod is absolutely crucial. Shooting long exposure, for example, requires extreme stability that can’t be achieved handheld. If you want to maximize the usefulness of your tripod, buying a specialized tripod head will give you flexibility and stability.
A tripod without a solid tripod head is like a camera without a lens. It simply will not work. Your tripod head should be the right option you’re shooting for. That said, if you’re a travel photographer, you might need something on the smaller side that will fit in your camera backpack. If you’re a videographer, you might need something a little more heavy-duty that will properly hold a larger video camera.
While many tripods are sold with heads, some aren’t, and you may find yourself needing different tripod heads for different projects. For example, a ball head is very flexible, but not as stable. A 3-way head (also called pan and tilt) offers precision, but it can’t be moved as quickly. There are other types of tripod heads as well that may suit other kinds of projects, but we’ve stuck to featuring 3-way heads and ball heads for their versatility and relative affordability compared to other kinds of tripod heads.
If you’re ready to upgrade your photography experience, these tripod heads might be the thing for you.
1. Pergear TH3 Pro DSLR Camera Tripod Ball Head
Pergear is a well-regarded maker of tripods and their TH3 Pro is absolutely one to chat about. This ball head offers immense control with three different knobs for horizontal, side and vertical adjustments so folks can shoot content at just about any angle. Each axis is moved by a separate handle for ease of motion. It’s a versatile head that’s handy for shooting video or still photography and is even built with a fine-tuned damping aspect to keep your heavy camera from making the camera and tripod legs from tipping over.
2. Neewer 360 Degree Rotating Panoramic Ball Head
Since it sits on a rotating ball, ball heads are easy to very quickly rotate without any fussing. This flexibility can also be a setback when using heavier cameras, however, as the camera can cause the ball to rotate under its weight. But for the widest flexibility of any other kind of tripod head, ball heads are hard to beat. This option from Neewer features an aluminum-alloy construction. Many reviewers found it to be stable, flexible, and sturdy. It can hold up to 17.6 lbs total, so larger cameras will stand still.
3. Neewer Metal Heavy Duty Video Camera Tripod Fluid Drag Pan Head
If you need a very precise fluid head, this sturdy tripod head has you covered. This user-friendly camera from Neewer has a quick shoe plate for easy placement when videotaping or shooting photos. It has a removable handle making it an easy option to pack in your camera bag if you’re the type who needs a travel tripod. It also has a quick release for fast movements, making this one of the best photo heads to bring on the road.
4. Manfrotto Junior Geared Tripod Head
BEST FOR FILM CAMERAS
If you need a very precise 3-way-head, this junior geared head from Manfrotto will fit the bill. It also has a quick release for fast movements. It’s the more expensive option on this list, but it offers the greatest precision, control, and stability. If you’re shooting film such as 35mm film or medium format film, this is an excellent tripod head for more accurate, clearer shots. In addition, this is a superb option to snap your mirrorless camera on, too. Tilt it up, down, sideways or side to side for the perfect shot made with one of the best photo heads.
5. SmallRig Mini Ball Head
BEST SMALL OPTION
Not everyone needs a large tripod head to get the job done. Sometimes, the best option for you is a simple small tripod head. This head uses an Arca-Swiss plate which allows for an effortless hold and compatibility for tons of different cameras. The mini ball head device also spins 360 degrees for cooler angles and effects, especially when filming. Or, can we interest you in a panorama shot? Who said little tripods couldn’t come in big packages? Do anything you can do with another tripod head in a smaller format — perfect for taking on the go.