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.
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.
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 and ball head 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. Manfrotto XPRO Geared 3-Way Pan/Tilt Head
Manfrotto is a well-regarded maker of tripods, and the Italian company has been around since the 1970s. This pan and tilt head (also called a 3-way head) offers greater control than a ball head. 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.
Pros: Made in Italy, smooth geared movements, versatile.
Cons: May not be suitable for very heavy cameras.
2. Manfrotto Junior Geared Head
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.
Pros: Precise and sturdy geared head.
Cons: Gears can be unevenly tight.
3. 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.
Pros: Sturdy build for an affordable tripod head, moves smoothly.
Cons: Some found it heavy.