I get asked this question on my social media accounts on occasion, and I have a somewhat unpopular opinion on the subject of certain photo gear.
Here’s what I found over the years: Expensive tripod heads for general use aren’t worth the extra money.
I know, I know, it’s really cool to have a Manfrotto or Really Right Stuff bad boy head costing you $400-500+ dollars. You’ll look really cool when you’re in the field shooting landscapes, and that curious photographer standing nearby eyeballs your expensive gear with envy. What he doesn’t know is that you took out a second mortgage and maxed out your credit cards to finance your expensive tripod head.
However, believe me when I tell you this: You’ll get the same results and it’ll be just as easy with a pan-tilt head for less than $100. You won’t look as awesome, but you’ll certainly be smarter than the other guy with his bad boy tripod head. If his expensive head gets damaged, he loses $500 and his wife will consider smothering him in his sleep. When your own tripod head gets damaged, you can buy four more heads for the price of the other guy’s one head.
Bottom line, buy what you feel comfortable buying. If you’ve got a hole in your wallet and can afford it, buy the bad boy head. After all, you keep the economy going. But, if you’re a struggling photographer like most photographers, buy what you can afford. Trust me, both expensive and less expensive will get the job done.
Disclaimer: Please note that this post is regarding general use tripod heads. I myself own a Manfrotto tripod with a geared Manfrotto head. If you’re doing commercial work, such as Products, Real Estate, etc. where focus stacking and making sure your walls line up correctly is important, this blog post doesn’t apply to you.