Heavy-duty pro equipment can be extremely bulky, which makes them nearly impossible to hold with just your hands for any length of time. It can even hard to balance a telephoto lens on a normal tripod head, or a ball head. In addition, extreme zoom has the effect of magnifying even tiny hand movements into focus-ruining jumps and shudders.
Key Features of the Best Gimbal Heads
Balance is the key feature of any gimbal head. It makes using large lenses comfortable and effortless. When you get to a perfect balance position, these long (and super heavy) lenses feel weightless. This is helpful, particularly when tracking a moving subject.
Other than balance, these features are also great to have:
Ample wiggle room - There should be some wiggle room on the mounting bracket to get the gimbal head perfectly balanced and let the slide swing back and forth.
Quick release system - Go for quick-release gimbal heads, particularly those with an Arca-Swiss plate. If you need to switch lenses, you only have to slide the plate without dismounting the gear.
- Portable design - Some gimbal heads can be disassembled so that you can fit the parts in your bag and easily put them together when it’s time to shoot. Others don’t, but they come in a more compact setup. Telephoto lenses are already massive, so opt for gimbal heads that let you save up on baggage space.
Side Mount vs. Cradle Mount
There are two kinds of gimbal heads: the side mount and the cradle mount. Perhaps the more popular type is the cradle mount, the one with an L-shaped swinging clamp that cradles the lens. Side mounts don’t have the swinging cradle, and you can directly clamp the camera onto its vertical pivot point.
So which one is better? Both offer stability and have their own advantages. Choosing one over the other is a matter of personal preference, but to help you decide, here are some qualities that are unique to each of them.
Side Mount Gimbals
Side mounts automatically center your lens on the axis of rotation, so you won’t need to adjust it as you would on a cradle mount. Without the swinging arm, you have more room to access the lens from underneath. It has fewer parts, so it’s more compact. The Movo GH600, is an example of a side mount gimbal.
Cradle Mount Gimbals
Cradle mounts offer more adjustment options. You can move the camera a bit higher or lower along the arm. Some models have safety stops that keep your gear from falling during those rare occasions when you forgot to tighten the adjustment knob all the way.
The picture to the left is the Movo GH700, which is an example of a cradle mount gimbal.
Best Budget Gimbal Head
We’ve rounded up the best entry-level gimbal heads that can compete head-on with the top competitors in terms of quality, specs and price.
Independent photographers state this to be one of the top gimbal heads available, and it’s consistently garnering five-star ratings from satisfied customers since the product was released.
The head itself weighs just about 3 lbs, relatively light-weight compared to many other ones. For $99, it’s perfectly sturdy and smooth and holds up to 30 lbs of camera weight.
A simple design that allows your camera an unprecedented range of motion. That’s the Movo GH400. It’s a side mount gimbal head that lets you fluidly pan and tilt through all angles to capture quick-moving subjects with ease.
It also features an Arca-Swiss quick-release plate and a load capacity of up to 33 lbs. That’s a big upgrade for just a $30 addition to our top-selling Movo GH700.
Another heavy-duty cradle mount priced at $199.95. The Movo GH800 can hold up gear weighing 33 lbs, making it perfect for large lenses like the Nikon 600mm. It has separate locks that control the 360-degree panning base and arm, allowing a full range of motion.
Great for covering motor races and photographing birds in flight. But don’t just take our word for it. Check the reviews to see how actual users rave about this product.
The Pro's Choice: Heavy-Duty Gimbal Heads
For professional users with advanced balancing needs, we recommend these heavy-duty designs meant to accommodate complex camera setups.
This has a double-arm for supporting and distributing weight evenly. Its carbon fiber and aluminum build combine durability and lightness while able to carry over 30 lbs of load.
This incredibly engineered motorized gimbal powers filmmakers with stability as the camera pans, tilts, and rotates in fluid motions. Equipped with long cables and a remote joystick, the Movo MGB-5 promises precise control even from a distance.
Which of these would you choose? Taking all things into consideration, the Movo GH700 is still one of the best bang-for-the-buck gimbal heads out there. But the other contenders also tick all three boxes for their great price, design, and features. The most ideal gimbal for you would of course be the one that answers your specific needs. View the full specs of our gimbal head selections to see our full collection!
Bring stablity and adaptablity to your next shoot with this gimbal head and Arca-Swiss quick rele...