If you’re considering investing in a quality ball head, this review of the Induro BHD3 Ball Head will give you some insight into what to look for.
What size ball head is best for you?
Like me, you want tack sharp photos that you’ll feel good about and that others will really enjoy looking at too. The tripod and the head that you choose to mount your camera on really matter.
But here’s the challenge; Getting the right ball head can be confusing, because there are so many options out there.
The ball head you use is as important as the tires you have on your automobile.
Tires are your only connection to the ground. Likewise, tripod heads are the vital support that have to perform properly and keep your camera and lens steady.
Here is my short version of the good and the bad points about the BHD3 Head:
Sturdy and secure
Easy to use
10 year warranty
It’s a significant investment
Big and bulky
My First Impression of the Induro BHD3 Ball Head
1. Solid as a rock. 2. Stiff. 3. Well-made. If I had to give you my initial thoughts after I meticulously removed the BHD3 from its packaging, these are the three phrases I would use. I’ve used 3 or 4 ball heads in the past few decades, but this is by far the biggest and sturdiest one I’ve ever held in my hands.
I did expect it to feel sturdy and look like it is well-made based on the price I paid. I didn’t expect it to be so stiff in its movement, and I was initially disappointed. Now that I’ve been using it for about 6 weeks, it’s loosened up a bit and it’s a pleasure to adjust to different positions.
What should you look for in a good quality ball head?
Size is your first charactersitic to consider. Full-sized DSLR cameras with longer and heavier lenses benefit from the superior performance of a ball head with a larger ball. The larger the size of the ball the more surface area and sturdiness you get.
The Induro BHD3 is intended for photo enthusisasts and pros who are using DSLR cameras and long lenses.
Your cell phone or a compact point and shoot camera doesn’t need the heavy duty support of a professional ball head like the Induro BHD3.That’s a waste of size and money. If you only shoot with an average size DSLR and a compact zoom lens, you’ll do fine using a smaller ball head.
FEATURES THAT MAY COME WITH YOUR BALL HEAD
Separate knobs. Individual knobs let you lock your camera’s position, do horizontal panning, and set the amount of friction/tension for moving your ball head, all independently.
A separate panning knob makes shooting your panaramic photos and videos come out better. You can smoothly move your camera left to right and back without any change in tilt.
A separate tention knob is great for adjusting the friction to match the weight of different camera/lens combinations you use. Setting the friction correctly also prevents your camera from flopping around when the main knob is loosened.
The main knob should tighten with one twist and keep your camera EXACTLY where you set it without any sag. A large main knob makes it easy to tighten or loosen just the right amount.
Capacity. What’s the real story on this one? There’s no standard method of testing capacity. Manufacturers can report the capacity as they wish. You can look at capacites for general comparisons but don’t get fooled by unusually high capacity numbers on small ball heads.
You can put a large camera and lens on a small ball head but precise adjustments and sagging become issues quickly.
Quick Release. This feature is pretty much a non-factor for comparing ball heads as the large majority of ball heads routinely now come with a quick release system of some sort. A quick release will give you the ability to attach or remove your camera rapidly.
Avoid brand specific quick release systems and go with a universally compatible design like the Arca Swiss.
Bubble Level. A bubble level is not important to me personally, but is very important for architectural photographers and for photographers who desire precision hoirzontal panning. The Induro BHD3 does not have a bubble level.
SPECIFICATIONS OF THE BHD3 BALL HEAD
1 Pound 10 ounces
On my wife’s kitchen food scale the Induro head weighed in at 1lb. 9.75 oz. That’s in line with the Induro web site that reports that the BHD3 weighs 1.85 pounds.
For as big as this ball head is, I did not find it to be cumbersome. I was surprised and relieved that it didn’t feel heavier, as I do like to keep things as light as possible.
WHAT COMES IN THE BOX
The Induro ball head came with a medium-sized quick release plate, a hex wrench, 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch adapter, and warranty card. If you register your BHD3 on-line Induro will extend the 5 year waranty to 10 years. I registered mine immediately.
Also included was a gray colored dust cover.
IS A BALL HEAD THE RIGHT HEAD FOR YOU?
I grew up on a pan/tilt type of head and used variations of this type of tripod for the first 30 years of my photograpy life. Ball heads are now the dominant type of tripod head used by the majority of photographers. It wasn’t until I started shooting portraits as a full time pro over 20 years ago that I switched to ball heads.
Ball heads are the lightest, most verstile, and the best option for tripods for most photography situations. If you shoot a lot of video you’ll make out better by getting a tripod head with a long handle for smoother panning.
BHD3 BALL HEAD ERGONOMICS
The oversized knobs make it easy to tighten the screws with very little effort. Just like a longer handle on a video head adjusts easier, the 2.5 inch ball makes it much easier to make small camera angle adjustments than with a small ball head.
ALTERNATIVE CHOICES TO THE BHD3
Induro’s tagline is “Induro. Rock Solid. No matter what,” but that doesn’t mean you have to choose Induro. I chose the Induro BHD3 because of the reputation of the company and because all of the positive reviews I read on Amazon. Induro has several other models worth considering. You can find them here: www.Indurogear.com.
I couldn’t justify spending more than twice the money and getting the ultimate ball head, a Really Right Stuff model RRS BH-55 Ballhead. I started a few years back with Manfrotto ball heads, but they just didn’t last long enough for me.
FINAL POINTS TO REMEMBER
The ball head you choice depends on the type of photography you do and the cameras and lenses you use. I use my Induro for my portrait photography, landscapes, and macro work. The larger ball heads have more surface area to lock onto and will be sturdier. It’s a matter of simple physics.
When I shoot photos during backpacking trips and strenuous hikes, I switch to a compact 1-inch, single-knobbed ball head mounted on a small lightweight tripod. It’s a compromise in effectiveness, but I am also carrying food, water, and other gear. Buying a cheap ball head is tempting because of the cost savings, but often that strategy comes back to haunt you.
There’s a talked about wasteful trend amongst photgraphers that they buy 3 different models of tripods before they find just the right one. Here’s how it goes;
Your first purchase was decided on to save money. The second one you invest in is so you get better quality and perhaps an additional specific feature.
The third tripod you buy is the pricey one. It’s made with the best quality and design and also lasts the longest. Maybe it makes more sense to just go ahead and buy the one that will last you a lifetime!
Watch less TV.
Shoot more photos.
Bruce Lovelace is primarily a professional portrait photographer who also has a passion for other types of photography and sharing his experieinces. You can read more on his photograpy blog about photography and camera tips.