- Photography Gimbal Vs. Video Gimbal – NOT the same!
- Gimbal Heads: Side Mount Vs. Cradle Mount
- What’s the difference then?
- The Shortlist (in no particular order)
- Fotopro Eagle E-6H
- Really Right Stuff PG-02
- What About The Smaller PG-01?
- Really Right Stuff FG-02
- ProMediaGear Katana Jr. Gimbal
- Gitzo GHFG1 Fluid Gimbal
- Wimberley WH-200
- Oben GH-30
- Wimberley Sidekick
- Induro GHB1
- Sirui PH-20
- Wimberley MH-100 MonoGimbal
- Protect Your Gimbal
- My Gimbal of Choice?
- Which Tripod Gimbal Do You Use?
A gimbal is a type of tripod head that allows you to perfectly balance the weight of your camera so that it can be moved effortlessly both vertically and horizontally. With a perfectly balanced gimbal, you can move even the heaviest setups, such as a 600mm lens and pro-sized camera body, with just the tip of your pinky finger and almost no effort at all.
A camera on a gimbal is always ready to go because you can just take your hands off it without needing to lock any pan or tilt knobs as you do with a ball head. Then, when the action starts, all you need to do is grab the camera and spin it quickly towards your subject.
A good gimbal will have incredibly smooth bearing cartridges in it, or even a fluid cartridge to add resistance and make smooth panning shots much easier.
Gimbals come in a variety of shapes and sizes. In this gear guide, we’ll examine the top options on the market today, at a variety of different price points, and I’ll make recommendations for the one that will best suit your photography.
Photography Gimbal Vs. Video Gimbal – NOT the same!
Googling the word ‘gimbal’ can be quite confusing these days because you’re going to get a mix of results talking about both photo gimbals and video gimbals. If this is your first gimbal purchase, you definitely don’t want to get the two confused. Even if you search ‘gimbal’ on B&H Photo you will see a huge number of video gimbals int he search results. To help you, the better search term is ‘tripod gimbal‘, because video gimbals are not designed to go on a tripod, whereas photography gimbals are exclusively designed to go on tripods.
A photography gimbal – what we are discussing in this guide – doesn’t have any electronic parts inside it. It’s designed to be put onto a tripod, and at that point, you balance your camera on it. If you were to make a significant movement of your tripod’s orientation, you might find you need to re-balance your gimbal because they are designed to be used statically from the tripod.
A video gimbal is a stabilizer to hold your camera level while you move it around. It contains motors, rotating gyros and a ton of electronic wizardry that are designed to resist the inertia of your camera while you move it, and keep things straight and level. They work hand-held, or sometimes attached to a moving vehicle, but there would be no need to have one on a tripod. They also require power in order for them to keep the camera level, and generally, they have much less weight capacity than a photo tripod gimbal.
TLDR; if you are shooting photos, do not buy a video gimbal from DJI or any other similar product. If you are shooting video, only buy a video gimbal if you actually want to move around with the camera. If you want to shoot video of wildlife, with a long lens from a static tripod position, use a photo gimbal with a fluid cartridge (discussed later in this guide).
Gimbal Heads: Side Mount Vs. Cradle Mount
Gimbal heads come in two different mount styles and it’s important to understand the pros and cons of both of them when making your decision. Some manufacturers offer both mount styles for the same gimbal so that you can get exactly what you want, for example, the RRS PG-02 and the RRS PG-02 FG with the former being a side mount style and the FG “full gimbal” being the cradle mount. Induro does the same thing with the GHB1 side mount gimbal and the GBH2 cradle mount gimbal, as do ProMediaGear with the fantastic Katana Jr. and Katana Jr. Side Mount and Wimberley with the WH-200 and WH-200 Sidemount. Fotopro’s excellent Eagle E-6H actually comes with both side and cradle mount options in the box and a simple Arca clamp to swap between modes in the field.
The more traditional style is definitely the cradle mount, where the foot of the lens is mounted on an L-shape arm that comes down from the vertical pivot point and cradles the lens foot underneath the lens. The side mount style of gimbal does away with the L-shaped cradle and puts a clamp directly on the vertical pivot. This means the lens foot is 90 degrees off from where it is with the cradle mount.
Not that long ago there weren’t many gimbal options on the market and the vast majority of people used a Wimberley WH-200 head. Wimberley’s Sidekick head was probably the first gimbal I saw that used a side mount, and this was followed by the RRS PG-02. In the last few years though, the popularity of side mount gimbals has definitely increased and as a result, we have seen more and more companies producing these variations of their existing gimbals.
What’s the difference then?
Gimbals with a cradle mount are heavier, bulkier and usually at the very least $100 more expensive than a side mount version of the same head. At this point, I would usually want to counter the negative points with some positive ones, but I honestly can’t think of any! Cradle mounts are not any more stable, and in fact, the L-shaped arm could add instability if it isn’t made solidly enough. Often they just add more joints, bends and clamps, each of which can add to the overall flex of a head.
So why do most people use cradle mount gimbals? And why are some manufacturers like Gitzo only producing gimbals with a cradle mount?
Well, the later has to do with the former I’m sure. Most people use a cradle, therefore, Gitzo (or other) simply cater to that need. Unfortunately, the main reason people choose a cradle mount is out of some misguided belief that it’s safer to use than a side mount. A someone who has used both, and chosen to go with a side mount gimbal for my own head, I can tell you that it is definitely just as safe as a cradle mount. You are every bit as likely to miss-clamp a lens foot on a cradle mount as a side mount, and both would end in equally disastrous moments for your gear if that happened.
The second factor in this divide of purchasing preference is likely that Wimberley WH-200 heads are still incredibly common to see because a gimbal head will last a lifetime if you take care of it. When people decide they want a gimbal, they naturally look around to see what their friends and favourite pro photographers are using.
Thirdly, people seem to have concerns about the forces that are put on the lens foot and mounting points when a side mount is used. Telephoto lenses from any of the major camera manufacturers are more than capable of withstanding the torques and other forces on the lens foot connection which are created by the lens weight “hanging” sideways off a side mount gimbal. For some people, I can appreciate that this might look like a scary way to clamp your $10,000+ lens, but they are designed to withstand their own weight at any angle, and I haven’t ever heard a single horror story.
Simply put, side mount gimbals are safe, and it’s my belief that if there is a side mount version of a gimbal that you like, then it’s the side mount version you should probably be buying.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that all cradle mount gimbals should be off the shortlist of buying options. There are some manufacturers, notably Gitzo, that simply don’t make a side mount version of their gimbal. In that case, it’s possible that the benefits those heads offer you might outweigh the fact that it’s not a lighter side mount design.
The Shortlist (in no particular order)
This table shows you the list of products that I’m going to be reviewing further in this guide. I didn’t choose these products blindly, so if it made it as far as being included in this gear guide at all then it has already shown some merit. If you don’t have time to read the in-depth guide then these links might save you some time.
If you’re reading on a mobile device, the table might look better if you rotate your screen horizontally.
ProductAmazonB&H PhotoAdoramaDirect ProMediaGear Katana Jr.Check PriceCheck PriceCheck Price$549.95 – Free US shipping. International shipping available. ProMediaGear Katana Jr. Side MountCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck Price$434.95 – Free US shipping. International shipping available. Fotopro Eagle E-6HCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck PriceN/A Really Right Stuff PG-02 – Highly RecomendedN/ACheck PriceN/AN/A Really Right Stuff FG-02 – Best for videoN/ACheck PriceN/AN/A Gitzo GHFG1 Fluid Gimbal – #1 ChoiceCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck PriceN/A Oben GH-30Check PriceCheck PriceN/AN/A Wimberley WH-200Check PriceCheck PriceCheck PriceN/A Wimberley SidekickCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck PriceN/A Wimberley MH-100 MonoGimbalCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck PriceN/A Induro GHB1N/ACheck PriceCheck PriceN/A Benro GH5CCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck PriceN/A Sirui PH-20Check PriceB&H – Sirui PH-20 GimbalCheck PriceN/A
Fotopro Eagle E-6H
Fotopro is a Chinese manufacturer that has a broad portfolio of support products. Unlike most companies, they haven’t chosen a pricing sector of the market to concentrate on. Instead, they manufacture everything from sub-$200 tripods all the way up to $1400 tripods. This is a very different way of doing things. Imagine if Gitzo or Really Right Stuff made sub-$200 tripods as well as their top-of-the-line offerings, or if Ferrari made a cheap 4-door sedan?
I don’t think this approach helps people’s perception of the brand’s products, but I’m here to tell you that their high-end Eagle Series products are the real deal and any qualms should be firmly put aside. The Fotopro E-6H is a phenomenal gimbal head that easily ranks among the top 5 tripod heads – not just gimbals – that I have ever used. This head deserves your attention.
The E-6H gimbal is tiny. It’s roughly half the size of any of the other gimbals in this guide, and it’s easily the lightest at 911g with the cradle or a mere 700g in side mount mode. Despite its small size, it has the smoothest pan and tilt motions of any gimbal in this guide. In fact, it’s so smooth that I actually had to ask Fotopro if it used fluid cartridges because it’s considerably smoother than the Gitzo Fluid Gimbal. As it turns out, it does not. But you certainly wouldn’t know it by using it.
This gimbal is packed full of features that simply don’t exist on other gimbals. Firstly it has click stops that can be engaged on the panning base for panoramic photographers to get perfectly repeatable results. Secondly, the whole vertical arm can we swivelled forwards or backwards up to 180 degrees. This means you can shoot straight up to the night sky, or straight down to the ground for macro work. Alternatively, simply fold it down for more compact travel (see photo below).
Other unique features include the option to swap between cradle mount or side mount whenever you want, with no tools. As well as locking screw-lock knobs on the Arca-Swiss clamps. These require a button to be depressed in order to unscrew them from the locked position. It even comes with a panning handle so that you can use the head for filmmaking. And yes, this head is smoother than a lot of cheap video heads, so that’s an entirely plausible scenario.
Quite simply, this is the Swiss Army Knife of tripod heads, and it does it in the smallest and lightest package on the market. But there is a small downside. The load rating for this gimbal is 10KG (22lbs) which is a little less than some of the larger gimbals out there.
In my opinion, this is the best gimbal head on the market for people using medium-sized telephoto zoom lenses such as the Sony 200-600mm, Canon 100-500mm, Tamron 150-600mm or Nikon 200-500mm. It’s also the best gimbal for panoramic photographers who will appreciate the portability and the click stops that can be engaged in the panning base. If you have a larger super-telephoto lens such as a 300mm f/2.8 with extenders, a 400mm f/2.8, 500mm f/4 or 600mm f/4 you would be better off with one of the larger options detailed in this guide. For more details, read my detailed Fotopro Eagle Gimbal review.
Really Right Stuff PG-02
The PG-02 from Really Right Stuff is a modular gimbal head that can be constructed with both a side mount or cradle mount to suit your preference. I’ve discussed that choice earlier and my feelings are pretty clear: The cradle mount is pointless. Save some money and weight in your pack and just use the side mount if this is the gimbal you want, it’s solid as a rock. I should know, I’ve been using one for many years!
The thing that first attracted me to the PG-02 is the two-piece design with the horizontal rail and the vertical arm. You can take the two pieces apart and clip them together parallel to each other to make them easier to transport. This modular design also means you can use the horizontal rail as a nodal slide for panoramic photography, simply by adding the FAS clamp to it. You don’t even need a panning clamp on your ball head because the panning base is built into the PG-02’s horizontal arm. Simply mount it to your existing ball head, use that ball head to perfectly level the horizontal arm and spin it around to create your panos. In fact, I owned the horizontal arm for a couple of years just for panos, before I decided to add the vertical arm to create the gimbal! It’s nice to be able to build your kit up in that way, piece by piece.
Everything about this gimbal screams quality. The design and machining are beautiful and the movement of the gimbal is buttery smooth, even with the heaviest of camera setups. The PG-02 is rated up to a 50lb load, but with even a 600mm lens on a pro body barely tipping the scales at 12lbs, you are never going to need that kind of capacity. Suffice to say, whatever gear you put on this thing, it barely breaks a sweat and vibration dampening is extremely good.
In terms of build quality and robustness, the Really Right Stuff gimbals are the absolute gold standard but you do pay a price for that. At $766 for the side mount version, you’re looking at a couple of hundred dollars more than some other excellent options like the Gitzo or Wimberley. I do not think that spending that extra money over those two well-regarded options will get you better photos. Once you reach the higher end of the pricing bracket you are generally getting a very high-quality gimbal, but what you do get with the RRS gimbal is the useful 2-piece modularity, and the ability to build on top of that to make a multi-row panoramic head.
Adding a nodal rail such as the MPR-CL II to the PG-02 side mount version of the gimbal will turn it into a multi-row panoramic head. This is only possible because you can adjust the horizontal position of the vertical arm so that the lens’ optical centre is exactly over the point of rotation. Simply adding a nodal slide to a regular gimbal, such as the Gitzo or Wimberley, doesn’t work. With that, you would only be able to adjust the fore and aft positioning of the optical centre, but unless you can move the camera left and right, as you can with the PG-02, then you can’t use it for panos.
The RRS PG-02 is by far the most flexible gimbal design, and I know of several people that actually prefer using it over a regular ball head. Unlike a ball head, the pan and tilt motions are entirely disconnected so this gives an experience that is somewhat similar to using a geared head or a 3-way pan/tilt head. If I’m packing light and don’t want to take both a ball head and a gimbal head with me on a trip, this is the one that comes with me.
Does the modularity and flexibility of the PG-02’s design justify the higher price tag for you? If you ever shoot panos, I suspect it probably does, because one less head to bring is always nice. If you’re already invested in the Really Right Stuff ecosystem of Arca-Swiss compatible products, such as accessory rails and clamps, then again I suspect that the higher price is probably going to be worth it to you too. I have a closet full of RRS parts and I’m always Frankensteining fun solutions together.
What About The Smaller PG-01?
I wish I could tell you that the PG-02’s smaller brother, the PG-01, was a viable contender in this best gimbal comparison, but it’s simply not. RRS call these heads “Pano Gimbal” (PG) heads, and the PG-01 is a fine pano head, but it is just not a good option to be used as anything but an emergency gimbal. It’s not smooth enough or rigid enough with telephoto lenses. It has its place in the RRS catalogue, but don’t buy it if your primary purpose is to use it as a gimbal.
Note: If you’re interested in other heads from RRS, I have written a giant guide and comparison of all the Really Right Stuff ball heads and gimbals, as well as a guide to Really Right Stuff tripods.
Really Right Stuff FG-02
The FG-02 has many of the same features and design characteristics of the PG-02, so I’m not going to waste time repeating myself on all those points. The main difference is that the FG-02 uses fluid cartridges in the horizontal and vertical panning joints, which makes the gimbal movement much smoother. This smoother movement is hugely beneficial when shooting video because even the slightest jitter in your pan or tilt can be amplified to a massive degree when shooting with long focal lengths.
The resistance of the movement is also adjustable in four steps, which is definitely useful when making long sweeping pans for a video, compared to small adjustments when looking through the viewfinder for stills photography. The resistance is cleverly controlled by two buttons. Pressing them individually gives you two different resistances, then you have a third when they are both pressed, and a fourth when neither are pressed. An elegant solution that adds very little bulk to the design.
The FG-02 is available in several different versions including a regular side mount with a 60mm clamp for stills only, side mount with a video panning handle for video or stills usage, or a full cradle mount for stills (no panning handle). At $1340 for the cheapest of these options, you’re looking at a serious purchase here! That said, it can potentially negate the need for a separate video head in your kit, which can easily cost the same amount of money. In fact, you could very well argue that this FG-02 is the most versatile tripod head of any kind on the market. It can be used in place of a ball head if you add the MPR-CL II rail that was discussed earlier in the PG-02 section, it can replace a fluid video head, it can be used as a multi-row pano head and of course, it’s also your long lens gimbal for wildlife photography.
You really can use this head for almost everything you could ever do with a camera on a tripod. Now the high price doesn’t seem so bad, does it?
Note that due to the higher price and specialist nature, the FG-02 is usually built to order, so don’t leave it until the last minute to order one before your next big trip or you might be disappointed if there’s not enough lead time.
ProMediaGear Katana Jr. Gimbal
At only 2.4lbs (1.08kg), the Katana Jr. gimbal from ProMediaGear is one of the lightest gimbals on the market despite being made from aluminum and not carbon fibre. As you can see from the photos, this is achieved by machining a skeleton-like structure out of a solid block of aluminum. Despite the weight-saving design, the Katana Jr. gives up nothing as far as support stability is concerned. This head will easily hold the biggest lenses on the market such as your 600mm or 800mm. Equally, it’s at home when paired with much lighter options such as the Sony 200-600mm lens seen in the photos, or a 100-400mm.
Not only is the Katana Jr. light, but it’s also relatively compact compared to heads like the Wimberley WH-200 or the Gitzo Fluid Gimbal. If you opt for the cradle mount version, the cradle is easily removed from the head to help with packing it into your bag. For ultimate portability, there is the side mount version of the head which drops the weight down even further to 1.8lbs, making it by far the lightest and most compact gimbal on this list.
This gimbal is definitely a personal favourite of mine because the weight to stability ratio is unmatched by any other gimbal on this list. If you’re someone that travels with your gear or wants to carry both a gimbal and a ball head, then weight and packability are always a concern. It’s amazing to me that the light weight doesn’t seem to compromise any other aspect of the gimbal. It easily managed heavy loads, and the smoothness of the bearings in the pan and tilt mechanisms easily matches the other top gimbals on the market.
This gimbal is definitely a personal favourite of mine because the weight to stability ratio is unmatched by any other gimbal on this list.
The gimbal is delivered with a 6″ long Arca compatible plate, the PX6, that attaches to you lens foot and allows for a wide range of balance point adjustments for various sizes of lens.
The Katana Jr. is available in both black and red from PMG with free shipping in the US, and very reasonable shipping rates to anywhere else in the world. For best service, I would always recommend buying direct if you can (also nice to support the little guys), but if you can’t for some reason, you can also get it from Amazon, B&H Photo and Adorama.
Gitzo GHFG1 Fluid Gimbal
The Gitzo fluid gimbal is the newest head on this list and it is surprising in a few ways. Firstly this is a fluid head which means that rotational resistance at both the horizontal and vertical panning joints is dampened by a fluid cartridge. Fluid heads deliver a much smoother panning motion as we discussed in the section about the RRS fluid gimbal above. A panning bar is included in the package to aid with smooth motion when shooting video with a long lens.
The second surprising thing about the Gitzo head is the relatively low price point. Gitzo products are known to be of the highest quality and many photographers aspire to own them, but the price point can sometimes be prohibitive. In the case of their GHFG1 gimbal, the price is actually something of a bargain when you compare it to some other models in this gear guide. It’s much less than half the price of Really Right Stuff’s fluid gimbal, and it’s cheaper than the most popular non-fluid gimbals, the Wimberley WH-200 and the RRS PG-02.
The main downside of this gimbal is that they do not offer a side mount version, which would have saved a little weight and size. The overall design is also significantly bulkier than many other options such as the more-than-capable ProMediaGear Katana Jr or the Fotopro Eagle.
I also wish that they had put a bubble level on it so that you can easily ensure a level panning motion. Some tripods have a bubble, or perhaps you’re going to use it with a leveling head that has a bubble, but it still would have been a nice improvement. Again, something that is offered by the PMG Katana Jr, the RRS gimbals, the Fotopro E-6H and more.
This is a gimbal that would be a good choice for someone who wants to shoot both photos and videos but doesn’t want to pay the significant premium to buy the RRS FG-02. Or just someone that loves the Gitzo brand and aesthetic. I don’t think it’s the best on this list, but at the middle-of-the-road price point, it shouldn’t be. You can get more info on this gimbal by reading my Gitzo Fluid Gimbal review.
The Wimberley WH-200 design has been around a long time and it’s popular with many photographers. The design is bland as heck, but they are among the very smoothest gimbals on the market and their durability and general robustness have been proven by time.
Honestly though, if I had $550 to spend on a gimbal, these days I would opt for the cheaper Gitzo Fluid Gimbal. You save some money, it’s slightly lighter, it comes with a video panning handle and it’s a fluid head so the resistance when moving the head is far smoother than the Wimberley. You could even go with a full carbon head like the Sirui PH-20 if weight is your priority.
Wimberley is a smaller company that really had a lockdown on the gimbal market a decade ago, but with so many new designs and advancements from other companies, they need to step it up and update this head if they still want to be relevant in a few years.
The Oben GH-30 deserves a spot on this list because it brings gimbals down to a price point that makes them accessible to many more people. At just $250, this is a nice beginner option for people that don’t do a huge amount of wildlife photography but want something that will make life considerably easier for them on the odd weekend excursion. It’s also a good budget option if you have booked a very expensive wildlife photography vacation and suddenly realize that you should be taking a gimbal with you, but don’t want to break the bank.
One thing I will say about this gimbal is that I do not recommend that you take the 44lb load rating at face value. I’m not saying that it’s not true, I don’t doubt that it could hold 44lbs, but a maximum load rating is definitely not the same thing as a recommended usable rating.
With very heavy camera setups, the Oben GH-30 starts to lose some of its smoothness. It’s fine with something light such as a 70-200mm, 100-400mm, 200-500mm or Nikon 500mm PF, but if you have anything larger then I would recommend you spend a little more and at least look towards the slightly beefier Induro GHB1, which is also much lighter.
The Wimberley Sidekick is an interesting design for someone that needs to carry both a ball head and a gimbal head. Instead of switching heads entirely, this handy gizmo converts your existing ball head into a gimbal. To do this, your ball head will need to have a separate panning base lock knob and an Arca-Swiss compatible clamp on it.
All you do is release the ball lock and flop the clamp into your drop notch, positioning it vertically, then tighten the ball as much as you can. Now clamp the Sidekick into the now vertical ball head clamp and loosen the ball head’s panning base lock knob to rotate the gimbal.
There’s obviously some weight savings with this setup if you were planning to carry both a ball head and a gimbal, but the stability of the setup will be hugely reliant on the quality of your ball head. If you do decide to go down this route, don’t skimp on that part of the equation! Something big and beefy like the RRS BH-55 would be my personal pick if you plan to use big super-telephoto lenses with it.
It’s also worth noting that the weight of a solid ball head, plus the weight of the Sidekick, is actually more than the weight of most of the gimbals that are mentioned in this guide. In other words, the only way you are saving weight on your back, or in your bag, is in situations where you positively must have a ball head with you for some reason. At that point, a ball head+Sidekick is obviously lighter than a ball head+full gimbal.
At about $250 you save a significant chunk of change with the Sidekick compared to the full Wimberley gimbal ($550), but it’s only really a saving if you already own a high-end ball head to pair it with. If you have to go out and buy a new ball head, then your total bill is certainly going to be larger than the cost of the Wimberley Gimbal or the Gitzo gimbal and maybe even more than the RRS gimbal too! A really great ball head can easily set you back $350-$500.
The Induro GHB1 is my budget gimbal of choice ($349), even though it’s not the cheapest on the list. Let me explain…
The Oben GH-30 is $100 cheaper than this gimbal, but I believe the GHB1 performs better with heavier loads. If you don’t currently use anything bigger than a 100-400mm or 200-500mm lens then this might not matter to you now, but do you plan on upgrading your lens at some point?
Most people aspire to own something like a heavier 300mm or 500mm prime (or more) and with the cheaper Oben GH-30, I feel like you’d need to upgrade your gimbal as well. Not so with the Induro GHB1, though. This is a nice, no-frills, robust gimbal that can take a seriously heavy camera setup and will be able to stick with you along your own equipment upgrade path.
The load rating for this head is 22lbs, but these kinds of numbers are notoriously cloudy to understand. Does that represent a number past which they do not recommend using it? Or does it represent a number past which it will break? Who is making the decisions on what is “usable” smoothness? I mention the rating because if I don’t, someone will ask me for it, but I personally think that you can’t make a decision based on that number alone because every manufacturer has a different way of coming up with those numbers.
Another reason to consider the Induro, over the cheaper Oben GH-30 is that the Oben head tops the scales at 3.2lbs, whereas the Induro GHB1 with its side mount style weighs just 1.7lbs. That’s a significant difference if you’re travelling with the gimbal, whether it’s in your backpack or your checked luggage!
If the side mount style really freaks you out, there’s also the cradle style GHB2.
The Sirui PH-20 is carbon head so the weight is relatively low, at 2.4 lbs. This can be lightened even more by removing the cradle clamp and installing the additionally included clamp directly onto the gimbal arm to create a side mount gimbal, which I much prefer. For some reason, the fact that it comes with this additional clamp isn’t mentioned in the description and specs on B&H Photo, but it does indeed come with it in the case.
That’s right, it also comes in a nice zippered case, and in there you’ll also find a very generously proportioned Arca-Swiss lens plate to use with the gimbal. Something which Wimberley and Really Right Stuff do not provide with their heads.
All in all, the Sirui (pronounced sooray) PH-20 is an incredibly good value at $470 when you consider the accessories that come with it, and the carbon construction. If your budget extends that far, it’s a noticeable jump up in quality from the Induro GHB1, and frankly the smoothness of its pan and tilt motion is absolutely on a par with the Wimberley WH-200.
In terms of price competition, many people will probably be considering it alongside the Gitzo Fluid Gimbal which is only $30 more. The Gitzo wins that battle if you want to shoot some video, where the fluid cartridges and pan handle give it the edge. But if weight and compactness is your priority, I have to give it to the Sirui PH-20 with its carbon construction and optional side mount configuration with the included second clamp.
One annoyance with the PH-20 that is worth knowing about is a quirk with the panning lock knob. For some reason, Surui used a geared locking mechanism for this which means that the panning base can only be locked in certain positions. When you lock the panning base, the teeth slide into the nearest slot and this can cause some movement. Unfortunately, this makes it useless for landscape photography, but it probably won’t worry wildlife photographers too much. When I’m using a gimbal I never lock the panning base unless I’m picking the tripod up to move it to a new location. If you do lock your panning base as part of your own routine, then this isn’t the head for you.
Wimberley MH-100 MonoGimbal
This product is something of an outlier in the gimbal guide, but I don’t think the guide would be complete unless I told you about it. The WH-100 MonoGimbal is designed primarily to act as a small gimbal for your monopod, although the base of the head itself is an Acra dovetail which means you could attach it to a regular ball head to give it some gimbal characteristics as well (see photo below).
While I would never pitch this product as a total replacement option for a regular gimbal, it is an excellent addition to your kit if you already own a gimbal for your tripod, and appreciate the style of movement and stability that it gives you. Essentially the MonoGimbal allows you to have that on a lightweight monopod, and it has totally rejuvenated my love for using a monopod and “going light”.
Protect Your Gimbal
If you’re planning on buying a gimbal for wildlife photography, you might also want to pick up a camouflage gimbal cover from LensCoat. They have recently started to make covers for a much larger range of gimbal heads, including my top pick, the PMG Katana Jr., and also the Gitzo Fluid Gimbal, Oben GH-30, Induro GHB1, Wimberley WH-200 and several others. For about $40 I think they are a great idea.
My Gimbal of Choice?
For many years I have used an RRS PG-02. It’s built like a tank, but also has the exquisite finishing that we have come to expect from RRS. I also love that it can be broken down into two pieces for packing. More recently I have also been using the ProMediaGear Katana Jr. If you read the whole guide and didn’t just skip down to the bottom, you’ll know that I really love how lightweight that gimbal is. After testing many gimbals, these are the two that I still keep in my closet, and I have to say that the PMG Katana Jr is definitely getting more use these days. The lightweight design makes it an easy pick if I know I have to hike anywhere. I also have the Wimberley MonoGimbal for my monopod because that thing is awesome!
Which Tripod Gimbal Do You Use?
I spent a great deal of time testing and researching gimbals to find what I believe to be the best solutions on the market right now, but it’s always great to hear from other photographers about their experiences. What kind of tripod gimbal head are you using right now, or which one are you thinking of buying?
Leave a comment below and let me know!