The Best Tripod Heads of 2024

Tripod heads may not seem like the most important piece of a photographer’s kit, but the best ones help you get the perfect shot. From ball heads to geared heads and everything in between, here are the best.

UPDATE: 12/29/2023

We’ve reviewed our recommendations and have updated the pick for the best tripod ball head.

Why Are Tripod Heads Important?

If you’re just starting out and building your kit, you may wonder whether you should bother with a tripod head. Some tripods come packaged with one, while others are designed to work with various options depending on the intended use. Do you really need a tripod?

To get the most out of your tripod, you’ll want to invest in a good head to pair it with. A well-engineered tripod head allows a photographer or videographer to get the angles they need and lock the camera securely in place without hand-holding.

You don’t have to spend over a grand on one, but it’s worth it to put a little money down, especially if you know you’ll be using a tripod often. Landscape photographers, wildlife shooters, and people that do a lot of night photography can all benefit from a sturdy tripod head.

Like any other piece of kit, a tripod head is a tool. Which one you need comes down to what and how you shoot. If you’re shooting in the wild regularly, you’ll want something sturdy to handle a rugged environment and a heavy camera setup. Videographers might want to check out fluid heads with their smooth pan and tilt action for buttery, jerk-free camera movement.

Keep your existing gear in mind, too. What camera setup do you have? Most tripod heads will list their weight capacity on the product page, so know roughly what your rig weighs and whether the tripod head you’re considering will be able to support it.

Make sure the head you want works with your tripod, and that your tripod is sturdy—there’s no point in pairing an expensive, well-designed head with a cheap and flimsy base if the tripod legs can’t support your gear. If you know you’ll be switching back and forth between a tripod and handheld shooting often, get a head with a quick-release plate.

There are multiple types of tripod heads, from geared to ball heads to fluid heads. There’s usually overlap in their capabilities that allows for multiple shooting types. Still, if you do one genre of photography more than another, it makes sense to buy a tripod head made for that photography, with other uses being a secondary bonus.

Geared tripod heads, for example, have multiple knobs that let you dial in the angle of your camera with a fine degree of control—something very advantageous in a studio setting. A ball head that lets you swivel your camera without making adjustments, however, might be better for the wildlife photographer.

Build quality and weight are also important. A tripod head is a small piece of kit, but it can add up when you pair a heavy tripod head with a bunch of other gear you must haul around all day. Look for something light, strong, and the right size for your needs.

Now that we’ve gone over the relevance and potential uses of a good tripod head, let’s look at some of the best ones you can buy.

How Did We Research

Models Evaluated

Hours Researched

Reviews Analyzed

40

4

55

How-To Geek’s product recommendations come from the same team of experts that have helped people fix their gadgets over one billion times. We only recommend the best products based on our research and expertise. We never accept payment to endorse or review a product. Read More »

Benro tripod head on green background
Benro

Pros

Cons

✓ Solid build quality

✗ Not for fast-paced shooting

✓ Three gears allow for fine adjustment

✓ Includes an Arca-Swiss quick release plate mount

The Benro GD3WH tripod head is a solid entry from a trusted manufacturer that allows for very fine adjustments via three geared knobs. While the Benro may be slightly cheaper than other leading brands—but not inexpensive, as it’s still over $200—it maintains a similar level of quality.

For example, an included Arca-Swiss mount means compatibility with a wide range of quick-release plates for those that like to switch between tripod and handheld shooting. This is perfect if you need to get just the right angle on a shot and holding the camera is the easiest way to do it.

Benro’s tripod head has a sturdy magnesium alloy build—lightweight but tough—and the included bubble-level helps line up those shots that need to be straight.

While the GD3WH is not what you’d want for fast-paced shooting, this tripod head is great for studio and architectural photography.

benro 3 way geared head
Benro GD3WH 3-Way Geared Head

Best Geared Tripod Head

$166 $199 Save $33

A pro-level geared tripod head from Benro for a reasonable price that lets you dial in fine adjustments.

Manfrotto video tripod on yellow background
Manfrotto

Pros

Cons

✓ Great value for the price

✗ Too pricey for people on tight budget

✓ Built for smooth movement when filming video

Manfrotto’s 502HD is a well-built, relatively affordable fluid tripod head from a respected name in tripods and photo accessories. Engineered to adjust very smoothly, it can handle a weight capacity of just over 15 lbs, meaning this tripod head can hold cinema setups on the heavier side.

This head is also built with counterbalances to help with uneven weight, and users praise the built-in Fluid Drag System for its buttery pans. This is a great option for cinematographers and even still photographers looking to step up to more serious gear on a budget.

There is one caveat, however—some users said the head needed adjustment before it moved as fluidly as it should, as it sometimes ships tightened up, so keep that in mind when you take this one out of the box.

manfrotto tripod head
Manfrotto 502HD Pro Video Head with Flat Base

Best Tripod Head For Video

A super smooth fluid tripod head from Manfrotto for videographers looking to upgrade.

The 3 Legged Thing AirHead Pro Ball Head on a gradient background
3 Legged Thing

Pros

Cons

✓ Well-designed and easy to use

✗ May not be quite as smooth for motion shots

✓ Smooth pan and tilt action

✓ Higher weight capacity of 88 lbs yet lightweight

If you’re having trouble finding a reliable ball head to hold your expensive cameras and lenses, and you want something lightweight enough to travel with, you may want to try the 3-Legged Thing AirHed Pro Ball Head for a change.

It is made from aerospace-grade magnesium alloy, making it lightweight yet super strong, and has a sleek and premium finish. It weighs just 0.7 lbs but has a load capacity of 88lbs, which is more than enough for even your heaviest camera and lenses.

The 3 Legged Thing AirHed Pro comes equipped with a powerful locking mechanism featuring knurled knobs that securely lock your setup in place. It also features a Arca Swiss-compatible QR-Octa plate with adjustable tension for added stability and peace of mind.

It comes with a detachable twist clamp that is compatible with 3/8-inch-16 threaded devices such as tripods and monopods. It has a 360-degree panning range and can tilt 90 degrees for portrait shots. It equally comes with built-in bubble levels for precise leveling. It is available in matte black, gray, and blue.

The 3 Legged Thing AirHead Pro Ball Head pfp on transparent background
3 Legged Thing AirHed Pro Tripod Head

Best Tripod Ball Head

The 3 Legged Thing AirHead Pro Ball Head is a lightweight yet super strong magnesium alloy ball head with a load capacity of 88lbs, strong enough to carry your kit and light enough to travel with. 

SmallRig Tripod head on orange background
SmallRig

Pros

Cons

✓ Very affordable

✗ Can’t hold heavier setups

✓ Compact design

✗ Not as many features as more expensive options

✓ Very capable for its size

As its name implies, the SmallRig Mini is a solid choice for the photographer or videographer traveling light or trying to build a compact kit. This ball tripod head offers much of the same compatibility and capabilities as its larger and pricer counterparts in a smaller package.

The SmallRig Mini can be used by photographers and videographers alike, holding mirrorless and compact cinema cameras with a larger lens attached. 360-degree rotation allows for cool panoramic shots when filming b-roll or other video footage.

Its smaller size means lower weight capacity, though, so keep that in mind—you won’t be able to attach a heavy wildlife rig to this tripod head.

smallrig mini ball head
SmallRig Mini Ball Head

Best Compact Tripod Head

This ball tripod head from SmallRig makes a great addition to any lightweight camera kit.

Pergear tripod head on blue and green background
Pergear

Pros

Cons

✓ Inexpensive and offers a lot for the money

✗ Not as feature-rich as more expensive options

✓ Has multiple knobs for fine adjustment

✓ Dampened to handle heavier gear

Super affordable at around $30, the TH3 Pro tripod head from Pergear offers a lot. Its multiple knobs allow for fine adjustment similar to a geared tripod head, for example, and the TH3 incorporates friction dampening measures to help keep the camera steadier even with heavier gear attached. It also includes multiple bubble levels to ensure your shot is lined up correctly.

The TH3 is an all-rounder tripod head, able to be used adequately for stills or video. It’s not the top of the line but is perfect for beginners and people on a budget who want to try out more advanced shots.

pergear tripod ball head
Pergear TH3 Ball Head

Best Budget Tripod Head

$30 $32 Save $2

A versatile ball tripod head from Pergear for photographers on a budget.


source
share

Leave a Comment