Tripod Head Recommendations: Some of the Best of the Best

Kirk Enterprises BH-3 Ball Head with Arca-Swiss style quick release

The short list.

3-Way Tripod heads:

Manfrotto 056 3D Junior Head (replaces 3025)
Manfrotto 3025 (older model)
Manfrotto 115 3D Super Junior Head (replaces 3028)
Manfrotto 3028 (older model)
Manfrotto 410 Junior Geared Head

Ball Heads:

Slik Pro Ballhead 800
Kirk Enterprises BH-3
Kirk Enterprises BH-1
Really Right Stuff BH-40
Really Right Stuff BH-55

For still photography I recommend two different kinds of tripod heads, 3-way and ballheads.


3-way heads have separate controls for camera movement in three different directions: left-right, up-down, and horizontal-vertical angle (and any angle in between horizontal and vertical). These heads are ideal for landscape and still life photographers who want precise control and the ability to change the camera in one directional axis, but not the other two. They are slow to work with if you want to change the camera in 2 or 3 directions, but that usually isn’t a concern for landscape and still life photographers. They are also quite reasonable in price ($35 – $45) unless you get a geared 3-way head.

The Manfrotto 056 3D (or 3025) will hold a film or digital SLR and normal lenses in sizes up to a 70-200mm or 75-300mm with apertures of f/4 and f/5.6 (or even a 70-200 f/2.8 lens). For larger lenses, you will need the Manfrotto 115 3D head.

If you want the ultimate in 3-way control, get the Manfrotto 410 Junior Geared Head.


Ballheads swivel on a ball and socket joint. Release one control knob and the camera can point in any direction. They are fast to use and are preferred by wildlife photographers and any other photographer that wants to quickly change camera directions. Photographers that do several kinds of photography (landscape, still life, wildlife, portraits) often prefer ballheads for their speed and flexibility. Ballheads are more expensive with quality brands costing $250 – $600.

If cost is a consideration, the Slik Pro Ball 800 head works well and costs about $100. I used one for a number of years before it finally began to wear out and slip. The Pro Ball 800 has a quick release disc that screws on to the bottom of your camera. Drop the disc into the top of the head, close the clamp and you are ready to go.

If you are ready to step up in price and quality, I recommend ballheads by Kirk Enterprises and Really right Stuff. Both companies use the excellent Arca-Swiss quick release system. You buy a mounting plate or L-bracket that mounts to your specific camera model. The grooves in the bottom of the mounting plate or L-bracket fit into grooves in the tripod head. It is quick and very secure.

The Kirk Enterprises BH-3 and Really Right Stuff BH-40 are the smaller, lighter, less expensive models and the smallest I would recommend for a film or digital SLR. The Kirk Enterprises BH-3 (photo above) is currently my favorite ball head due to the excellent construction and the Arca-Swiss style quick release system. Both heads will easily handle an SLR with lenses up in size to 70-200mm f/2.8 and 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6. If you are using really big lenses like a 300mm f/2.8 or 400mm f/2.8 or larger, you will need to go to the larger Kirk enterprises BH-1 or Really Right Stuff BH-55.

Kirk Enterprises and Really right Stuff sell directly to the consumer via their web sites (links below). I use products from both companies. They both have excellent customer service and I recommend them highly.

For the photographer on a tight budget, you can get by with a smaller tripod like the larger models in the Gorillapod series, like the Gorillapod GP3 with the matching Joby BH1 ballhead, or the Gorillapod Focus with the matching Joby BH2 ballhead. Just make sure you get a size that will handle the weight of your camera and heaviest lens. You can find Gorillapods in this section of my photography store.

Purchase Links

You can buy tripod heads from Manfrotto, Gitzo, Slik, and Joby in the tripod section of my photography store (which is powered by with Amazon’s great prices, efficient ordering system and excellent return policy). You can also buy tripods at the same place.

Information Links

My article on highly recommended tripods.

My article on the best quick release system.

More information about the differences between various tripod heads is about half way down this page at

Information from Manfrotto on their 3-way heads is here.

Kirk Enterprises ballheads are here.

Really Right Stuff ballheads are here.