Every owner of a super telelens will experience the same issues. After buying these “monsters”, you’ll have to fix them on you tripod and ball head: they are too heavy to be used on even the most decent ball head! Even when you close the head as hard as you can, the lens can still be moved several mm’s, which is deadly with these focal distances! On my search, I could find 2 solutions: a video head and a swing head. To start with the first, I didn’t find it a good solution because the price is about 3 times more than a swing head and a video head is made in one part and difficult to transport on an airplane. If this wasn’t enough, the weight is huge! But still I’m sure that a video head is the best choice for super telelenses!
I decided to look for a swing head. You’ll find several brands with decent products, like Wimberley and Jobu-design. As I’m using a Wimberley sidekick (with satisfactory results) at the moment, I decided to use the WH-200. A combination of superior materials and excellent build - that’s Wimberley!
When you pick up the box at your local store, you’ll notice right away: good things don’t have to be complicated! The Wimberley fits nicely in a small box with plenty nicely cut mousse. The arm and the Acra-Swiss plate are next to each other and can be fixed without any problem. To determine the height of the plate though, you need to have more knowledge.
Size and weight:
The Wimberley weighs about the same as a professional camera: 1,4kg. It’s size is rather small: a 23,5cm (h) on 24,7cm (d) on 8,9cm (b). Compared to the lense I’m using, a 600mm, it seems quite a small object!
A swing head isn’t made to support a small dslr and small lens; which doesn’t mean that you can’t buy it to use with it. This product is made to support the heaviest lenses on earth, like a 400mm F/2,8 or 500mm F/4 or 600mm F/4 or even heavier lenses. The reason I didn’t mentioned the 300mm F/2,8 & Nikon 200-400 F/4 is because it’s mainly used with the Wimberley Sidekick.
In the field:
To remove both parts out of the box and install them, you need about 1 minute. To fix this head on a tripod you close all knobs and fix it on the tripod as hard as you can. You also need to close the knob to fix the plate on the Wimberley arm. At the side, you’ll find 2 large rubber knobs: the one at the top serves the arm; the one below has the function to rotate the whole Wimberley. The only knowledge you need to have is for installing the height of the Arca-Swiss plate. The height of the plate has to be that high that the middle of the lens, fixed on the plate, is equal to the top of the Wimberley. If this is too complicated, in the Wimberley box you’ll find a manual with some drawings. For these lenses there are long lens plates. Where to fix the lens at the plate is also quite easy: when you put the lens (wit TC and/or body) on the plate and you loosen the knob at the top of the Wimberley, the lens-body combination needs to stay in balance. The easiest way to do it, is to fix the lens plate or the Arca-swiss plate as hard as you still can move the lens. Loosen the knob gently and start to move the lens until everything stays in balance. Before you start walking with this lens-head-tripod combination, check if all knobs are closed as hard as you have power.
The easiest way to work with the head is by loosening the knobs halfway, so you can move the lens in all ways, but you still have to use just a little bit power. When you close all knobs, it doesn’t work; same thing as when opening all knobs completely. Your lens will move too much. Photograph always with you left hand on the lens to reduce vibrations.
When you consider buying a super telelens, you need to invest in a decent heavy tripod or you’ll regret the money in those lenses hard! As for a tripod, I would advise the Gitzo 5541LS. It’s made of carbon and designed for lenses like a 600mm. I used it a lot and recommend it to everyone!
Extra stuff for your Wimberley:
To protect my head, I bought a Lenscoat cover. You can buy them at almost any local store or online on their website. Foto-express has almost all Lenscoat products in stock.
I always try to write my reviews with a critical eye, but I couldn’t find a negative point, except for the price: he’s yours for 550 euro. I’m not trying to convince you that this isn’t a lot of money, but when you know that a pro camera and super tele lenses are far more expensive, I'm convinced that the price may not be the reason for not buying this product.