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Tripod ball heads offer a compact way to stabilize your camera when shooting long exposures in nature, photographing products in the studio, or filming video. As the name suggests, ball heads rely on a spherical element secured in a cradle. Loosening a screw or nut releases pressure on the ball and allows it to move freely. Tightening it up locks the mechanism in place. We curated this list of the best tripod ball heads for any type of photography or video shooting.

How we chose the best tripod ball heads

The ball head tripod accessories that appear in this guide were primarily selected based on price and load capacity. When selecting the gear included here, we considered items that would be useful to a wide array of photographers and video creators who work on location and in the studio. Products were selected based on a combination of hands-on experience, editorial reviews, and customer feedback.

The best tripod ball heads: Reviews & recommendations

Tripod ball heads make adjusting your camera angle easy and quick. The options below are ideal for a range of photographers and videographers, so you can get one that best suits your needs. They are a sure way to round out a quality tripod so that you are able to get stable photos and videos in all situations.

Best overall: Manfrotto XPRO Ball Head




  • Load capacity: 33.1 pounds
  • Built-in level: Yes, 2
  • Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Materials: Aluminum Magnesium 


  • Extremely smooth
  • 360 degree panoramic rotation
  • Triple locking system


  • Pricey

Manfroto’s XPro Tripod Ball Head is made out of aluminum magnesium, which is lightweight and durable. It offers a load capacity of 33.1 pounds, and its triple locking system makes for extremely stable shots. A friction control knob helps you balance the weight of the camera and lens, while two leveling bubbles help keep your horizon lines straight. It utilizes a grease-free construction, which makes for smooth movement with fewer jerks—a great benefit for video shooters. It provides 360 degrees of panoramic rotation and -90/+40 degrees of lateral tilt. And it features an Arca-Swiss compatible plate, making it extremely quick to attach or remove your camera from the tripod. 

Best for heavy equipment:  3 Legged Thing AirHed Pro Ball Head

3 Legged Thing



  • Load capacity: 88 pounds
  • Built-in level: Yes, 1
  • Weight: 11.36 ounces
  • Materials: Aircraft-grade Magnesium Alloy


  • Strong, lightweight construction
  • 360 degree panoramic rotation
  • Quick release plate


  • Pricey

The 3 Legged Thing AirHed tripod ball head can hold up to 88 pounds of equipment—far more than most people will ever need. And yet it maintains a relatively lightweight profile thanks to its aircraft-grade magnesium alloy. A 360-degree clamp makes for smooth panning. It comes with an Arca-Swiss compatible quick release and has a single bubble level for keeping your shots straight. 

Best value for heavy gear: Vanguard Alta BH-300 Ball Head




  • Load capacity: 66 pounds
  • Built-in level: Yes, 2
  • Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Materials: Aluminum 


  • Good value
  • Two bubble levels
  • 360-degree pan range


  • Friction system is a bit awkward

The Vanguard Alta BH-300 can support up to 66.1 pounds of camera equipment and yet it costs a fraction of the price of ball-heads that can support similar loads. It features a clamp and safety pin that prevents the plate from sliding out and has three separate control knobs for ball movement, friction control, and pan control. A single-cut notch allows a mounted camera to pan 90 degrees vertically. It’s made of aluminum, so it’s not quite as sturdy as some of the other options in this guide, but you can’t beat the price. 

Best for lightweight cameras: Benro IB0 Triple Action Ball Head




  • Load capacity: 13.2 pounds
  • Built-in level: Yes, 2
  • Weight: 11.3 ounces
  • Materials: Magnesium 


  • Swiss-Arca compatible
  • Separate locks for pan and fiction control
  • Built-in bubble level
  • 90 degree cutout for vertical orientation


  • Not good for supporting heavy gear

This Swiss-Arca Ball Head from Benro is a great, affordable choice for smaller profile cameras. This lightweight head is only 11.3 ounces and 3.5 inches tall. It features separate locks for ball movement, panning control, and friction control. A 90-degree notch makes it easy to switch gear into portrait orientation while the camera is mounted on the ball head. And it offers a single bull’s eye leveling bubble for ensuring level horizons when shooting. 

Best budget: SmallRig Tripod Ball Head




  • Load capacity: 11.02 pounds
  • Built-in level: None
  • Weight: 5.67 ounces
  • Materials: Aluminum Alloy


  • Extremely budget friendly
  • 360 degrees of rotation
  • Very lightweight
  • Independent pan lock


  • Not built for heavy gear

Most tripod ball heads are fairly expensive, but this SmallRig option provides an affordable alternative. It’s also the most lightweight ball head on our list, weighing just 5.76 ounces. Of course, the compact design comes with downsides. It can only hold 11.02 pounds, so this tripod head isn’t meant for heavy gear. It comes with an Arca-Swiss style quick-release plate, features 360 degrees of rotation, and offers an independent pan knob for level, panoramic shots. It also supports vertical shooting with -90 / +45-degree front tilt and -50 / +50-degree lateral tilt. If you are a beginner looking for an affordable tripod ball head or have a lightweight kit, this is a great option.

What to consider before buying a tripod ball head

Ball head tripods are generally smaller, more lightweight, and easier to operate than a traditional three-way pan tilt head tripod. They are great when you are traveling with gear and are looking to lighten the load—making them an excellent tool for landscape photographers, studio shooters, and even video creators. Just don’t forget to also invest in a tripod that matches your gear and shooting style.

Load capacity and ball size

Load capacity is the number one thing to pay attention to when shopping for a ball head for your tripod. This refers to how much weight the ball head will be able to safely hold. A ball head that can support more weight will typically cost more money, but it’s a crucial thing to consider if you will be shooting with heavy camera equipment or long lenses. Generally speaking, ball head tripods that have balls with larger diameters will be able to support more weight and provide smoother pans once the camera is attached.

Quick release plates

Many of the most popular ball head tripods use an Arca-Swiss style quick-release platform—this allows you to easily attach and remove your camera from the tripod. These plates often fit the bottoms of cameras better than generic plates and have a dovetail design that makes it easy to secure onto the ball head.


Q: How much do tripod ball heads cost?

A tripod ball head can cost anywhere between a few hundred dollars to approximately 40 dollars. Price is often dependent on the amount of weight that the ball head can support, the size of the ball, and construction materials. More expensive ball heads tend to have a sturdier construction, can support more gear, will be smoother to operate, and last longer.

Q: How do I choose a ball head for a tripod?

The most important thing to consider when shopping for a ball head for a tripod is how much gear you need to support. If you are trying to support a large full-frame camera and a long lens, you will need a ball head that can support the weight of all of that gear. You should also consider your budget. If you are shooting with a small camera setup, a low-cost option might make more sense for you.

Q: Are tripod ball heads a universal size?

Most tripod ball heads are threaded 3/ 8” -16” base mount and a 1/4″-20 camera mount. However, some low-cost tripods come with a fixed head that you won’t be able to remove.

Q: How tall should my tripod be?

This is entirely dependent on what you will be shooting and how tall the person operating the camera is, but generally speaking, a 60-inch tripod is a versatile size that will allow the tripod to be fully extended without the center column being raised.

Final thoughts on the best tripod ball heads

Ball heads are a great lightweight tripod accessory for photographers shooting in the studio or out in the field. They even work well for video shooters. The fact that they are often pocket-sized makes them much easier to travel with than a pan-tilt tripod head. Just make sure you are investing in one that can handle the weight of the camera gear that you are attaching to it.

Why trust us

PopPhoto has a long history of delivering the opinions of some of the sharpest and most prolific camera dorks the world has to offer. Since 1937, we’ve been reviewing cameras, providing wisdom from well-known photographers, and generally just nerding out about all that goes into making great pictures. Our current crop of writers and editors have decades of professional photography and camera writing experience among them. Collectively, we’ve probably shot with just about every camera and lens combo you can imagine—as well as some obscure stuff you may not even know about. Remember the Casio Tryx folding camera? PopPhoto does.

We also get that buying a camera is a big decision, which is why we’re dedicated to helping folks choose the right one (or, in our case “ones”) for their needs. Case in point: Handing over top dollar for an expensive rig may leave you unsatisfied if it doesn’t fit your preferred shooting style. Sure, a $6,000 sports-oriented DSLR can capture landscapes, but do you really need to do it at 30 frames-per-second? No, you don’t.