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Tripod ball heads offer a compact way to stabilize your camera when shooting long-exposure in nature, shooting 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.

Things 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.

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 35mm cameras better than generic plates and have a dovetail design that makes it easy to secure onto the ball head.

Best overall: Manfrotto XPRO Ball Head

Adorama

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Why It Made The Cut

This light-weight ball head works well with full-frame cameras, while still offering extremely smooth movement. 

3 Key Features 

  • Load Capacity: 33.1 lbs
  • Weight: 1.1 lbs
  • Materials: Aluminum Magnesium 

Pros 

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

Cons 

  • Pricey

Product Description

Manfroto’s XPro Tripod Ball Head is made out of aluminum magnesium, has a load capacity of 33.1 lbs and it’s 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 has a grease free construction, which makes for smooth movement with less jerks—a great benefit for video shooters. It offers 360 degrees of panoramic rotation and -90/+40 degrees of lateral tilt. 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

Adorama

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Why It Made The Cut

A great choice when you are shooting with heavy gear, this ball head can support up to 88 lbs of equipment.

3 Key Features 

  • Load Capacity: 88 lbs
  • Weight: 0.71 lbs
  • Materials: Aircraft-grade Magnesium Alloy

Pros 

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

Cons 

  • Pricey

Product Description

The 3 Legged Thing AirHed tripod ball head can hold up to 88 lbs of equipment—far more than most people will ever need—while maintaining a relatively lightweight profile thanks to its aircraft-grade magnesium alloy. A 360-degree clamp makes for smooth panning and it has a Arca-Swiss compatible quick release and has a single bubble level. 

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

VANGUARD

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Why It Made The Cut

Vanguard’s Alta BH-300 is a budget-friendly option for when you need to support a large amount of camera gear. 

3 Key Features 

  • Load Capacity: 66.1 lbs
  • Weight: 1.3 lbs
  • Materials: Aluminum 

Pros

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

Cons 

  • Friction system is a bit awkward

Product Description

The Vanguard Alta BH-300 can support up to 66.1 lbs of camera equipment and 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, 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

3 Key Features 

  • Load Capacity: 13.2lbs
  • Weight: 0.70 lbs
  • Materials: Magnesium 

Why It Made The Cut

The Benro IB0 Ball Head is a tough and affordable option for supporting lightweight camera setups. 

Pros 

  • Swiss-Arca compatible
  • Separate locks for pan and fiction control

Cons

  • Not good for supporting heavy gear

Product Description

This Swiss-Arca Ball Head from Benro is a great, affordable choice for smaller profile cameras. This lightweight head is only 0.70 lbs 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. It features a single bull’s eye leveling bubble for ensuring level horizons when shooting. 

Best budget: Neewer Professional Metal 360 Degree Rotating Panoramic Ball Head

Neewer

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Why It Made The Cut

Although the Neewer Panoramic Ball Head lacks the robust build quality of its competitors, it’s an extremely budget friendly choice for attaching your camera to a tripod. 

3 Key Features 

  • Load Capacity: 17.6lbs
  • Weight: 0.96 lbs
  • Materials: Aluminum-Alloy Construction

Pros

  • Extremely budget friendly
  • 360 degrees of rotation
  • Quick release plate

Cons

  • Cheaply constructed
  • Small ball

Product Description

Neewer is known for making extremely budget-friendly versions of typically pricey camera accessories and their Panoramic tripod Ball Head is no exception. It’s a fraction of the price of the other options in this buying guide, and although the specs look similar (quick release plate, dedicated knobs to control ball movement, pan and friction) if you are buying this low-cost option, expect the gear to come with some quirks. Customers have mentioned issues with the bubble level, the ball itself being quite small and knobs can easily become stuck. Although the price is significantly lower than other options on the market, you probably shouldn’t expect such an inexpensive ball head to be able to withstand years of use.

FAQs

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, size of 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” tripod is a versatile size that will allow the tripod to be fully extended without the center column being raised.

Final Thoughts

Ball heads are a great lightweight tripod accessory for photographers shooting in the studio, out in the field or even 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.

Methodology

The ball head tripod accessories that appear in this guide were primarily selected based on budget and load capacity. When selecting the gear that appears in the guide 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.