Large Format Diaries
#15. Gear update
A major gear update today: the purchase of a new tripod head, in the form of an Arca-Swiss Cube, geared-pan version.
I have two other heads that I can use for my large-format camera, the Induro BHL-3 ballhead, which I’ve had for a few years, and the Manfrotto 410 geared head which I’ve had for over five years – originally bought for macro.
I’d semi-retired the Manfrotto since it now suffers from the well-known gears-slop issue (the brass gears now have a bit of play in one of the axes) – this is just about OK for macro, since you’re always shooting in very controlled situations with zero wind. But it’s not great for large format, given the large weight increase to bear and the likelihood of use in more inclement conditions, such as I experienced lately in Scotland. In the latter case, I used the Induro ballhead; it’s a great piece of kit, closely modelled on the RSS BH-55; great for DLSR, but again not that good for large format, where framing compositions is so much more controlled with gears. Over the last couple of weeks I reminded myself of how useful geared heads are by using the Manfrotto with the Linhof, but it really was time for it to be updated.
Step up – partly thanks to Ben Horne’s recent video, and after some intensive online researches – my new Arca Cube.
It’s more compact than the Manfrotto, lighter than the Manfrotto, and far better engineered than the Manfrotto. The movement axes are centred around the tripod head, rather than off to one side with the Manfrotto. I was lucky enough to get a deal on the new geared pan version (lucky because finding these in stock anywhere at the moment is a real battle in itself). Below are a couple of pictures of the top plate with the controls for the panning.
In addition to the geared pan knob, there is also a finger-tip control switch that moves around the base of the pano plate, controlling how freely the pano plate rotates. If you pull the switch back anticlockwise to the back of the head, a white blob lines up at the back, indicating that the top pano plate is locked and will only move with the gearing. If you push the switch back clockwise away from you, an empty circle appears at the back, and the plate is unlocked, allowing it to move freely whether by rotating it by hand or using the gearing knob. This is a great feature, and even though I’m not planning to do any large format panoramas, it’s an extra bonus for fine-tuning compositions, providing a feature that only the Manfrotto 410 had up until this point. The extra attention to detail here is great, and very well suited to large-format users since the finger-tip control switch is basically the same size and shape as the opening and closing aperture switch on a large-format Copal shutter. Nicely done Arca-Swiss.