Photography News 92 Newsletter

First test

PRICE: £459.95


Having sturdy tripod legs is important, but there is no point topping it off with a wobbly ball head. Cue Gitzo’s latest, very substantial offering GitzoGH4383LR

SPECS ›  Price £459.95 ›  In the box Head, plate, soft bag ›  Material Aluminium ›  Independent pan lock Yes ›  Panoramic rotation 360° ›  Pan drag Fluid cartridge with fixed drag ›  Max payload 30kg

TO PARAPHRASE VESPER Lynd in Casino Royale as she referred to James Bond’s dinner jacket: there are ball heads and ball heads. Well, the Gitzo GH4383LR is the latter. It boasts a 30kg max payload, weighs 900g and is, honestly, a bit of a beast – albeit a beautifully engineered one. At £459.95, it’s not priced for the faint-hearted. Assuming you have some robust legs, the job of any tripod head is to hold the camera and lens rock steady – some do it better than others. Use a smaller-format camera or a full-frame with a standard lens, and a modest head can do the job. But if the situation gets more demanding, ensure your kit is up to scratch. When it comes to tripods and ball heads, we are blessed with great options – this Gitzo included. The new GH4383LR is designed for Gitzo Series 3, 4 and 5 tripods, with a 60mm base diameter. Although, with the standard 3/8in screw thread fitting, it goes on almost any tripod. In use, this ball head is lovely. The locking knob is big – no problem with gloved hands – and having adjustable friction with a separate control is great. However, I would like the option of locking the chosen setting: it can be easily moved when the tripod is being carried. In the absence of a lock, more resistance might work as effectively. The camera platform has a bubble level and there’s a lever to release the camera plate. This has a push lock to prevent the plate moving, until it is pressed. Once used, both camera and plate can be lifted off the platform. On the other side of the lever lock is

›  Base diameter 60mm ›  Bubble level Yes, one ›  Weight 900g ›  Contact

an adjusting screw, for varying the width of the locking jaws. A spring- loaded stud on the base stops the camera sliding off. I had a breezy, late-July day to test performance, and you won’t be surprised to hear it delivered impressively. I used the head on a Gitzo GT4553S Series 4 carbon tripod, and on a variety of lighter pods from Leofoto, Manfrotto and Vanguard. The heaviest camera/lens combination I tested with the head was a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with an EF 300mm f/2.8 lens, and a Nikon D850 with a Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Contemporary – both with converters attached. Weight-wise, we are talking “THE LOCKING KNOB IS BIG – NO PROBLEMWITH GLOVED HANDS”

Verdict There’s absolutely no doubt that the Gitzo GH4383LR ball head is a gorgeous, skilfully engineered piece of kit – one of the finest ball heads I have ever used or even touched. There’s also no doubt that it’s expensive and pretty exclusive, too, with a payload rating that’s more than many modern image makers, shooting smaller-format cameras, would need. However, if you do shoot medium format or full-frame with fast- aperture telephotos – or enjoy making super-long exposures – the GH4383LR will give you the stability needed for perfect results. That’s provided you mount it on tripod legs of similar build quality, of course. PROS Great to use, secure locking lever, exquisitely engineered, performs well CONS Heavy, expensive,

4kg. Even with these hefty loads, the head locked securely, meaning no creep when shooting tightly-framed compositions – stability was spot on. I also tried some exposures with extreme ND filters using wide and standard; they were fine, too. WC FOUNDATION The 60mm base (above) makes the GH4383LR a perfect fit with Series 3, 4 and 5 Systematic tripods – and it has a 30kg max payload. Here it is on a GT4553S Series 4 tripod (right)

a lock on the friction knob would be nice

LOCK IT DOWN Camera plate security is excellent, and it can’t be slipped off the mounting plate until a locking button is depressed, releasing the lever lock

LET IT ROLL Ball friction is controlled with a large knob. But on the downside, it can’t be locked – so it can be moved inadvertently, altering the setting

Issue 92 | Photography News 53

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