Gimbal for Canon 500mm f4L

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Hi,

Long post. Sorry.

I know there’s already a few questions on here about support for lenses and bullheads and gimbals but I wanted some advice specific to my lens and situation if possible so started this new thread.

I’m awaiting delivery of a Canon 500mm f4L IS II lens which I believe weighs in around 3200g. I want to use this for bird/wildlife ( but mainly bird ) photography.

I am old and feeble and so I’m looking for a lightweight, safe way to mount this which will take the strain from me and keep my lens safe. I would sacrifice some functionality for security and weight - saving. I would go up to around a £500 budget. Less is obviously nice.

Some options I have thought of are:

Wimberley gimbal Seems good but heavy and expensive.

Gitzo fluid head. Seems good but also heavy though less expensive.

Jobu Jr3 is lightweight and cheap but stated max load is only around 4kg which worries me.

Wimberley sidekick seems to tick the boxes. I’d put it on my Z1, but I can’t shake the idea that it looks precarious attached to the ballhead like that and I fear lenses might fall out or over. It looks like it might need a fair bit of care attaching and setting up. Am I worrying too much I hope so because it looks like a good option.

While looking I also saw this


This guy likes it
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDctsMYMh2E


I’m new to this so can someone tell me what the big deal is ? Apart from some enhanced panning/levelling is it so much different from my Arca Z1? Would it be a better albeit more costly option than the sidekick?

Last and only today, I have found Lensmaster and am also tempted by their offerings. I am drawn to the T1 or RH1. Both are sidemount gimbals ( so I guess the same issue of attaching as the Sidekick ) and according to the site the T1 Weighs 535g IT says: "Although small this sidemount Gimbal can hold the longer super telephoto lenses such as 300F2.8 - 500F4- 600F4 -800f5.6 with or without converters it can also take a small lens such as a 50mmf1.8 or 17/85 f4/5.6 using the supplied L bracket.

As far as I can make out the RH1 is the bigger version and weighs in at 784g.

They don't give max loads for these but they do another version RH2 which is around 1200g and has another bracket. It isn't side mounted I believe this lets you use a variety of smaller lenses more easily but I'm not sure. If anyone knows about these I'm very attracted and these are made by a smaller UK company. On the other hand it's almost as heavy as the Gitzo so I'm back to that again.

I'm still fairly tempted by the T1 or maybe the Sidekick. Are my reservations about attaching these securely groundless? Any views?

Anyway these are my thoughts and I’d appreciate any advice you can give me.


Thank you for your help.
 
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Graham
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While looking I also saw this


This guy likes it
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDctsMYMh2E
I use an UniqBall head (used to have two, now only one) which was designed by the same person who designed the Fexshooter, but split away from Uniqball to sell the Flexshooter, which is a similar, but apparently improved design to the Uniqball.


The difference between them and other ball heads, is that you have two balls: a small inner ball, within an outer big ball.

The movement of the "inner" ball is restricted to two axes, so you can't move the camera away from being parallel with the horizon. That can only be done with the outer ball, which you need to set up before you start using the head. This is where it's different from normal Ball heads, which can move in any direction. You can also dampen the inner ball to match the weight of the camera/lens you are using.

If you lock the inner ball, you can use the outer ball, just as you would a conventional ball head.

They are great all purpose heads, especially for travel but I'm not sure if they as good as proper Gimbal for BIF (from what people say, I've never used one), or a proper 3-way head for general use. The big advantage over a Gimbal is how much more compact they are, and that they work just as well as a normal tripod head as well as a BIF head.

I find them "fussy" to use, but hard to beat if you want a single compact head that does everything well, even if it isn't the "best" choice for any individual application (except maybe travel).

As an aside, although I use a range of heads, my main head for general use and BIF is a Manfrotto "fluid" video head (on a Gitzo system 3 tripod), Set up as shown here:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ei8XYK5Cz-k
 
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Thank you for explaining that, Graham. I'm not sure I'm prepared to splash out $520 on one. I'm leaning towards either the Wimberley Sidekick or the Lensmaster T1 at the moment.
 
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I'm not sure I'm prepared to splash out $520 on one. I'm leaning towards either the Wimberley Sidekick or the Lensmaster T1 at the moment.
Yes, it's a lot of money if you can't take advantage of its features. There are a few people on this forum who have experience of Gimbals and Uniqball or/and Flexshooters, who might give you a better comparison. I like the video head option as it's mentally undemanding to use, but the only wildlife photographer I'm aware of using one (for stills) is Morten Hilmer.
 
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Russell
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Hi, I no it is a bit heavier but the lens master RH2 is a cracking gimbal for the price plus made in UK and from what I have read a very helpful company. I tried the cheaper offerings of gimbals and the RH-2 leaves them behind by quite some way. Russ
 
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Thank you chaps. I appreciate this information. I'm still a little worried at teh side mounting design so I'm not sure. Also the Wimberley is pretty heavy.

The other thing I'm looking at is this

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlN-U_3PGlM


I like the look of these and they are for sale on Amazon and are light but pricey at £550!
 
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Considering how light the lens is, I'd just use a monopod.
I fear you might have missed this bit ;)

I am old and feeble ......
I take your point and can see that a monopod would be handy if I was walking aroundWhat I'm looking for is to sit with it on a tripod for a while and photograph birds in flight as well as on the marshes at a local site. I just don't fancy having to even keep my hands on it for a few hours at a time. I also have arthritis in my hands so this seemed like a good solution to me.
 
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Martin
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I bought the same lens a couple of years ago and agonised over heads and tripods to make full use for similar photography. Sadly trying to find a lightweight option affected the performance, so I ended up with a Gitzo systematic tripod and got a very good deal on aBenro GH5C. List price is currently around £150 cheaper than a Wimberley and the Benro weighs in at nearly 1/2 kilo lighter.

There have been some reports of the lock system slipping due to lack of rubber on the foot but I have had no issues. Having travelled around quite a bit with this setup I’m more than happy, though I’m not so certain my back and arms feel the same!

Just to add, it’s a really cracking lens you’re going to play with
 
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Yes I looked at the Benro GH5C and I was a bit put off by the Arca lock thing you mentioned.

TBH I'm changing my mind every minute! I mailed the chap who makes the Lensmaster heads and he was really helpful. He mailed me quickly and explained everything to me, so I'd by happy buying from him. Hi stuff seems good. I have some reservations about the side mounted thing on the T1 and RH1 but he reckoned it's fine and I would get used to that setup. The alternative is to buy the RH2 which is cheap, and though it's a fair bit heavier than the T1, is only about 90g heavier than the Benro so I'm not sure .....
 
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I’d second the Lensmaster RH2, mine was specifically made for a Sigma 300-800mm (the arm was slightly longer) made to orde and delivered in under a week.
 
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Laurence
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I have used both Manfrotto and Wimberley full sized gimbals and also a Sidekick mounted on an Acratech ball head with a Canon 500mm.
However I am also old and feeble(ish) due to a rheumatic condition and have finally settled on a different gear set accordingly.
Last year I came across the Flexshooter head and despite being uncertain about it I decided to try it due to impending air travel with an already very heavy back pack. I have to say that it has been absolutely perfect for me. Smaller and lighter for travel, easy to set up and handles my 200-600 and body with room to spare.
I would add that the Lensmaster gimbals are excellent and the manufacturer is a member of this forum.
 
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I used one of these with 30mm f2.8 and converters 500mm and also my 800mm f5.6 and a D3 or D810 I tried side kicks etc but found the manfrotto gimbal 393 to be the best of the lot
 
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Considering how light the lens is, I'd just use a monopod.

Sorry, Mark. I realised I hadn't included this part in my reply above. Although it isn't my primary objective, I would still be interested in pursuing the monopod option as an additional set up. Have you a recommendation for the monopod and head?
 
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I am wondering if anyone has any experience with Kenro? A UK company but presumably manufactured in the east? They sound strangely similar to Benro and their products look similar also. Are they reliable brand in general?

I'm very tempted by the Benro GH5C but I'm a bit put off because I notice the only review on WEX site mentions poor fit slippage on the lens plate fixing. Also on the B&H site here a number of people are saying it isn't very securely to the tripod plate. the fact that @martin_h has had a good experience with none of these problems suggests to me there might be QC issues.

I'm wondering if sticking to the GH2 might be wiser?
 
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Currently use a Wim v2 but used to use a Manfrotto 393.
Tried a monopod and 232 but you are forced into handing it / holding at all times.

The gimbal I just point roughly where I expect to shoot from & it stays there..

The manfrotto is ok - not great but certainly not bad & cheap - still think I have a spare one lying about as had 2 of them..
The Wim is another level above & is just sublime -I never tried the sidekick..
 
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I'm leaning towards either the Benro or the Lensmaster. I'm most keen on the latter as Rob was so helpful and he seems to care about his product. The only thing I'm slightly put off by is the lack of vertical adjustment but I have an idea that this isn't such as big issue as I am imagining. I haven't used a gimbal before so I'm abit clueless.
 
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I'm leaning towards either the Benro or the Lensmaster. I'm most keen on the latter as I Rob was so helpful and he seems to care abuot his product. The only thing I'm slightly put off by is the lack of vertical adjustment but I have an idea that this isn't such as big issue as I am imagining. I haven't used a gimbal before so I'm abit clueless.
If you have a range of lenses then having the vertical adjustment is very useful.

Go on Utube for videos - must be some there...

Its a bit of kit that needs a little practice to get the best from - like anything .....

If you try the Wim, you will understand...

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYZ22h5bvLs
 
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Sorry, Mark. I realised I hadn't included this part in my reply above. Although it isn't my primary objective, I would still be interested in pursuing the monopod option as an additional set up. Have you a recommendation for the monopod and head?
A Kirk Ball head was recommended to me - not cheap - but it is really really good - last use in high winds on the bay at Rhosneigr for the kite surfers..
 
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Glynn
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A monopod will be helpful, but nothing like as useful as mounting a gimbal on a good tripod. I often use my Lensmaster RH2 mounted to my Gitzo 5561 monopod, but the number of 'keepers' is never as good as using the same Gimbal on my Gitzo 5532 LS tripod.

Why spend a lot of money on a decent lens and then compromise it all on a sub-standard support system?

I should add that both my Gitzo products were second-hand off ebay, so you don't need to spend a fortune on them!
 
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For sure a monopod wouldn't be my first choice but there are times when it would be an option for me.
 
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