Manfrotto Horizontal Grip Action Ballhead

by Doc Glidewell

I almost always work with a tripod, and I find a ball head – one that I can quickly swivel to frame the shot – essential. But even with a ball head, as with other tripod heads, I am constantly taking my hands from the camera to adjust the controls. Several years ago Manfrotto introduced a ball head with a vertical hand grip between the ball and the camera that made positioning the camera faster and more intuitive. But I was never happy with the way the camera teetered on the top of the the device, swinging around at the end of the long grip.

Good news: Manfrotto has just solved that problem and greatly improved the device.

The Manfrotto 322RC2 Horizontal Grip Action Ballhead screws onto the top of the tripod and, via a standard quick release mechanism, holds the camera only 2 inches above the tripod top plate, greatly lowering its center of gravity. In that two-inch elevation is a ball mount with a horizontal grip; squeeze it and the camera is free to swivel in any direction, release it and the camera locks.

The device feels solid and is rated to hold eleven pounds of camera and lens. Indeed, I never get the sense that the camera might slip away, even when using it in awkward positions. I find it also works fine with long lenses that have their own mounts. The tension of the ball grip is adjusted by a large thumb screw in the handle and it has a bubble level built next to the quick-release locking lever. The ball mechanism is a bit sticky; it does not have the silky smoothness of a large expensive ball head, but so long as it continues to hold the camera tightly, I’ll sacrifice that bit of polish.

The handle can be repositioned via two hex bolts – Manfrotto supplies an Allen wrench – to operate from either side. Although the manufacturer describes the unit as being set up, out of the box, for right-hand photographers, and I am right handed, I like it better with the handle on the left. Once I have set the camera controls, I can hold the camera with my right hand, frame the photo by squeezing the ball grip with my left, then press the shutter, all without moving my hands. The photos here show it configured this way.

It is a very elegant improvement over a basically good idea. I have found the best deal on the unit at Amazon (click here). Manfrotto 322RC2 Joystick Head Short

With the handle set on the left, the photographer can reposition and shoot without moving his hands. The red bar indicates the amount of tension on the ball mechanism.

This is the most comfortable working configuration for me, but the handle can easily be reversed (back to the “normal” position.

You should also check out Calumet Photo: Manfrotto 322RC2 Grip Action Ball Head.

© 2009, R. A. Glidewell

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