I’ve been using gimbal heads in my photography for as long as I can remember. Gimbal heads are simple devices that support long, heavy, lenses. They help photographers move big lenses around while tracking fast moving objects in the distance.
Their primary feature is the ability to balance the camera and lens within the tripod head and use tension controls to simulate a “weightlessness.” The camera can be moved freely but stays in place when not being moved. The gimbal allows for easy tracking along the vertical and horizontal axis, but generally, does not offer the ability to make precise angular movements along either. A gimbal head excels at tracking a fast-moving subject, (like a bird) and allowing large, cumbersome camera setups to be used with more agility than nearly any other support system.
Since I switched to Olympus, I rarely need a gimbal head because the OMD EM1 MK II is so light, I can shoot handheld. That said, sometimes using a gimbal allows me to rest my arms and when photographing birds moving along a predictable flight path. The use of a gimbal head makes each shot just a tad steadier and probably gives me an extra hour of shooting because my arms don’t get tired.
Great, useful and pricey
Now here’s the problem with gimbal heads. The name-brand heads out there are very expensive. They often cost as much or more than a good tripod. That’s why I got very excited when I found out about the Oben GH-30 Gimbal Head. It costs $249.95 which is less than half the price of its competition.
Looking at these specs, I’m struck by the fact that they are competitive with anything out there in the same size and price range with one exception – this unit probably cannot handle a full-frame, 600mm lens on a FF body.
Load Capacity: 44 lb
Weight: 3.2 lb
360° Pan with Independent Lock
Ideal for Sports or Wildlife Photography
Balance and Maneuver Large Tele Lenses
3/8″-16 Tripod Mounting Socket
Plate with Two 1/4″-20 Mounts & Bushings
Numbered Scales for Easy Repeated Set Up
Using the Oben GH-30
This unit is strong enough to handle any big camera/lens combo that you throw at it. The sturdiness comes from the fact that it’s constructed of aluminum. Yes, it would have been much lighter if it had been made of carbon fiber, then the price would have doubled while realizing a weight saving of only 30%.
The head transitions across the panning range very smoothly. It’s fluid and easy to balance and maneuver. This head gives total, stable, control over both horizontal and vertical lens movements. Regardless of material, (aluminum or carbon fiber) this is the most important aspect of a gimbal after strength. The fit and finish are solid and everything looks like it was put there for a purpose. There isn’t anything that I’d want from a gimbal that the GH-30 doesn’t offer.
I am very impressed with the GH-30. It’s probably the finest piece of gear in the Oben line that I have ever tested. It’s well-engineered, reasonably light-weight (given the price point) and less than half the cost of the usual choices. It’s as sturdy as can be and I guarantee you that if you buy it, you won’t be dissatisfied. You can pay more, but you won’t get much for the difference. Highly recommended.