Amazing Performance & Convenience in a Weird-Looking Design
Review by Fernando Santos
There are ball heads, video heads, gimbal heads, monopod heads, and then there’s the Acratech Panoramic Head, which is a little bit of everything, and let me tell you up-front: I’m loving it! There’s a lot to be said about this tripod head, so let’s get started.
The first thing you’ll notice is the odd-looking design. Then, you start noticing how well built it is, the attention given to details, the way it feels in your hands. There’s a visible, very accurate, and larger-than-usual spirit level, which is key to some use cases of this tripod head. The knobs feel good to the touch, having different sizes and textures so that you can easily know which one you’re using, even in absolute darkness. The attention to detail I mentioned goes as far as not being able to unscrew the knobs (and ending up dropping and losing them), because they just don’t come out. Even though it weighs just under 1 lb (450 g), this Acratech head can hold more than 25 lbs (11.4 kg), which should be more than enough for most users.
It’s very easy to operate, because you control each rotation axis independently: you can tilt up or down up to 90°, and separately, you can pan 360°. Both axes have visible markings so that you know exactly how many degrees you’re moving. You have three knobs: one for panning, one for tension, and the other one for tilting. The lever clamp included is also of high quality, including two security features: one locks the lever in place unless you press the spring-loaded mechanism to open it; the other will keep most arca plates secure, without letting them slip out of the clamp. You can also adjust the clamp to accommodate little differences in arca-plate sizes, which can be important if you have a plate that’s a little larger or smaller than usual. Another important feature is that you can rotate the clamp 360° in 30° increments; so that you can mount your camera or your lens to the head, and still have it in the right direction. All the knobs can be operated with just your hands, as they’re large enough to lock/unlock/adjust easily, without the need of any special tools.
I’ve used many different tripod heads, but this one is probably the most convenient. Let me explain why. When you’re positioning your camera for the intended composition, initially you want to move it freely to point it to your subject, but then you need to do minor adjustments—panning left or right, or tilting up or down. The possibility of keeping one direction locked and moving the other is a big help. With a typical ball head, you release the lock, and it can move freely in any direction, and you will have to redo the composition, level the camera, etc.
Another major benefit of this tripod head is that you can also use it as a monopod head. Use only the tilt knob, and it will only move up or down. Also, if you have a long lens attached to the monopod, and you want to attach the camera body, because they’re perpendicular, you need to adjust the clamp: Just loosen the large knob below the arca clamp, rotate the clamp 90°, lock it again, and you’re good to go.
For use as a monopod, you don’t need to buy anything else; however, if you’re considering using this Acratech head on a tripod, I seriously recommend you have a leveling head too, otherwise all the good things about it can easily become a nuisance. Apart from that recommendation,
I couldn’t find anything negative to say about the Acratech Panoramic Head. It’s really very convenient to operate; it accommodates many different situations; and it’s a very high-quality product. As I said in the beginning, even though the design looks a bit weird, I really liked this tripod head, so give it a try. You may be happily surprised how well it performs.