Ball Head Choice Optimization

When choosing a ball head, one doesn’t want to choose a head that is too small and will compromise the stiffness of the tripod.  Neither does one want a head that is too big and heavy, ruining the portability of the system while only providing diminishing benefits in terms of stiffness.  This series of posts documents and explains the process of determining which ball head will provide the optimal stiffness to weight ratio for the system.

First, we develop a method to combine the stiffness’s of legs and heads, and test it out:

Calculating the Stiffness of a Complete Tripod + Head

Next, we look at trends in weight vs stiffness for ball heads and develop the “good ball head” model:

Ball Head Trends

This next post gets to the meat of the matter, optimizing the best available ball head for a given tripod:

Best Choice for a Given Tripod

Next we try to generalize and develop a heuristic for picking a head for an arbitrary tripod.  Turns out that the it is best to choose a ball head at least three times the stiffness of the legs:

Searching for Generalization

All of this analysis is dependent on the underlying assumption that maximizing stiffness to weight ratio is optimal.  In reality, there may be many other factors to actually choosing a ball head such as price, build quality, and feature set.  But this is a decent starting point.