FLM CP34-L4 II Review

Head Choice


When selecting a head, one wants to pair the legs with a head that will not compromise the stiffness of the system as a whole.  On the other hand, a head that is too big adds diminishing performance increases and just adds weight.  

Below is the optimization result for selecting a ball head.  This chart plots the stiffness to weight ratio for this tripod and each ball head that I have tested in blue dots versus the stiffness of those heads.  The red line is a generalized model for a strong performing ball head. The higher up on the this graph the higher stiffness/weight performance of the system.  More information on this analysis can be found in the ball head choice optimization page.

This chart is telling us that we want a ball head with stiffness of around 5000 Nm/rad in stiffness or more in order to optimize the performance of the system.  Note that this optimization is done assuming the full height of the tripod.  When used at more typical working heights, the legs will be even stiffer and so we would want an even stiffer head.  So lets err on the side of more stiffness in the head.

As with all systematic style tripods, this one makes an excellent platform for heavier geared and pan-tilt style heads.  Since these heads are inherently less stiff and the CP-34 is a a larger tripod, it is important to get the one of the stiffest ones available for the best performance.

Recommended Heads

Note that these recommendations are limited to the tripod heads I have tested.  The more general discussion above should provide adequate guidance if your head of choice is not listed.

FLM CB-48 FTR – The CB-48 is the FLM branded head that pairs best in terms of size with this tripod.  Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to test this model specifically, but have tested the larger CB-58 FTR which performs wonderfully, but is practically a bit too large for these legs.

RRS BH-55 – The BH-55 is a classic and for good reason.  It has excellent stiffness, ergonomics, and build quality with the benefits of a low profile head.  The only problem is that it is a bit too large and heavy for this tripod.  The BH-40 is way too small though.

Sirui K-30X – Easily the best value head on this list and one of the best in terms of total performance performance is excellent.  It only falls a little bit short of the rivals on this list in terms of ergonomics and build quality.  One might also consider the larger K-40X for these legs if you are okay with adding a bit more weight in exchange for better handling.

Markins Q20i – Included here because it is technically the highest performing head on this list based on the graph above.  The Q20i is really more of a midsize head though and doesn’t have the base diameter to fully take advantage of the large cork top pad on the FLM CP34 legs.

Arca Swiss Z1 – The Z1 is a bit awkward in size being too small for many systematic tripods.  For the CP34-L4 though, it is just right.

Acratech Panoramic – The Acratech Panoramic Head is the stiffest pan-tilt head I have tested.  This stiffness comes in large part from the lack of a roll, or leveling axis.  This makes it an interesting combination with the CP34-L4 which has a built in leveling base.  Once you level the panoramic head with a 75mm half ball, the independent pan and tilt adjustment axes offer some ergonomic benefits.  Whether or not this works for you is largely a matter of personal preference, but it is preferred by many.

The table below shows the estimated combined stiffness of this tripod with each head I have tested to date.  The plot above is simply a visual representation of the last two columns in this table. The recommended heads are loosely based off this list but take into account other subjective factors of ergonomics, build quality, and value.

HeadYaw StiffnessPitch StiffnessMean StiffnessStiffness per Weight
Markins Q20i836.21531205487.
Markins M10824.18851147477.
Sirui K-30X826.18701146476.
Acratech Panoramic799.15701059455.
Innorel N44797.15941062454.
Arca Swiss Monoball Z1824.18491140450.
Sirui K-10X768.14431003447.
Sirui K-40X835.20431186446.
Innorel N52821.17731123446.
RRS BH-25716.1230905.444.
Sirui K-20X777.14391009440.
Feisol CB-70D869.22881260439.
Feisol CB-50DC776.17671079439.
RRS BH-40786.15471043438.
RRS BH-55 Screw852.20471203435.
FLM CB-58FTR836.21271200433.
RRS BH-55 Lever846.19901187426.
Leofoto LH-40744.16071017425.
Acratech GP723.1589993.423.
Zomei Z669C726.1338942.419.
Benro IB2772.1219945.417.
RRS BH-30691.1211880.412.
Leofoto LH-25660.1149839.407.
Acratech Ultimate682.1531943.406.
Gitzo GH2780683.1543947.405.
Kirk BH-1817.16081084396.
Manfrotto MHXPRO-BHQ6709.1452953.394.
Sirui C-10X689.997.815.391.
3 Legged Thing Airhead Switch667.1175851.391.
Kirk BH-3697.1218887.363.
Gitzo GH3382QD722.1318933.358.
Arca Swiss P0637.1036789.357.
Colorado Tripod Co Highline Aluminum653.1165837.349.
MeFoto Q1604.979.747.343.
Induro BHQ3794.1298985.327.
Arca Swiss Cube759.1199930.316.
Arca Swiss d4718.1124876.304.
Gitzo G-2271M554.1471805.301.
Manfrotto MHXPRO-BHQ2575.927.710.290.
Rogeti RG-1839.650.733.284.
Gitzo GH1382TQD533.739.619.276.
Sirui FD-01587.761.662.252.
Manfrotto 410 Junior573.966.720.236.
Photoclam Multiflex549.890.679.233.
Benro GD3WH513.712.596.230.
Leofoto G4523.495.508.197.
Manfrotto MH494-BH 200PL311.549.397.179.
Manfrotto MH804-3WUS405.465.433.166.
Manfrotto 482 Micro187.300.230.114.