Geared heads are the holy grail of camera support. Gearing allows for a fast, precise composition. Unfortunately, geared heads tend to be heavy, expensive, and less stiff than their ball counterparts. The Leofoto G4 is small and inexpensive enough to negate two of those problems, potentially making it the perfect geared head for field use.
The G4 is nearly a direct copy of the Arca Swiss D4 geared head. This is indeed intellectual property violation at its most blatant. Leofoto has made some improvements on the overall design of the D4, but lacks the manufacturing precision of the Swiss company.
|Stiffness About Vertical Axis||1236 +/- 7 Nm/rad|
|Stiffness About Radial Axis||593 +/- 7 Nm/rad|
|Weight||1.499 lbs (0.68 kgs)|
|Manufacturer weight rating||44 lbs (19.96kgs)|
|Maximum Height||4.0 in (10.2 cm)|
|Base Diameter||2.36 in (6.0 cm)|
|Ball Diameter||N/A mm|
|Quick Release||Arca Clamp|
The highlight of the specs is the weight, or lack thereof. The G4 is the lightest and most compact geared head I have tested to date. It is thus one of the most tempting geared heads for travel and field use. At just under 1.5 lbs, the G4 resides comfortably on the top of most all-purpose style tripods. It is still a bit larger for a set of dedicated travel legs. The downside is that the G4 is also one of the least stiff heads I have tested.
The lack of stiffness is likely the result of two issues with the head. First, the neck connecting the clamp to the rest of the body is very narrow. This directly causes some flex in the system. Second is the gearing. Like all geared systems, there is a little bit of slack and backlash in the gearing that results in less than perfect rigidity. While I haven’t tested the Arca Swiss D4, I suspect that this an area where the original will perform much better.
The ergonomics of the G4 are excellent. The two gearing knobs are naturally placed for their respective tilt and leveling functions. The knobs themselves are large, feel good under the fingers and easy to adjust. The two geared axes can be unlocked from the gearing with the large levers. When unlocked, the head can be moved just by pushing on the camera. This makes gross adjustments much faster. When unlocked, the head is still quite stiff, and the camera will not simply flop over. Unfortunately the third axes, panning, is not geared. This is somewhat common among geared heads for reasons I don’t particularly understand. Panning is just as important for composition as the other two axes, if not more so, and it is technically the easiest axis to make geared. Anyways, its not geared. I wish it were. Take note.
The fit and finish are excellent for the price point. They are not quite as good as the $1k+ geared heads, but we wouldn’t expect that either. I have no complaints.
Overall I really like the G4. I really want to love it because having a lightweight field portable geared head is the dream. The only thing preventing me from slapping this head on my favorite all-purpose hiking tripod is the lack of stiffness. It is enough of a problem to make using a stiff expensive tripod with this head pretty pointless. If you are simply looking for a lightweight, well built geared head for field use in good conditions, this is the perfect option. If you are shooting in windy conditions, or don’t like using a cable release, look elsewhere.
Presently, the Leofoto G4 doesn’t not seem to be widely available for purchase. It was commonly available for about a year in 2018, but has since quietly disappeared from the market. I don’t know why this is, but we can speculate at copyright issues, manufacturing difficulty, or simply low sales. The best bet for finding a G4 is on Ebay.