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 to use a ball head of stiffness around 6000 Nm/rad or more.  The TVC-33 is stiff and heavy enough that there is little downside to using larger and heavier heads.  For this tripod, we will want to be choosing a large, full sized ball head.  Anything less will not do these legs justice in terms of stiffness performance or operational ergonomics.

The TVC-33 also makes an excellent platform on which to use heavier tilt-shift and geared heads.  If doing so, be sure to get the stiffest and most stable ones.  These heads are naturally less stiff than ball heads and so the best ones will be necessary to get the most out of the legs.

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.

RRS BH-55 – The BH-55 is designed to pair well with the TVC-33 legs, so its no surprise that this is the top choice.  Build quality, ergonomics, and performance are all top notch.  The BH-55 has a low profile design which helps keep the camera closer to the tripod’s apex, a boon for stability.  The primary downside of the BH-55 is the weight.  It is frustrating to have a light (for the size and strength) set of legs in the TVC-33 and then pair it with a head that is probably a little heavier than it needs to be.

FLM CB-58FTR – The FLM CB-58FTR is probably the most fully featured ball head in existence.  The build and performance are excellent.  It is larger but roughly the same weight as the BH-55.  If you want unique features such as locking roll, this is the head for you.

Arca Swiss Z1 – If you are trying to save weight, the Z1 will be an excellent choice.  It is smaller, lighter, and a little bit less stiff than the other heads listed here, but the build quality and smoothness of operation are still up to the high standards we require.

Markins Q-20i – The Q-20i has the best total system stiffness/weight ratio when paired with the TVC-33.  It is very stiff and very light.  It is a bit too small though to provide a good ergonomic match for the TVC-33 and lacks the operational precision of the Z1.

Sirui K-40X – The K-40X is easily the most economical choice on this list, but if you are buying the TVC-33, cost probably isn’t a huge concern for you.  Still though, the stiffness performance of the K-40X is excellent, and not just for the price.  The build quality isn’t quite up to the same standards as the other heads listed here, but it isn’t bad.

Arca Cube – If you are going to use a geared head here, the Arca Cube is the best.  Geared heads are less stiff than ball heads in general, so it is imperative for performance in the field to get the best.  If you are using a low-end geared head, there is little point in spending all that money for the TVC-33 legs.

TFC Version Recommended Heads

Things get a little more complicated if you are using the TFC ‘fixed’ apex.  The fixed apex has a much smaller platform for mounting heads.  In this case I would still recommend the Arca Swiss Z1 and Markins Q-20i heads, but the others on this list are too large and a bit ungainly.  The RRS BH-40 is realistically too small for the 33 legs.  The Sirui K-30X is a better alternative to the K-40X here.