A ball head on tripods? Sure. Ball head on monopods? No way.
We heard this warning too, and the pros will give you plenty of reasons why it’s a BAD idea.
We used to agree… Until we busted the myth ourselves.
And let me tell you: The results blew our mind.
The 5 best ball heads totally SMASHED our expectations, and it’s actually fun to get GREAT angles from all directions with these.
Still skeptical? See for yourself!
The 5 Best Ball Heads For Monopods
Here’s a disclaimer: because of the very popular myth, you won’t find a lot of ball heads specifically for monopods. So if you’re searching it up on Amazon, you’ll see plenty of tilt and gimbal heads.
Ball heads? Zero.
Below, you’ll see tripod heads. We assure you: they’ll work.
The best ball heads use standard mounts and attachments, and monopods typically use the same systems as tripods.
Arca-Swiss Monoball Z1: Best Overall
- Material: Aluminum
- Ball Diameter: 54mm
- Weight: 680g
- Height: 104mm
- Load Capacity: 59kg
Need the best of the best? If you’ve got a tripod in your gear, the Arca-Swiss Z1 tripod head should absolutely be in your arsenal.
When opening the box, you might notice that the sphere of the Z1 isn’t perfectly round. The aspherical ball means you don’t need to fiddle around adjusting the friction when increasing tilt.
It gives you more control while shooting with your monopod. Sure, you can technically move your arm around to pan 360 degrees. But in increasingly difficult situations, the Z1 gives you the angle you need.
On A Monopod
The Z1 is an Arca-Swiss product so you’ll need an Arca-Swiss compatible quick release system. Keep that in mind if you’re counting the dollars.
But because of the easy release system, it’s easier to mount to your monopod compared to the competition. No need to tango with your monopod while mounting!
And it’s not just stable while you’re mounting. If you’re sick and tired of blurry shots in low light, the support of the Z1 on your monopod will give you the stability you need.
Of course, the only con is having to spend a few more dollars to get your hands on an Arca-Swiss plate. As if the Z1 isn’t pricey enough!
Is Arca-Swiss Z1 For You?
The Arca-Swiss Z1 is a BIFL (that’s buy-it-for-life) ball head. It’s sturdy and gives you smooth movement for tracking your shots WITHOUT SACRIFICING friction lock for keeping your camera in place.
If you have the money to spend, the Arca-Swiss Z1 is a no-brainer.
- Easy to use friction controls
- Unparalleled stability
- Needs a compatible mount
Manfrotto XPRO Magensium Ball Head: Best Value
- Material: Magnesium
- Ball Diameter: —
- Weight: 520g
- Height: 104mm
- Load Capacity: 10kg
If you’re the kind to stay away from ball tripod head set-ups because of how unwieldy it could be, the Manfrotto XPRO is the solution for you.
The XPRO gets it right by implementing a tactile, clicky friction wheel so you can make precise movements without threading knobs.
We prefer wheels to knobs just because it’s that much easier to tighten the friction when needed.
It’s EXTREMELY SMOOTH, so you won’t stutter if you’re trying panoramic shots. And this head’s got enough stability for taking crystal clear photos without blur.
On A Monopod
The XPRO has a pretty high profile, but that doesn’t mean it’s not compact. The advantage of a monopod is its portability, and pairing it with this Manfrotto allows easy carrying.
For all that we love the XPRO, we noticed it can only support lighter loads than this head could take. That’s a problem if you’re using a full-frame set-up, or if you have bigger lenses.
Is Manfrotto XPRO For You?
If you want an all-in-one package at a more affordable price (surprising, since this is a Manfrotto product), then the XPRO is for you. It’s easy to use, and it glides like butter.
If you need stability but want a portable set-up for carrying around, there Manfrotto XPRO is your best bet.
- Easy mounting, Arca-Swss compatible plated head
- Intuitive friction wheel
- Compact and portable
- Not suitable for full-frame set-ups
Vanguard Alta GH-300T: Best Budget
- Material: Magnesium Alloy
- Ball Diameter: 32mm
- Weight: 790g
- Height: 8.1″
- Load Capacity: 6kg
Have you been thinking about getting a head, but the options are just too heavy on the wallet?
If that sounds like you, the Vanguard Alta GH-300T might make you change your mind. It’s a fraction of the price of the more premium, professional equipment, but it’s no less durable.
Even with a small ball, it’s easy to pan left to right, even at higher friction. And speaking of friction, its 8-stop friction dial is intuitive. No need to figure out which knob works best!
On A Monopod
This budget head has one component that sets it above the rest for monopods: its pistol grip.
You typically won’t find a pistol grip packaged with a head because that’s usually a separate purchase. With the Vanguard’s grip, you don’t need to use your shaky hands to pan – ensuring smoother gliding.
But there is a minor gripe about the Vanguard: when you fully engage the friction knob, your locking knob gets stuck and screwing it off could be difficult.
We didn’t like how it looks, too. The finish makes it look like cheap material. But if looks aren’t important to you, you can try your luck with the Vanguard.
Is Vanguard Alta GH-300T For You?
- Smooth movement
- Improved stability with pistol grip attachment
- Remote shutter input makes taking pictures more stable
- Can’t support a heavier lens
- Material looks cheap
Benro B3 Double Action Ballhead
- Material: Magnesium Alloy
- Ball Diameter: 54mm
- Weight: 700g
- Height: 110mm
- Load Capacity: 30kg
With the Benro B3, you won’t struggle to achieve the right angle. The B3’s coated ball ensures fluid movement whenever you’re panning from left to right.
And speaking of easy, the indexed knobs on the B3 are a great addition to those of us who like remembering our set-up.
Unlike some “stepless” knobs, both the friction knob and the locking knob of the B3 have number indicators.
The number indicators make it easier to remember how you used the Benro B3 last time without having to play a guessing game each time.
On A Monopod
When you’re using your monopod, you’ll need to tilt most times. And with the B3, moving vertically is a breeze. The double-action ballhead allows extended range with precision.
Benro’s a Chinese brand, but don’t let that stop you from getting the B3. It’s every bit as DURABLE and STABLE as any other Western ball head out there.
Its tough-as-nails magnesium alloy construction is practically indestructible. We’ve dropped ours several times on hard concrete, and it still works as intended.
The durability comes at a price, though. This tripod head has some heft to it, so this wouldn’t be the head you’d be carrying around if you’re going lightweight.
Is Benro B3 For You?
If you’re looking for a ball head with tough as nails construction, easy to use, and gives you freedom and creativity over your angles, the Benro B3 is an excellent pick.
- Precise friction adjustment
Novoflex Classic Ball 5
- Material: Machined aluminum
- Ball Diameter: 56mm
- Weight: 860g
- Height: 115mm
- Load Capacity: 12kg
If precision MATTERS TO YOU THE MOST, the Novoflex Classic is your pick. It’s top-of-the-line in every respect.
It’s got the largest ball that we tested, which means smoother rotation. If you’re the indecisive type, or you find it hard to frame your image, then this smooth rotation can help with that.
On A Monopod
Unfortunately, monopod users might struggle with mounting the Novoflex. It doesn’t come with any quick release, so you’ll have to attach it by threading.
This is especially finicky for monopod users. But you can always get yourself an Arca-compatible system if you ever need it!
Is Novoflex Classic Ball 5 For You?
- Precise adjustments
- Grippy, ergonomic texture
- Durable and scratch-resistant
- Friction knob could be more intuitive
- Mounting is difficult
Busting The Anti-Ball Head Myth
So we gave you some suggestions of the best ball heads for monopods. Now you’re probably wondering, “will a ball head even help my whole setup?”
We get you. You’d usually use a monopod to stabilize your camera while still having maximum control over panning.
Vertical tilt is usually the problem, which is why most photographers recommend a pan and tilt head or a gimbal head for your monopod.
See, THAT ONLY WORKS if you use your set-up in a place with plenty of room for arm movement – say 2 feet around you.
But what if you’re shooting a video in a dark, narrow alleyway or in a crowded concert? Your arm won’t have the same range of movement as you would in a field, right?
That’s where the monopod/ball head setup comes in.
Where Your Monopod Fits With Your Setup
Mounting a ball head on your monopod makes sense if you need horizontal or lateral movement in places where you DON’T have enough room to move your arms.
You already know why a monopod is better than just shooting with your arms. It’s not just about being free to pan around. In case you forgot, here’s a refresher:
- A monopod gives you enough support to take sharp shots without compromising movement. Shaky hands from coffee jitters or nerves won’t get in the way of clear, crisp photos.
- A monopod is better for low-light photography than your arms will ever be because a monopod absorbs your hand’s light tremors or involuntary movements.
- Not gifted in the height department? A monopod can vertically increase your line of sight. No platform shoes or heels required!
And if you want to use a monopod for all of those reasons but you really can’t extend your arms around you, that’s an even better reason why you need a ball head.
With a ball head, you can have control over horizontal movement, which is useful especially when you’re shooting in a tight space.
Related: How to use a monopod selfie stick
Why Tripods Won’t Do
“But wait,” you might ask, “why not use a tripod with tripod heads instead?”
Well, that’s up to you. But if you need to move quickly, lugging around your tripod with all your heavy gear might break your back, sprain your legs, or make you infinitely exhausted.
And if you’re recording a video of a walking subject in a narrow street, a tripod just won’t do… Unless your tripod legs have wheels.
A monopod lets you shoot that movement with enough stability for worthwhile shots, while an attached ball head will give you control over the way you frame your subject.
Tips and Tricks to Make a Ball Head Work for You
We get why photographers rarely recommend ball heads for monopods. We won’t either if your situation doesn’t call for it. It’s not good for sports or wildlife, honestly.
But if you’re interested in pairing a ball head with a monopod for your photography, here are a few tips to make this combo work for you.
Tip #1: Choose a Ball Head With a Quick Release Plate
You’ll need two hands when you’re mounting to the ball head: one hand to keep the monopod stable, and another on your camera to stabilize it and prevent falls.
You don’t have enough hands for that!
A better solution is to buy a head with a quick-release plate off the bat, which makes mounting easier. A quick-release uses a butterfly nut to attach your camera to the head.
The Arca-Swiss system is the most popular, and most head manufacturers already adopted the quick-release anyway.
Some other brands, like Manfrotto, have their own proprietary quick-release mounting system. But whether you go with the RC2 or the Arca-Swiss, it’s still easier than screwing on your camera.
Tip #2: Match The Ball To The Head
Your head’s weight matters as much as your monopod or tripod’s load capacity. Even if you have a tripod, you’ll need to match the head’s weight to the tripod legs.
Meaning, if you have flimsy legs, you can’t use a head with a heavier weight.
With monopods, you only have one pole, not three. But your monopod’s manufacturer likely indicates the load capacity or maximum weight it could take before it snaps in half.
So here’s a tip: choose ball heads light enough for your monopod. This is even more important if you’re using a long lens, since those are much MUCH heavier than a regular prime or kit lens.
And if you’re using a telephoto lens? Honestly, forget about a ball head and choose a gimbal head instead. A gimbal head will give your long lens enough support.
Tip #3: Increase Friction Before Mounting
The biggest reason enthusiasts don’t like the idea of using a ball mount with a monopod is the difficulty in mounting your camera to the ball head.
A ball head moves at the ball joint area, so it’s extra fiddly to attach your camera to the ball head when it’s freely rotating.
And remember: you have one hand on your monopod. So that’s just one free hand to attach the camera.
A solution to this irritating finicky set-up process is to increase the ball friction right before you attach the camera to the ball head.
Increasing your friction will lock your ball joint in place so that the ball doesn’t rotate in various directions.
You can keep your friction at its highest setting, attach your camera, then loosen friction and control your tilt from there.
Tip #4: Presets Are Your Best Friends
Some of us are specialty photographers. And if you’re the type to specialize in one kind of picture taking – say, you shoot concerts or macro – then you probably have a routine.
It’s the same with your gear. The trick is to treat your ball head like it’s a tilt head. With a tilt head, you control your camera movement on two axes, the horizontal and the vertical.
When setting up your shot, move your lens in only one direction: either up and down, or left and right. And as soon as you’ve fine-tuned your set-up, crank up the friction and locking knob!
We gave you a rundown of the best ball heads for your next picture-taking session. No need to lug around a huge tripod to make the most out of the flexibility and versatility of a ball head.
Bust the myth by trying some ball tripod heads out for yourself!