Reviews

Review: Wimberley Head II

by Richard Peters | August 3, 2009

© Richard PetersThe ultimate gimbal head for use with long lenses, the Wimberley II needs no introductions, so let’s get on with the review and find out how the “king” of the gimbal heads performs…

Overview

  • Weight: 1.4kg (3.15lbs)
  • Height: 9.25 inches (23.5cm)
  • Width: 3.5 inches (8.9cm)
  • Depth: 9.73 inches (24.7cm)

Build

Upon opening the very plain box, you’re greeted with the Wimberley II in two pieces. The first thing that strikes you as you ‘assemble’ the unit is what a work of art, as far as build quality and engineering go, the Wimberley is. Everything is finished to an exceptionally high standard and the whole unit feels as solid as a single piece when it’s all tightened up.

Wimberley II © Richard Peters

Wimberley II ready for assembly

Size and Weight

Coming in at 1.4kg the Wimberly II is quite compact given the weight it is designed to support, ranging from 300 f2.8 lenses right up to Canon’s 800 f5.6 and Sigma’s 300-800 zoom. Compared to my old Manfrotto 393 the single arm cradle is a far easier unit to carry around thanks to its shape. Once you have everything setup you can just sling the whole rig over your shoulder and walk about in the field quite easily. Editor’s Note: Please note that it is possible for the tripod’s base plate to separate from the rest of the tripod when equipment is carried this way. Gitzo recommends a top to bottom tripod check with each use, and routinely tightening the bolts that hold the base plate on. NatureScapes has also manufactured a safety plate that locks the base plate in place to prevent failure. Read Richard’s review of the NatureScapes Safety Plate for Gitzo tripods or purchase the safety plate through the NatureScapes Store.

Ease of Use

The Wimberley II is about as simple as you could hope to operate once you have set it up. There is a rubber “easy grip” friction knob at the top to tighten and loosen the tilt and the same below for the pan adjustment. Both knobs are designed to require very little force to operate and the whole setup can be tightened very quickly and easily with just a simple light twist—something that is handy if you need to move quick or want to add a teleconvertor or swap bodies—just one quick tighten of the tilt knob and it will support the lens weight happily even once you remove the camera body, which makes the lens very front heavy. The rubber feel to the knobs also makes them easy to grip when you have gloves on.

Tilt and pan knobs on Wimberley Head II © Richard Peters

Quick operation tilt and pan knobs

The cradle has a built in Arca-Swiss style plate mount, so no adapters are required meaning quick swapping between other lenses and cameras that you may already have plates for.

Acra Swiss style clamp © Richard Peters

Acra Swiss style clamp

The Wimberley II is designed to comfortably support even the heaviest of lenses, with my D3 and 600mm it never feels strained and the joints operate as smoothly as when they are not under load. Lock it down and there is not even the smallest bit of movement or lens droop. Used in conjunction with a solid tripod such as the Gitzo GT5541LS, you’ll find no movement through the viewfinder, even in breezes, making it ideal for use with mirror lock up and a remote shutter or cable release (of course it’s not wind proof so will eventually give some viewfinder movement as wind strength gets stronger).

Wimberley Head II and long lens © Richard Peters

The Wimberley Head II handles heavy loads with ease

Even better is the fact that the head is modular, and supplied in the box is a 25 page booklet that lists all manner of add-ons you can use—from macro clamps to Wimberley flash brackets, there are plenty of options making this head practical for more than just long lens support. It’s also thankfully robust! Whilst trying to negotiate slippery seaweed covered rocks on the Isle of Mull, I had my Gitzo GT5541LS tripod with the Wimblerey II attached in one hand and my 600mm in my other. I slipped and something had to be dropped to free a hand to steady myself. Well, the tripod was what went and all I heard was the Wimberley smacking off the wet rocks. It chipped some paint here and there but otherwise there was no damage and it continued to operate just fine.

Wimberley Head II and Gitzo GT5541LS tripod © Richard Peters

Wimberley Head II and Gitzo GT5541LS Tripod

There is a small downside to the operation of the Wimberley though—well it’s not really a downside but it is worth mentioning if you plan on using it with more than one lens on a regular basis—and this brings me back to the setup of the head that I mentioned earlier. The Wimberley, unlike other units such as the MANFROTTO 393, is designed to work mainly on counter balance (the 393 works mainly on friction with help from counter balance) so that when all the friction knobs are loosened fully the lens will still stay in place wherever you let go of it. To effectively get the counter balance setup you need to adjust the height of the base plate the lens sits on, up and down to find the pivot point of the lens your using. If you don’t do this the lens will not be counter balanced properly and will droop when you let go. So, if you plan on using more than one lens with the MKII, it might be worth marking the height position of the base plate for each lens to make it quicker to set up in future.

Cradle adjusted for the 600mm © Richard Peters

Cradle adjusted for the 600 mm

The good news is this adjustment is quite easy to make. You simply unlock the base, as pictured above, and adjust it up or down.

Lens plate adjustment lock to right © Richard Peters

Base adjustment lock to right

Final Verdict

The Wimberley is a first class bit of kit and deserves it’s ‘king of the gimbals’ crown, make no mistake. Of course, all this fine craftsmanship and practicality comes at a price—and that can be the down fall of the unit for some. Lets be honest, there ARE cheaper alternatives out there (I used the MANFROTTO 393, one of the cheapest, quite happily for several years) which will give you decent levels of support – but as they say, ignorance is bliss. The Wimberley II is far more practical in real world use and is so quick and simple to lock and unlock, that I think if you get the chance to use the Wimberley II out in the field you’ll want one—plain and simple! Attach it to a solid tripod such as the GITZO GT5541LS and you will have one of the most stable and flexible tripod setups you can get!

Thinking of Buying?

Available for purchase from NatureScapes.

Wimberley II attached to Gitzo GT5541LS tripod © Richard Peters

Wimberley II attached to Gitzo GT5541LS Tripod

Available for purchase in the NatureScapes store
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About the Author

Richard specializes in nature and wildlife photography, but will point his camera towards any subject if the situation calls for it. Between shifts at his job in the media industry he can be found out with his camera, enjoying all that England has to offer. Although London based he also spends a lot of time in America, specifically Florida which has become almost like a second home, and as a result has had images published in both UK and U.S. magazines. You can see more of Richards' work on his portfolio site and also follow his photography from a more personal perspective, by reading his ever growing blog www.richardpeters.co.uk.

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