Wimberley WH-200 Review


Having quickly realised that the Manfrotto 503 Fluid Video Head we had was not the best option for a long and heavy lens, the research for it’s replacement began in earnest. To cut a long story short, the general consensus of the vast majority of wildlife photographers we found on the net was ‘get a Wimberley, it’s the best’.

Having gone through the ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ school of thought on more than one occasion in the past I knew that subconsciously I had already resigned myself to spending a lot of money when I bought the F*250-600mm, it was as if I just knew that the spending hadn’t finished, it had only just begun. Thus continued the sale of our kit!

But still, £520? Really? For a bent metal arm with a swivelly plate? Well… as it turned out, yes!

Quality


After being stunned with the quality of the Gitzo GT5541LS tripod that was bought in January just a couple of weeks after getting the lens, it was nearly 2 months later that the Wimberley completed the setup and it was most definately  worth the wait!

The main reason for the delay was that I had hoped that the upcoming Focus on Imaging show at the NEC would help me get a good deal.

It wasn’t as great as I was hoping for, but a free £50+ plate was still by far the best deal available!

With the new purchase under the belt and a smile on my face, I went on to meet some fellow members from the Pentax User Forum who were eager to see the new kit in the flesh!

Supplied in a plain brown cardboard box you may at first think that you have made a mistake and wasted half a grand of your well earned cash but open it up and my, how quickly price can be forgotten! Compared to the 503, this was a complete revelation!

The WH-200, normally known as the MKII, comes in two parts, the main gimbal head itself and a height adjustable platform with a built in Arca Swiss style plate mount.

This is one genuinely, reassuringly solid piece of kit which just oozes class and quality and is built to the very highest standards.

It’s just as well as some people will be trusting this head to hold £10 – £15k worth of kit!

Setup


Getting the Wimberley WH200 ready for use is as easy as you could hope for, the unit itself comes in 2 parts that just slide together and you will need a Lens Plate (supplied separately) to attach to your lens foot.

Next thing is to get your head on your tripod, just make sure the lower knob is tightened and keep it upright to avoid cross threading, as soon as it’s tight, you’re ready to attach your lens.

First, make sure that the plate you have bought for your lens is the right one and is attached securely! Then, before you attach the lens, make sure the head is tight by tightening both knobs, you don’t want your lens falling off at this stage!

Undo the quick release knob on the Arca Swiss compatible platform, slide your lens in, make sure it is properly seated and tighten securely, you don’t want to make a simple yet expensive mistake here!

As we tightened the head up first it does not matter at this stage whether or not you have your camera attached to your lens.

In fact I find it easier to attach the camera after the lens is supported on the head. It will be very secure, even though it is well off balance.

When you have your lens firmly secure it’s time to get your kit balanced up but before you do, grab a pencil!

As the head works at it’s best when everything is perfectly counter balanced, make sure everything is setup as you would use it in the field. For me that means that the camera is attached with grip and both batteries and the lens hood is fully extended.

The instructions explain better than I can how to balance it perfectly but the short and sweet version is to first adjust the horizontal balance by moving the lens, carefully, backwards and forwards along the clamp until you find the lens stays level by itself.

Then tilt the lens and adjust the vertical balance by moving the platform up or down until you find that the lens stays exactly in the angle you pointed it at.

Grab that pencil I mentioned earlier and make a small mark so you can remember where your lens sits and how far down you need to put the plate for correct setup, this will save you doing this every time you need to use it! You should now have a perfectly counter balanced setup and the beauty of the Wimberley can shine through!

Ease of use


Not until you are fully setup and ready to go can you fully appreciate just how much easier it is with a Wimberley head to shoot with a long lens.

The weight of that huge lump of glass just disappears! If you have never used a long heavy lens or only used a ball head on a tripod you just cannot appreciate the freedom of movement that this gimbal head can provide.

As it is perfectly counterbalanced and because the joints move ever so smoothly it is quite effortless to move around 7kgs or so with just your little finger! Wherever you point it, and whatever angle it is aiming at, as soon as you move your hands away it just stays exactly where you left it!

In use it just feels so bullet proof, so reliable, so effortless that you just seem to forget that it is there, so natural is it to use. When fully loaded up it takes the strain as effortlessly as when it has nothing on it at all!

The 2 knobs on the side don’t see much use for my style of photography as the wildlife I shoot always tends to be on the move so they mainly get used to tighten the lens up to add a teleconverter when some distant creature stays still for a little while!

If I’m lucky then I might get the time to tighten it right up to use a timed release which would help get a lower shutter speed when needed. When I get the chance to do this, combined with a solid tripod such as the Gitzo GT5541LS, it is rock solid so you have fewer excuses for not getting a sharp shot! If you prefer to, you can also use these knobs to add a little resistance to the movement.

Moving to a Wimberley from any other kind of head is just a revelation and the only regret in buying one that I can think of is having not bought it sooner!

Overview


The Wimberley WH-200 definately deserves it’s place at the top of the class. It is a superbly built finely crafted piece of kit that is just a joy to use.

If you are looking for  the right head to support your long heavy glass then look no further! From a 300mm F2.8 to an 800mm F5.6 this head takes them all,  effortlessly, in it’s stride.

That’s not all either, because this head is of a modular design there are other accessories available as well such as a dedicated flash bracket and a conversion kit which can turn the head into a more compact sidemount head.

The only downside as I mentioned earlier is the price, £520 + plate is a large price to swallow. Whilst there may be cheaper options available I have to confess that I’ve never tried any, get your hands on one of these though and you’ll understand why.

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

Links: Official WIMBERLEY website

See also:-
Gitzo GT5562GTS Review
Tamrac Evolution 9 Review

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think!


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