Every decade or so, a piece of gear comes along at just the right time. It’s a piece that is innovative and nicely fits a new issue that confronts photographers. I say a decade or so because for over a decade I have been trying to figure out how to easily shoot both video and stills with the same tripod head. The traditional still photography tripod head does not have the smooth movement needed for pans and tilts with video. The traditional fluid head for video is very awkward to use shooting vertical shots because it is really set up only to shoot horizontally. So I ended up either taking two tripods when shooting assignments that included both video and stills or trying to get by by turning the fluid head on it’s side (it wasn’t pretty).
The Manfrotto 055 Magnesium Photo-Movie Head has solved the problem by being a hybrid. The photo-movie head has all the functions of a traditional fluid head and still photo head. In what Manfrotto refers to as the photo mode, part of the head is released so it can move in a 90 degree arch allowing the camera to be locked at any angle from completely horizontal to completely vertical. It is like a ball head but with resistance controls added. Then by simply turning the photo/video selector to video mode, the camera is locked into a horizontal only position with all the functions of a traditional fluid head.
Some of the features that are very helpful are the bubble levels, degree markings and reversible pan bar. There are bubble levels that work both for the vertical and horizontal positions, a must for video but helpful in stills. The reversible pan bar allows you to choose which hand you want to use for panning. I switch back and forth depending on the camera I’m using. The degree marks help when shooting panoramas and matching shots in compositing. It’s the best of both worlds, especially when shooting with the HD DSLRs. It looks cool, too.