• BirdForum is the net's largest birding community dedicated to wild birds and birding, and is absolutely FREE!

    Register for an account to take part in lively discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.

393 ( AKA Bogen 3421 )

tripod head gimbal
Manufacturer
Manfrotto

Reviews summary

7
 
88%
0
 
0%
1
 
13%
0
 
0%
0
 
0%
Overall rating
4.75 star(s) 8 ratings
Recommended
Yes
Price
0$
Pros
  • It is 1/3 the price of the Whimberley
Cons
  • None considering the price.
I have used this head for three years with no problem at all. It is a robust item which will never break. I have two of them. I think its made of solid flat aluminum bar.

I use it with a 500mm f4, 300mm f2.8, and a swaro scope.

It must be the best buy of all the gimbal heads. The weight is very similar to the Whimberley and the Black Widow. But it costs so much less.

If there is a gimbal that weighs one pound or so then maybe I will upgrade. But I won't "upgrade" to a gimbal that costs three times more and weighs the same.
Recommended
Yes
Price
0$
Pros
  • Best value for money
Cons
  • None worth a mention
Great bit of kit and worth every penny unlike some of the so called big brothers! I prefer to have it standing rather than hanging from the gimbal
Recommended
Yes
Price
199$
Pros
  • build quality, smoothness
Cons
  • for the price, how can you nit pick?
I have not used any of the higher priced gimbal heads, so my praise of this product may be skewed by such lack of comparison. However, I can comment on it's use vs. three other Bogen heads that I also own and use extensively: the 486-RC2, the 701-RC2, and the 501. All are built well, and operate in a acceptable range of smoothness for their given design. But none have been a good match for my ~7 lb 20D+grip/Sigma 150-500 kit. Of course easier tilting from better balance is achieved through the center of gravity design that gimbals are built for. However, what struck me immediately about this in use was just how silky smooth the 393 movement is in both axes. And although the kit that I currently use is no heavy weight compared to many of the bazookas out there, it clearly receives great benefit from support in the field for long sessions. Most noteworthy for smaller teles with shorter mounting brackets like the 150-500, is that I find the lens balances better when the support is set in the advertised up position with lens hanging. This seems opposite to most reported heavy lens users who like to set up in the traditional bracket down position.

I've read all of the complaints of this bracket: it's too big and heavy, it doesn't have a tilt lock beyond the tension knobs, it doesn't have a pan lock,... All these things are true, to a point. I believe the size and weight gives it a stability factor that could easily hold a setup twice the weight of what I currently use. And from what I know of mounting telescopes for astronomical use, a two armed design is always stronger than a single arm. Also, despite the lack of axes locking, I haven't found any need for these features in field use. I assume the complaint has arisen from transportation difficulties. Again, I haven't encountered these issues myself.

In the end, I believe that if I had payed $400 USD for this head I might be thinking about whether I should have purchased one of the other gimbal options. But for just under $200, there are no other options. For that single reason the Bogen rides alone.

It's stout, smooth, balanced and inexpensive. What more could you want?
Recommended
Yes
Price
0$
Pros
Cons
Recommended
Yes
Price
0$
Pros
  • Outstanding value for the money.
Cons
  • Sometimes restricts access to lens and lens functions.
I purchased this Bogen Gimbal Mount about two years ago along with an extra mount. It's worked extremely well for my larger lenses, up to a Nikon 500mm f4P. My only complaint, and it's minor, is that the mount sometimes restricts direct access to the lens from either side. I tried mounting the lens from the bottom, meaning that the gimbal mount is now rotated completely up, but that for me only made things worse. But, all in all, especially for the money, it's the best in it's price range. So, the final word is this, depending on the length of your lens and camera combination, and the central balancing point, this mount will work perfectly as it was designed for. Still an outstanding mount and value for the money, with great movements, both horizontally and vertically.
Recommended
No
Price
180$
Pros
  • Cost, cost, and cost
Cons
  • See text
I used this head on a Gitzo GT3540L tripod for about a year, most typically with a Canon 500mm f4 IS lens. It worked fairly well with that setup, but I will note three major caveats:

First, access to controls on the lens, including the focus ring and the switches, is compromised. If I reached to make a quick focus adjustment, my hand would touch the mount instead. Much fumbling and sometimes a missed shot ensued.
Second, there is no lock in the pan direction. It is always free to rotate. This is not usually a problem with wildlife, but if you use it for other things, it might be.
Finally, The RC3 plate mounted on a camera body is ridiculously unwieldy - at 5.5" (14cm) in length and 2.5" (5.7cm) in width, you will not want to leave in on, as you can with other plate systems (a plate on the lens, and one on the body, so you can quickly switch to a standard lens for a scenic shot, for example).

For these reasons, I just upgraded to the Wimberley system with the Arca-Swiss plates. It has all the advantages of this head, with none of the disadvantages. It costs a lot more, but ultimately, I decided it was worth it.

A minor point - the unit is not made of steel, as suggested in the first review. It would be atrociously heavy in steel. I presume it is aluminum.

There are at least 3 Bogen products compatible with the plate used on this head (they call it the RC3 plate system) First, a Monopod that comes with the same mounting plate (Bogen/Manfrotto 557B), Secondly, the mounting plate itself if you wish to attach it to an existing Monopod or Tripod (B/M 3272), and third, a Ball Head (B/M 468MGRC3). This system, which was designed primarily for larger video cameras, works very well for really big telephotos, but is overkill for anything less, as I noted above. If you already have a sizable investment in other types of heads and plates, you'd have to spend a lot to convert, so the Wimberley system might not seem so expensive in comparison.
Recommended
Yes
Price
0$
Pros
  • Build Quality, Price
Cons
A truely fantastic bit of kit, especially if you have spent all your money on long lenses and have a restricted budget for a tripod head!! 500+ for a Wimberley your avin a laugh!!
Personally I use mine cradled rather than supported from above, it holds my 500mm f4 steady as a rock, great for panning shots as well, super smooth pan and tilt action. Have managed to set lens and camera up on the head so when you let go it will swing back in a balanced position. The only criticism is that the head is a little bulky, but for value for money it gets 11 out of 10 for me

Dougie
Recommended
Yes
Price
0$
Pros
  • cost, ease of use, build quality
Cons
  • rubber knob comes off fairly easily, no provision for flash bracket
This is a gimbal type head that works on the principal of balance assisted by nylon friction washers. Similar designs exist from specialised manufacturers, often with specialised price tags! However, this head is far cheaper than the ubiquitous Wimberley and, from my own initial tests as well as reports from other bird photographers, it can genuinely compete. If the Kirk heads are regarded as a poor mans Wimberley, then I dont know what the 393 will be nicknamed!

The build quality of this head is very impressive, the frame seems to be steel and not lightweight alloy. Those using this head with monstrous Sigma 800mm and the even larger 300-800mm lenses seem very confident about its strength and the safety of their lenses.

The 393 attaches to the top of your tripod via the 3/8 inch threaded bolt, or your 1/4 inch in conjunction with a 3/8 adaptor. The 393 is tightened onto the tripod base plate by the large (and easy to grip) knurled rubber knob. The main frame of the 393 will turn freely on your tripod head and the drag is factory set (seemed fine) but can be adjusted by the user if necessary.

A quick release plate is supplied, and this is attached to the tripod mount socket of your lens or scope... it is supplied with 2 3/8 inch bolts and 2 1/4 inch bolts as well as a video securing pin. This quick release plate and its corresponding plate on the head itself, is a sliding design to allow you to set up your equipment for optimum balance.

You can mount your equipment on to the 393 in two ways, either using the 393 as a cradle to support your equipment or, as can be seen in the photos, have your equipment supported from above. I know it looks rather perilous, but its as safe as houses. I will try both methods over time and ascertain which suits my stlye of shooting better. The twin knobs either side of the cradle can be tensioned to suit your equipment or general preferrence.

In use, panning and tilting is super smooth and preferrable to my 501pro fluid head, with one hand on your cameras grip you can manouver to any position. Tracking flying birds is very simple and an area where this type of head excells.

No matter what angle I shoot at, the equipment stays rock solid when you take your hands off the camera. The rewards of this solidity are consistantly sharp images.

Update: I tend to use the 393 with the lens supported from above. There is little benefit in actual use but it is far easier and quicker to attach a big lens with the tripod mount at the top as you are carrying the lens in this position anyway.

The downside is that lenses with very large hoods will struggle to get thru the rectangle of the 393.

More images and review at Manfrotto Review
Top