• Welcome to BirdForum, the internet's largest birding community with thousands of members from all over the world. The forums are dedicated to wild birds, birding, binoculars and equipment and all that goes with it.

    Please register for an account to take part in the discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.
ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

Upgrade 128 RC head or no? (1 Viewer)

Chris C

Well-known member
Hi all,

Posted this in another thread, but figured a new thread might be more helpful. I recently purchased a TSN-883 that upgrades an older pentax scope that's similar in size to the 883. I've also found a nice deal on a Gitzo mountaineer tripod (older GT2530) that will replace manfrotto 190 tripod. I'm 6'0" and the 190 was always a bit low and not quite stiff enough. I have a Manfrotto RC128 head which gets the job done--the Kowa balances well enough and the weight is not really an issue. I bought a MHXPRO 2W thinking that'd be an upgrade. It is lighter, but also doesn't inspire confidence given all the plastic.

What's a good recommendation on a tripod head that would be an actual upgrade in terms of performance (smoothness in panning, ease of use, weight, etc.)?

For some more context, I've scoured all the options and the current Gitzo gets mixed reviews and I am concerned about not being able to fully lock the head because I do hike a good bit with the scope over my shoulder. Berlebach 510 might be the best option but is ~2X $s in the US compared a Manfrotto 500 and not easily had in the states...

Any thoughts would be welcome.
Similar to you, I recently bought a Kowa TSN-88a and a Carbon tripod that weights 1.3k (ST125) with a Sirui va-5 head, which is just over 500g (buttery smooth!)...very happy with the set up. Very lightweight (priority) and when I need extra stabilization I hang my backpack from the tripod hook.

The Sirui va-5 I think is now discontinued and replaced by the sirui va-5x, so you may get lucky and get a discounted sirui va-5 (this is how I got mine on Amazon).
Sticking with Sirui, as Gzoladz74 said and considering the size of your Kowa spottingscope, you might consider also the Sirui VH-10 fluid head which holds up to 6 kilograms (I use it with 4kg angled binoculars). It is well built, not too heavy but greatly stable and above all it is very smooth.
Another lightweight option although slightly heavier than the Sirui VA-5, might be the Gitzo GHF2W which I had and it is excellent, perhaps perfect for your Kowa 883 and for your tripod.
Last edited:
The Manfrotto 500AH is better than the RC128. That's what I'd go for for a largish scope like the Kowa.

Mind you, I think the RC128 will still do the job. It's a solid head. But the 500AH will do the job better.

If you're happy with how the 883 mounts to the 128RC I'd probably stick with it. Alternatively you could try the Gitzo GHF2W. It's a bit lighter than the 128RC, but a more expensive than the other heads and it can be difficult to find a plate with an anti-rotation pin. Also the pan and/or tilt on some units doesn't completely lock when tightened. This drives some people completely bonkers.

I own all of the heads mentioned. Currently I'll run a Kowa 66A on the VA-5 or a Swaro ATX85 on the GHF2W. I would mount a Meopta S2 on the 128RC if I felt like using it.

I just mounted the ATX85 on the VA-5. It works, but if it is not well balanced and the tilt is loosened it will dump very quickly. I wouldn't mount an 883 on it for regular use.

The panning of the 128RC, 500AH and GHF2W heads is smooth and well dampened. The Siruis' panning isn't horrid, but I do not believe they are fluid dampened as it is not near as smooth as the others.

The 128RC and GHF2W have non-captive handles that can be pushed into the head to shorten them, or they could even be trimmed. The others have captive handles.

The 500AH and Surui VH-10 handles are longer than I like and I find myself bumping into them, inadvertently moving the scope. The 500AH is a bit bulkier and heavier than the 128RC. I don't really care for it or the VH-10.

I really like the VA-5 for the Kowa 66A. If the panning was better it'd be about perfect. The handle is captive, however it's short enough to not be an issue.
Thanks everyone. I found a Gitzo GHF2W on Amazon Japan for $280 US and will give that a go. They still had a few if anyone is looking for a decent deal.

Users who are viewing this thread