I apologize if this is a bit off topic, but I am wondering if anyone has any recommendations for ball heads for use with a standard-size spotting scope? Basically, I want something that is relatively inexpensive but will hold the scope reasonably steady, good bang for the buck kind of thing. Thanks!
30/60 power, in 35mm terms, is 1500/3000mm. Given the weight and length of the scope, I agree with the others that a ball head is not the way to go. Any ball head that can handle that setup would cost in the neighborhood of $500.
A decent pan/tilt or video-type head can be bought for much less money and will probably be more comfortable to use. Given the magnification factor, the finer adjustments permitted by a pan/tilt style head would be preferable to a ball head.
If you plan on mounting a camera to the scope, you're going to need a mega tripod to eliminate camera shake as well as a body with mirror lockup. If you're not going to use the scope for photography, you can get away with a somewhat lighter legset.
Thanks for the responses everyone. I think I will get a pan/tilt head. I just plan to use the scope for looking at wildlife on a second tripod and not for photography so I think this will work fine; I have a markins/gitzo set-up for my Nikon. Basically, I want to be able to photograph with one tripod while allowing my girlfriend to watch wildlife with the other so she doesn't get bored while humoring me.
I wouldn't use a standard ballhead with a spotting scope. I use a grip-action ballhead with our spotting scope. It's a lot faster to use when tracking a subject than a conventional ball with side tension knob. Since you don't have mirror vibration to deal with, you don't need the same kind of rock-solid support for a scope compared to a long lens on a camera.
In fact for some scope uses like astronomical viewing, I'd consider a three-way head for a spotting scope. This helps you home in on highly magnified distant objects that are hard to center using a ballhead.