Many of us dream with making wildlife images, as those at the Nikonians Wildlife Photography Forum and in well made nature books. To begin to learn how, the need for a truly long lens soon becomes very apparent. Finally, I bought a 600mm f/4 AF-I Nikkor and was then confronted with how to gracefully support such a monster. My regular ballhead didn't seem to be the best of means.
Manfrotto 393 / Bogen 3421 long lens support
After desperate and fruitless search for a Wimberley Gimbal type lens support in Europe, where I live, made the inquiry at the Tripods, Heads & Camera Support forum and was given an immediate answer: The Manfrotto 393, known as the Bogen 3421 in the USA.
Nikonian Len Shepherd explained: "Based on the 'U' supports used to hold powerful binoculars (100x50 or bigger) on naval vessels, these have to be strong to take weights up to 20 pounds, infinitely flexible so the user can counteract the movement of the ship in rough seas, and hold the binoculars absolutely steady for maximum resolution. The principle behind the design is good for big lenses".
A quick look at the head in a store and home it went. What a fantastic value for the money!
First thing to do is to balance the lens around the center of gravity. This can be achieved by moving the lens back or forwards using the provided sliding plate (Manfrotto 357PLV), now improved with two screws instead of just one.
The key features are:
Friction base (S)
Rubber hand grips
Rubber protection to prevent damage to the lens when tilted to maximum (R)
Height adjustments in three steps (P1 P2 P3)
Value for your money (150 Euro)
The Wimberley Gimbal type tripod head is either $465 or $565 if with quick release. The Wimberley Sidekick costs $250 but you need a sturdy professional ballhead to operate it, like the Markins M20. The other alternative is Kirk's King Cobra, for $440. So, yes, this bracket is the least expensive of the Gimbal type lens supports, it currently runs for $160 at B&H*, and can be mounted directly on a monopod or a tripod.
* Prices in the USA, in US Dollars as of April 21, 2005
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