What Is A Gimbal For A Long Lens?
A gimbal is a device that sits on top of your trip and holds your camera and lens in a perfectly balanced position. They are typically used by wildlife photographers to hold heavy super telephoto lenses of 300mm and above. Big telephoto lenses are hard to hold steady, and the long focal length amplifies any camera shake so it becomes even more important to hold the camera still.
Whilst you could use a ballhead, these require locking every time you want to remove your hand from the camera. The major benefit of a gimbal is that you can simply let go of the camera and it will stay perfectly in position. When you need to grab the camera all of a sudden, it’s ready to go in a split second and the smooth horizontal and vertical panning action of a gimbal ensures you can easily follow your subject.
Some gimbals cradle the lens foot underneath, and some like the Wimberley Sidekick, and the Really Right Stuff one in the photo below, mount on the side of the lens. Since the lens is set at the perfect balance point, no matter how heavy your setup is, you can push the lens around just using you little finger. No fatigue during a long day of long lens shooting!
A gimbal is not a cheap accessory, but when you’ve spent thousands of dollars on a long lens, in my opinion it is a must-have accessory. It will absolutely raise your ‘keeper’ rate compared to using a ballhead.
You can refer to our extensive gimbal tripod head buying guide for more advice on the gimbal head that might suit you and your budget best.
My own Really Right Stuff gimbal with my Canon 200-400