Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's

Wildlife Photography

June 2006

Question of the Month

Is the New Wimberley Action Head worth the Up Grade?

Mary and I have been using the Wimberley Action Head for at least five years. I must confess that before I got our first one, I really didn't think that the head was that big a deal, that it was worth the cost. I probably had some questions about that head even after the first few times I used it -- I liked it, but I wasn't completely convinced that it was a 'must-have.' Nonetheless, I made it a practice to always use the Action Head when I was using a large telephoto and, over time, the Head simply became a part of my shooting.

Reading this, one might think that I'm lukewarm about the old head, and perhaps the new one as well. I prefaced this review in this way to illustrate that I can be pretty dumb at times, a bit slow to pick up a new trend or a great new tool. And the old Wimberley Action Head was exactly that, an absolutely terrific tool, as I proved to myself so often over the years when, for one reason or another, I was required to use my traditional Ballheads when working with my telephoto lenses. I can't tell you how often a loose locking knob of a traditional ballhead resulted in my big, heavy telephoto lens suddenly shifting off-balance and mouse-trapping my finger or the web of my palm, cutting skin and causing pain. Despite this discomfort I often felt that I got off lucky, for I'm fairly certain that my heavy 600mm F4 telephoto's weight is sufficient to remove a fingertip if my Ballhead locking mount slipped and the rig slammed down upon the digit. Over time, and many mistakes, I really, really grew to love my Wimberley Action Head, but that wasn't simply because it kept me from serious pain.

I had no problem with the old head but I must confess that the new Action Head is even better. It's a bit smaller and about a pound lighter, with some of that weight reduced by the better designed camera platform and the integrated dove-tail style clamp that's built in to the unit. My old version had a separate locking clamp that was an add-on. Another noteable feature is that both panning and tilting controls are located in the same side of the unit -- the tilt is the upper knob and the pan is a lower. I normally shoot with the locking knobs accessible to my right hand, which allows me to steady the lens with my left should I wish or to tweak focus. My right hand normally is on the camera -- working my CF 4-1 button for focus or firing the shutter button, and I only lock a knob if my subject is static.

The beauty of the Wimberley system truly is the speed, ease, and flexibility by which one can shift positions or pan with a subject without fear that a loose knob will flip your gear any old way, including onto or through your finger. With the gimbal-style head it's very easy to slide a lens mount back and forth until a center of gravity is achieved whereupon, thereafter, a lens stays level and balanced until it is purposefully moved. Recently, on our hummingbird shoots, we used our Wimberley heads for virtually all of our shooting. With a balanced telephoto and the locking knob just loose enough that a gentle movement shifted the lens up or down or left or right, it was extremely easy to fine-tune a hummingbird composition. Again, with a ballhead, one always risks that the loose locking knob will result in uncontrollable lens movement, especially with a big, heavy lens. That's just not the case with the Wimberley.

Because of the lighter weight Mary used the new version most of the time, which proved a great test because she's even more reluctant to change than am I, and she loved the unit from her first exposure. Whenever I could, I borrowed her tripod system and played with the new head and I, too, found it a nice improvement to a very wonderful system. So, is the new Wimberley Action Head worth the upgrade. You bet it is! The size, weight, and one-sided controls are all great features worth the trade-in, and I'm ordering one for me tomorrow! No kidding.

For more information, call Wimberley at 540-665-2744 or visit their website at


Previous Questions of the Month




 Camera Techniques

 In the Field

Do You Need a
Big Printer?

Is a Trip to Antarctica
Worth it?

 Why must you have
at least 2 digital backups

 Wildlife Models
Is there anything new
to shoot?

  What is our Digital Workflow in the Lab?

 Who should go Digital,
and when?

 What is our initial Digital Workflow?

Is Shooting in the RAW format worthwhile?

 Can you match the Histograms?
 How do I keep track of Digital Files?

  Is Digital Manipulation - a benign alternative to interacting in the natural world?

What is DEC? 

How can you capture a sharp image and angel hair on a windy day?  

 Is the Mark II the ultimate wildlife digital camera?

  Does the Visibledust cleaning system really work?

What do we really think about digital photography?

 What do we think of the Canon D30 digital camera?

How long will film be around? 

  The Sunny 16 rule -- is it worth knowing today?

 What is the Difference?

 How do we meter White?

 How can you save your shoulders?

  How do you shoot silhouettes?

 How would you meter these challenging images?

Why should you know Manual Mode? 

How would you meter these images?

 What is the best season to do a photo safari in East Africa?

Which Mountain Park is better for wildlife - Denali or Torres del Paine?

What is the best Car Window Mount? 

  How do you make things happen in wildlife photography?

 What are our Five Favorite Shooting Locales?

 What is the Big Lie?
Tfhe truth about Kenya's Tourism--it is SAFE!

 Which binoculars do we just love to use?

 What is the best
Game Caller?

 What is our Favorite bird-shooting location?

 How Easy is Whale Photography?

  How do we carry our film when traveling?

What Film Lab do we use, and why? 

 How can you attract insectivorous birds to your feeding stations and bait sites? 

How can you reduce contrast and the effect of wind for flower and macro photography?

 Is an L-Shaped Camera Bracket worth the Money?
You bet it is!

 Using Zoom lenses with tele-converters and extension tubes -- can you use both together?

 What the heck is the Scheimpflug Law?

  Reciprocity Failure

 What is the Best Composition?

 Are Image Stabilization Lenses Worth the Money?

 Hyperfocal Distance

  How do you determine distances?

 Should you have a depth of field Preview button on your camera?

 Flash and Tele-flash Techniques

 What is the most versatile remote release camera firing system?

 What the heck is a Plamp?

 What is the best flash for closeup and
macro photography?

 How do you shoot high-speed action images?
 How did I photograph that flying wasp?

 What is the Fotronix's
Flash System?

What is the Most Important thing you can do before a Workshop?

How did I shoot the gliding Sugar Glider?
 Is NANPA for you?  What is NANPA and how will it benefit me?

 Is it time for a summer NANPA Summit?

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