Gitzo GH4383LR Series 4 Center Ball Head Review – Camera Jabber

Wednesday July 21, 2021
By Angela Nicholson
Price when reviewed
It’s bigger, heavier and more expensive than the average tripod ball head, but the Gitzo GH4383LR Series 4 Center Ball Head is much more than the average ball head. It has a payload of up to 30Kg and it can hold big, heavy lenses steady so you don’t need to factor in the droop that occurs after locking as you compose your shots.
While it’s designed to support long telephoto lenses with a tripod collar, it has a drop slot which means that it can also be used with smaller, collar-free lenses when the quick release plate is attached to the camera.
The Gitzo GH4383LR Series 4 Center Ball Head reviewed here, is one of two GH4383 Series 4 ball heads from Gitzo. The LR in its name denotes that it has a lever release for the release plate while the Gitzo GH4383QD Series 4 Center Ball Head has a screw lock.
Both Gitzo Series 4 Ball Heads are designed for use with large, heavy lenses and cameras of the type commonly used by wildlife photographers. They’re also designed to complement Gitzo Series 4 and 5 Systematic tripods, but they are compatible with other large tripods such as the 3 Legged Thing Nicky or Tommy with their flat plates in place.
You can find the Gitzo GH4383LR Series 4 Center Ball Head on Amazon.com
The headline figure for the Gitzo GH4383LR Series 4 Center Ball Head is its maximum payload of 30Kg. That’s a feature that will appeal to wildlife and bird photographers with big, heavy lenses and cameras.
It features a thermo-stable fluid pan cartridge to ensure fluid panning movements and there’s also a dedicate pan lock.
Gitzo Ball Head Series 4 GH4383LRGitzo Ball Head Series 4 GH4383LR
In addition there’s a large ‘super-smooth’ coated hollow-sphere ball that facilitates the tilting movements in temperatures as low as -30°C and up to 70°C.
Gitzo GH4383LR Series 4 Center Ball HeadGitzo GH4383LR Series 4 Center Ball Head
Along with the locking knob, there’s a friction control wheel to help with precise adjustments of composition.
Gitzo Ball Head Series 4 GH4383LRGitzo Ball Head Series 4 GH4383LR
There’s also a bubble level on the right side of the head (as you look through the camera) to help ensure level horizons.
Gitzo Ball Head Series 4 GH4383LRGitzo Ball Head Series 4 GH4383LR
The Gitzo GH4383LR Series 4 Center Ball Head weighs 900g, which sounds a lot for a tripod head, but it’s made from high-tolerance steel and aluminium and it’s designed to support 400-600mm lenses without sagging.
Gitzo has given the Series 4 Ball Head a drop slot for shooting with the camera in portrait orientation, but as the telephoto lenses it’s designed to support are usually used with a tripod collar, this may not see much action. However, it’s a useful feature for those occasions when it’s used to hold a smaller lens.
At 900g in weight and with a 60mm base diameter (making it around 70mm across), the Gitzo Series 4 Ball Head looks and feels beefy. Its build and design ooze quality.
Naturally, the first step in using the GH4383LR head is to attach the quick release plate to the camera, or more likely the lens’ tripod collar. The plate is a Gitzo S5379DR unit, which has an Arca-Swiss type design, and it attaches via a bolt with a flip-out grip, a coin slot and a hex socket. The grip is useful when first attaching the plate, but it takes the supplied Allen key to tighten it sufficiently to hold a heavy lens.
 
Gitzo supplies a couple of Allen Keys with the GH4383LR head in a plastic zip-sealed bag along with a thread adapter. It would be nice, for the price, if they could be supplied as some sort of keyring tool so they’re always to hand. I’d also like the key to fit a little deeper into the bolt, but it does the job sufficiently well.
With the plate on the lens, it’s just a case of resting it in the bed on the top of the head and pushing the locking lever to the left. When the lever is half-way over, there’s an audible click as the plate locks into position. From this point, the plate can only be released again if the clearly marked lock button on the lever is pressed. After the initial locking, the lever can be pushed fully over to the left so that it’s flush with the head and out of the way.
 
The plate is released by flipping the lever to the right, pressing the lock button from at least the midway point.
As well as being very fast and easy to use, the release lever seems very secure as the plate locks very tightly. I prefer it to the screw-lock type as I always feel the need to give them one more turn and then struggle to unlock them.
A pin in the head under the plate bed stops the plate sliding sideways off the head before it’s locked fully.
It always takes a little time to find the right balance between the lock and the friction control with a new tripod head and its important to adjust it for the weight and weight distribution of the kit supported. Helpfully, the Gitzo GH4383LR Series 4 Center Ball Head’s friction control has click-stops that give you some indication of how far you’ve adjusted it
Initially, I used the Gitzo GH4383LR with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II USM. Combined, this kit weighs just over 2.4Kg and proved to be well within the head’s capability. I could compose shots with ease and lock the head tight with around 1/8th turn of the knob and nothing moved.
Wanting to give the head more of challenge and not being in possession of a pro-level 600mm f/4 lens, I swapped to a kit that weighed just under 2.6Kg and hung a bag from the end of the lens to hold some weight. Loading in first 3Kg and then 4Kg, the head held firm. I sometimes saw a little shift in the composition as I released the lens after locking the head, but a few moments investigation revealed that this was the result of movement of the lens’ tripod collar not the tripod head.
For reference, the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x weighs 3.62Kg, the Canon EF 600mm f-4L IS II USM is 3.92Kg, the Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM is 3.85Kg and the Sigma 60-600mm f4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sport 2.7Kg weigh 2.7Kg. The additional weights I used are heavier and on top of the lens weight. Also the weight was unevenly distributed, being towards the front of the lens, which would make the whole set-up less stable and apply more leverage to the head.
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