Review - Manfrotto 410 Junior Geared Head
Posted: 4 August 2017
As part of my preparation for the 21 August 2017 Total Solar Eclipse I recently did some test exposures of the Sun using my Nikon D7200 DSLR + Tamron 150-600mm lens with the focal length at 600mm. During the tests with the lens mounted on my Manfrotto 496 Compact Ball Head I discovered some difficulty keeping the Sun centered in the camera viewfinder while tightening ball head axis locks. At some camera orientations when the locks were fully tightened the camera/lens combination would "sag" and slide the Sun away from the center of the field-of-view. At the end of my test exposures report I mentioned that I would begin looking for a ball head with fine adjustments.
An astrophotographer friend saw my report and responded that he uses a Manfrotto 410 Junior Geared Head and it works well for him. This is exactly the type of ball head I wanted since it allows for fine adjustments in elevation and azimuth. I immediately ordered it from B&H.
The Nikon D7200 DSLR + Tamron 150-600mm lens has a combined weight of 6 lbs and the 410 geared head supports up to 11 lbs. The 496 ball head was spec-ed up to 13.23 lbs, and while it is true it can support that much weight, the lack of fine adjustments meant that any "sagging" was difficult to correct for. So I had high hopes that the fine adjustments on the 410 head would overcome any sagging that might occur.
The 410 head comes with 1/4" and 3/8" screws on the quick release plate to attach a camera. You can remove the screw that won't be used with your camera and store it on the head. Note: the screw is slotted so a coin or flathead screwdriver should be used to tighten down the camera onto the plate to avoid slippage. As with the Manfrotto 496 Compact Ball Head, the Manfrotto 410 Junior Geared Head mounts to a tripod or the iOptron SkyTracker Pro using a 3/8"-16 thread.
Here is a side-by-side comparison photo of the 496 vs the 410 heads:
One thing to note when attaching the Geared Head to the SkyTracker Pro is the limited clearance with the counterweight rod lock (arrowed):
The counterweight bar can still be locked down but it will take some extra work with unlocking and locking the handle to tighten the rod lock. Another slight issue with the Geared Head is the maximum elevation of 30° above the celestial equator (when mounted on the SkyTracker Pro). You will have to rotate the camera + lens 180° on the head in order to reach Declinations more than 30° above the celestial equator. As the quick release plate is not reversible you have to remove the plate from the head, loosen the camera attachment screw, re-tighten the screw, and re-mount the plate on the head.
Here is the Nikon D7200 DSLR + Tamron 150-600mm lens on the iOptron SkyTracker Pro + Manfrotto Geared Head:
(In the photo above you can also see that I have a right angle viewfinder on the camera. That makes viewing the Sun in the camera very convenient when the Sun is high in the sky, as it will be at my location for the Total Solar Eclipse. I will be posting a review of the right angle viewfinder once the weather allows me to do some astrophotography at the 12" telescope.)
I tested the Geared Head on the Sun (with a safe solar filter on the camera lens). There are rings on each of the three axes (horizontal, elevation, and tilt) which can be loosen to allow you to make large camera pointing movements. Once you have the camera roughly aligned on your object, the Sun in this case, one or more of the three axes knobs are rotated to make fine adjustments. It was very easy to center the Sun in the camera viewfinder.
Here is the Sun (with a small sunspot AR2670) as imaged with the above setup on 4 August 2017:
One tip for Sun photography is to cover the camera with a cloth and place the "hood" over your head when looking into the camera viewfinder or using a "live view" screen:
The Manfrotto 410 Junior Geared Head is made of aluminum, but is a substantial piece of equipment with thankfully large and easily used axis movement knobs. There was no "sag" with the DSLR and long lens attached. Making fine adjustments for corrections in all directions was smooth. I will definitely be using the Geared Head during the Total Solar Eclipse.
I also plan to use the Manfrotto Geared Head on the SkyTracker Pro for imaging of the night sky. Being able to make fine pointing adjustments will facilitate framing of the target objects. I will report on future use of the Geared Head on my Cassiopeia Observatory reports.
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