Velbon PH-268R Fluid Panhead

The Velbon PH-268R Fluid Panhead is a heavy duty video head with vertical and horizontal panning, detachable camera plate, and bubble level marketed in the USA by Hakuba (mail order price $80). The head weights 2.25 lbs and attaches to a tripod via a 3/8" or 1/4" (adapter provided) socket and has a rated capacity of 12 lbs.

Typical of video heads, the camera plate includes an alignment guide to ensure that the camera is mounted straight. Other manufacturers offer spring loaded guides are retractable and therefore compatible with non video equipment, the Velbon guide is screwed into the plate. This means the pin has to be unscrewed from the plate in order to use a still camera or lens and thus greatly increases the chances that it will be lost. The plate accommodates 1/4" sockets only.

The value of the PH-268R for photographers is its ability to smoothly handle large lenses when tracking moving subjects. Typically, these conditions call for expensive specialty equipment like gimbal heads. While these special heads probably (I have not tested them) outperform a video head, you may already own a video head and the performance may be good enough to eliminate the need for anything more.

Testing with the PH-268R and a 400mm f2.8 lens produced excellent images. While mating the lens/camera plate to the head is easy with just a camera (video or still), the process is a bit unwieldy when using a large lens and required a bit concentration. The operation and panning was smooth as long as the subject was somewhat close to the horizon. Lens flop was never much of a concern. The camera and lens combination came in just below the rated weight capacity of the head and did not appear to strain it.

Subjects far from the horizon (e.g. 30 degrees or more) present more of a problem as the center of gravity is moved from directly over the tripod to one side. Under these conditions, lens flop is more of a concern. Nevertheless, I was able to shoot pictures of birds high in trees without any problems.

After making an investment in a large lens, it is certainly worth giving the gimbal heads like the Wimberley or Sidekick careful consideration. However, if you are simply renting this type of lens, then a video head such as the PH-268R will probably provide more than adequate performance.

Conclusion

The PH-268R can serve double duty as a video head and as a platform to mount long lenses for action photography. In this latter capacity it challenges the more expensive gimbal type heads with cost 3-6x more.

Other Views

Let me know of any other PH-268R reviews.

Posted 6/4/3, updated 6/6/3