Bob Atkins Photography

Bogen 3038, 3055 and 3262 ball heads

The Bogen ball heads aren't the best around, but it's hard to beat them for value. I've used all three of these heads and here is my evaluation: 

Bogen 3038 

This is a big ball head. It's massive, weighing in at around 4.5+lbs. I found it to be very solidly built and very sturdy. It's big enough to hold just about any camera or lens you can lift onto it. The locking levers for the ball and the panoramic base are sturdy and efficient. It has adjustable ball tension, so you can set it for the weight of the lens in use. The downsides of this head are the weight and the smoothness of operation. If you have to carry it far in the field, the weight is as issue. If you are working indoors, it's not a problem, but if you compare it to an Arca Swiss B1 - which is just as stable - you're carrying around an extra 3lbs. The ball action isn't particularly smooth. It gets better when you heavily load it, say with a 13 lb lens like a 600/4. You can live with it, it's not aweful, but it's not as smooth as other heads (most of which cost 2x or 3x the price of the 3038). Another potential negative point is that it uses the large Bogen hex QR plates. They work fine, but are significantly larger than, say the Arca Swiss QR plates. Still, if you need a BIG, stable ball head, you don't have much money and you can live with the hex QR plates and a slightly sticky ball movement at times, the 3038 is a reasonable choice. 

Bogen 3055 

The 3055 is Bogen's original "medium" ball head. It has a panoramic base like the 3038, but it's not calibrated in degrees (the 3038 is). The ball and base actions are slightly "sloppy". This isn't a super-precision made device, but for $40, what do you expect! Though the ball tension might in theory be adjustable (depending on how hard you lock the locking lever), in practice it's more or less "locked" or "free". It takes the standard hex QR plates. Kirk can adapt it to take Arca Swiss type plates (they can do this for the 3038 too), but I've no idea why anyone would do this. The Arca Swiss QR plates are $40-$50 each. Why anyone would want to use them on a $40 ball head I don't know. There's also a Bogen version which takes thesmaller Bogen rectangular plates. I'd say the 3055 is adequate if you have a  limited budget. There's really nothing any better in a QR ballhead for the price. It's OK with lenses up to a 300/4 or 400/5.6. I'll admit to putting a 300/2.8 on one. It worked OK but it's not something I'd  recommend. BTW I never used the panoramic base on the 3055. I think there's a new 3055s (s for simple) version without the pan base. No big loss in my opinion and it's a few $ cheaper. 

Bogen 3262 

The 3262 comes in two versions, QR and non QR. The QR version doesn't use the standard Bogen hex plates. It uses a smaller rectangular plate, which makes more sense on a medium-small ball head. I've used the non-QR version, so that's what I'll talk about. The 3262 is a simple head. No panoramic base, a single ball lock/unlock lever, no adjustable ball tension. Within these limits it works quite well. I've used it with lenses up to a 300/4 (with TC), but that's the upper limit. I wouldn't even think of putting a 300/2.8 on it. Overall, it's a decent, solid ball head for an SLR with small (maybe medium) lenses. At the price, again you can't really beat it. 


I think the overall conclusion is that Bogen don't make the best ball heads. They make the cheapest usable ballheads and maybe the best value ballheads. Most serious photographers eventually end up with something better - and significantly more expensive. The Bogens (especially the 3055/3262) are cheap enough that there's no big loss when you upgrade. If you can afford it, go with something better (like the Arca Swiss B1 at $360, plus $40+ per QR plate!). If you can't, get a Bogen and don't lose any sleep over the decision.

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