The Best Tripod Head for Real Estate Photography, by Nathan Cool

This video explores the key considerations when choosing a tripod head for real estate photography. It dives deep into the pros and cons of various popular models, offering valuable insights for photographers seeking the perfect balance between quality, cost, and longevity.

Geared Heads vs. Ball Heads:

    • Geared heads: Ideal for real estate photography due to their precise control and stability. They feature three knobs for adjusting the camera’s position in minute increments, perfect for capturing perfectly level lines and architectural details.
    • Ball heads: Not recommended for real estate photography as their quick-release mechanisms and ball-and-socket design lack the precision and stability needed for capturing sharp, distortion-free images.

Popular Models:

    • Benro GD3WH: A solid, reliable option with a 13B capacity and good geared mechanisms. However, the clamping system with the two-stage mechanism can be problematic and prone to breakage.
    • k&f Concepts 3-Way Geared Head: Similar to the Benro in terms of capacity and features, but with a more secure clamping system and a single-stage tightening mechanism. However, the included Arca Swiss plate is of poor quality and needs to be replaced.
    • Arca-Swiss D4: A high-end option with a 75-pound capacity and exceptional build quality. However, it’s very expensive and doesn’t come with an Arca Swiss plate, requiring an additional purchase.
    • Neewer Geared Head: A newer, budget-friendly option with a 10 kgam capacity. While it hasn’t been thoroughly tested yet, it could be a viable alternative for those on a tight budget.
    • Sunwayfoto Gear Head: Not recommended due to its weak 4 kg Max capacity, wobbliness, and lack of durability.

Crucial Factors to Consider:

    • Clamping System: The dovetail design and clamp quality are crucial for ensuring a secure and stable camera mount. Look for a system that grips the plate tightly and prevents movement, even under slight pressure.
    • Arca Swiss Plate: Most tripod heads use Arca Swiss plates, but not all plates are created equal. Choose a high-quality plate with a large contact area for secure clamping and avoid the cheap, flimsy plates that come with some models.
    • Geared Mechanism Longevity: While both Benro and k&f offer reliable geared mechanisms, their clamping systems are potential weak points. Consider upgrading the plates for better security and durability.
    • Plate Size: A 70mm Arca Swiss plate is generally recommended for real estate photography as it provides ample grip area for your camera. Smaller plates may not offer enough stability.


    • There’s no perfect tripod head for every budget and need. Finding the best one involves balancing quality, cost, and your specific requirements.
    • Don’t discount a good head based on the included plate. Many come with subpar plates that can be easily replaced with high-quality alternatives.
    • Invest in a good Arca Swiss plate for maximum security and stability.
    • Prioritize a secure clamping system and a reliable geared mechanism for precise control and long-lasting performance.

By following these tips and carefully evaluating your options, you can find the perfect tripod head that meets your needs and helps you capture stunning real estate photos.


A lot more tripod heads have come on the market in just the last couple years that are contenders for doing real estate photography. So in this episode, what I’m going to do is I’m going to break down five of the top tripod heads.

I’m going to talk about some of the differences. I’m going to narrow in on a couple of those heads that I would recommend on the Quest for the best tripod head. But what I’m going to do is show that neither one of those two or even the ones before that would be perfect, no matter the price, no matter the quality, because some of them lack some very important things.

But with some very inexpensive add -ons that you can put on these heads, you can get a better quality result and something that’ll be more stable and last you a lot longer. Also, before we get started, just to preface this real quick, I am not getting paid by any of these manufacturers to do this video.

No one’s paid me or given me gear. Through the last couple years, as I’m always going through gear, I try out new tripod heads, tripod’s cameras, lenses, all that. I don’t always just stick with one thing and that’s all I’m ever going to do.

So through this journey for the Quest for the best of any gear, I always try to balance what is the cost, what’s the longevity of it, does it make business sense for me? Because when it comes to tripod heads especially, yes, you could pay a lot of money for a tripod head, but it might not really bring you the results that you want.

And especially if you’re looking for multiple rigs and backups, but if you’re doing something that’s too cheap, then you’re really going to hate yourself later with some of the results that you could get.

So there is this balance between quality and cost and yes, that is important. But like I said, there’s also some things that we can add onto these heads that can even make them better. I also want to say that when you’re reading reviews about tripod heads, keep this in mind.

All tripod heads wear out over time. I don’t care if it’s the best Arca Swiss head out there that costs you thousands of dollars, it will wear over time. Everything mechanical does. It’s a matter of how fast something could wear out and is it still really stable?

So there’s that balance of quality, cost, longevity we have to take a look at, because as soon as you get a small incremental increase in quality, that the price tends to go up exponentially. So there’s that balance.

So let’s get started taking a look first at why we would use certain heads. If you were doing landscape photography or something else, you may have been using a ball head. This is not really recommended for doing real estate photography.

You have one of these ball heads and you set your camera on it and it can go every which way. And that’s great when you’re trying to catch a flying owl or you’re trying to set up some type of special landscape shot, but it’s not going to work for real estate photography.

Instead, what you want to have is a geared tripod head. And these tripod heads have three different knobs and each one of these knobs allows you to control the camera’s position in three different axes.

So you can go side to side, you can go on your tilt, you can go up down, all those things are adjustable with very fine small adjustments with these big knobs. And then if you want to make some bigger movements, then there’s these bigger knobs that you can then unlock it and you can move it by hand to where you need to, but it’ll stay in that axis as you’re moving.

So let’s start out talking about the heads themselves. We’ll start with the Benro. And we’ll just cover real quickly some of the specs on these before I get into the video of showing the review of what I like, what I don’t like about these and start narrowing in.

But the first one on the list is one I have used for a few years and that’s the Benro head. It’s got about a 13 pound capacity. That’s about six kilograms. So it’s a pretty steady head. Similar to that is a fairly new one by KNF Concepts.

Also 13 pounds, six kilograms max. Looks very similar except it has orange knobs instead of the blue ones. So very similar. It used to be in the old days, you would grab a Manfrotto Junior. I don’t recommend those.

Those are 11 pound limit, it’s okay, but those things we’ll see here in just a little bit, they really don’t pan out. They’re losing their popularity. At the very high end, you’ve got the Arca Swiss D.

This is something that a lot of architectural photographers tend to opt for. It’s got a 75 pound capacity, but it is very, very expensive. Another one too that has become somewhat popular just recently is by Neewer.

And you know, they’ve got a lot of cheaper photography equipment. It tends to be pretty good. They’ve got one with a 10 kilogram capacity. That’s 22 pound capacity. It’s very new. I haven’t tested it yet.

So I will leave that off the list for now. Once it gets a little more popularity, I might take a look at it. Another popular one is the Sunway Photo. I don’t recommend this thing at all. This thing has gotten bad reviews.

It wobbles very fast. It doesn’t last that long because it only has a four kilogram max capacity. That’s less than nine pounds. So one of the weakest ones out there. So that’s completely off the list.

And you might have seen also I’ve done reviews on the Rojetti Geared Head. Fantastic head. Compete with the Arcus Swiss D4. It is less expensive, but it is still very expensive. And from the review, if you remember that some years back, it just wasn’t very ergonomic.

And now today it’s not popular and it’s harder to find. So not really one of my top recommendations, but it’s not so much the geared head that we’re looking at here that would have the problem. Yes, the gears inside could wear out as you’re moving it back and forth constantly, getting a lot of use out of it day to day.

But one of the bigger problems actually falls into the clamps and the plates. So let’s take a look at the plates here. And these are the Arcus Swiss plates that are typical on most of these various heads.

And when you look down from the top, yeah, they look like they’ve got different colors and that’s all fine. A big giveaway is when you flip them over and you can see some big differences. Notice on the blue Benro, it has a much bigger D -ring.

And I love D -rings on my plates because I don’t have to break out a screwdriver or tool. And we’re gonna get to that here in just a little bit on a solution for that. But it does have a bigger D -ring, but that is also only the tip of the iceberg.

Between all of these, and yes, they do have some smaller screws in them and some of them don’t have D -rings at all, the real key here is the dovetail design. And that’s what really makes a difference with not just the plate, but how well the clamp is made on the tripod head to hold in that dovetail.

So as the clamp moves in on the tripod head to secure that, it actually rides up onto that dovetail, which forces the entire plate downward, which further tightens it up. So the idea is, is that you should be able to apply a little bit of extra torque on that clamp and you’d get a very secure camera on that plate in your tripod head, but that doesn’t always work.

For instance, here’s the Benro. I’ve got a little bit of a different tool. Benro plate on here, tightened it up with just the D ring, which is a big D ring and it’s easy to put my fingers around and tighten that up with just my hand.

And it is very sturdy. It won’t move, not move at all, but the problem is though the clamp. So the plate was fine. When we take a look at the clamp, what they have is this little two stop safety mechanism.

And the idea is that when you’re unscrewing it, it will stop and then you have to pull on the knob to then keep unscrewing. And that makes sense that, you know, we don’t want to all of a sudden unscrew too much and boom, the camera falls out.

It’s a unique design, one -off, nobody’s really used to it. But the problem is when we take a look underneath of it, what’s happening, when we pull that out and we start unscrewing that little mechanism inside there, it’s a cheap metal groove type of geared mechanism.

And inside the knob, it’s plastic. So if you really try to put a lot of torque on that, especially when trying to loosen it, you can break it and I have before. On one Benro head, I actually did break that.

So the clamping mechanism is not the best on the Benro, but as long as you’re not over -torquing and really getting wild with these, then it works really well because it also has a good dovetail design and its plate does not move.

That plate stays put. Now take a look at the KNF. So if I used the KNF plate on, doesn’t matter what head by the way this is on there, it just moves all over the place. It can’t stand still. The KNF plate that comes with the KNF head is terrible.

It’s awful. It doesn’t even have really good grip material. One of the problems is the D -ring is too small, but the plate itself just doesn’t have good grip material. So the camera moves all over the place.

Now, that doesn’t mean that the KNF head is bad. It just means that the Arca Swiss plate that they ship with it, that you’re supposed to mount to your camera, isn’t that good. And that’s where some of this key of some of these additions are going to come in.

So there’s options that they have. For instance, there’s a magic plate, which is provided by KNF. Then also Benro has one, and those things are junk. The things just move all over the place. You really can’t clamp down a camera very well on these.

You can see it just still moves all over the place. And other plates here, like three -legged thing, love this plate, it’s great, and it stays really steady. Doesn’t have a D -ring, but you can still tighten that up very good, and it grips your camera very, very well.

Now, something to note here is if you were to go with that Arca Swiss D4, it doesn’t even come with a plate. So you’d have to buy your own Arca Swiss plate to begin with, and the newer one, the one that’s just come out by Neewer, Neewer, how you pronounce it, it’s a round Arca Swiss plate.

It has very, very good quality. little contact area for it to be secured. And Manfrotto, one of the reasons why I completely discount it, forget the fact that it also has reliability problems after a couple years, is that it has its own oddball special plate so it doesn’t really fit with the rest of the ArcaSwiss system if you’re setting up multiple rigs.

So you can see there’s two problems that were up against, well maybe three. Sure the longevity of the geared mechanism inside these tripod heads. When it comes down to Benro and KNF, those are really good.

I can tell you from experience that those do have good reliability in their geared systems, but the problem here is that with like the Benro, you have a problem with that cheap clamping system, that two -stage clamping system.

The plate’s fantastic and that’s just the opposite with the KNF. The KNF has a great clamping system, good dovetail solid metal construction. It’s just a single stage tightening mechanism. But the plate is crap.

It’s just junk. So you don’t want to discount the entire system just because the plate that it came with is bad. Like I said, the most expensive tripod heads out there like the D4 don’t even come with an Arca Swiss plate.

So you can look for your own Arca Swiss plate, which is the second phase here to look for before getting into what is my quest for the best and my recommendation, what you want to look for in your Arca Swiss plate for all these different tripod heads.

Doesn’t matter what they are. Even if you’re using a ball head, using a 70 millimeter plate is usually really good. You don’t want these tiny little ones. They don’t have enough grip area. 70 millimeters is usually big enough to give you a good amount of area to grip.

Now you don’t have to have a D -ring on them. Like the Benro head has a nice big D -ring and that works fantastic. But some of those tripod head plates have a small cutout area underneath where a D -ring wouldn’t fit.

And they do require then just the standard screw. Now a lot of those have both sometimes a slot for a standard screwdriver or an Allen head key, one or the other. So what you can simply do is if you’re not using one with a D -ring and you’ve got one that still is very secure, but it doesn’t have the D -ring, then you just use this little tool here.

This little thing is fantastic. You can get these. I’ve got a link to this down in the description for the video. It’s just a few bucks. You can put it on your key chain. I keep mine in my camera bag.

And then I can pop this in my pocket. So if I’m not near my gear, I still have this. And it’s got a screwdriver on one end. It’s got an Allen key on the other. Works fantastic for just about anything I’d need to tighten up.

It also has a little carabiner on here so you can attach it to bags and whatnot or on your key chain. But with that, it comes in very handy because if you’re ever switching your camera and rotating it sideways without using an L bracket on these tripod heads, you might notice that all of a sudden starts slipping and that’s just because it can loosen up.

Even when you first set up your camera before getting started with a shoot, it probably is already a little bit loose. So it’s always good to make sure it’s tight before you start and also after rotating and whatnot you can check and see by just moving your camera on the tripod, has it become loose.

If it has, you just detach it real quick, grab the side of your pocket, tighten up that plate real quick. Another thing to be aware of with these plates is that they’re black most of the time, which is highly annoying.

I love the Benro plate, which is blue. When it comes to real estate photography, you have to remember a lot of times we’re sitting up our gear inside of someone’s dark house. And when you’ve got a black tripod head and you’ve got a black camera and you’ve got then a black Arca Swiss plate on the bottom of that camera, you can’t really see how well you’re secure in the dovetail part of the clamp.

So if you have an orange plate, you can’t really see it. That’s fantastic, or a gray plate like the three -legged thing. And so I’ve got different recommendations for those plates, also down in the description for this video.

And now it’s time to talk about my ultimate recommendation based off of all this. Once again, just to recap a couple of things, yes, you could go very expensive with an ARCA D4. And if all you’re ever gonna do is architectural photography and money is no object, then yes, you could buy one, but you’re gonna need more than one.

As you know, there’s usually multiple rigs that are set up at least for backups because you can’t be left without your gear if it gets sold and lost or damaged. So you are in for a big investment and you’d still have to buy your own ARCA Swiss plate.

Do I have a D4? No, I found it to be far outside of my budget, even for me shooting as much as I do. So I opted for years for the Benro head. I love it, I love the blue plate on it. It has really good gear mechanisms that have never ever loosened up on me.

I’ve never had a wobble out of a Benro head, but what has failed me on the Benro heads is the clamping mechanism for the ARCA Swiss dovetail. That, like I said, because of that dual stage knob that it has, it’s broken on me once and it also has gotten stuck on another head where I had to kind of play it loose.

So I’m not really a fan of that mechanism. Now, if I could have the best of both worlds, they would be in the K and F head. But the ARCA Swiss plate that comes with the K and F head is just unacceptable, but that’s easy enough to change out.

So here’s my recommendation. It’s using the Benro head if you’re careful with how tight you clamp it, but still make sure that you are secure. One way to make sure is after you tighten it, lift the camera up so your whole tripod should lift with you and just do a little bit of shaking, making sure that it is secure in there.

But my other recommendation is if you’re worried about torquing too much and you’ve had bad luck with the Benro head, then try the K and F concept head, but do not use it with the plate that it comes with.

Instead, I recommend getting a different ARCA Swiss plate and I do like, once again, the three -legged thing. It’s got a orange plate that you can use and keep that little three -legged thing, little tool, how do they call it, the tools, in your pocket so that you can keep it nice and tight.

It’s a great plate. That would be my recommendation if you went the K and F route. But of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. What we actually photograph doing real estate photography, how we do it, how we edit it, how we set all this up, those things I’ve got covered in my online courses on real estate photography.

I’ve got courses on doing professional interiors, on expert editing, also on doing professional exteriors. And I also have a recent course brand new on professional videography for real estate. And I also have written bestselling books on real estate photography as well.

And I have links to all of that down in the description for this video. And throughout those courses I talk about not just this gear, but a lot more. You can see the full curriculum for each one of those courses on those course pages.

And of course you can see the table of contents for all my books if you go to those book pages as well. So I hope this has been useful. And once again, links to all the gear so that you can check it out yourself down in the description.

And little tip here, you don’t like something, send it back. Everybody has these 30 day policies for return, whether it’s B &H, Adorama, Amazon, you don’t like something, try it out, send it back. They’ll give you a refund on it, order something else.