A Life-changer! The FlexShooter Pro Tripod Head « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

A Life-changer! The FlexShooter Pro Tripod Head

What’s Up?

I had planned to head down to the lake early this morning but had so much work to do that I opted out despite the perfect weather and a gentle northeast breeze.

Preparing this blog post took about six hours; writing good how-to is a painstaking exercise. If something below does not make sense or if you have any questions about any of the FlexShooter stuff, please leave a comment.

Flexshooter-Pro

FlexShooter Pro

You can order your FlexShooter Pro from the BAA Online Store right now for $599.00 plus the shipping by clicking here, or by phone at 863-692-0906. We started with twenty units and expect the rest of those to be gone quickly as we have sold four already by word of mouth …

The FlexShooter Pro Tripod Head

$599.00 plus the shipping

Years ago I tried a double ballhead and was not at all impressed. About four months ago I got my hands on a FlexShooter Pro. The first thing that I did was to let the manufacturer know that in my opinion, the knob on the clamp was a bit too small. He instituted a design change. All but one of the heads we have in stock has the slightly larger knob. If you might be interested in the head with the smaller knob, please get in touch via e-mail.

With my heavy travel schedule and my newfound love of hand holding the 500 PF, I did not commit to using the FlexShooter Pro until recently. For the past two weeks I have been putting my FlexShooter Pro to work. As I’ve learned more about how to set up and use the FlexShooter Pro, to say that I was and am impressed would be an understatement. The head is amazing.

To begin, the FlexShooter Pro is a ballhead that acts like a gimbal head, only better. Why better? Once your rig is set up properly — see the tutorial below — the lens actually stays where you point it without your having to lock up the head! Where you point the lens is what you get. That thanks to the patented spring system design that is made from the most durable artificial rubber on earth, polyurethane. It was chosen because at a given volume it is capable of storing much more elastic energy than even steel springs. In short, your rig will be perfectly counter-balanced: point it and leave it. The FlexShooter Pro is designed to handle loads of up to 99 pounds so it will easily handle your longest telephoto lens with ease and with efficiency. No more ballhead flop, no more crushed fingers, and far fewer missed shots; you are always ready to go with the FlexShooter Pro. And once you center the bubble in the silver ball and level your camera body by rotating the lens in the tripod collar, you can point your telephoto lens anywhere and be assured that your rig is square to the world with level horizons. And the same is true when working with short lenses mounted via a plate on the camera body.

While the above is hard to believe, it gets even better: the FlexShooter Pro is far more versatile than any gimbal head — actually, it’s a no contest. As above, you can use your longest telephoto lens. And the same is true for your intermediate telephoto lenses, for your intermediate telephoto zooms, and for you short telephoto and macro lenses. And — and this is a huge plus — you can use your FlexShooter Pro for scenic photography with the camera body mounted — thanks to the amazing two-way Arca-Swiss compatible clamp. There is no longer a need to travel with and carry a small ballhead if you wish to do photography with short lenses that do not have a tripod collar. Only the FlexShooter Pro fits all!

Once you have set the desired tension for the rig you are using — less for big glass, a bit more for the shorter lenses — and you want to lock the head down, there is absolutely no ballhead creep. What you see is what you get. I have never seen or used any tripod head that eliminates ballhead creep the way that the FlexShooter Pro does. Frame it, tighten the Silver Bullet Knob and forget it. This is a Godsend especially for scenic and for macro photographers.

The FlexShooter Pro weighs one pound, 8.9 ounces, just 1.2 ounces more than my Mongoose m3.6 (that tips the scales at one pound, 7.7 ounces). Do compare both with the Wimberley V2 head at a hefty three pounds, 3.4 ounces.

FlexShooter-diagram

FlexShooter Pro labeled set-up diagram

How to Set-up and Use Your FlexShooter Pro Tripod Head

In Your Home — Learning the Set-up

  • 1-First tighten (clockwise) the Large Silver Ball Lever (black) to lock the large silver ball. Note, the position of the Large Silver Ball Lever can be adjusted as needed by pulling the lever straight out and then rotating it as needed and then releasing it.
  • 2-Screw the head onto your tripod. To tighten it securely, grasp the black housing firmly with both hands and rotate the head in a clockwise direction. (To remove the head from the tripod for travel, reverse the procedure.)
  • 3-Stand behind your tripod with the front leg of your tripod pointing at your (imaginary) subject.
  • 4-Loosen (counter-clockwise) the silver ball with the Large Silver Ball Lever (black) so that housing rotates on the tripod. Position the housing so that the Large Silver Ball Lever (black) is on your left with he seam pointed directly at you. Tighten (clockwise) the Large Silver Ball Lever (black) ever-so-slightly to put just a bit of tension on the large silver ball. Then, holding the housing in your left hand, rotate the silver ball with the fingertips of your right hand until the bubble level is at the 90 degree position, that is, on your right. This will enable you to see the bubble when your telephoto lens is mounted. (You may need to re-position the level when mounting a camera body on the head.)
  • 5-With the Silver Bullet Knob loosened (couter-clockwise), rotate the clamp so that the Lens Direction Arrow that is inscribed on the base of the clamp is pointed directly away from you. Now grasp the clamp and — looking straight down at the bubble, center the bubble perfectly in the scribed circle (you might need your reading glasses!) and then tighten the silver ball in its now perfectly level position by rotating the the Large Silver Ball Lever (black) firmly clockwise.
  • 6-Now it is time to mount your big telephoto lens very carefully. Be sure to finger-tighten (clockwise) the Silver Bullet Knob before mounting the lens. Because of the unique design of the two-way Arca-Swiss compatible clamp, it is easier to screw up when mounting the lens than it is with either a Mongoose or a Wimberley. And the stop-stud system on the Wimberley is not available on the FlexShooter Pro. Be absolutely sure to confirm visually that the lens plate (more on those below) is seated properly in the jaws of the clamp. . Balance the lens perfectly by moving the lens plate or low foot forward and backward in the clamp as needed and be sure to check both sides of the clamp before you tighten (clockwise) the clamp knob firmly.
  • 7- Using either the click-mark on the lens barrel or better yet, your in-camera level, rotate the lens in the tripod collar until it shows perfectly level. Amazingly, if you have followed the instructions above perfectly, you can point your lens up or down or left or right and the back of the camera will be perfectly square to the world. All of your herons and egrets will be standing straight up and all of your ducks will be swimming on a level pond. I call this the the always-true-level feature.
  • 8- Now it is time to learn to use the Silver Bullet Knob to set the desired tension. From completely locked down (clockwise) it only takes three full turns to loosen (counter-clockwise) the small black ball completely. And you will rarely want to lock down the head completely when using a big telephoto lens. I do most of my bird photography with the small black ball adjusted to loose. That makes it easy to follow moving subjects including birds in flight. When employing slower shutter speeds, I will often finger-tighten (clockwise) the Silver Bullet Knob . Whatever tension you set, if you point the lens up or down or left or right and let it go, it will not move. And best of all, the lens is rendered weightless.

In the Field — A Practical Guide to Getting the Most Out of Your FlexShooter Pro

After you mount your lens and are ready to go for a walk or to change your position in the field, I find it best to tighten (clockwise) the Silver Bullet Knob fairly firmly so that the lens does not move at all when you are in walking.

If you will be standing (or sitting) in the same spot for a while, you will surely want to take the time to center the bubble in the scribed circle as detailed in #5 above. Be sure, however, to spread all three legs of your tripod out firmly before doing so, or, if you are working on a soft surface such as sand or mud, be sure to push down on the upper tripod legs to set the tripod firmly in place. If you do not take those steps, perfect level will be thrown off if the tripod moves even a bit.

If you will be changing your position often — usually to stay right on sun angle, for example 🙂 — you might opt to center the bubble in the scribed circle each time, or you might simply loosen the Silver Bullet Knob, loosen the tripod collar, and rotate the lens in the tripod collar as you work. That will be your call. If you anticipate your subjects moving from side to side you might wish to center the bubble each time so that you can take advantage of the always-true-level feature. Wish practice, this can be done in a matter of seconds at most.

If you are working on a relatively flat surface such as a boardwalk for example, you might take a moment to center the bubble on the tripod itself in the scribed circle on the tripod plate (by adjusting the leg length) and then centering the the bubble in the scribed circle on the FlexShooter Pro. That way, whenever and wherever you put your rig down, you will be pretty darned close to true level.

When working in the field with a big lens and a FlexShooter Pro, you will quickly come to realize that the Silver Bullet Knob is your best friend as you can use it to lock the head when you move and to adjust the tension in fine increments depending on your needs and your personal taste.

Stuff

I am proud to announce that for the next year at least, BIRDS AS ART will be the sole US distributor of this great new head.

You can order your FlexShooter Pro from the BAA Online Store right now for $599.00 plus the shipping by clicking here, or by phone at 863-692-0906. We started with twenty units and expect the rest of those to be gone quickly as we have sold four already by word of mouth …

Note that the BIRDS AS ART FlexShooter item prices across the board are a bit less than the European prices (converted from USD to Euros).

Overseas Orders

Overseas folks (especially Europeans) who wish to have their heads and other FlexShooter product shipped from Hungary are asked — with thanks — to click here.

Bigfoot

When I first set up my FlexShooter Pro I was surprised to note the 4th Generation low foot that I have on my Nikon 600mm f/4 VR lens was not long enough to balance the lens atop the head. FlexShooter makes seven different long lens feet for most name brand super-telephoto lenses that are currently in use. We have placed an order for those and anticipate having them in stock within ten days. They will sell for $99 US plus shipping. At present, we are accepting phone orders only: 863-692-0906. I am looking forward to getting the BIGFOOT FCN-20 for my Nikon 600.

To enquire about the correct Bigfoot for your big lens, please contact me via e-mail.

In stock right now I have one FLC15 for the Canon 500mm f/4L IS II lens and an FLC-100 for the Canon 400mm f/2.8L IS II, the Canon 600mm f/4L IS II & III, and the Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS. This one also work for the first generation Canon 400mm f/2.8L IS and the the first generation Canon 600mm f/4L IS. At present, we are accepting phone orders only for these items: 863-692-0906.

twinshooter

The TwinShooter in Action

The TwinShooter

If you work in a situation where you are seated in a blind, under cover, or somewhere in the field where you need two tripod-mounted lenses side by side, always level, and instantly available, then the TwinShooter was made for you (but alas, not for me). 🙂

TwinShooterProduct-shot

TwinShooter Product Shot

TwinShooter Product Shot

The TwinShooter sells for $209.00 US plus shipping. We have one in stock. At present, we are accepting phone orders only: 863-692-0906.

Extreme

The FlexShooter Extreme

The FlexShooter Extreme

The FlexShooter Extreme is a FlexShooter Pro on steroids. It is of course larger and weighs in at 2 pounds, 9 ounces. If you are a rigidity-freak, or if you want the maximum stability when using a TwinShooter, you would like fall in love with the FlexShooter Extreme.

This item sells for $699.00 US plus shipping. We have one in stock. At present, we are accepting phone orders only: 863-692-0906.

4 comments to A Life-changer! The FlexShooter Pro Tripod Head

  • I really appreciate the thorough explanation of how this product works! I was looking into a gimbal set up, but I am thinking of going this route since it would take care of my ballhead needs as well as my telephoto needs. Even though I am only using a D50 and 200-500 right now, I like that I’d be able to use this with any lens that I purchase in the future.

  • avatar Larry Rudnick

    Artie,
    A very interesting product – thanks for the explanations. I looked at the company’s site also and I believe I understand the principles. The only question concerns shooting landscape panoramas. How do you keep the camera level across the entire series of side-to-side pano shots? With a “normal” ball head, you get the base level, lock the ball head, and then just turn the camera using the pano adjustment. I don’t see such a control here.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Larry, Thanks for your question. If I am understanding your question correctly, the answer is a simple one. Once you mount the camera with a short lens onto the FlexShooter Pro (with the camera body plate like the Wimberley P-5 perpendicular to the Lens Direction Arrow), you center the bubble in the scribed circle as always. Then set up for your first image by framing it perfectly as you wish after loosening the small ball via the Silver Bullet Knob. Then put some tension on the small ball with the Silver Bullet Knob and make your first image. Now simply pan to frame your second image while the camera remains 100% level. And so on.

      with love, artie

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