Sunwayfoto GH-PRO II Review, Best Affordable Geared Tripod Head for Architectural Photographers 2020?
- Video Demonstration
- Build Quality
- Final Verdict
- Photos of the GH-PRO II
5 out of 5 stars!!!
PURCHASE: Link to the Sunwayfoto GH-PRO II
VERDICT: For those wanting a quick answer, yes you should purchase the SUNWAYFOTO GH-PRO II (2019 version) now! What are you waiting for?! It’s a premium geared tripod head at an affordable price.
I highly recommend it for architectural and real estate photography. Like all geared tripod heads, you are able to make very concise and fine adjustments to your compositions so that you can get perfect vertical and horizontals. What’s new here in this design is that Sunwayfoto combined the slow and fast adjustments into one knob by implementing a foldable crank handle that sits seemlessly inside the knob. Similar tripod heads by Manfrotto and Benro have long handle rods that stick out one side as well as other knobs on the opposite sides.
Another great achievement is the new geared design where the gear does not detach at any stage during the tilting or rotation. I did not notice any drift in the head due to this feature, so this is incredible design.
I personally think that the Sunwayfoto GH-PRO II (2019 version) is the best option for it’s price range as it is smaller than its competitors, has an all metal finish and works on a new geared design for smooth and stable compositions.
I put together a short film of me showing the Sunwayfoto GH-PRO II in action. I wanted to share an unboxing and the smooth and precise uses of the knobs and crank handles in video footage because I did a search on the web and couldn’t find anything! This would have been handy beforehand for me when I was researching the head, so wanted to share it with you guys.
So the most important features to a photographer in need of a geared head are
- the 180 degree + 80 degree till range of the gears
- a top and bottom 360 degree pan head
- as well as the crank handle v knob speeds to adjust fast or fine movements.
So this graphic below shows the 2 tilt ranges for each gear
Then along with those tilt ranges you also have the 2X 360 degree pan heads at both the top and bottom
Having 2 panning heads is important because it allows you to change the angle of the camera into any angle you can think of. You can tilt the top arm 90 degrees to the left and then pan the top head to make the camera point straight down to the ground or straight up in the air for example. Bascially any angle within a sphere!
The Crank Handles, are a very, very, clever design feature that saves on space and need for multiple knobs and dials.
The GH-PRO II is all aluminium and feels like a premium product when you hold it in your hands, there is a definite weight to the product. It’s this metal core that offers a strong and rigid structure for the head to operate on and around. So, when you’re making those fine or fast adjustments to the tilt angle you notice that high quality instantly. As I’ve mentioned all the knobs and crank handles are also made of metal so they have a wonderful texture in your fingers when you’re are working on your composition.
The quick release plate is an arca swiss type and it works very nicely. The fact that it is an arca style means that it works with most other plates, I was able to use my L-Plate with the head as it is also an arca plate. Underneath the plate supplied though are 2 small screws that make sure the plate doesn’t slide out “accidentally” as well to act as a safety mechanism.
The gears in the late 2019 version are a new design that don’t separate so they are very stable. Once in place, the tripod head will not move a millimetre!
The 2 pan heads also slide extremely smoothly and have a premium feel to them. The lock knobs on the pan heads are adjustable too so you can pull and move them out of the way into another angle after they are tightened, which is a nice touch.
Overall the GH-PRO II head has a premium feel to it with attention to detail. All the degree scales and angles printed into the metal are of such fine detail, its a work of art.
I wanted to talk about the specs because I feel like they are a consideration when selecting this geared tripod head over others.
Load Capacity: 4kg
So I have done all my testing using full frame and aps-c mirroless cameras with a combined camera boy and lens weight coming in around 900 grams, this being under 25% of the total recommended weight for the tripod head (4kg). I think for mirrorless cameras this tripod head worked flawlessly! My previous camera combination was a full frame Nikon D800 (900g) + nikkor 14-24mm (1kg) which came in at nearly double the weight at 2kg, much heavier but still would only be 50% of the payload for this head. Other lenses that are common in architecture photography are the Canon Tilt shift 24mm at 786g and the Canon Tilt Shift 820g. So it is hard to find any common camera and lens pairings that weigh more than the 50% weight recommendation. Even the new medium format Fujifilm GFX 50S only weighs 740-920g (with and without viewfinder) so it’s made for a large variety of cameras.
Dimensions: 140 * 84 * 124mm
The head is very thin compared to its counterparts at only 12cm width and this makes it great for squeezing into any camera or tripod bag. The other great thing about this is that it is not awkward to transport. It does feel tall but the core of the head, that S shape, is just so strong that you never even notice the height.
The tripod head is solid metal so when you have it in your hands it has bit of weight to it. Being all metal means it is very strong and will last a long time. I have had manfrotto and other branded tripod heads in the passed and the mixed materials always seem to break down with wear and tear over time. Plastic handles break off or rubber pads peel away. There are much heavier and more expensive geared tripod heads on the market, like the Arca Swiss D4 and Cube, but this is a fraction of the price and can confidently stand along side those heads.
Materials: Aeroplane Grade Aluminium
It’s important to know that the GH-PRO II is completely metal including the knobs and handles, this makes for a very high quality geared tripod head.
The Sunwayfoto GH-PRO II screws on to a standard 3/8″-16 thread mount tripod and sits securely once tightened. I have tried the head on 4 different tripod legs so far and it has always felt very strong once in place.
Attaching a camera to the head is very easy and when you are clamping in the arca plate it tightens up very smoothly. You can try to move your camera in the clamp but you will soon find that it won’t move a muscle, it just feels very locked in like it is an extension of the tripod head. The antislip rubber on the plate helps to make sure you don’t get any slippage or sag with heavier camera gear.
I have used the head in all positions now with the camera facing in all directions and I have never felt like it was unsafe.
The fact that the 2 speeds, fine and fast, are on the same knobs means that you save a lot of time when using this tripod head. You can actually leave the crank handles out and still just grab the knob section and turn it very slowly. I found that you can make extremely small adjustments to both lateral and for-aft directions.
Whilst you can tilt the angle side to side a full 90 degrees each way, WOW!!!, you only have 40 degrees of movement forwards and backwards. So you want to be aware of this as you are setting up. Most publications will want to see both a landscape and portrait orienation composition of a scene and you can very easily switch between the 2 with this head. In a matter of seconds you can be in portrait mode and back to landscape to fire a few more shots. It’s important to note that it moves at the same speed no matter which way you are tilting it. I demonstrated this in the video above.
Panning is an important part of any composition and the pan heads on this tripod also allow you to move it in very small increments. There is only the one dial but if you don’t over loosen it you can have a lot of control over the pan angle which makes it super easy to cut out things on the edge of your composition as you pan. For example I was able to show less of a bed in a bedroom shoot or pan when in portrait mode to show more of a kitchen island.
Having a pan head is very important in architecture photography because we want to make small adjustments to the composition to get it perfect, a geared head makes this an easy task.
Once you’ve used a tripod head with 2 pan heads like this you will never want to go back to just 1 pan head! Trust me!
Photos of the Sunwayfoto GH-PRO II:
I shot these myself of my own personal copy of the GH-PRO II in the studio to give you an idea of the full shape and look of the tripod head. I think they will be useful to potential buyers out there wanting to have a close look at the details.
I have been extremely happy with my new geared Sunwayfoto GH-PRO II Tripod Head. The build quality feels like a premium geared head, it’s strong and sturdy and allows me to get extremely fine adjustments. I’m happy in knowing that my head is a lot smaller too than the other ones on the market and being made out of metal it has a premium finish to it.
The weight of 847g is compariably light and easy to carry around on a tripod on your back for an afternoon. Pairing this with a full frame mirrorless set up is a perfect combination and a match made in heaven. But at the same time would also suit a DSLR like Canon 5D or Nikon D800 lineup.
I haven’t noticed any drift, because of the new geared design which is always locked in, which is an important feature as you want your tripod head to hold your composition indefintely.
The only negative thing I would have to say, and it’s not even really a negative thing beacuse I don’t even use one, but the placement of the bubble spirit level is kind of hidden underneath your camera plate. There is a small slit in the plate for you to look through and see it but if you rely on using one you may have to move your camera. Personally, I have a level in my camera like most mirrorless cameras have in their user interface and I just use that to level out my images. If this is something that is an issue for you, such as you use a DSLR without a level in the software then you can buy a little bubble level for your camera on amazon. Link to Bubble level on AMAZON.
I think the Sunwayfoto GH-PRO II is the best value for your money on the market at a RRP of US$225, there is not a better buy for an architectural or real estate photographer on the market in 2020.
Im happy to answer any questions or respond to any comments below,