Today we are taking a look at a very special head made by Sunwayfoto, the GH-PROII+. This multi-angle geared head is both travel-friendly while still maintaining a great deal of useful flexibility.
The new head is very similar to a previous design made by Sunwayfoto called the GH-PROII but the plus version includes a top geared clamp (GC-01) which adds another degree of movement.
The Sunwayfoto Geared Head GH-PROII+
Design and features
The first thing we noticed when we received the head was just how compact it is. It measures just under 13cm (5″) tall and a little over that in width including the knobs. Other gear heads with multi-angle controls are usually larger and much heavier.
Despite the compact size, the head’s build quality is fantastic and it is made entirely out of metal. The actual weight of the head is 780g (27.5oz) but it can officially hold up to 4KG (8.8lbs) and we didn’t have any problems with any of our Sony setups.
Let’s take a look at the different knobs and the movements that you can achieve with this head starting from the bottom and going up.
- 360 degrees pan base – controlled manually pan with a lock.
- 180-degree forward-backward tilt – a large knob with retractable crank and angle markings.
- 80-degree sideways tilt – a large knob with retractable crank and angle markings.
- 360-degrees pan head – can be controlled both manually with a lock or with the long gear knob.
The head has an Arca-style clamp with a locking knob and comes with a 6cm (2.5″) plate with removable stoppers. The head itself comes in a nice padded soft case and a pair of Allan keys.
The Sunwayfoto Geared Head GH-PROII+ Top Arca plate
A few observations
Here are a few observations based on our usage of the head over the past few months:
- We love the larger knobs on this head. They are simply fantastic to use and extremely precise and smooth.
- The head allows for quite a bit of flexibility and the ability to manually rotate both the lower and upper pan sections as well as lock them to prevent accidental changes allows for faster pan movements.
- Unlike the lower pan base the other axis either lacks a position marker and the sideway tilt markings are hard to read.
- Unlike the Manfrotto 405 that we reviewed a few years back, there is no way to quickly rotate or tilt the head only pan. Using the cranks is faster but still takes a bit of time.
- Unlike the 405 which has 3 bubble levels, one for each axis, the Sunwayfoto has only a single bubble level located under the plate which can be hard to view and not usable when shooting in vertical mode.
- In some positions, the knobs and cranks can touch or interfere with each other.
- Moving the head to a 90-degree angle down for overhead shots is more complex compared to the Manfrotto 405. On the plus side if you want to take vertical shots the Sunwayfoto top pan head allows for up-down movement which the 405 lacks.
The Sunwayfoto Geared Head GH-PROII+ sideway tilt knob
Using the Sunwayfoto Geared Head GH-PROII+
We worked with the head for some outdoor shots and we feel that it can be great for architectural work as well although we have yet to thoroughly test it in this capacity.
Although it can certainly be used in the studio, it is our opinion that when it is compared to larger heads like our Manfrotto 405 it is nighter as flexible nor as fast to change positions. And while we would accept these limitations when we travel in exchange for a smaller lighter head, in the studio we need a fast head that can quickly go 90 degrees down and back up again.
We actually have an unconventional use for the head which was part of the reason that we wanted to try it in the first place and that is as part of our new large spinning rig which requires a great deal of precision with the camera for exact centering and for that the head is just great.
We always felt that geared heads were underappreciated in the photo industry when compared to the overly popular ball heads. Yes, they can never compete with ball-heads when shooting moving targets, but for still life, products, food, architecture, and landscape they provide a level of accuracy that is simply unmatched by any other type of head and we often use them for video as well when the camera is stationary and we require great precision.
The GH-PROII+ is an impressive work of miniaturization that successfully squeezes a lot of capabilities into a very small body without sacrificing build quality.
The design itself does have some limitations as we discussed and it is more suitable for workflows where speed is secondary to accuracy and portability.
All in all, we are very pleased with what Sunwayfoto was able to achieve with this head and it offers a great value for those looking for a compact precision head.
Working with the Sunwayfoto Geared Head GH-PROII+ in the studio
Talking about value, the GH-PROII+ sells for just under $280 on the Sunwayfoto website – significantly less than the larger Manfrotto 405 (which actually increased in price quite a bit since we reviewed it).
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