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- Photography using Digital SLRs

Wimberley: Sidekick

by Uwe Steinmueller last updated 07-22-2001


Wimberley Sidekick mounted on an Arca-Swiss B1 ball head


With more or less static objects the Arca-Swiss B1 ball head is for many (and also me) the tripod head of choice. Even when loose the B1 ball head has some friction so that the camera does not that easily fall to one or the other side.

This friction and also the design of a ball head in principle does not really make the B1 the right choice for following slow or faster moving wildlife (e.g. birds). That is why many nature photographers use the Wimberley Head (a so called gimbal-type design). Here the lens/camera combo can be very easily moved on two axes (horizontal == panning, vertical == tilting). So the camera can be very quickly positioned in any direction. But there is more to it: If the camera/lens are balanced on the Wimberley Head the photographer does not have to move the weight of the camera/lens at all, it behaves as if it were weightless.


Wimberley Head (3.7 pounds)

There is no real substitute for the Wimberley Head if it comes to very long and heavy lenses. But for lenses of the 300mm class the Wimberley Sidekick is a very useful option. The Sidekick turns a B1 (or compatible) head into a gimbal-type design.


Steps to setup the Sidekick (1.3 pounds for Sidekick)


Wimberley also sells Arca-Swiss style quick release plates for most lenses which match perfectly with the Sidekick (we used the P-10 for our Nikon AF-S 300 f/4 lens).

I had first to get used to the fact that the plate on the lenses tripod color mounts to the right (or left) as shown in the top photo. But once mounted it is really fun to use and provides more stability than a monopod (I mention this because I used a monopod for quite some time) and allows much more faster positioning than with just the B1 ball head alone.


Brown Pelican at Davenport (Hwy 1, CA)
D1x + AF-S 300 f/4 + TC-14E using Sidekick

The following shot of a hummingbird in our backyard would hardly be possible with only the B1 ball head or using our monopod. The Sidekick allows fast positioning and precise framing.

Hummingbird in our backyard
D1x + AF-S 300 f/4 + TC-14E using Sidekick


The Sidekick is even more needed if we use the TC-20E doubler with the AF-S 300 f/4 lens. The doubler clearly adds a little bit of softness (compensated by some more sharpening) but on the other hand the Sidekick reduces extra motion blur (by hand holding or using a monopod) so that we still can get decent photos.

Baylands, Forster's Tern
D1x + AF-S 300 f/4 + TC-20E using Sidekick


The Sidekick is the ideal solution if you use your B1 head for static scenes (landscape) and also want to use medium long tele lenses for wildlife.

The Sidekick will be a permanent part of our tripod equipment: highly recommended.

Soon we will also look at the Wimberley Head itself.

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