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I don't use a tripod for the vast majority of my work, but there are times when it's essential and for most of my interior property work I do employ the use of one. Very early on in my career I realised the benefits of a decent quality tripod over a cheap plastic one and I purchased a Manfrotto 190 which came with a 390 rc2 (pan and tilt type) head. This was fine when I had a Nikon D80 and no hefty 2.8 zoom lenses, but over time my kit has upgraded substantially and the head just couldn't quite cope with the weight of my new equipment - one particular irritant was that it was impossible to keep the head on a horizontal level, it would always dip a couple of degrees to the side. Now this doesn't seem like much of a hard ship, but with everything on a slight tilt, it meant I had to do correction work in retouching later on that I should never have to do.
Money being something I certainly don't have an abundance of, I put up with this for quite some time, until I got the chance to buy a new camera very cheap so I chopped my old head in as part exchange and had no use of a tripod at all for a couple of weeks, until I was lucky enough to grab one coming in second hand at work.
Ideally I'd wanted a strong fluid or joystick head, but both of these types are on the expensive side so I hadn't been holding out much hope of finding one in my budget, however luck was on my side and I ended up with the 322RC2 which is a joystick type. It's important to note that as this is not a fluid head, it wouldn't really be suitable for use when panning with video - the results would be on the jerky side.
The 322 is an older model now, but as a consequence is slightly cheaper than the current ones available, indeed even the 'new' prices for this model tend to be cheaper than those for the current joystick head with a lower maximum weight load. New prices seem to be around the £120 mark (its RRP) and a quick look on ebay shows several auctions and one particularly cheap buy it now of £55. I managed to get hold of mine for the bargain price of £45.
One of the great benefits to a joystick design head is that it can be easily and completely controlled by one hand (the right one ideally), leaving your other free for something else (like keeping a grip on the tripod body or holding a remote shutter release etc.) It's also fairly compact in size when compared to others that support the same sort of weight.
I keep mentioning that this head can securely hold a lot of equipment - well the maximum supported weight comes in at 5kg, which should be more than enough for most people, even bird watchers with extreme telephoto lenses. It weighs in at 650g itself so it isn't a particularly light product and something that you may need to consider (in conjunction with the weight of your tripod), especially if you're going to be walking around a lot with it or going travelling, with limited weight allowances. That said there aren't any massively lighter alternative heads that I know of that can compete in the supported weight stakes so I'd have to say match the head you buy to the weight of equipment you use at any one time, and the weight of future equipment you are likely to purchase.
Finish wise the head has a black matt finish coating all over which is great from a grip perspective - this is unlikely to slip out of even the sweatiest of grips! I have to say though that I personally liken the feeling of this to people scraping fingers down a blackboard and it always makes me cringe when I touch it (which isn't brilliant), it's not just Manfrotto though - Canon have used a similar feeling plastic on many of their new cameras and I hate touching them, but I haven't come across anyone who feels the same way about it as me!
There is a friction adjustment wheel which I pretty much always leave to the minimum friction level as I find it easier to use this way. The plate for attaching to the base of your camera is the standard Manfrotto one, so replacements or spares can be purchased with relative ease, which is always handy to know.
The main potential downside I can think of is that, like many cameras and camera equipment, this isn't the most practical product for anyone who relies on their left hand - you could just about use it, but there are plenty of other tripod heads that would be easier for left handers to adjust.
Overall I'd have to say that I think this is an excellent head - it's strong, practical and can sometimes be picked up for a bargain second hand. I think this is a case of buy good, buy once.
Take the versatility of a ball head, add true ergonomic control and you get the 322RC2 Horizontal Grip Action Ballhead!
The 322RC2 is unique in that it allows you to unblock, move, position and lock your camera with one hand in one position. This is due to the revolutionary design of its grip handle which incorporates the ball lock lever.
A friction control wheel lets you regulate the power of the blocking mechanism to match the weight of your camera and lens. The 322RC2 is made from magnesium for lightweight performance, and is designed to keep the weight of your equipment as close as possible to the tripod's center of gravity by way of its reduced height. It is this fact, matched with the precision construction of the 322RC2 that gives the head its load capacity of 11 lbs (5.5lb capacity when in the vertical position).
The 322RC2 comes complete with a built-in bubble spirit level and quick release camera plate (standard 1/4 - 20" screw, with secondary safety pin).
The 322RC2 is suitable for use with 35mm or medium format cameras. In addition, you can also mount the 322RS shutter release accessory. The 322RS is a world's first. With its remote control electronic camera shutter release, the 322RC2 becomes the only photographic head available today that can put camera control within reach without having to move your hand from the head grip to the camera body.