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camera mounted on Induro PHQ pan head (PHQ-3)Induro PHQ series pan heads - a review

Using the PHQ 3

Earlier this year, Keith visited the UK Focus trade show. From amongst all the vast array of tripods and heads on display, he particularly noticed the new PHQ series of 5 way pan heads from Induro.

Profoto in the UK kindly lent us one to test, and Keith has been looking at how he'd use it in his professional work.

Original article written: Summer 2011 

My own tripod use

As regular visitors to our site may know, I hold the somewhat heretical approach towards landscape photograph of avoiding tripod use, unless I absolutely need one for longer exposures.

I've never bought into the 'tripod use makes you slow down and think more' mantra - even the source images for a lot of my large panoramic prints are taken hand held.

But... in my day to day professional work covering industrial, interiors and architectural work I use one for the majority of shots.

I also use tilt-shift lenses a lot, which can bring additional requirements, if you are stitching multiple shots together.

It was this increased use of shift lenses, particularly the Canon TS-E 17mm that led me to wonder how the PHQ series might be of use.

movement axes for the PHQ pan headWhat do you get

When you first take the head out of the box, it does look complicated, with numerous inscribed angle scales, and several adjustment knobs.

I'm looking at the PHQ-3, however the slightly lighter PHQ-1 is virtually identical.

The annotated image to the right is from Induro and shows the sorts of movement the head can cover.

1. Vertical Tilt +90° ~ -15°
2. 360° Panning Base
3. Horizontal Tilt +90° ~ -45°
4. Top Plate Rotates 360° On Any Tilt Angle
5. Balance And Nodal Point Positioning

The two long locking/adjustment handles protrude quite a distance from the head.

Whilst this is useful for finer movement control, such handles can be a real pain when packing your tripod away.

The approach that Induro have opted for, is to have two locking nuts along the shaft, that you can quickly tighten up.

induro pan head and box

It's one reason the head looks too big to fit in the box above.

Here's the head (on my old Benbo tripod) in my travel bag for the tripod, taken when I was just setting up for a series of interior shots for a UK hotel.

Induro pan head on tripod

The camera fits via a Arca-Swiss QR plate.

camera and tripod set up for photographyThere are a total of five bubble levels, allowing just about any axis you might need to be correctly levelled. Although quite small, they are designed to be easy to read with accuracy.

I'm using the heavier duty PHQ-3 head (see specs below), which is easily capable of taking the ~3kg of my Canon 1Ds3 and TS-E 17mm f/4 L tilt shift lens.

Using the Induro PHQ 3

I've taken the head on a couple of jobs where I'd previously have just used a big hefty ball head.

The set-up to the right was taken during set-up of some photos for an advertisement for the makers of the windows and doors.

One of the reasons I like using this old tripod is that I often work on uneven ground and it's very solid. You may notice that the actual tripod isn't quite vertical.

This didn't matter much, since I was able to use the top plate bubble level to get everything true.

The rotating top plate means that I could rotate the camera by known amounts, whatever way I've set up the tripod and head.

I should note though, that when using the 17mm (or any shift lens), I'll take care to get all verticals looking true before applying any shift - quite a lot of buildings I photograph are rather old, so I usually take what I see through the viewfinder, or with liveview, as more important than getting all the bubbles centred.

Front view

1Ds3 mounted on PHQ-3 pan head - front

and rear view...

1Ds3 mounted on PHQ-3 pan head - rear view

With the excellent edge quality of the new 24mm and 17mm Canon TS-E lenses, it's tempting to take pairs of photos for stitching. This is fine unless you've anything in the foreground in the overlap area.

Moving the lens left/right gives the coverage you are after, but introduces parallax problems.

Ideally, you want to move the camera back left/right.

I can do this with the scale on the QR plate mount.

detail of qr plate slide mount

The camera has moved left-right, but the lens hasn't. Your two images should now stitch without parallax errors.

In strong daylight, it's quite hard to read the settings in the shot above - I had to use a small LED torch to check the alignment after attaching the camera.

You can fit the plate to the camera at 90 degrees to the base and use it to correct for camera rotation about the nodal point too. The supplied plate is too small to do this on cameras/lenses of any size, so you'd need a longer version of the plate.

Buying a PHQ head.

We make a specific point of not selling hardware, but if you found the review of help please consider buying a head, or any other items at all, via our links.

It won't cost any more (nor less we're afraid) but will contribute towards the running costs of our site.

PHQ-1 from B&H
PHQ-3 from B&H

Induro PHQ-3 Amazon UK

Conclusions

This head gives just the ease of use and precision I'm looking for in a range of my commercial work.

Simple to use and effective, it really does make a difference when you're on a job with time constraints, such as having to wait for breaks in the cloud in the windows photos above.

The rotating top plate gives a whole additional range of movements, making it easy to flip the camera on its side for portrait mode shots.

With the range of mounting plates available, I might also look at getting an 'L' plate if I was regularly going to be using the camera that way up.

For some pano work I already have an old Manfrotto 503sph head, which takes care of nodal point adjustments for vertical and horizontal movements - I do find it rather clunky to use, and it's not the sort of thing I'll often take along on a job 'just in case'. With the PHQ-3 I know that should I decide that a panoramic shot would work, then I'm already set up, either for shifted shots or overlapping ones from rotating the head.

Do remember that I'm using this equipment to earn a living, so ease of use and functionality are key factors to me, rather than just price...

Price, ah yes, that's one area where you might want to look a bit more carefully since at nearly $400 for the heavier PHQ-3 version, it's not cheap (UK prices are even steeper and seem to have suffered a rather poor $->£ conversion).

Then again, given the price of the 1Ds3 and TS-E17mm you can see mounted on it, it's somewhat relative ;-)

Comments/questions? - see this review's blog article

Article history - published June 2011

Summary

Multi axis tripod head from Induro.

Very well engineered and thought out.

Specifications for PHQ-3 (from Induro)

Maximum Load 35.2 lb (16 kg) - 11.5kg on the lighter PHQ-1
Height 4.7 in (120 mm)
Width Including Handles 7.4 in (187 mm)
Tilt Range +90°/-15° Front; +90°/-45° Side
Drag Control No
Panning Range 360° on both fixed and variable axis
Separate Panning Lock Two
Quick Release (QR) System Dovetail (Arca-Swiss Compatible)
Bubble Level Five
Head Mount Thread Size 1/4"-20 (with supplied QR Plate)
Base Mount Thread 3/8"-16
Weight 2.2 lbs (1 kg)
Length Including Handles 8 in (202 mm)
Base Diameter 2.7 in (68 mm)

The views in this article represent those of Keith Cooper.
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