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Site Updated: 7/25/11
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In The Last Day

Review: HEJZAL Monopod Head

Posted 4/15/11 by
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 This article is part of the following Gear Guide(s): 
 Tripods and Support | Lenses 

If you turn back the clock only a few months, you were extremely limited in your choice of monopod heads. If you only ever shot horizontally with a monopod (landscapes, motor racing etc.) then either attaching the monopod directly to the camera, or simply using an Arca Style clamp on top of the monopod worked just fine. However that setup isn't flexible and doesn't work very well when you need to tilt your camera up or down (e.g. macro, aviation, birds in flight, even architectural photography). While some people use them, ball heads used "loose" on monopods can be a royal pain to operate (if you don't believe me, just try panning and keeping the horizon level with a loose ball head on a monopod).

What you need on a monopod is a tilt head, and as of a few months ago you only had two choices: The Kirk unit, which is basically a Kirk clamp fitted to a Manfrotto tilt head with a load rating of only 5lbs or so (priced around $100), or the uber-expensive RRS monopod head costing up to $260 (depending on which clamp you purchased).

Late last year, Custom Brackets entered the monopod head market with their Tilt Head priced right in the middle. Now another option has arrived in the form of the HEJZAL Monopod Head:

HEJZAL is a new product line, a collaboration between Hejnar PHOTO (for those familiar with this site, we rely on Hejnar PHOTO's products on a daily basis, and have numerous reviews of their products in our Tripods & Support Gear Guide), along with a new engineering partner (hence the ZAL in the name). HEJZAL is planning to release a series of new higher-end products over the coming months, and their first two products are now shipping from the : the Monopod Head reviewed here, and a Macro Rail (which we will be reviewing shortly). HEJZAL were kind enough to send us one of their first Monopod Heads to review for our readers.

Features, Fit and Finish

The HEJZAL Monopod Head is Made in the U.S.A. from 6061-T6 Aluminum with a black anodized finish. The fit and finish are extremely good, as you'd expect from a high-end product.

Weighing in at 9.8oz without clamp (14 oz with clamp installed), the HEJZAL unit is a similar weight to the RRS solution and slightly lighter than the Custom Brackets offering. Dimensionally, it is of similar size to the other two units also, possibly a little taller.

As for the range of motion, the HEJZAL Monopod Head allows a full 180°'s of tilt, allowing you to point your camera directly up or down. A single oversized knob controls the amount of friction and locking of the head, keeping operation simple.

The base of the monopod features a standard 3/6" x 16 tripod socket to attach to the monopod (a reducer bushing can be used if you have a 1/4" stud on your monopod). For added convenience it also features an integrated bi-directional Arca Plate (so if you have a Arca clamp on your monopod already you can use this head without having to remove it first):

The clamp can also be oriented in both directions - parallel to the direction of tilt for use with long lenses, and perpendicular to the tilt direction for use with more common Arca Plates and L-Brackets. The version reviewed here comes supplied with an adaptor plate that is needed to install the clamp in the perpendicular orientation (installs quickly using 3 bolts), however a new clamp design is in the works that will eliminate the need for this separate adapter plate (details can be found on the Hejnar Photo Blog).

Performance

The bottom line is this is a heavy-duty piece of kit. Over the past couple of weeks we've been using the HEJZAL Monopod Head with various different setups, from wide-angle work to shooting with a 200-400mm f/4 telephoto, and it's performed brilliantly. The single oversized control knob makes setting the level or friction and locking the head fast, accurate and simple without having to take your eye away from the viewfinder.

One point worth mentioning, is once the "friction" is set, the amount of friction/drag isn't completely linear throughout the full 180° of motion - towards the extremes (pointing straight up or straight down) there is slightly less friction than when in the middle (horizontal) range of motion. Playing with it in the office you can feel a slight difference, but when out shooting using this Monopod Head generally won't notice at all, since even panning and tilting while following birds in flight, you only use a tiny fraction of the 180°'s of tilt angle available.

Another usage point, to change the orientation of the clamp when you switch from a telephoto lens (with a lens foot) to a wide-angle lens (with no lens foot) requires tools, and the same is true for all the other monopod heads available. It is not uncommon for me to switch between a 70-200mm (or longer) and a wide angle and back again while hiking, and the last thing I want to do is mess around with hex keys and risk dropping screws into the undergrowth. However there is a simple solution - if you leave your monopod head set up for a long lens, and install a Bi-Directional Plate onto your camera, the need to rotate the clamp goes away. Simply leave the clamp oriented for long lenses, problem solved.

Summary

If this product is representative of what the new HEJZAL partnership has in store, we can't wait to see what's next. This is a pro quality piece of kit, more than strong enough to work with the heaviest telephoto setups, and warrants serious consideration if you are in the market for a monopod head. Over the coming months, this head will be subject to all kinds of abuse (snow, sand, heat, rain etc), we'll report back as to how well it performs in adverse conditions, our expectations are high.

HEJZAL products are available from the . As mentioned above, a slightly improved version with a new clamp should be available soon.

 This article is part of the following Gear Guide(s): 
 Tripods and Support | Lenses 


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