I recently decided to upgrade to a nicer gimbal head for my tripod. However, I wasn't quite fond of the $500+ options available on the market. I'm sure they are nice, but I couldn't justify the extra cost because my current gimbal did almost everything I needed.
When I initially switched from a tripod ballhead to a gimbal tripod head, I purchased a cheap gimbal ($50 on sale). My thought process was that if I liked using a gimbal head, I would buy a better one and hand down the old one to a friend.
My cheap gimbal head required a little tinkering to take up some of the slop in the rotation, but other than that, it worked well. Surprisingly well. It did not have bearings, but that wasn't much of a concern for me as it was still pretty smooth. It was one of those "ugly but worked well" sort of things. I was considerably impressed, considering the price I paid for it.
My search for a new gimbal head brought me across the SunwayFoto GH-02 gimbal head. It was priced at $258, which seemed reasonable, and looked very nice in appearance, design, and purported functionality and features. I had been eyeing it for quite a while, having found no other gimbals that would be an upgrade and that I liked, without costing about $400-$650.
There was one problem, though. At the time, I could not find any reviews for the GH-02. I had searched Amazon, YouTube, and the search engines to no avail. So, although I have liked all of the previous SunwayFoto items I have purchased, I was still skeptical. So, I reached out to SunwayFoto, and they were glad to send one along for me to review.
Design and Features
With an aluminum construction weighing in at 980 grams, the SunwayFoto GH-02 gimbal head is about 30% lighter than my previous gimbal head. It also features a large, 60mm diameter base. The GH-02 has a vertical adjustment range of 100mm, which is plenty of range for any lens. A capacity of 30 kg (66 lbs) will suffice for any sane camera and lens combination. A length of 231 mm and a height of 225 mm places it in the middle range when it comes to gimbals.
The GH-02 came in a very nice padded case with a 120mm quick release plate, hex wrenches, cleaning cloth, 1/4" to 3/8" adapter, and user manual. The padded case also has a removable foam core if you wish to re-purpose it for something else. The case measures 10"x14"x4.5".
When the gimbal arrived, I was surprised to find that it also included tension/locking levers for the tilt and pan axes, even though the photos on the product listing did not show them. It must be an updated version, as even the manual doesn't show them. The tension levers even have a spring-loaded feature that enables you to pull them out and reposition them without using tools. I really do like the separate tension levers over using just the tilt and panning knobs.
At the top of the vertical adjustment gliding plate, a brass tilt safety lock lever prevents the gimbal from tilting when transporting it with your camera and lens attached. Unfortunately, I found this lever to stick out a bit more than I cared for, worrying that I might catch on something when placing it in my vehicle. Fortunately, the lever can be rotated 180° out of the way, although it does not lock in that position. I may end up nipping off part of the brass lever, as it's longer than it needs to be.
The other knobs and levers on the gimbal are pretty nice. The silver machined aluminum knobs and levers contrast nicely with the black gimbal body, making it easy to locate them in low-light conditions. They are large enough to grasp very well.
The overall quality is high-end; it is well manufactured and appears to be of a pro-level quality, something I have found with all of the SunwayFoto products I've tried. The panning axis includes bearings for smooth operation. In addition, a bubble level at the top of the panning base allows for easy leveling. Unlike some gimbals, the main knobs have a stopping point when loosened and don't just screw all of the way out.
An essential aspect of this gimbal over some cheaper gimbals is that the cradle is centered over the tripod. Some gimbals, including my previous one, had the cradle nearly 1.3 inches (33mm) off-center of the tripod screw. Although not critical for birding, the cradle being centered does come into play with very heavy lenses and for taking panoramic photos. The cradle clamp also opens wider (38 mm versus 36 mm) than my previous gimbal, making it easier to insert some of my Arca-Swiss plates.
The GH-02 includes degree markers on each axis and measurement markers on the slide adjustments so you can position your setup precisely the same each time. Although I use a Manfrotto leveling base, I don't recommend it due to the lever being difficult to use with gloves on in the winter.
I'm thoroughly happy with the SunwayFoto GH-02 gimbal head. Not only was the build quality better than I was expecting, but the overall function is also terrific. I don't know of any reasons why I would need to "upgrade" to a more expensive gimbal, so this one should last me for many years to come.
What I Liked
- Outstanding build quality
- Sturdy and looks great
- Very capable payload
- Easy to adjust
- Very nice carrying case
What Could Be Improved
- The tilt-lock safety lever is a slight catch hazard
Where to buy: B&H Photo and Video
Source: The sample of this product was provided by SunwayFoto.