Probably the best manufactured spherical head on the market, the Cambo CLH-500 head can easily handle a heavy body like the EOS 1 DS Mark III or even a digital Hasselblad. The smoothness of its settings and functioning is a real daily treat. This head isn't perfect but it's a favorite!
The Cambo CLH-500 panoramic head is a head called spherical. It can be disassembled in four parts which makes it choice equipment for transportation and storage in a photo bag. This is no detail! More robust and stable than many spherical heads on the market, it supports very well quite heavy equipment like the Canon 1 Ds Mark III, a Nikon D4 or even a Hasselblad H4D or H5D.
Three things are striking when you hold it in your hands:
An incredible manufacturing quality,
A high stability,
And a great smoothness of use.
To this, we could add a fourth quality that would also explain its weight: it's the only panoramic head that integrates a leveling base in its positioner, accurate, and like the rest of the head, with an incredibly smooth functioning.
As with all spherical panoramic heads, it is possible to place the entrance pupil of the lens used in literally any direction. It is thus a very versatile head but not universal because the vertical arm can't be turned over to shoot the nadir.
Cambo CLH-500 panoramic head presentation
The panoramic Cambo CLH-500 head is thus a spherical head. It comes with a stage of setting in depth that can tilt on the vertical arm to shoot cylinders or multirange panoramas. However, it's not ideal to shoot a complete sphere in order to realize a virtual tour because the vertical arm can't be turned over.
The stages are rather long, which will facilitate setting it up, even if some settings will maybe be a bit bold and will bring important overhang to the camera but this head is really more robust than the average and will handle it effortlessly.
Average price: $940
Height of use
On 10 cm upwards and 10 cm downwards
Yes - in four parts - head, one stage and a vertical arm.
Number of notches
3 notches | 2, 6 or 8 notches or 2, 12 or 16 notches.
It is made of four distinct and dismountable parts. To the classic horizontal and vertical stages, you can add the tilting support that fits on the vertical arm and the classic notched positioner, that can also be dismounted. What is rather not classic is that this positioner also includes the leveling base and the three setting screws that characterize it. Please note that the positioner only has three notches.
Once mounted, it is quite impressive but becomes easy to fit in a photo bag once dismounted.
Once the camera set, it is about 22 cm higher than the stage. The height alone being 25 cm from the base of the tripod. As you can see in the image here, its dimensions in width are quite important,which enables to fasten a bulky camera like a Canon 1 Ds Mark III or even a Nikon D4.
You can also clearly see that the vertical arm can't be folded. It is thus impossible to turn it over. And finally, despite the apparent thinness of the stages, this arm is very robust. I didn't notice any bending.
What about the manufacturing quality?
Finally, and unfortunately you won't be able to see it in these photos, I want to stress how smooth the functioning of the clamping screws is and how qualitative the clamping is without needing to force it. The manufacturing of this head is really sublime. It is a striking quality. With use, this head is one of the two most pleasant heads I got to review with the Nodal Ninja Ultimate M1. If I were to award one, it would be this one!
Four distinct and dismountable parts
Apart from the model Manfrotto 303 PLUS which stages are micro-metric and can't be dismounted, all spherical heads on the market can be disassembled in distinct parts. That's a great asset to store the equipment in a photo bag.
To remove or set the sliding stages, you just have to unscrew the clamping screw and make them slide while pushing the blocking ergot at the same time (fig. here).
One disassembled, the Cambo CLH-500 head breaks down into: a notched head + leveling base (1), a set square arm as horizontal stage and the vertical arm, each sliding on 10 cm (2), the tilting block separable and sliding in height on the vertical arm (3), and a stage sliding in depth on 10 cm to fasten the camera (4):
Once disassembled in four parts, the spherical Cambo CLH-500 head doesn't take much space. It will be easy to fit in a photo bag!
(1) - Notched rotary base AND built-in leveling base- The base thus has two functionalities: (A) enable the setting of the number of notches between two consecutive photos with three notches only:
Either 2, 6 and 8 notches (180°, 60° and 45°)
Either 2, 12 and 16 notches (180°, 30° and 22°).
The choice between these two possibilities must be made when you purchase the head. You need to use a coin to change the value, which is not always very convenient however, it's particularly robust. When you rotate the whole block, it will slightly block on the next notch. It is very easy to feel and it smells of manufacturing quality. Firm and smooth at the same time. Remarkable!
This base thus also enables to level (B) the whole panoramic head. It is really well included, very convenient and once again very smooth.
(2) - Bottom stage and set square vertical arm - The whole thing can't be disassembled but it's really very robust. I never noticed any bending of the vertical arm, even with my heavy 1DS Mark III. Each stage enables a setting on 10 cm.
(3) - Tiltable positioning block - This block comes under the vertical arm and supports the stage holding the camera.
Tip! Another asset of this remarkable but expensive head, this block can slide on the vertical arm so it enables to lower down the center of gravity of the camera. The overall stability is then reinforced and becomes a striking quality of this Cambo head.
(4)- Sliding stage - The superior stage of the Cambo CLH-500 support the camera when it's a reflex one. It slides on 10 cm in depth. It fits into the tiltable sheath of the vertical arm. The whole thing also slides vertically on the set square arm as shown in the figure below. It is very convenient to lower down the center of gravity of the whole head and thus improve its stability. It is a striking quality of this head.
Use of the Cambo CLH-500 head
Like all panoramic heads, the Cambo CLH-500 head is used to set the entrance pupil of your lens above the rotary axis of the head and in the tilting axis of the vertical arm to get perfect overlap zones in multirange photography. This head being a manual dismountable head, its functioning is very simple.
Setting the head at the entrance pupil
Let's start with an essential point, the fastening of the body on the superior stage. Indeed, depending on whether the screw thread of the sole of the camera is in the axis of the lens or not, its fastening on the panoramic head won't be the same:
1 - The fastening of the camera is in the axis of the lens (most common case with reflex cameras): you just need to fasten the camera directly on the superior stage and it will all end up in the tilting axis. The entrance pupil will thus end up above the rotary axis BUT also in the tilting axis. (image here).
2 - The fastening is shifted from the lens: it sometimes happens when you mount a booster on a reflex camera but above all, it's almost always the case with point-and-shoot cameras.
Caution! This case hasn't been anticipated on this head. In the worst case, you'll have to install another brand's system since the clamping screws are international standard, of course. On the other hand, this case shouldn't happen so often...
3 - Place the center of the lens just above the rotary axis of the panoramic head - Once the camera fastened on the superior stage, itself on the tiltable arm, you just have to center the lens just above the rotary axis of the notched base thanks to the movement of the inferior stage on which is fastened the vertical arm in a first time. For that, you just have to move the stage a little on the left in this example after unscrewing the clamping screw (fig. below)...
Once it is done, you have to find the setting in depth depending on your lens and if it's a zoom lens, you need to find the settingS in accordance with the focals usually used. This is done using the superior stage, very easily!
4 - Place the entrance pupil (also called nodal point) of your lens above the rotary axis of your panoramic head - Note that the center of your lens is in the tilting axis of your panoramic head.
The entrance pupil (nodal point) is perfectly set in all axis hence in 3D on this panoramic head for this lens. You just have to mark the settings on the marked reglets, below.
Marking the settings for the Cambo CLH-500 head
Once the settings made for your lens, you just have to mark them down in your head for the younger part of us or more cautiously in a notebook for the others ;-). Who said I was making notes???
On the Cambo CLH-500 head , marking is done on the marked reglets (superior and inferior stages).
You can as well use a piece of tape as a marker not to take your notebook out all the time. Besides, if you use several lenses or focals, it will be more convenient to put a marker for each focal.
Markers are not so legible at night but they're very accurate.
Leveling the Cambo CLH-500 head
One of the striking particularities of this panoramic head is the presence of a leveling stage built in the base/positioner. It adds a little bit of weight to this head but I notice that the weight seems very reasonable and the convenience improved so much. Moreover, if you were to add a separate stage, you'd add even more weight to your head and that would also be detrimental to stability.
To set the level, you'll use the three screws, among which two are bended in the photo here. These three screws have a very smooth and accurate functioning, just like the spirit level of the horizontal screw. A real delight!
Conclusion and rating!
Nowadays, the Cambo CLH-500 head isn't alone on the competitive market of top-range spherical and very stable heads. However, it offers the best manufacturing quality I ever saw. The finishing is superlative and the settings are a real delight. It will easily support your heavy digital camera body.
As a conclusion, I had a crush on this head even if there are still defects that can truly be annoying. If there were more than three positions to this positioner, it would be perfect.
Setting of the base
Value for money
Wonderful manufacturing and design quality
Robustness and stability (for a spherical head)
Wind sensitivity far above the average
Smoothness of the settings
Built-in leveling base
"Only" 3 notches to the positioner: it can be a real issue depending on the focal or even worse, the focalS you use
a bit bulkier because the horizontal stage and the vertical arm can't be dissociated (it reinforces robustness, stability and keeps the overall weight down)
A bit heavy (but robust and after all, it's preferable + great leveling base)
The vertical arm can't be turned over
no marking wedges to replace the head at the entrance pupil quickly...
9 / 10 if you like the positioner
My opinion: Top-class! I had a real crush on this panoramic head. With this level of quality, I don't even know if value for money still makes sense. It's a real delight to use. Unfortunately, it won't necessarily delay its defects: the arm that doesn't turn over so it's not universal, the set square that makes it bulkier to store but above all the positioner that only has three positions: either it's a crippling problem for you, either you'll fall in love with this head if you're lucky enough to afford it...
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