Wimberley MKII (WH-200) Review

The ultimate in long lens heads, especially for 600mm and bigger shooters. The Wimberley MKII needs no introduction…if you shoot with any of the super telephotos, is this really the ultimate support to get? Lets get on with the review and find out how the king of the gimbals performs.

The Wimberley MKII

The Wimberley MKII

Overview
Weight: 1.4kg (3.15lbs)
Height: 9.25 inches (23.5cm)
Width: 3.5 inches (8.9cm)
Depth: 9.73 inches (24.7cm)
Links: Official WIMBERLEY website

Purchase: Available in the UK from Warehouse Express and in America from B&H PHOTO.

Build
Upon opening the very plain box, your greeted with the MKII in two pieces and the first thing that strikes you as you ‘assemble’ the unit is what a work of art, as far as build quality and engineering go, the Wimberley is. Everything is finished to an exceptionally high standard and the whole mount feels as solid as a single piece when it’s all tightened up.

Wimberley ready for assembly

Wimberley ready for assembly

Size and weight
Coming in at 1.4kg (the Nikon D3 is roughly 1.3kg) the MKII is quite compact given the weight it is designed to support, ranging from 300 f2.8 lenses right up to Canons 800 f5.6 and Sigma’s 300-800 zoom. Also, compared to my old Manfrotto 393 the single arm cradle is a far easier unit to carry around thanks to its shape, so once you have everything setup you can just sling the whole rig over your shoulder and walk about in the field quite easily.

Ease of use
The MKII is about as simple as you could hope to operate once you have set it up, more on that in a minute. There is a rubber, easy grip friction knob at the top to tighten and loosen the tilt and the same below for the pan. Both knobs are designed to require very little force to operate and the whole setup can be tightened very quickly and easily with just a simple light twist – something that is handy if you need to move quick or want to add a teleconvertor or swap bodies…just one quick tighten of the tilt knob and it will support the lens weight happily even once you remove the camera body, which makes the lens very front heavy. The rubber feel to the knobs also makes them easy to grip when you have gloves on too.

Quick operation tilt and pan knobs

Quick operation tilt and pan knobs

The cradle has a built in Arca-Swiss style plate mount, so no adapters are required meaning quick swapping between other lenses and cameras that you may already have plates for.

Arca Swiss style clamp

Arca Swiss style clamp

The MKII is designed to comfortably support even the heaviest of lenses, with my D3 and 600mm it never feels strained and the joints operate as smoothly as when they are not under load. Lock it down and there is not even the smallest bit of movement or lens droop. Used in conjunction with a solid tripod such as the Gitzo 5541, you’ll find no movement through the viewfinder, even in breezes, making it ideal for use with mirror lock up and a remote shutter or cable release (of course it’s not wind proof so will eventually give some viewfinder movement as wind strength gets stronger).

MKII handles heavy loads with ease

MKII handles heavy loads with ease

Even better is the fact the head is modular, and supplied in the box is a 25 page booklet that lists all manner of add-ons you can use…from macro clamps to flash brackets, there are plenty of options making this head practical for more than just long lens support. It’s also thankfully robust! Whilst trying to negotiate slippery seaweed covered rocks on the Isle of Mull, I had my Gitzo 5541 with the Wimblerey attached in one had and my 600mm in my other. I slipped and something had to be dropped to free a hand to steady myself. Well, the tripod went and all I heard was the Wimblerley smacking off the wet rocks. It chipped some paint here and there but otherwise it came out working just fine.

MKII and Gitzo 5541

MKII and Gitzo 5541

There is a small downside to the operation of the Wimberley though…well it’s not really a downside but it is worth mentioning if you plan on using it with more than one lens on a regular basis – and this brings me back to the setup of the head that I mentioned earlier. The Wimberley, unlike other units such as the 393, is designed to work mainly on counter balance (the 393 works mainly on friction with help from counter balance) so that when all the friction knobs are loosened fully the lens will still stay in place wherever you let go of it. To effectively get the counter balance setup you need to adjust the height of the base plate the lens sits on, up and down to find the pivot point of the lens you’re using. If you don’t do this the lens will not be counter balanced properly and will droop when you let go. So, if you plan on using more than one lens with the MKII, it might be worth marking the height position of the base plate for each lens to make it quicker in future – Wimberley really should have etched markings on the head to make this easier for users.

Cradle adjusted for the 600mm

Cradle adjusted for the 600mm

The good news is this adjustment is quite easy to make. You simply unlock the base plates own lock, as pictured and adjust the base plate up and down.

Lens plate adjustment lock to right

Lens plate adjustment lock to right

Final verdict
The Wimberley is a first class bit of kit and deserves it’s ‘king of the gimbals’ crown, make no mistake. Of course, all this fine craftsmanship and practicality comes at a price…and that can be the down fall of the unit for some. Lets be honest, there ARE cheaper alternatives out there (I used the MANFROTTO 393, one of the cheapest, quite happily for several years) which will give you decent levels of support - but as they say, ignorance is bliss. The Wimberley is far more practical in real world use and is so quick and simple to lock and unlock, that I think if you get the chance to use the MK II out in the field you’ll want one…plain and simple! Attach it to a solid tripod such as the GITZO GT5541LS and you will have one of the most stable and flexible tripod setups you can get!

Try before you buy
If you live in the States then you can take advantage of the ‘Test Drive Programme’ where you get to rent a MKII for 60 days to see how you get on with it (unfortunately the service is not available in the UK or anywhere else in Europe). FULL DETAILS CAN BE FOUND HERE but be warned, only rent if you’re prepared to buy one…because once you’ve used one of these, you’ll not want to go back to anything else!

Thinking of buying?
If you live in the UK the Wimberley can be quite hard to get hold of with only a couple of people supplying them including Warehouse Express and Bob Rigby.

And if you live in America the MKII can be purchased from B&H PHOTO, HERE.

MKII attached to Gitzo 5541

MKII attached to Gitzo 5541

Comments

  1. Rob McEwen says:

    Excellent, really informative review. Thanks for posting that Richard.

  2. Ed Itor says:

    Informative though it might be, it cannot be taken seriously when it contains several basic grammar mistakes.

    The word “your” is a possessive pronoun, Use it like this: “your book” or “your car”.

    When you mean something like “if YOU ARE in the UK”, then you should be using the contraction “you’re”. A sentence that says “if your in the UK” is incorrect and nonsensical.

  3. Ed, thank you for pointing out that overlooked error. I’m sorry you feel so passionately about my less than perfect grammar that it has ruined the entire review…and rendered it useless to you. Thank you for the English lesson though. At least my review inspired you enough for that if not to buy a Wimberley :)

    Rob, glad the grammar didn’t offend you as much and you found the information of help :)

  4. Craig says:

    I enjoyed the review, and often slip up grammatically so won’t hold that against you Richard. I can’t help wondering when the secret weapon will be revealed, you’ve got me on tender hooks.

  5. Nick Lewis says:

    I quite fancy one of these and if I had one, I would shoot a lot more nature than I do at the moment.

  6. Roy Packer says:


    Ed Itor Says:

    June 4th, 2009 at 10:42 pm
    Informative though it might be, it cannot be taken seriously when it contains several basic grammar mistakes.

    The word “your” is a possessive pronoun, Use it like this: “your book” or “your car”.

    When you mean something like “if YOU ARE in the UK”, then you should be using the contraction “you’re”. A sentence that says “if your in the UK” is incorrect and nonsensical

    Get real ED – We are interested in Richard’s report not a ‘you or a your’. ‘sr we kw wt he mns’ ?

    Well done Richard keep up the good work.

  7. Gene Lugo says:

    I liked your review – very thorough and informative. I wonder how the new Feisol UA-180 gimbal support might compare to the Wimberley. It is made of carbon fiber for a weight of 1.6 kg like the Wimberley, but is a U rather than L design, making it theoretically more stable than the Wimberley. It also features counterbalancing adjustment, but unlike any gimbal head I have seen, it also offers camera support, so that in the event your lens has an underdesigned tripod collar (it seems that many do) this design will minimize or even eliminate tripod collar-generated instability. It seems this company has really studied the problem and come up with the duh-uh solution. You can look at it here – Feisol.com. I have their CT 3472 tripod which features a 37mm first tube diameter, much like the 5 series Gitzo. I have rented the 5 Series, and owned and returned a 3540LS Gitzo. I have found that the Feisol is noticeable more stable than the 3 series and almost, but not quite as stable as the 5. I often go into the field (or mountains), and find that the 1.78 kg weight was a godsend, and a totally reasonable tradeoff against the 5 series. At the time of purchase last June, it was being sold with leveling base, foam covers for the top tube, standard base with hook, metal spike ends for legs (aluminum or steel) and case for $500, which was the other compelling reason – I could keep a substantial amount of money in my pocket with little compromise on performance. I also use it with the Manfrotto 393. I have rented the Wimberley and totally enjoyed its elegance and strength, but found that for my type of shooting (like to shoot birds in flight), it offered very little advantage over the Manfrotto, and again, the savings were substantial. Please excuse any misspellings and grammatical errors, since some of your readers appear to be somewhat intolerant English professors. :)

  8. Gene, forgot to reply and say thank you for the in depth comment. Much appreciated, always good to know what all the options are when shopping around for new equipment!

  9. Hi Richard,

    First off thanks so much for the review – very informative along with the Gitzo GT5541LS tripod review – now I may have fallen for the trap of ordering one. The biggest problem for me is my height (6′ 3″) and considering the Gitzo lineup – this review might change that, since I also do a fair bit of macro work and it’s obviously stout, well crafted yet a flexible system.

    Disclaimer: I am a Wimberley Professional Services member, invited to join by the company earlier this year. I use several of their products because I believe in their quality, especially the Arca-Swiss lens plates!!

    I wanted to expand on some aspects of Wimberley and their business. They also sell direct, both in North America and Internationally: http://www.tripodhead.com/about-ordering.cfm.

    Wimberley also has an excellent test drive program that many folks might not be aware exists. It’s only in the US (for several reasons) – anyone in the US can test-drive their products for 60 days:
    http://www.tripodhead.com/quality-assurance.cfm. In my mind, that is an excellent opportunity to consider their products. I wish it was available overseas – I can inquire about this for you if you like?

    Regards,
    Marc

  10. Marc, thank you for the comments, much appreciated. I think a European ‘try before you buy’ service would be excellent and would result in many more sales of their products, I have no doubt!

  11. LOU says:

    I owned the Wimberly MkI version, mounted on the 5541′s predecessor – the 1545? Yes, it’s a mighty, impressive rig. And, it’s unexpectedly lightweight for what it does. But, it is not lightweight. Why did I sell it? Unless you have a 600 – and know how to use it – you won’t want to cart this marvel around. It’s overkill for lesser glass, and it’s a lot to dance around – see my other comments. It’s great at low level, but so is the 35–, and it’s a lot fewer pounds sterling/USD’s. Do the try-before-buy if you’re on the fence.

    Also, the MkII is STILL a big head. The Gitzo 55– legs are huge. It’s more than most need. I’d start with a 35– & a “sidekick”. I’ve since never wanted for more.

  12. Hello,
    would you consider the Wimberley head for a Nikon zoom 200/400 VR. My understanding is that the head is in full balance once all is set. But having a zoom means changing the overall balance when zooming and therefore loosing the benefits. What would you recommend for a 200/400 if i am right in my assumption?
    regards

    1. Hi Jean. The 200-400 zoom does not shift the balancing of the lens enough to really give you and cause for concern in my opinion. When you handhold the lens you will notice that regardless of the position of the zoom the lens always feels balanced. Another friend of mine also has this lens and head combo and he has never had any issues either so you should be fine :)

      1. jean-christophe says:

        Thank you. since i am planing to buy full tripod set and will only use it with the 200/400, i had the choice between
        A) tripod + wimberley OR
        B) tripod + ball + wimberley sidekick + various adapters
        I ll go then to A. Right move?

        1. Personally, that is the route I would take…A. The reason being I just wouldn’t feel as happy about supporting that sort of weight from a ball and sidekick – that said I know people do use this setup but it’s not for me. Plus, I can’t help but think the less components in the equation the more sturdy and solid everything will be when locked down.

          1. Victor Carmelo Sciberras says:

            Hi Richard,

            Thanks very much for your review. Ref your above answers to Jean-christophe I have similar questions. I use a Canon 100-400 EF lens which I sometimes combine with a Canon MK II extender. Would using this product with this lens set up be overkill and should I go for the Sidekick? I used this lens minus the extender shooting Kites at Gigren farm in Wales and after a while, (I spend three hours there) the set up became very heavy. I found using a tripod/monopod not much help as the weight, after some time introduce camera shake. The IS was switched off with the tripod/Monopod were used.

            Thanks and regards

            Vic

          2. Hi Vic. I’d say the Wimberley may be overkill for the Canon 100-400, and a sidekick could be a cheaper alternative. That said, if you predict purchasing larger heavier lenses in the future then the Wimberley would make a good investment.

  13. Ravi says:

    Hello,

    I just started using the W200 and 600 VR lens. On the particular birding trip, I had to house the tripod on an uneven platform on a small boat and constantly change positions.

    One limitation I noticed was, unlike a ball head, the gimbal moves only in two axes – as a result, I had to frame several shots which were not in level.

    Have you encountered this problem before? How do you work around it?

    Many thanks for sharing the review. It was quite helpful not only in making the purchase decision but also on usage tips & tricks.

    1. Hi Ravi, glad you liked the review. Thank you for taking the time to write. In those cases where I am unable to get a reliable flat surface and where constant tripod leg adjustment is not possible, I would simply loosen the tripod collar on the 600mm so that I can get the horizon level by twisting the lens itself :)

      1. Ravi says:

        :D Now why did not I think of that? Lack of experience perhaps…insightful tip.

        Thanks so much.

        1. lol, you are very welcome. It’s so easy to not think of the obvious in the heat of the moment, we’ve all done it…well, I know I have at any rate! :)

  14. Barry says:

    OK! That’s it! Enough’s enough! Now I’m six and a half thousand quid out of pocket thanks to you Richard!

    Because of your reviews I’ve just bought the Sigmonster, the Wimberley Mk2, and the Gitzo GT5541LS!

    And I CAN”T THANK YOU ENOUGH for the detailed and objective reviews of these products! Your opinions tipped the balance and I can’t wait to set the kit up with my D3X/D300S when I pick up the lens next week. Woohoo!

    1. lol, Barry, glad to hear my reviews helped. You’ll love all of it and once you have it all setup please do post back with a link to photos you take with the kit :D

  15. Dean says:

    Thanks for another great review.

    I was thinking of buying this, together with a Gitzo GT3530LS Series 3 Systematic Tripod to support my Nikon 300mm f/2.8 VRII. Have you any experience of the GT3530LS, it is a bit cheaper than the Gitzo 5541 but still looks like it would provide good support for what I need.

    1. LOU says:

      Hey, Dean:

      I’m not Richard, but my two-cents worth: 35– series tripod perfect match; Wimberly overkill for a 300 2.8, as would be the 5541 tripod. See my post above. Depending on what you plan to use this setup for, a monopod can be a superb alternative, along with the RRS monopod head, or the cheaper Manfrotto version, but I repeat myself. Why? Because I’ve owned/used all this stuff, with varying degrees of remorse & glee. The only way I’d consider a Wimberly is via the “Sidekick”, and if I were using – at least – the 200-400. No, you can’t walk away from a monopod as you can from a tripod, but consider your situation. The 300 can hand hold pretty well, too.

      The full Wimberly is just plain BIG, and your compact 300 will no longer remain such on board.

      1. I agree with Lou, the 300 f2.8 isn’t big and heavy enough for the Wimberley or the 5541 to be a ‘must’. That said if you want one of the best gimbals on the market or think you might own bigger and heavier lenses at a later date then there is nothing wrong with getting the MKII. So it’s down to you really…but as said, neither are a must have for the 300 f2.8 due to it’s smaller and lighter size. A monopod would work well with the VR but again as already pointed out, a tripod will allow you to set it up and walk away or be ‘hands free’ in periods where you are not doing much (waiting for a bird to land in a pre-focused location for example).

        1. Dean says:

          Thanks Lou and Richard.

          I definitely want to get a monopod as well for those situations where I want to walk around with minimal clutter and quickly deploy a monopod for some extra stability. In fact that is probably most of the time for me. Gitzo do some monopods which I will take a closer look at.

          Regarding the Gitzo 35 series tripod, what head do you suggest I get to attach to the 300mm tripod collar to the tripod?

          The 300 f2.8 is the biggest lens I intend to get :-)

          1. Dean says:

            I forgot to mention, I also intend to use a teleconverter with the 300mm f2.8 if that makes any difference on choice of tripod head.

          2. Lou says:

            Hello, Dean:

            Here in the USA, we “really” love “Really Right Stuff”. They’ll ship anywhere. I’ve used Arca Swiss & Linhoff, and they both disappointed badly. This opened the door to RRS, and I would use NOTHING ELSE. The RRS BH-55, or BH-40 head would work great. The 55 will handle a 600, as far as that goes. The BH-55 & Wimberly “Sidekick” very robust, and a made-to-order match for the Gitzo 35– legs.

            Try the Manfrotto 681B monopod. It’s low cost, low weight, very robust & reliable. If you’re considering the monopod for birding, or anything requiring pitching the lens, then Manfrotto offers an inexpensive swivel head, sold as a package with the 681B, I believe. RRS offers their MH monopod head, for a lot more money, but it’s what I have & I love it.

            I wouldn’t spring for a Gitzo mono unless you’re really certain about its future use. The 681B very popular, and for good reason. If you “must” have a Gitzo now, the 2541/3551 are very nice carbon units. The aluminum 2341/3350 swell & cheaper. I use the 5541, but I’m now supporting a 400 2.8.

            The TC load inconsequential. Also, you’ll need RRS lens plate, or L-foot (LCF-14 for your lens) to use their head/clamp system. Similar to Wimberly, but better, IMO. RRS changes the way you manage your gear set-up routine; far for the better. You can’t go wrong with the RRS solution. Hope this helps.

      2. Dean says:

        Thanks for all the advice. Much appreciated. You guys have saved me some money!

        I see RRS do several versions of the BH-55, is this the one I need?

        RRS BH-55 LR: Full-sized ballhead with LR

        Here is my full purchase list:
        Gitzo GT3530LS Series 3 Systematic Tripod
        RRS BH-55 LR: Full-sized ballhead with
        Sidekick
        LCF-14: Foot for Nikon

        Manfrotto 681B monopod
        Manfrotto 234RC Monopod QR tilt top

        1. Yep, if you want quick release the that’s the on to go for (I prefer quick release myself, as you can see from my BH-55 review). Looks like a pretty good gear list you have there!

        2. LOU says:

          Hey, Dean:

          The LR version bullet proof. I have the Gitzo GS5121LVL leveling base installed, too (adds 2″ of height). Highly recommended, as gimbal head for panning, right? Also, for sticthing, you want a panning base. I run the 3530S (now the 3531S). I’m 5′-11″, and this is slightly below eye level at full extension. The LS goes about 8″ taller. If you don’t need the height why pay for it?

          Verify the lens foot with your lens model. If you have the Nikon 300 2.8 VR (I or II), LCF-14 the correct foot. It fits the 200-400, as well. More dreaming.

          You need a clamp for the 234 tilt head, too. RRS competitor, Kirk Enterprises, offers the 234 with a fitted quick release (MPA-1), which won’t twist. It is compatible with RRS plates.http://www.kirkphoto.com/images/MPA1.jpg I had an RRS Pro clamp, and had no problems with twisting. Still, the Kirk product a good solution, and very reasonable in cost, considering you’re getting the whole enchilada.

          The RRS MH-01 mono head – as do all their heads – has tongue-and-groove studs that accomplish the same thing, but it will cost about 2x to do the RRS head/clamp. It’s an awesome system, though, with better load rating/action than the 234. If you go with the RRS MH, I recommend the B2-Pro/L clamp. It’s longer than the standard clamp, and works very well with the LCF-14 foot length. Allows better lens fulcrum positioning. Also, I don’t like a lever release on a monopod; too easy to misfire, and down goes your $6K lens. The RRS knob-style is very smooth. Kirk makes great stuff, too. Either vendor will satisfy, but I’m an RRS loyalist.

          1. Dean says:

            Think I’ve got it all finalized now thanks :)

            The Gitzo tripod is cheaper to buy in the UK (warehouseexpress). The rest I would ship from the US.

            Gitzo GT3530LS Series 3 Systematic Tripod £409
            RRS BH-55 LR: Full-sized ballhead with LR $455
            Sidekick (0.59 kg) $250
            LCF-14: Foot for Nikon 200-400 & 300-VR $95

            Monopod (Manfrotto 681B or Gitzo GM2541) $TBD
            B2-Pro/L: 80mm clamp with dual mount $87
            MH-01 Hi-Capacity Monopod Head $150
            LCF-14: Foot for Nikon 200-400 & 300-VR $95

  16. Michael Nardini says:

    Richard:
    I purchased the WH-200 a month ago and am quite happy with it. I use it with my D300 for both a recently purchased Nikon 500 f/4 and an older 200-400 f/4 mounted to a Gitzo GT3540LS. I had been using the 200-400 with Wimberley’s Sidekick on a Markins M20 and was satisfied but had concerns that the 500′s additional weight might make me nervous. The M20 still comes in handy when using other glass and when using my Apex bean bag—gives me some additional height for the 200-400 and 500 when shooting from the car.

  17. Pasquier says:

    Just got one of these heads – largely influenced by your review – and it is superb – well designed and manufactured – a rarity these days – look forward to taking it out into the field.

    PS A Gitzo GT5541 tripod is on order as well – the old Benbo just couldn’t take the strain.

  18. You mention in you informative review that it is hard to get hold of in the UK, we are in fact the authorised UK distributor of Wimberley products and have their items in stock at all times & it is very rare for us not to have an item you may require.Any item purchased from ourselves is covered under warranty as it would be via Warehouse Express as we supply them, any other dealer might not have this cover due to it not comming from ourselves and being GREY IMPORTED.
    Hope this helps in users desion when considering a Wimberley head.
    Regards
    Andy Boardman
    Bob Rigby Photographic Ltd

    1. Andy, I actually got my own Wimberley from you guys! My review reflected that for quite some time but when I made some edits I took that bit out and have only just realised after reading your comment that I didn’t put it back!! So yes, I can absolutely recommend Bob Rigby, I also picked up my Gitzo GT 5541 LS from them as well!