BIRDS AS ART BULLETIN #16
After trashing the Wimberley Sidekick, I received many e-mails
from happy users, and a few from shooters that agreed with me completely.
I offer many of these responses below (as well as my original response to Clay
Wimberley), but as this is my Bulletin, I will say again that using the Sidekick
for a 500mm lens is a simply a big mistake; with the plate oriented
perpendicular to the ground, moving the plate fore and aft to balance
the outfit as accessories are added or removed is extremely difficult at
best. And this is something that you should be doing dozens of times
during each shooting session to assure sharp images.
For the pros below who state that they use the Sidekick for
400mm f/2.8s, 500mm f/4s, and 600mm f/4s, I can only suggest and insist that
they would make far sharper images with a lot less effort by switching to the
regular Wimberley head. I will concede, however, that the Sidekick may be
ideal for those using 300 2.8s, 300mm f/4s, 400mm f.5,6s, and 100-400 IS lenses,
and in a pinch, for those backpacking or facing severe weight restrictions while
Important note from Clay Wimberley:
Let people know that we freely send out loaners
and that we have an unconditional money-back guarantee. The
Sidekick is not a product that I developed just to make money. It is a
product that I believe in and use as my main gimbal
I recently became a Wimberley dealer. (Regular
Wimberley heads are on back order and are hard to get. If you are
interested in purchasing one from BIRDS AS ART, please e-mail for details)
One photographer who tried the Sidekick with his 100-400mm IS zoom bought it
after using it for 30 seconds. What do I know??
Anyway, here are some of the responses. I will
restrain myself from further comments.
First, from Clay Wimberley:
Thanks for the quick reply. You certainly have
permission to post my message and your response. A few quick responses of
my own though: I still disagree with you about the added play introduced
with the Sidekick. The only play that you get from the ball head is from the pan
base (since the ball part is locked down). You only get play from the tilt
mechanism of the Sidekick. So, you get play from 2 mechanisms. With
the Wimberley you get play from its own pan base and from its tilt
mechanism = play from 2 mechanisms just like the Sidekick/ball head combo.
The real test is to put them side by side. I assure you they are quite
comparable in terms of play in the system.
On the versatility of the Sidekick: when I
go to the Shenandoah National Park I photograph deer, scenics, and macro.
I'll take a backpack with all of my gear in it out in the field. If i see
a macro shot or a scenic while I'm tracking deer, I just slip the Sidekick out
of the ball head and use the ball head with my smaller lenses. Also, when
I went to Costa Rica we had very stringent weight regulations for some of the
small plane rides. In order to cut down on weight, I would have had to
leave the Wimberley Head behind and just use the ball head (I need the ball head
for scenics and macro). But, I could afford to bring the Sidekick which
came in very handy for shooting active monkeys. Many people who always
have to watch the weight of their equipment for trips just give up on gimbal
heads. The Sidekick makes the gimbal action available to
I agree that a Sidekick would not be a good choice for you,
but you are a specialist. How often do you use non rotation collared
lenses on a tripod? All I'm asking is that you do not discourage people
who could reap its benefits from using the Sidekick. The Sidekick is not
for everybody, but for those whose style it fits, it fits very
Thanks for your time Art. I enjoy your strong opinions
and hope that you do not mind mine.
And then again from Clay, after assembling the troops:
Art. I've included some other comments from Sidekick
> > this message. Sorry for the barrage of
information, but its my job.
> > Take care,
> > -Clay
> > Some people who use the
> > Theo Allofs (Nikon 600 f/4)
> > Tim Davis & Renee Lynn (300 f/2.8, 500 f/4.5) they
use Wimberley Head
> > Gerry
Ellis (300 f/2.8)
> > John & Barbara
Gerlach (300 f/2.8, 500 f/4&4.5)
George Lepp (Canon 500 f/4 IS)
> > Joe & Mary
Ann McDonald (Nikon 500 f/4 MF) they use Wimberley Head for
> > John Pezzenti Jr. (300 f/2.8) uses
Wimberley head for 600mm
> > Joe Van Os (Nikon 500
f/4 AF-S) Uses Wimberley head also
> > Art Wolfe
(Canon 400 f/2.8) Uses Wimberley head also
> > "The
sidekick has become my constant companion on photo shoots, because
for a little more weight it offers a wide range of new possibilities
> > wildlife photography. Recently on an assignment for a story
> > flying-foxes in Australia it proved to be an invaluable tool
> > photographing these large bats in flight and in trees above me.
> the sidekick I would not have been able to balance my
600/f4 lens on the
> tripod in an almost straight upwards position.
In conjunction with a sturdy
ball head it has absolutely no problem
handling heavy lenses."
> -Theo Allofs
> > " Next to the camera, when shooting wildlife in
action, the Wimberley
> > Sidekick may be the most important piece of
equipment I carry. In a
> > world of increasingly complicated
photographic equipment this simple,
> > easy to use, beautifully design
supplement to the ball-head is pure
> > genius. The first time I used
the Sidekick* in the field I blessed the
> > Wimberleys for coming to
the rescue. I have just returned from months on
> > assignment for
World Wildlife Fund in East Africa and many of the finest
> > images of
wildlife in action would not have been possible without the
> > -Gerry Ellis
> > "We
used the Wimberley Sidekick head extensively in Florida this past
spring and during the winter while leading our photo tours of Yellowstone.
was terrific for using our 300mm and 500mm lenses on. The
> > combination balances so well that we don't have to lock
the head up
> anymore so it's easy to pan with flying egrets or
running shorebirds or just to
> > change composition when the animal
suddenly changes the direction it is
> > looking in. We'll be using the
Sidekick for now on to adapt our Kirk
> > ballhead to make the best
head ever for shooting long lenses on tripods.
> > Everyone who shoots
larger lenses with tripod collars for wildlife
> > photography is
really hurting their chances to make some great images if
they aren't using Wimberley heads. They are the best! Thanks again
> > making such a great product."
> > -John
& Barbara Gerlach
> > For travel shooting, where
weight and equipment limitations are a real
> > problem, the sidekick
has proven to be the perfect solution for us.
> > Coupled with a smooth
panning ballhead like a B-1 or B-1G, the sidekick
> > gives the same
freedom of movement as the larger head for following
> > action. It's
small enough for easy packing, or slipping into an
> > accessory pocket
of my photo backpack.
> > -Mary Ann McDonald
> >If your really concerned about the mass and weight of
> the [Wimberley head], then the [Sidekick] is a good
alternative. It attaches to the quick release on the
Arca-Swiss B1 and gives you a method to balance a
> > long lens, as
well as easily follow moving subjects.
> > I use a Canon 500 mm f/4 on
the unit with excellent results.
> > -George Lepp (from
the article "Tripod Heads: A look at the best")
> > see www.leppphoto.com for full comments.
> > The engineering and performance of the Wimberley
> > unparalleled in the world of tripod heads. Now, with the
> > of the lightweight and versatile Sidekick, all my
> > camera support situations in the field are solved.
> > amazingly imitates the functionality of the master
> > serving several other applications. Both heads
move with the
> > agility of a mountain goat and the grace of a
> > I simply could not work as productively without
> > -John Pezzenti Jr.
From Mike Masters:
> > > >"I forgot to ask, how do YOU like
> > > >
> > > > After having
used it for a year, first with a Minolta 800si and 300 f/2.8
> APO and now with an EOS-3 and 500 f/4 IS, I can't imagine using
> > else. For me, the rebalancing act you mentioned
hasn't been a problem,
> though I shoot a LOT less than you do
(drastic understatement!). I
speak to the stability question with any really hard
data since I've not done any
controlled comparison testing under
rigorous conditions. I've only taken one
birding trip since
buying the EOS-3 and 500 f/4. Even so, I have made plenty
images, with and without IS, that are very sharp under a good 8X loupe
looking through the viewfinder, I find that I get equally good
results (as determined by visible vibration after shutter release) when I
hold the lens foot/clamp joint firmly and press down or when I
press down on the center of the lens itself.
I keep the B-1 pan tension
loose most of the time, locking only for
subjects. I especially like the versatility of removing the Sidekick,
with lens and camera still mounted, and having nearly instant access
to my Arca Swiss B-1 for shots with shorter lens. The only minor
complaint I have is that tightening the vertical axis to a given tension is
a delicate affair. But the left hand is close
by, permitting very rapid adjustment.
From Gail Bunt:
I bought a Sidekick last year and your comments mirror my
I was debating whether to drag it along for
another try, and your message
came just in time. It's not worth the
weight in my bag.
My original response to Clay:
Hope that all is well. All here is wonderful, with lots
of time wasted loving my new grandson.
A customer of ours sent me a copy of your comments on the
Sidekick. This came as no shock since you've expressed your distaste for
the Sidekick to me in person. I am not offended, and you are certainly
entitled to your opinion.
I considered sending you a copy myself as I figure that
a copy would reach you before long. I apologize for not doing
so (and give myself a kick in the butt as well). So far, I have
received four e-mails concerning the Sidekick, two telling me that
they agree with my opinion, two saying that they are totally happy with their
But... the part about the added vibration due to the added
connection on the Sidekick is simply not true.
I think that it is; perhaps I erred in not expressing myself
clearly enough: There is a certain amount of play in every tripod head,
every single one. Put a big lens on a regular Wimberley, on any
Arca-Swiss head, on a Foba, or any other tripod head of any type, lock
it down as tightly as possible, and there will be some degree of
play. If you push or pull on the camera body or the lens, it moves a bit
as the metal twists. My point was (supposed to be) that when
you use the Sidekick, you get the play from the ballhead PLUS the play from
You are welcome to do some tests on the Sidekick (I'll send
you one if you would like) to confirm this.
A gentleman from MD is bringing his on an upcoming IPT, so I
will check it out (again). No need to send one, but thanks for the
Your statements regarding the extra connections and
Sidemount making the Sidekick more accident prone are certainly true and well
Again, I could have expressed myself more
clearly: I feel that accidents can happen more frequently with the
SIdekick because the plate is perpendicular to the
ground, and if you lose your grip on the lens while the quick
release jaws are opened wide, the lens will hit the
ground. With a regular Wimberley head, or with any good ballhead,
the lens mounting plate will just sort of sit in the jaws should you lose your
hold on the lens for a moment. Of course, if you forget
to tighten the controls before mounting or un-mounting the
lens--a habit that we should all strive not to
develop--the lens will hit the ground.
We cover these issues in the instructions, and having
to be extra careful is the price that you have to pay for the convenience and
versatility of the Sidekick.
As I said in my Bulletin, it is the supposed
versatility of the Sidekick that puzzles me; I saw many photographers
using Sidekicks at Bosque this fall and never once did I see
one remove the Sidekick to shoot scenics with a short lens off of
I know that you have strong opinions, but please do not
discourage people to try a product that may add an extra dimension to their
It's that I truly believe that there are simply better
options (than a Sidekick).
Let people know that we freely send out loaners and that we
have an unconditional money-back guarantee.
I will do that.
The Sidekick is not a product that I developed just to make
money. It is a product that I believe in and use as my main gimbal
I have no doubt that that is true. I
just don't agree with you.
Thanks again for all of your support.
You are most welcome.
I'll keep you posted on any
Thanks and best to you and your Dad,
P.S. With your permission, I would like to include the
text of your letter and my response, as above, in a future Bulletin. I
will also include the complete text of your letter, without
comment, at the end of the piece. If this
is OK, and I hear from you soon, I can get it out before I hit the road
tomorrow. Thanks for considering this request.
If you've read this far and would still like to purchase a Sidekick,
please consider buying it from BIRDS AS ART. Sidekicks are
currently in stock.
Best and great picture making,