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BIRDS AS ART BULLETIN #16

SIDEKICK BACKLASH

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 traveling.  
 
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 head. 
 
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:
 
Hey Art,
 
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 them.
 
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 well.
 
Thanks for your time Art.  I enjoy your strong opinions and hope that you do not mind mine.
 
kind regards,
 
-Clay
 
And then  again from Clay, after assembling the troops:
 
Art.  I've included some other comments from Sidekick users after
> > this message.  Sorry for the barrage of information, but its my job.
> >
> > Take care,
> >
> > -Clay
> >
> > Some people who use the Sidekick:
> >
> > Theo Allofs  (Nikon 600 f/4)
> >
> > Tim Davis & Renee Lynn  (300 f/2.8, 500 f/4.5) they use Wimberley Head
for  600mm
> >
> > 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
> > 600mm
> >
> > 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 in
> > wildlife photography. Recently on an assignment for a story about
> > flying-foxes in Australia it proved to be an invaluable tool for
> > photographing these large bats in flight and in trees above me. Without
> 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
> > Sidekick."
> >
> > -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. It
was terrific for using our 300mm and 500mm lenses on. The camera/lens
> > 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 for
> > 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 is
> > unparalleled in the world of tripod heads.  Now, with the addition
> > of the lightweight and versatile Sidekick, all my demanding
> > camera support situations in the field are solved.  The Sidekick
> > amazingly imitates the functionality of the master design while
> > serving several other applications.  Both heads move with the
> > agility of a mountain goat and the grace of a hummingbird.
> > I simply could not work as productively without them.
> >
> > -John Pezzenti Jr.
From Mike Masters:
 
 > > > >"I forgot to ask, how do YOU like your Sidekick???"
> > > >
> > > > 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 anything
> > 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 can't
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
 of images, with and without IS, that are very sharp under a good 8X loupe
Just 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
completely motionless 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 experience EXACTLY. 
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.

Gail Bunt
 
My  original response to Clay:
 
Hi Clay,
 
Hope that all is well.  All here is wonderful, with lots of time wasted loving my new grandson. 
 
Re:
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 Sidekick. 
 
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 the Sidekick. 
 
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 offer.
 
Your statements regarding the extra connections and Sidemount making the Sidekick more accident prone are certainly true and well stated. 
 
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 their ballhead. 
 
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 photography.
 
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 head. 
 
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 developments.
 
Kind regards,
 
Clay Wimberley
 
Thanks and best to you and your Dad,  
 
Artie
 
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,
 
Arthur Morris

Listing of Archived Bulletins



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