What is the practical difference between a panning tripod head and a panning clamp? The tripod head seems to rotate from the bottom of the head (where it attaches to the legs) while the clamp rotates near the top (it attaches to the camera).

Is there a reason to use one vs the other? They seem to achieve the same thing to me.

  • \$\begingroup\$ What is the bottom of the clamp attached to? What is your intended usage (what type of photography)? \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Nov 17, 2018 at 17:39

1 Answer 1


There are two main advantages of using a panning clamp on top of a ball head:

  • The first is that the panning motion can be applied to a plane tilted with respect to the tripod base. If you have a use case that would benefit from such a motion, then a panning clamp offers functionality not possible from a level tripod base. One application of this capability might be astrophotography, where the panning clamp could be aligned with a celestial pole and the camera could be panned matching the apparent motion of the night sky.
  • The second is that perfectly horizontal panning can be done without the need to perfectly level the tripod base, which can be rather difficult. It is much easier to level the top of a ball head to which a panning clamp can then be attached. One application of this capability might be to take a series of frames for use to create single row panoramic images.

This review of the Really Right Stuff PC-LR Round Panning Clamp at The-Digital-Picture covers the second use case in depth.

It should go without saying that in order to use a panning clamp you need to use "Arca Swiss" style plates on your camera that attach to a clamp type holder. If you are using another type of quick detach connector between your camera and tripod, you'll need to swap to plate style connectors to use a panning clamp.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It's kind of implied, but might be worth explicitly stating that what using a panning clamp accomplishes is that it fixes the plane of rotation relative to the camera sensor regardless of what the ballhead is doing. This is usually what you want for things like stitching a single row panorama, etc. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 17, 2018 at 20:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @junkyardsparkle The linked review covers that in depth. I've also added it as an example of an application of the second point. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Nov 17, 2018 at 20:55

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