Few months back I purchased a second hand tripod.
Later on I noticed that the head (which holds the camera) of the tripod doesn't move freely.
I mean I have to apply some pressure to make it move left and right, and even when it moves left/right it jumps some fixed x degrees, i.e I can't make it move x+1 degree, it moves straightaway to x+5 degrees.

I don't know whether this is normal or not, but this is very annoying.

Is there a way that I can fix it? Perhaps by oiling at some right spots?

  • 1
    Also found this question: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/2254/can-you-service-a-tripod – MikeW Dec 30 '11 at 10:00
  • Question is rather simple and could be solved with a search – user7226 Dec 30 '11 at 13:13
  • @MikeW But that thread doesn't show the way to do it, well :) :) – Aquarius_Girl Dec 30 '11 at 14:32
  • Adding this as a comment as not really an answer to your main question of fixing a tripod head ... when using almost any tripod head a good trick to help make panning smooth is to use a thick rubber band. Put the rubber band around the handle and bull the band, not the handle. The give in the rubber helps to smooth out movement and removes any jerkiness created due to your muscle movements. – Barry Semple Jan 1 '12 at 8:39
  • are you using it for still photos or video, ? – Alaska Man Dec 4 '16 at 18:44

Quintessentially I think that the problem is that you've got a cheap tripod. In order to have a smooth pan and tilt you need to get an expensive tripod head suitable for film and video work.

Because the cheaper heads work on friction you can make them move smoother using oils or other lubricants, however this will also prevent them from locking up completely meaning that you may get some drift at some point or even, if unlucky, render the head unusable until cleaned.

There isn't really a way around the problem as far as I know. Cheap heads are stiff and jerky while expensive heads aren't.


Force some talcum powder (or better yet, powdered graphite) into the friction surfaces of the head. This works like little ball bearings for the plastic-on-plastic rubbing of a cheap tripod head. Don't use oil, it just makes it worse.

I have a $25 Amazon Basics tripod, and this made a big improvement. I drilled a little hole in the panning head to force the talcum powder in, but maybe I could have just rubbed it into the cracks. It made a big improvement in the stiction and judder. The only downside is that it now smells like baby powder.


Is this when the controls (knobs/handles) are quite loose? Is it a ball head, or a pan/tilt type head?

Your best bet would be to try to disassemble it, if possible, and clean it. If you can't get it apart, but can access some surfaces, clean them with a microfibre cloth.

You can put a small amount of oil or silicon lubricant on it, but that may cause further problems

  • may attract more dust/dirt, which would adhere to the oil
  • may make it harder to lock down in place, so the head slips after you tighten it

If this is a large tripod intended for a large SLR and you have a small point and shoot, it may be that the lack of weight makes it hard to make micro adjustments like you want. If the head can be replaced, keep the legs and buy a small ball head for your P&S.

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    If I add a photograph of that tripod will it help? – Aquarius_Girl Dec 30 '11 at 9:57

There are usually screws which restrict motion in different directions, perhaps one of these is a wee bit too tight? Is the movement smooth or jerky? Try loosening the fixing screws a little bit at a time to see if that helps.

What brand of tripod? One of the differences between good and bad (i.e. expensive and not-) tripods is ease and controlability (sp?) during adjustment. If it is a cheap tripod you may have discovered why.

  • I couldn't find the brand name written on the tripod, but I'll look again. – Aquarius_Girl Dec 30 '11 at 10:02

My benro has a dial on the side that if I loosen it, it also loosens the ball inside the head.

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