When you’re shooting with an ENG camera, or a cinema camera, that has its viewfinder mounted on the left side, up near the front of the camera, ergonomically it makes sense to use a tripod pan handle that is roughly 16” long. A long handle works best for those kinds of cameras because the operator is basically standing on the left-side of the camera and a long handle is needed to get leverage for smooth panning and tilting. When you buy a tripod head from any of the major brands, it will generally come equipped with a 16” pan handle.
But many of today’s smaller cameras have their viewfinder located at the rear of the camera, such as the Z280, Z90, and almost all mirrorless cameras. And some cameras, such as the FX6 and FX30 don’t have a viewfinder at all. For these types of cameras, where the operator is standing behind the camera, rather than to the side, a 16” pan handle is way too long. Not only does a long handle tend to jab you in the chest when you try to look through the viewfinder, it also puts your right hand at an uncomfortable distance behind your shoulder when you’re trying to execute smooth movement.
Years ago, I recognized the need for shorter pan handles so I suggested to various manufacturers that they give their customers the option of a shorter handle that would be more appropriate for today’s smaller cameras.
Well, as time went on, none of them acted on my suggestion, so a few years ago I decided to devise my own DIY solution. I removed the rosette from one of my Sachlter tripod heads and took it to the local Lowes hardware store and went from tool to tool until I found one that had the right diameter to replace the stock handle.
What I ended up choosing was a 6-in-1 Nut Driver, made by a company called Irwin. The price was $17. https://www.irwin.com/tools/screwdrivers/irwin-6-in-1-nut-driver
When mounted on the tripod head, it’s only 7” long and has a nice fat rubberized grip that feels great in the hand during all kinds of weather. Note: It does require the rosette from the original pan handle, so it is not a totally stand-alone solution, but for $17 it is a bargain.
Not only does the shorter length make it easier to get in close to the viewfinder at the rear of small cameras, surprisingly, it actually makes panning and tilting smoother. And when it comes time to pack up the tripod, there is no need to fold the handle down. I just transport it with the handle in the position where I like it for operation.
I now have custom Irwin handles on three of my six tripods, and I love them. So, if you’re bothered, as I was, by having a long handle on your tripod, here is one way of swapping it out without breaking the bank.
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