Vanguard GH-100 Pistol Grip Ball Head

Vanguard GH-100 Pistol Grip Ball Head

A post by Valerie Jardin.

I’ve always preferred trigger-type ball heads than any other. I like the fact that I can quickly adjust my camera with the simple squeeze of a trigger.

I was pretty happy with the ball head I was using for food and interior photography when the Vanguard GH-100 came in the mail and totally redefined my idea of how a pistol grip should feel. First, let me tell you that you can’t help but be impressed the minute you open the box. It is sturdy, and you can feel that right away when you hold it in your hands. I quickly attached it to my tripod and put it to good use. The Vanguard GH-100 will fit on most tripods with the included 1/4” to 3/8” screw adaptor.

First, I attached the flat-plate to my camera and checked the locking mechanism. I have had severals close calls with my previous ball head and almost lost thousands of dollars of gear because I thought the plate was properly locked and it wasn’t. The orange latch of the GH-100 locks the plate automatically when you place the camera on the ball head and it has consistently locked my camera in place (but I always make a point to double check that it is secure). Once locked your precious gear is definitely safe with this mount.


One thing that is quite unique with this pistol grip is the fact that the ergonomic handle can rotate and move into different positions. To shoot stills I like it down. But you can easily adjust its position to what feels most comfortable for the type of photo shoot you are doing or for video.


The GH-100 features a tightening adjustment at the end of the handle to allow for the ball head to move freely without using the trigger function if it’s loosened. Or to trigger release and lock if tightened.


You can switch easily and rapidly from landscape to portrait mode or even shoot straight down simply by pulling the trigger, moving the ball head into one of the notches and release to lock securely in place.


Another great feature of the GH-100 is the panoramic head that allows for a 360° movement of the platform for 72-click panoramic photography with a simple click and lock function.


If you use a bubble level, there is one on the Vanguard GH-100 but you can only check it when your camera is off the mount. If you are accustomed to checking the level during the shoot, I would recommend installing one on your camera hot shoe.


Now that I have experienced the quality and functionality of the Vanguard GH-100 pistol grip, I am not planning on taking it off my tripod anytime soon… Not until I replace my old tripod for a Vanguard maybe…

You can learn more about the Vanguard GH-100 and their other line of fine products by visiting their website at – or get a price on it at Amazon on their Vanguard GH-100 page.

Connect with Valerie on Facebook or Twitter @valeriejardin or visit her website

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Vanguard GH-100 Pistol Grip Ball Head
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Some Older Comments

  • Karl B June 7, 2013 02:38 am

    The GH-100 I found that this unit under performs. After a few sessions in the field with full frame pro level DSLR's and wide angle to moderate teles, the panoramic function will not lock down enough to prevent the camera and lens combo from rotating about the panoramic axis. There is no adjustment for the panoramic switch to increase tension to prevent rotation. The current tension required to move the pan plate when locked down is almost non-existent. I can rotate the pan plate (where camera mounts to the head) with my fingers with no camera mounted.

    I would not recommend this head. I like the grip handle that controls the angle of tilt with the tension adjustment knob at the top of the grip, but if the pan feature does not lock the camera in position, you can't rotate to a vertical orientation and have the camera-lens combo gravity fall off subject.

    Don't buy it!

  • Luigi Borrelli February 22, 2011 02:57 pm

    I just bought one from Amazone for $70 from your recomendation and the Alta Pro 264AT for $126 and I love it. I live in Los Angeles.

  • manuel February 7, 2011 06:48 am

    MMmmm...maybe I committed a bobo... :( I'm going to check it out again because I took a real good look at it and felt it and I can swear it's plastic. Be back at you with my findings later. Thanks for the correction.

  • Valerie Jardin February 7, 2011 05:22 am

    @Manuel, the plate is metal, painted black. The top part is round but the bottom part that fits into the ball head and locks is square. Its weight is similar to the Manfrotto plate which I previously used.

  • manuel February 7, 2011 04:48 am

    After I posted the review I noticed that there might be a bit of confusion because I state in one instance that the coupling plate is is not square but round and in another instance clearly state that it is square when I should have said that the coupling plate is not rectangular as the one that comes with the Manfrotto ball head model 496rc2.

    The coupling plate on the GH100 is indeed not rectangular but a square and is made of hard plastic . Personally if your equipment is fast pro lens which tend to be big and heavy I would go with another ball head as this one I believe is specifically design for the entusiast in mind , not the pro. That being said if your pro equipment by my rule of thumb is half of the manufacturers stated weight the the GH100 is capable of supporting it.

    The grip to unlock the ball head for movement is very sturdy and tight and the pressure adjustment level has very limited range of movement in order to adjust it. When at it's tighest position the whole camera assembly on top is for all intent and proposes unmovable.

    For us mere mortals with limited pockets the GH100 would be a great pistol type ball head at a great price.

  • manuel February 7, 2011 04:33 am

    After reading this review here , since I've always wanted a pistol type grip ball head and liking alot what I saw I went for it and bought it. I must say I have been very impressed by the built. It is very well made and a super bargain at the price.

    On the issue of if it is capable of very heavy equipment there is a rule of thumb I have always have and that is to use a ball head specifiied double of my equipment weight , that way you will always be sure to have a sturdy enought ball head to support your equipment without any slippaged or moving around .

    I am using a Nikon D90 with battery grip and with all my lens I have no problem what so ever. I do tend to look at the coupling plate with a bit of doubt being it small and not square as the one I use on my manfrotto ball head but I have not have had any problem with that either.

    My heaviest lens is a Tamron 70-300mm VC lens and one all metal Nikon 70-210mm D lens which is pretty heavy being it all metal and have had zero problem with the combination . I use the ball head on a Vanguard Alta Pro tripod .

    One thing a I did not like is that the coupling plate is made of plastic instead of all metal as the one that comes with my Manfrotto and that could tend to be a problem with time as it might wear out , that being said the shape of the coupling plate is square , not round and the plastic is very hard and sturdy but it would have been a bit more reassuring to have made it out of metal instead of plastic.

  • baja February 1, 2011 04:05 pm

    I guess my only question is whether or not to go the GH-100 over the SBH ball-head series (like the SBH-250 for example), given the fact that I shoot with heavy lenses. Specifically the Sigma 50-500mm 2kg lens, and the Canon 100-400mm 1.5kg lens; these, together coupled with the Canon 7D weighing in at 1kg with its BG-E7 0.5kg battery grip. My heaviest combination combing to, let's just say 4-5kg max.... would this weight even bother the max recommended load of the GH-100 head of 6kg? How close it too close? I'm just hoping that I can crank up the tension at the end of the pistol to ensure concrete grip to avoid any type of movement or sliding over extended periods of time with those long lens' extended to their full. Then my only other concern is the shoe plate, being the small size it actually is, and the minimal grip on its surface, how well would it would handle the larger lenses? I also notice the shoe place is just a single screw thread into the base of the camera or lens mount, it doesn't come with the double tighten type..... hmmm... decisions.... decisions.....

  • Jude Lab January 21, 2011 09:58 pm

    Vanguard GH-100, I like it :)

  • manuel January 19, 2011 08:00 am

    Guys , I just recieved confirmation that I will be recieving the GH-100 by thursday. I keep you posted as to my impresions.

  • Valerie jardin January 19, 2011 12:08 am

    @Tam, mine is replacing my Manfrotto 322RC2 on my Manfrotto tripod right now so no worries, it fits.
    @biggles209, I don't do video but it seems really smooth compared to my previous ballhead. It's not a 'fluid head' made for video but for the price I'm thinking it would work fine to start with.

    I just found this video on YouTube with a nice demo

  • Brad January 17, 2011 02:18 am

    This head was recognized in Popular Photography's Gear of the Year issue. I'm intrigued by I but there aren't that many reviews around. Up until this one I only saw a pro review at camera dojo where Vanguard is a sponsor.

  • manuel January 16, 2011 10:27 pm

    Well I placed an order on amazon for the GH0100 ball head. If it handles as good as it looks it should be an excellent alternative for my tripod in which I've been using a Manfrotto Ball Head which it to is very good.

    The Vanguard tripod I consider to be one of the best buys out there in tripod land. It's construction is first rate and it handles heavy equipment with aplomb. It has a unique feature where you can use the center column horizontally as the Manfrotto does but with the added advantage in having not only 360 degree swivel capablity but can be adjusted 90 degree straight downward for great macro photography . The Manfrotto can not do this. The alta Pro series Tripod come in aluminun and carbon fiber options.

  • Valerie Jardin January 15, 2011 02:37 pm

    @hfng: I am not familiar with RRS ball heads. My previous one was a Manfrotto trigger which I liked and it was more expensive but I like this new one much better still, easier to move around, very smooth.
    @Manuel: Good choice! I hear that the Vanguard tripods are indeed really good too.

  • Biggles209 January 15, 2011 02:16 am

    I have used a Manfrotto 322RC2 head in the past. I found it impossible to squeeze the "trigger" without jerking the camera - making it useless for video. Did you find it easy to get a smooth release on the Vanguard? (It certainly looks more ergonomic than the Manfrotto)

  • manuel January 14, 2011 03:22 pm

    Vanguard makes good products. I have a Vanguard Alta Pro aluminum Tripod and must say it is excellent. I will definitly be getting me this ball head for my tripod.

  • Derek January 14, 2011 03:22 pm

    I like how the overall height of the ball head is reduced by moving the trigger out of the support column. Very cool. Decent price too.

  • Tam Nguyen January 13, 2011 11:46 pm

    would this be able to replace the Manfrotto 322RC2 (

  • hfng January 13, 2011 04:33 pm

    USD90 is pretty cheap for a ball head. I wonder how is this compared to an RRS ball head.

  • Valerie Jardin January 13, 2011 04:31 pm

    Andy, I had my Canon 70-200 mm f/2.8 on it which is pretty heavy and it was no problem. Check the Vanguard website linked above, the maximum loading capacity of the GH-100 is 13.2 lbs (6kg).

  • Andy H. January 13, 2011 04:23 pm

    Would you consider using this with a long prime telephoto for nature/wildlife/landscape phtotography?

  • wilson January 13, 2011 03:58 pm

    When I first saw this item a while back I wondered " do I explain this to the TSA...?"

  • Valerie Jardin January 13, 2011 02:08 pm

    Thank you for reading my review. It was just brought to my attention that I omitted to include the price! Around $90 US.