About 6 months ago I became very excited when I was offered the chance to test out the new Wimberley Sidemount Head. The Sidemount is a cross between the full Wimberley MKii and the Sidekick gimbal mount. As probably one of the most lusted after items for the wildlife photographer I was pretty keen to get out in the field with this new bit of kit!
The first thing I noticed with the Wimberley was the service. The handling and service by the staff was impeccable, with all of my questions replied to promptly and fully. The postage and packaging was another positive experience. The Sidemount was sent via tracked delivery, it arrived from the USA to my door only 3 days after my confirmation email was sent!
The Sidemount came in a very plain brown box, when opened however, it revealed a true work of art, it was packaged neatly in a foam surround to keep it safe during transport (see image). Included in the package came the instruction manual, a Wimberley catalogue and my warrantee authentication forms. The warrantee covers agains defects in the product from normal use for five years after the purchase date. As well as all of the documentation and product I was also pleasantly greeted by a small pack of Wimberley branded M&M’s…these were quickly destroyed as I hastily attached the Sidemount to my tripod.
As I stated the Sidemount head is a cross between the full Wimberley MKii and the Sidekick head. The sidemount uses the same base casting at the full wimberley but looses the swinging arm and in its place uses a side-mounted quick release clamp. The effect of this change is produces a lighter (1.04Kg compared to 1.4Kg of full Wimberley) and more compact gimbal head that can still support very large telephoto lenses.
The feel of the unit is superb, the head is constructed of a single machined piece of metal with two rubberized knobs to lock the pan and tilt actions. The rubberized knobs are comfortable to use an are easily gripped even when wet or wearing gloves.
When your camera is mounted on the unit the movement is very smooth. The head works using the balance of the lens so you need to slide the camera back an forth to find the optimum position. Once balanced the weight of the lens becomes carried by the head giving you fingertip control of even the heaviest telephotos! When the head is unlocked the movement is as fast as handholding with a solid support of the lens that helps to reduce shake.
Out in the field the performance of the Wimberley Sidemount is truly remarkable. The head allows for a stable and firm support that allows rapid movement to capture those fleeting moments of action. The Sidemount can be locked down to hold your lens firmly in place so it can be slung over your shoulder for portability without the fear of your lens falling to the ground. The Sidemount is also very hardwearing, I have bumped mine multiple times and it has never gained a scratch, the solid build quality will ensure the Sidemount will last for many years.
A few downsides?
Weight – At just over 1Kg its not the lightest of tripod heads but looking at what the head is built to do its more reassuring than a burden…especially when you are already hauling a 5kg or more camera!
Cost – For many this will be the defining factor, At $495.00 this piece of kit isn’t cheap! The cost however I feel is more than justified especially if you are shooting with long telephoto lenses on a regular basis. The ability to have fluid movement on a solid support is incredible, it is as maneuverable as handholding with increased stability that helps to create sharper images in almost every circumstance! If you have paid out £5000 for the best lenses why reduce there capability by using them on a lesser support?
The Wimberley Sidemount is a fantastic piece of kit for the wildlife photographer using large lenses. After 6 months using the Sidemount I can truly say it is worth every penny! The solid construction, usability and effectiveness of the head makes a perfect combination for supporting super-telephotos.
The reduced weight of the Sidemount compared to the full Wimberley is also a welcome addition, it allows a slightly lighter bag for those long hikes.
The cost is pretty large…but if you can afford one don’t hesitate because as soon as you have one you will ask yourself why you didn’t get one sooner!
If you do have a larger 400 f2.8 or 600 f4 the full Wimberley gimbal may be a slightly better option, the reason for this is to do with how the lens is mounted. On the Sidemount you have to hold the lens to mount it, whereas on the full gimbal it can be rested on the swinging arm giving a little more support. The Sidemount is perfect however for a 300 2.8 (such as my own), 500 f4 or 200-400 f4.
If you shoot long lenses and want a solid head that allows fast movement of a super-telephoto the Wimberley is a fantastic choice…the head will disappear and allow you to concentrate on what is through the viewfinder!
Where to buy –
You can order a Wimberley Sidemount directly from Wimberley here
If you are in the USA you can test and Wimberley gimbal head in order to try it for yourself from the fantastic people at Wimberley here