Vanguard VEO BH-160S at a glance:

When you’re using a tripod, it pays to have the correct head. It needs to be strong enough to support your heaviest kit, yet not be excessively weighty. It should also enable smooth camera adjustment and then lock down without shifting your composition. It’s in such respects that more expensive heads tend to stand apart from budget offerings.

Vanguard’s VEO BH-160S is a relatively recent addition to the firm’s range, alongside the similar, but smaller BH-110S. It’s a fairly hefty unit that’s rated to support a 15kg maximum load, while weighing in at a shade under 500g. Essentially, it promises to comfortably hold a full-frame camera with a sizeable telephoto lens attached.

Vanguard Alta BH-160S head: tripod connection

The head fits directly onto standard 3/8 in tripod screws, with a 1/4 in adapter included. A basic Arca-Swiss type quick release plate is included

However, where the BH-160S differs from most heads lies in the incorporation of a second panning mechanism directly beneath the Arca-Swiss compatible camera clamp, along with the usual one at the base of the main housing. This design allows you to set your camera level and then pan it across a scene, while keeping the horizon straight. This is useful not only for adjusting composition, but also for shooting multi-frame panoramas.

Vanguard VEO BH-160S: Key features

  • Level: A small bubble level on top of the camera clamp helps with getting your horizons straight
  • Thread: In the base, there’s a standard 3/8in tripod connection thread, with a 1/4in adapter supplied
  • Arca-Swiss: The quick release clamp accepts standard 38mm wide Arca-Swiss style dovetail plates
  • Panning top: This rotates smoothly through 360° while keeping your camera level, with markings at 2.5° intervals

Aside from the panning top, this is a fairly conventional design. It has large locking levers for the main ball and the lower panoramic base, with the latter being marked at 5° intervals. These two controls are set at 120° to each other, allowing the head to nestle between the legs of a reverse-folding travel tripod. A slot cut into the housing allows the camera to be rotated into the portrait orientation.

Vanguard VEO BH-160S wih Canon EOS R3

The Vanguard BH-160S will comfortably hold a sizeable full-frame mirrorless setup

At the top, there’s a screw lock for the camera clamp and a small lever for the panning mechanism. All the controls are captive, so nothing’s going to fall out and get lost while you’re walking between locations.

I tested the VEO BH-160S using a full-frame camera and 400mm telephoto together weighing about 3.3kg, and found that generally, it worked well. The head had no problem holding this kit firmly in position and locked down with minimal drift. The main drawback is that there’s no separate friction control. By adjusting the main locking lever, you can still adjust the friction to match your kit, allowing precise composition without the camera flopping around. But you can’t quickly return to the same setting after locking the head down.

Also consider: the Vanguard Veo BH-110S and Alta BH range

Vanguard also offers the similarly designed BH-110S, which is rated for a 10kg load, weighs 427g, and costs £100, which could be a better choice if you’re not planning on using heavyweight. Alternatively, if you don’t need the panoramic clamp, the firm’s three-strong Alta BH range is cheaper and includes a separate friction control. For example, the BH-250 supports 20kg and cost £80.

Vanguard Alta BH-200

Vanguard’s Alta BH-200 has a separate friction control, but lacks the panning camera clamp

Vanguard VEO BH-160S: Our Verdict

Overall the Vanguard VEO BH-160S is a well-made, robust head that can support a sizeable load with ease. The panning clamp adds a useful strong to its bow, it’s just a shame there’s no separate friction control.

4.5 stars