The One about the Opteka SW-1 Sidewinder Joystick Pistol Grip Ball Head


I have been wanting a pistol ball head grip for my camera for a while. As much as I wanted the Vanguard version, with my focus on saving money on glass, it means I have to resort to a more economical route and so, my decision was to go with the Opteka SW-1 Sidewinder. For $30, I could only hope it’s worth it. I’ve struggled with going for this version or the Opteka TS-1 TacShot Pistol Grip Ball Head which is the same price.

In the end, I went with the SW-1 primarily because you have two areas where you can attach the plate and also because the necessary height, I have seen one use this same product while filming video.


The Opteka SW-1 comes in a box, with bubble packaging and inside is the sidewinder, the quick release plate and the tightening mechanism with screw. But there is a metal piece which I have no idea what it is for. There is no instructions, so while I can easily figure out where to put the plate and the screw and how to tighten it, I have no idea what the small metal piece is for. I’m guessing to tighten the attachment to under your camera, I have no idea.

The sidewinder feels pretty tough. Hard plastic.. but I’m not going to throw it on concrete to see if it breaks apart or not. Especially with the springs on the pistol, I rather not think of what may happen if this thing takes a big fall.


Putting everything together is easy. Put it under your camera, tighten, then put it on the quick release plate (which you had to screw on with the Allen’s Head) and that is it. You can attach the sidewinder to a monopod or a tripod and you’re good to go.



Pressing on the trigger on the pistol was easy. I had no problems with squeezing it, nor did I have any problems turning my camera on the ballhead. And as others have mentioned, attaching a larger lens, I had no problem with it. This thing holds on tight and you have a tension option on the front for tightening or loosening of the ballhead. Note: It is the screw kind of tension that may come out easy if you twist it all the way off and may ruin your sidewinder. So, be careful to not unloosen it all the way completely.

The ball head is versatile in its movements but not like the Vanguard which goes full 90 left and right easily, the sidewinder can do it but you need to make sure the slot opening is where you can easily turn to, if you need to bend that far to the side, front or back. While I like how the Vanguard has camera placement above the grip, the Vanguard is more expensive (but the name is renown for its quality, so if you want the best…go for the Vanguard).

This is not quick release in the sense of a tripod where you can put the camera in and lock it in place with a lever. Because this thing needs to make sure your camera doesn’t slip and fall with all that weight, there is protection in the sense of a locking mechanism and push button quick release. For this device, I welcome the added protection because I don’t want to shoot anything via remote and then my camera and lens falls off when stationed at a position of 90 degrees.



For it’s price, at under $30, the Opteka SW-1 Sidewinder is a very awesome ball head ala pistol grip. Granted, you get what you pay for with this device and by that, you get no instructions (I contacted the seller if they can scan and send me instructions but there are none) and there are somethings that beginners may find themselves breaking the device if not done correctly because of the lack of instructions or warning.

But for the most part, putting it together is easy but once again, I have messed around with tripods and putting things together, so for beginners who have never used tools before, without instructions, this may be a caveat. But it is fairly easy to figure out.

Overall, it works! But if you want a lot of versatility, customer service and the quality and are willing to pay for it, then definitely go for the Vanguard pistol grip. Otherwise if you are on a budget like myself and $30 is what your willing to spend. Then the Opteka SW-1 Sidewinder is perfect!