For years, I have been using the excellent Arca Swiss C1 Cube geared head. Though a good companion, it is heavy and bulky(read : pain) to haul along for overseas trips. Along came the D4 series of tripod heads. There's 2 flavours, the D4 and D4M. The main difference between them is that the D4 has geared movements. That means the D4 is capable of more precise movement which is always welcomed in architectural photography. It's size and weight seemed ideal too so I bought one. This is a quick look at it. I will be drawing comparisons with the C1 along the way.
An additional feature on the D4, which is not available on the C1, are the tear drop gear release knobs. Unlock these knobs and the gears will be disengaged for free movement. The mechanisms on the C1 are set full time so no locking is required. The D4 is definitely better in this aspect, though more knobs can be confusing at times. The gear movement on the C1 is limited to +30deg and -30deg. It utilises a separate tilting base to position the camera in portrait position. On the D4, this movement is handled by the pitch mechanism, saving weight and bulk. Of course, these will not matter if you prefer to use an L bracket to orientate the camera.
Both D4 and D4M comes with either the Quickset Classis camera mounting plate or the Fliplock camera mounting plate. My C1 came with the latter and my experience with the 2-stage lever is mixed. It's fast but tempremental. I have lost count of the times when the lever just won't budge and camera welded to the C1. Took some brute force to reclaim the camera. Something I don't quite like on the D4..... The control knobs are perpendicular to the movement they control. A constant cause for disorientation. I understand that this is how gears work but..... oh well. I got pass this with a few labels.
I am happy with my D4. It's 300g lighter than the C1, making it easier to carry around. Functions perfectly with my setup too. Before the C1, I was using Manfrotto's highly inefficient 405 and 410 geared heads. They weigh a ton and don't work well with heaver 35mm DSLR setup. The C1, although costing an arm was the best thing to come along since sliced bread. With the D4, I can now have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
The Arca Swiss D4 retails for about SGD$1500.