Arca Swiss B1 vs Z1

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by carl_stone, Jan 16, 2010.

  1. I'm looking at AS ball heads, and wondering if it make sense to get a used B1 as opposed to a new or used Z1. I'm aware that the AS clamps are not the best, but I have found an older B1 that has no clamp, just a protruding stud waiting to have a clamp added. I like the panning knob on the B1 better than the Z1, and I don't need the extra weight capacity of the Z1. Further, I don't like the pan markings on the Z1, they aren't numbered, or engraved.
    So, can a user just easily add a RRS screw clamp to the B1 stud, or must it be done professionally? Do I give up anything significant in going with the B1 over the Z1? I might be able to get into a used B1 with a RRS screw clamp for around $300, so how does that sound? Anything particular to lookout for in a used B1?
  2. I have a Z1 but haven't used a B1. I don't know if the talk about Arca's clamps being poor applies also to the Z1, but I haven't come across any problem whatsoever with the Arca clamp on the Z1: it's simple, has good ergonomics and locks solidly. It doesn't have provisions for safety pins, but I don't see the point of those anyway.
    Changing the clamp is usually very simple, RRS has a page about it, check it out. If you are going to buy from them, they will probably be happy to answer any questions relating to it.
  4. Thanks, this is it the sort of info that I was looking for. Since yesterday, when I started this thread, I found out with regard to changing the clamp, it all depends on which model you have. Early models of the B1 require professional installation of a new clamp because the head has to to be dismantled. The US distributor, Precision Camera Works, gave me a quote of $68 for this job. The owner, Bob Watkins, told me that I can send him the head and RRS clamp, or he can supply the desired clamp, and at that time he will also address any issues that he might find in the used head. Since the head would be disassembled that would be a good time to take care of any potential problems.
    Newer models of the B1 and the Z1 use a screw to attach the clamp, and they are owner serviceable. The older models have a stud instead, and that is another issue altogether, I'm told. This info throws new light on the value of a used older model as opposed to a used later model, or even a brand new one. I have to add the cost of that service to the price that I would need to pay for the head. So, I would need to get that older model pretty cheap to make it worthwhile. Some of the models had no clamp, but just a stud, and they were made to attach directly to the camera, such as the one I was looking at.
    BTW, it was a page in the RRS catalog that clued me in about the clamp issue, so I sent an email off to Bob Watkins. That was yesterday, and he replied about an hour and a half later. So, my search is not yet over, and I might wind up buying a brand new Z1. I didn't think to ask Bob, are the newer models still coming with a non-captive screw on the AS clamp?
  5. B1's with the grey, rather than black tension setting knob (the inner knob) are less likely to freeze up than older models. Mine still stiffens up if left locked now that I've had it for 5 years, but frees up once you exercise it a little.
    I have the original screw-type clamp on my B1, which works perfectly with RRS plates. The Z1 lever clamp tries to be all things to all people - adjustable, two levels of bevel - and has a reputation for getting out of adjustment. The Z1 has a simplified engineering design, which is otherwise functional and reliable. I would not get the new Z1 clamp, however. Save $80 and get the screw platform and replace it with an RRS clamp. If you use RRS plates exclusively, the lever style is great! I have both lever and screw type clamps, and feel comfortable with either.
    All RRS clamps have captive knobs (but not my OEM B1 clamp). It's best to keep the clamp tight when not in use.
  6. The RRS clamp is easy to install. Any klutz could do it (and I've known a lot of them).
  7. Thank you, Edward, I was hoping that you would respond. ;o)
    One of the used B1 heads that I'm looking at, has the plate and stud for direct camera mounting. It looks like it has a 3/8-16 stud, but I can't say for sure whether or not it might be 1/4-20. All I have to go on is a photo of it. Another has a screw clamp, and neither has the gray tension knob. There's also a used Z1, an older model with the single shoulder clamp, as opposed to the newer double shoulder ones that AS is now including. The least expensive, at the current time, is the B1 w/platform and stud, followed by the B1 w/fixed clamp, and then the Z1 w/older style clamp.
    I'm not sure how I would save $80 on a new model Z1, do you mind explaining that one to me? Below is a pic of the platform & stud style that I'm looking at (only this pic is of the current Z1 variety, instead of the exact B1 I'm considering). Will an RRS clamp screw onto that stud?
  8. I wasn't aware that Arca now has a lever clamp, you learn something new everyday. My comments only refer to the Arca Z1 sp screw clamp -version (available on B&H for $389.95). Have recently been using it for hours in well below freezing and have no complaints, it's easy and secure to operate also with gloves on.
    To confuse matters, at least the Z1 seems to come in a similar screw platform as the above picture of the B1, but both as 1/4" and 3/8" versions. On B&H they're only $25 cheaper than the model with the screw clamp.
  9. Yeah, Oskar, it's confusing me too.
  10. Save $80 - The Z1 with the platform and stud is about $320, whereas the Z1 with a clamp starts at about $400. Use the savings to buy an RRS clamp - about $80 for the screw-type.
    The stud on the Z1 platform screws into the stem of the ball, and the platform fits onto the stud, held in place with a lock nut. The stem has keys to keep the platform (or clamp) from rotating on the stem. The stud is reversible, with either the 3/8-16 or 1/4-20 end exposed.
    The RRS clamp for the Z1 engages the keys on the stem, and is held in place with a flat-head cap screw, which is available from RRS. This is all explained in tutorials at the RRS website.
  11. It appears that Arca re-engineered the clamp to reduce costs, including use of a plastic lever. This, plus competetive pressure from RRS and others, appears to have reduced the difference in cost between the clamp and platform.
    Regardless of cost, the Arca is arguably the best ball head based on simplicity of operation (single knob) and tension control, and RRS has arguably the best and most versatile QR system.
  12. Actually, the new Z1 runs $365 without a clamp, and $390 with a clamp (screw type), for a difference of $25. Adding an RRS clamp raises the price another $80 (screw type) to a new Z1. So, a good price on a used AS head would certainly be attractive. Finding that good price is not always an easy task. I'd like to find a used B1 with the gray tension knob, but so far I haven't been able to.
  13. I have two B1s I've had for over 10 years. They both have the grey tension screws. Never any lock ups. I did put RRS quick release plates on them. The elliptical ball is the best in the business for controlling big lens.
  14. The Z1 has gone up $50 since I last looked, or more accurately, the US dollar has declined in value against the Euro. Regardless, it is still less than I paid for my B1 5 years ago. I would still pay the extra money and attach an RRS clamp. I can't imagine how a double-decker clamp (Arca) would have any practical advantage. It is probably a "design" patent for a proprietary plate rather than a fundamental breakthrough.
    Although it is not advertized as such, the locking knob of an Arca head has a very gradual action, which provides the engine behind its superior tension control (together with the elongated ball). The tension thumbwheel merely sets how far the locking knob will back off. I never use it simply because each camera is different, and it is so easy to modulate the tension using the main knob.
    For example, if I need to fine-tune the level of the camera, I just back off a bit so I can push the camera into alignment. It doesn't stick and doesn't flop like every other head I've used. Most tension controls are simply a secondary locking knob (e.g., the RRS BH-55). The main knob is either on or off with little range in between.
  15. Unfortunately, used B1's w/ gray tension knob are currently made of unobtanium. I do have an eye on a used Z1, and perhaps I can get it for a decent price that will allow me to throw in a RRS screw type clamp, and not exceed the cost of a new Z1. That one has an AS screw clamp, so it would be useable until I got a new RRS clamp for it.
    I have heard of problems with that new style double shoulder clamp, but this used Z1 has the older single shoulder clamp, plus it's the solid one piece stem version.
  16. Does anyone have pictures of these different clamp styles that Arca has offered? I'm interested because I haven't come across any problems with my clamp, but there seem to be more problematic version (and I also use an RRS clamp on a regular basis).
    Edward pretty much sums it up why this head is great. Especially in macro, this head will show its superiority to any sub-$300 head by its extremely smooth adjustment and locking.
  17. Does anyone have pictures of these different clamp styles that Arca has offered?​
    Oskar, see this link for your answers. They also have great answers on troubleshooting the occasional stuck ball or knob problems that happens with this great ballhead -- mostly due to operator error ;)
    I've been using the B1 for 8 yrs and am very happy with it.
  18. I recently bought the Z1 with 1/4 thread and then added the RRS lever release. It was relatively easy to do once I used the correct socket wrench. The combination is absolutely perfect. I have not used other high end ball heads, but I cannot imagine how anything could work better.
  19. That is an easy task with the new Z1, Ted, along with the newer versions of the B1. However, you can't do that with older B1 models. They do not accept a socket, the head must be disassembled.
  20. I bought a Z1 with a lever clamp that I did not like. I removed it (after some effort) and replaced it with a RRS screw clamp, which seems to hold more firmly than the lever clamp. On the other hand, I subsequently bought another Z1 with the screw clamp from Arca-Swiss.
    I cannot really say that I can tell any difference in operation between the two, which are now functioning with screw clamps, one by A-S and the other by RRS. I am told that the screw clamp by either company does indeed hold tighter than the corresponding lever clamp. It is difficult to prove that, but I believe that it is true.
    If one is in doubt on questions like this, Ellis Vener always seems to know the answers--and he was once kind enough to send me an e-mail giving me a number to call. I could not believe that a pro as busy as he would take the time to help me, a bungling amateur, but he did--talking on the phone for a good half hour or so.
  21. One very important note regarding the RRS lever clamps (and maybe lever clamps in general?) . . . RRS tells us:
    "Due to wide variations in other brands of Arca-Swiss compatible plates, we recommend using our lever-release clamps only with Really Right Stuff or Wimberley brand quick-release plates."
    They ain't kidding. I had (note past tense) an RRS lever clamp and tried to use it with one of my Markins plates. It slipped right out of the clamp!
  22. Yep, I'm looking for a screw type clamp. I have an RRS L bracket, but I might also have other branded plates in the future, so I don't wan to lock myself out of that possibility with a restrictive sized lever clamp from RRS.
    All of the B1's that I'm finding on the big auction site are pretty old. None as late as having the gray (silver) tension knob, or even a user changeable clamp. With a head that old there's every possibility that it could need to be re-furbed. Not that it can't be made as good as new, but none of that comes without cost. That makes it a daunting task to get a B1 that doesn't fall into that category. When you start to go beyond the cost of a new Z1 to make the used B1 serviceable, the new Z1 begins to look ever more attractive.
    Bob Watkins, of PCW, tells me that they like to replace the parts that hold the ball in place on older heads, roughly a $100 job with labor ($68), plus shipping charges. Then if any other parts are needed, the parts cost goes up, naturally. At least with a new Z1, I can change out the clamp on my own, and it won't need service. Of course they come with that stupid double shoulder clamp, but with care maybe it will serve for awhile. Then again I might be able to spin off that clamp on the big auction site to help offset the cost of an RRS clamp to replace it with.
    I's just not easy finding exactly what you want in a ball head without spending beyond the cost of a new model.
  23. I believe the Kirk plates work in the RRS lever QR. I use two (on Nikon 200/4 macro and 500/8) without any problems.
  24. Well, this morning B&H put a used B1 on their website, and this one already has an RRS clamp! Talk about a stroke of luck! No, it isn't perfect, because it's a lever style clamp instead of the screw type. But, the B1 is at least a generation 4 model, if not a 5th generation, and I can use the lever clamp with my RRS L bracket until I can get a screw type clamp to replace it. I'm guessing that I can probably get enough out of even a used RRS lever clamp/w/spirit level on the big auction site to pay for a new screw type clamp. AND, I'm into this head/clamp combo for under $300, thus I'm a happy camper!
    Thanks to all who contributed to this thread! I'm tipping one in your honor as I type. :eek:)
  25. The B1 arrived last evening, and I haven't had a chance to do any shooting with it yet. But, I have to say that just playing around with it and the RRS lever clamp has me loving that lever clamp already. If I stay with RRS plates, then I don't see foresee any issues staying with the lever clamp instead of the screw clamp. However, I could be wrong, so hopefully, this is the place to tell me why not. ;o)

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