Did Kirk copy RRS or Vice-Versa?

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by fpetronio, Dec 21, 2012.

  1. What is the story between Really Right Stuff and Kirk Enterprises? I get the impression that Kirk slavishly copies
    whatever RRS invents and then sells it a few bucks cheaper. Then the Chinese copy Kirk.

    What is the back story from when those companies started?
     
  2. This same question was asked on the Nikonians' website on 18-Aug-2009.
    No one could answer it then. Unless there was a lawsuit by either one of the companies, then we will never know, would we?
    The Chinese would be Induro/Benro.
     
  3. Unless my memory of the 90's fails me (and it might), Kirk was first out, but RRS came along with a higher-quality product, with plates that were much more "custom" for each body. Kirk had a smaller number of more generic plates that maybe weren't quite as well made.
     
  4. In any case, if anybody was copying anybody, it was both of them copying Arca-Swiss, who made the ball heads that the plates worked with originally.
     
  5. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Arca Swiss came up with the quick release "dave tail" dimensions. The story I heard back in 1997 from a professional nature photographer (I think it is reliable but I did not verify) was that the original owners of RRS (a husband and wife team) ordered a bunch of dedicated plates from Kirk and derived their design from Kirk products, and then they returned those kirk plates for a refund. Back then, RRS didn't have much of a web presence, and I had to order their stuff over the phone and then send them a check, as those original owners said that they would never accept credit cards. Needless to say that was a slow process as they would wait for the check to clear before they shipped. RRS is in California and I was on the US East Coast back then.
    Ownership has changed hands at RRS and both companies have evolved quite a bit since those "old" days. The current RRS owners are another husband and wife team. The wife is Chinese and they lived in China for a few years before they purchased RRS. The first time I called, the husband (a Caucasian American) noticed my name is Chinese and spoke some Chinese to me. They have taken the company much much further from the days RRS wouldn't accept credit cards.
     
  6. I think Shun is right. RRS's first plates were probably clones of Kirk plates, but by the time I was familiar with them they had probably expanded the line? Anyway, yes I do remember the original owner. I wouldn't go so far as to say he was the Soup Nazi of quick-release plates, but could be crotchety.
     
  7. . . . was that the original owners of RRS (a husband and wife team) ordered a bunch of dedicated plates from Kirk and derived their design from Kirk products, and then they returned those kirk plates for a refund.​
    If the story is true (and Shun, above, couldn't be sure) it would be no wonder that Bryan Geyer and his wife didn't allow returns back then. They wouldn't want anyone doing the same thing to them. I didn't know the story when I used to order from RRS. I usually spoke to Bryan Geyer, sometimes at length. It was a pleasure, even when he was crotchety and complained about this thing or that. With the CEOs of most companies, you have no idea what they're like unless you see them on the news being arrested.
    In the last few years I've found it easier to buy from Kirk.
     
  8. I'm amazed at the depth and prices of the RRS product line, that there is a market for all of it. Everything I've bought has
    been top-notch and it's even more impressive that its made in the USA. It's very interesting that the owner speaks
    Chinese yet has a domestic manufacturing operation.

    But... now I don't feel so bad about buying a Kirk product either. Thanks
     
  9. Competition... that what makes America great!
     
  10. Competition... that what makes America great!​
    Don't forget that your American competition are the Chinese. Some are paid by American companies so that American companies can stay alive.
     
  11. Whether they're American doesn't make much difference to me (in the UK), but I have to say that the two RRS products I own (D800 L-plate and a TVC-34L) are very well made, and they were extremely supportive (ho ho) on the phone. It's a shame that they - like Arca-Swiss - aren't easier to buy. I've nothing against Kirk - whose plates are slightly easier to get over here - but I happened to prefer the design of the RRS plate (more contact area; the Kirk one loses out when in "cable access mode").

    Arca-compatible manufacturers copying each other - or possibly people dodging lawsuits - is the reason that I've got screw-style Arca clamps rather than flip quick releases. If everyone had copied the size properly, there wouldn't be incompatibilities between "compatible" systems and I wouldn't need the slop the thumbscrews allow. I don't know why - if it's true - RRS would have measured Kirk products rather than getting genuine Arca plates to copy... well, I do, because it's a pain to order genuine Arca-Swiss stuff, but it still would have been better to go to the source. Even so, I would say there's a difference between copying the measurements of the attachment and producing a complete copy - but I'm not sure what we might have been talking about here.

    Arca seem to be more annoyed by others using their system than they are willing to take advantage of it - hence the introduction of the incompatible "slide fix" or "monoball fix" (which is so incompatible they can't work out what to call it) system. I can't imagine it catching on. IMHO Arca would be better just concentrating on making the best heads they can and let the third parties support them - Arca is obliged by French law to be a small company, which means they should let the mass production be handled for low margin parts by others. I'm sympathetic to them for the clone of the Cube, however preposterously expensive the original is (could be worse, I don't know how Linhof manage to charge so much). It's a shame my D4 has quite such a prominent "patented design" mark on it as a consequence.

    (Incidentally, Shun, dove-tail, not "dave-tail", unless that was a typo [do you use a Dvorak keyboard?] - the tails of doves are short and fan out like the profile of the plate.)
     
  12. The comment that RRS plates are higher quality has been floated again and again. I have not seen that and have
    pieces from both companies that are relatively old and have used both products and found them at least equal in
    precision and accuracy that they satisfy my needs for form fit and function. I have preferences from both lines. Both
    companies' newer stuff seem IMHO are better more "evolved" than earlier products. Good hunting.
     
  13. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    I have RRS plates, a ballhead and a clamp. I'm very happy with the products though as Andrew above mentions its not terribly economic to buy them in the UK, with expensive shipping and the carrier holding out his hand for duty, VAT and an admin fee for collecting the duty and VAT. In reality you won't know without a fair bit of work what the total cost of their goods is going to be before you receive them and I'd bet that this puts some people off. I'm sure RRS would be a lot cheaper here if they had an agent buying in bulk, promoting the products and so on.
     
  14. David - funny you should mention that. While I have found a UK online retailer that stocks some RRS products (my L-plate came from them), I was in Wex Photographic yesterday collecting a lens, and showed them my range of stuff that they didn't stock. They seemed impressed by the TVC-34L, and I'll certainly be encouraging them to try to talk to RRS when I get the chance to email (probably tomorrow). No guarantee that it happens, but it'd be nice to recommend these products to people in the UK more easily. I actually made a point of buying my TVC-34L while in the US, so that I could return it easily once I'd seen it if I had to (I don't like buying tripods - or camera bags - without seeing them); fortunately, I'm very happy with it, although I've not had it long. Having a UK stockist would do them a lot of good with people like me.

    Incidentally, speaking of the "waiting for a cheque to clear" story, Arca have the same problem (via magasin.arca-swiss.com). It was somewhat nerve-wracking sending them a bank transfer for the price of a D4, then waiting several weeks for it to be shipped. Again, fortunately I'm happy with the result (and Henri was very helpful, with a bit of help from Google Translate). Now if only it was easy to get a Burzynski...
     
  15. I have that RRS tripod too... I wish they made a good pan-tilt head to go with it. But it is the best photo tripod ever!
     
  16. Kirk started off as a distributor for Arca-Swiss heads (among others) and then started making lighter weight versions of
    the original Arca-Swiss quick release plates and Arca-Swiss compatible clamps that could be installed on other tripod
    heads.
    Back in the early and mid-nineties Arca-Swiss was distributed by Tekno, inc in Chicago (along with Balcar and a couple of
    other companies) Tekno floundered and A-S distribution sort of got lost in the shuffle until a commercial photographer in
    Chicago named Diane Henry-Graham started representing them. It was hard to find The Arca-Swiss view cameras and
    tripod heads but their reputation was growing through word of mouth and the fledging Internet (primarily through Philip
    Greenspun's and other folk s recommendation on photo.net. Arca-Swiss had been taken over by Mr. Vogt and his son
    and had greatly advanced ballhead design with the B1 and B2 Monoballs and a patented aspheric ball design . The B1
    earned Arca-Swiss their reputation as a designer of high end tripod heads because it could easily deal with heavier
    camera and lens combinations than much larger and heavier spherical ballheads especially those than used grease like
    lubricants.

    In response to the availability problem, My understanding is that the first Kirk ballhead copied the A-S aspheric ball
    shape which they then had to withdraw because Arca-Swiss protected their patent from infringement.

    RRS started up shortly after Kirk but retained good relations with Arca-Swiss.

    Shun's version is basically correct in all respects.
     
  17. Kirk started off as a distributor for Arca-Swiss heads (among others) and then started making lighter weight versions of
    the original Arca-Swiss quick release plates and Arca-Swiss compatible clamps that could be installed on other tripod
    heads.
    Back in the early and mid-nineties Arca-Swiss was distributed by Tekno, inc in Chicago (along with Balcar and a couple of
    other companies) Tekno floundered and A-S distribution sort of got lost in the shuffle until a commercial photographer in
    Chicago named Diane Henry-Graham started representing them. It was hard to find The Arca-Swiss view cameras and
    tripod heads but their reputation was growing through word of mouth and the fledging Internet (primarily through Philip
    Greenspun's and other folk s recommendation on photo.net. Arca-Swiss had been taken over by Mr. Vogt and his son
    and had greatly advanced ballhead design with the B1 and B2 Monoballs and a patented aspheric ball design . The B1
    earned Arca-Swiss their reputation as a designer of high end tripod heads because it could easily deal with heavier
    camera and lens combinations than much larger and heavier spherical ballheads especially those than used grease like
    lubricants.

    In response to the availability problem, My understanding is that the first Kirk ballhead copied the A-S aspheric ball
    shape which they then had to withdraw because Arca-Swiss protected their patent from infringement.

    RRS started up shortly after Kirk but retained good relations with Arca-Swiss.

    Shun's version is basically correct in all respects.
     
  18. Kirk started off as a distributor for Arca-Swiss heads (among others) and then started making lighter weight versions of
    the original Arca-Swiss quick release plates and Arca-Swiss compatible clamps that could be installed on other tripod
    heads.
    Back in the early and mid-nineties Arca-Swiss was distributed by Tekno, inc in Chicago (along with Balcar and a couple of
    other companies) Tekno floundered and A-S distribution sort of got lost in the shuffle until a commercial photographer in
    Chicago named Diane Henry-Graham started representing them. It was hard to find The Arca-Swiss view cameras and
    tripod heads but their reputation was growing through word of mouth and the fledging Internet (primarily through Philip
    Greenspun's and other folk s recommendation on photo.net. Arca-Swiss had been taken over by Mr. Vogt and his son
    and had greatly advanced ballhead design with the B1 and B2 Monoballs and a patented aspheric ball design . The B1
    earned Arca-Swiss their reputation as a designer of high end tripod heads because it could easily deal with heavier
    camera and lens combinations than much larger and heavier spherical ballheads especially those than used grease like
    lubricants.

    In response to the availability problem, My understanding is that the first Kirk ballhead copied the A-S aspheric ball
    shape which they then had to withdraw because Arca-Swiss protected their patent from infringement.

    RRS started up shortly after Kirk but retained good relations with Arca-Swiss.

    Shun's version is basically correct in all respects.
     
  19. Kirk started off as a distributor for Arca-Swiss heads (among others) and then started making lighter weight versions of
    the original Arca-Swiss quick release plates and Arca-Swiss compatible clamps that could be installed on other tripod
    heads.
    Back in the early and mid-nineties Arca-Swiss was distributed by Tekno, inc in Chicago (along with Balcar and a couple of
    other companies) Tekno floundered and A-S distribution sort of got lost in the shuffle until a commercial photographer in
    Chicago named Diane Henry-Graham started representing them. It was hard to find The Arca-Swiss view cameras and
    tripod heads but their reputation was growing through word of mouth and the fledging Internet (primarily through Philip
    Greenspun's and other folk s recommendation on photo.net. Arca-Swiss had been taken over by Mr. Vogt and his son
    and had greatly advanced ballhead design with the B1 and B2 Monoballs and a patented aspheric ball design . The B1
    earned Arca-Swiss their reputation as a designer of high end tripod heads because it could easily deal with heavier
    camera and lens combinations than much larger and heavier spherical ballheads especially those than used grease like
    lubricants.

    In response to the availability problem, My understanding is that the first Kirk ballhead copied the A-S aspheric ball
    shape which they then had to withdraw because Arca-Swiss protected their patent from infringement.

    RRS started up shortly after Kirk but retained good relations with Arca-Swiss.

    Shun's version is basically correct in all respects.
     
  20. Kirk started off as a distributor for Arca-Swiss heads (among others) and then started making lighter weight versions of
    the original Arca-Swiss quick release plates and Arca-Swiss compatible clamps that could be installed on other tripod
    heads.
    Back in the early and mid-nineties Arca-Swiss was distributed by Tekno, inc in Chicago (along with Balcar and a couple of
    other companies) Tekno floundered and A-S distribution sort of got lost in the shuffle until a commercial photographer in
    Chicago named Diane Henry-Graham started representing them. It was hard to find The Arca-Swiss view cameras and
    tripod heads but their reputation was growing through word of mouth and the fledging Internet (primarily through Philip
    Greenspun's and other folk's recommendation on photo.net. Arca-Swiss had been taken over by Mr. Vogt and his son
    and had greatly advanced ballhead design with the B1 and B2 Monoballs and a patented aspheric ball design . The B1
    earned Arca-Swiss their reputation as a designer of high end tripod heads because it could easily deal with heavier
    camera and lens combinations than much larger and heavier spherical ballheads especially those than used grease like
    lubricants.

    In response to the availability problem, My understanding is that the first Kirk ballhead copied the A-S aspheric ball
    shape which they then had to withdraw because Arca-Swiss protected their patent from infringement.

    RRS started up shortly after Kirk but retained good relations with Arca-Swiss.

    Shun's version is basically correct in all respects.

    Arca-Swiss remains a very small family operation now based in France, just over the border from Switzerland, as Switzerland is not part of the EU. In the USA they are now represented by Rod Klukas in Arizona and he has been working at building up a USA dealer network for their innovative camera and head designs.
     
  21. Photo.net has gone mad and posted and reported by post multiple times. Not my fault.
     
  22. To Frank's original question: both RRS and Kirk Enterprise have innovated. If I buy new gear from either company it is
    from RRS but that is strictly because it fits my needs better. I do not own heads from either company.
     
  23. pvp

    pvp

    Rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock.
    I think Kirk and RRS both copied Vice-Versa, although I've never seen any of Vice-Versa's products for sale.
     
  24. Vice-Versa, ltd. hasn't released product for sale as they keep tweaking the materials and designs. :)
     
  25. Information provided to me by an Arca Swiss ballhead distributor said the RRS lens and camera plates have clearance issues with A-S Z1 ball head quick release levers. I have not witnessed nor can confirm this claim. If the claim is true, then to avoid compatibility issues with RRS plates and A-S Z series ballheads, Kirk is the brand to buy.
     
  26. Peter J: not true in my experience.
     
  27. Thanks Ellis.
     

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