Which ballhead?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by leonard_forte|1, Mar 22, 2009.

  1. I want to buy a good ball head. I've narrowed it to Markins M20, Kirk BH-1 and really right stuff BH-55.
    The least and most expensive of the three are the Kirk BH-1 and BH-55 respectively. I am leaning toward the Markins M20 but I've read about the panning base not locking fully and about binding in the cold. I'd like to hear form Markins M20 users regarding this and regarding customer service.
  2. I have a BH-1 and I am 100% satisfied with the ball head and all their products. Also they have a great costumer service and their delivery system is really fast. Before buying the BH-1 I look in Photo Net for reviews and comments of all the most popular ball heads. The BH-55 also has very good reviews. Good luck!
  3. I've had the Arca Swiss B1, the Kirk BH-1, and the RRS BH-55. The BH-55 is by far the best ballhead I have owned. It handles the easiest of any of them. It is worth the extra $$$.
  4. Of those choices, get the RRS BH-55. With tripods and heads it is usually cheaper in the medium and long run to get the best thing you can afford
  5. The problem with the BH-55 (for me)is cost. With camera plate its over $510 (about $700 for me in Canadian $). What about Markins M20? Will it not do the job as well as the RRS head?
  6. I agree with Alan and Ellis. The BH-55 is excellent. You have a choice of clamp styles: screw or lever. The lever is more convenient but works only with plates from RRS or Wimberley (and not all from Wimberley). It's also slightly more expensive.
  7. Will the RRS BH-55 last me a lifetime (with proper use and care)?
  8. Leonard,
    I am in Toronto and bought the Markins M10, partially to avoid the huge costs of the other choices. It was not just the original cost, but the added FEDEX fees, fixed brokerage charge of $50 plus taxes on top of everything. Markins will ship by mail from BC saving a lot of money for better purposes.
    I have not used it in really cold conditions, only about -10C, but had no problems. The most I use it with is a D300 with Sigma's big 120-300 f2.8 -- a total of about 8 lbs. The action is smooth and the friction can be easily adjusted. It works fine for me.
  9. Leonard, I think it depends on how well you take care of your equipment. I would say it will last a lifetime with proper care. I couldn't believe the quality when I received mine. I can't imagine what they could do to make it better. The ballhead does have a 5 year warranty.
    I even dropped mine once (while hiking...stuff happens) on rock, and other than a little fleck in the metal, it was fine. I've had mine a few years with no problems. I have the BH-40 because I didn't think I would need the load-bearing weight of the BH-55 (and so far I've been correct), and I always try to keep my equipment light.
  10. To add to your confusion: I went through the same exercise at the end of last year. Read lots of threads, went in circles and changed my mind multiple times. In the end, it seemed like among the better ballheads, the BH-1 was a good bang for the buck so that's what I got. Solid head, very smooth, no regrets.
  11. Another vote for RRS ... they produce high quality products.
  12. I prefer the aspherical ball of the Arca-Swiss B1. The second generation B1 did not have the lock-up issues of the first generation and also had some other improvements. I am not sure about the third generation Arca-Swiss, the Z1. I am reading that they made the stem two pieces, glued together. The newer models are apparently secure; however, the earlier ones were not; and there is no way to tell them apart.
    I would probably go with the Really Right Stuff BH55-Pro with the screw (rather than the lever) quick-release at this point in time if I were buying new.
  13. I generally use my tripod in some pretty nasty winter weather such as Minnesota blizzards. The open design of the AcraTech ultimate ballhead have worked absolutely perfectly for me in conditions that have been known to lock up other ballheads. I once had it out most of a day when it was 42 below zero. No issues at all. Its open and easy to clean design, plus light weight and 26 pound capacity were all important to me. I think I've had it for five years now and never had a single issue with it. Just about every other piece of gear I've owned in that time has been either damaged or totally destroyed, to give you an idea. At a ny rate, I wouldn't consider the relatively small differences in prices between ballheads be a factor. A really good ballhead is something you will use for years if not decades.

    Kent in SD
  14. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    In October last year, I was on a photo trip with about 18 serious photographers. Well over 50% in the gorup was using RRS's BH-55, including John Shaw, who was one of the leaders, and me.
    I still own an Arca Swiss B1, which I used for about a decade. the BH-55 is clearly the better head now. I am sure it can easier last me another decade.
  15. Lots of votes for RRS BH-55. Thank you for your opinions.
    Any votes for Markins?
  16. D N,
    I also prefer the aspherical ball of the Arca-Swiss heads, but it wasn't on his short lest.
  17. Haven't tried those, but after some research bough an Arca Swiss Z1 and haven't had a regret -- it's a great head. That said, people have different needs. I cannot say if the BH-55 is better, but I can say that I don't need anything better than the Z1 right now. The bottom line is that either you can go with the BH-55, which seems to have no risk, or you can actually find users for the other heads and find out how good the heads are. Depending on what you do, you might not actually need the BH-55.
  18. I'm using several Burzynski heads on my various Sachtler tripods. Sometimes it's better to go for the best quality not the most popular alternative.
  19. I use a Markins M20. Last week I went out shooting with a lady who has a RRS ballhead. All I could think of what how huge & clumsy it looked. I've hand my Markins M20 for about 2 years now & I love it. It even balances my Sigmonster - if I need it to (though I do have a Wimberely) - that's how strong it is.
    Lil :)
  20. Another vote for the Arca Swiss Z1p.
  21. Bjorn - I've done a search on the Burzynski ballheads & find that within the US this is not one I've found even available. Ordering from Germany will be expensive I'm sure. It looks great in the fact that it looks simple & uncomplicated. But it does seem that getting it here & paying potentially tax etc etc etc - maybe going with a more easily attained ballhead would be more appropriate.
    But I don't know where Leonard is located. Sometimes - often- I wish I knew where people are located, would be not only fun to know, but make it easier in situations like this.
    Has anyone ever suggested we get that feature added to photo.net?
    Lil :)
  22. Sometimes it's better to go for the best quality not the most popular alternative​
    The assumption is that these are distinct. Not necessarily. In what publication have the BH-55 and the Burzynski been reviewed side by side?
  23. I found, via a search, a site that has several of these heads compared. I do not know anything about the site, but here it is anyway .
  24. I have both the BH-55 and the BH-40. Both are a dream to use and I don't regret either purchase. The BH-55 is huge and bulky to lug around (though no worse than the Arca-Swiss) so the BH-40 could be a better choice if you are using gear of modest weight and size (no really long telephotos). Both are very easy to use once on the tripod- like any really good gear they just get out of the way.
    Bill DeJager
  25. Lil, I am in Canada.
    The heaviest I would use probably for a while would be a nikon D200 or D300 and a nikon 300mm AFS with a 1.4x TC. Maybe the BH-40 would be sufficient. I would like (before I'm gone) to get a nikon 200-400 mm VR.
  26. i have the arca Z1 with the RRS L-shaped release plate.. a sweet setup!
  27. I used to own a Arka-Swiss ballhead. The ultimate ballhead. Now I have a Gitzo ( with Arka-Swiss quick release ) on my Gitzo tripod, bigger then the Arka-Swiss was. The Kirk-Enterprise and the Markins M20, an exact copy of the original, very expensive Arka-Swiss. If you are in Canada, buy the Markins M20, and save some money. It is very nicely made and because an exact copy of the Arka-Swiss, it working very nicely. But, you has to handle with care, like a Swiss watch.
  28. Friends have had the BH-55 or various Arca models and followed me over to the Burzynski after we've done field trips together. Tripods: same story.
    I maintain that the idea of a popular product by necessity is the best choice is open to question. My Sachtlers have served me well for over 20 years and the Burzynskis are on their tenth anniversary now. They'll last me a life time. Seen in that context, somewhat higher price is meaningless as a decision parameter. What professionals need from their gear is reliability.
  29. I have both the Arca Swiss (B1) and RRS (55) heads. I have not tried the Z1.
    My Arca Swiss locked on me in transit on trip. I was positive that I did not leave it in a tightened position during transit but who really cares? It was a pretty expensive item to fail over routine transit (simple drive to Yosemite). The solution to unlocking the older B-1 series is crazy but worked. You just keep tightening and it pops unlocked. Unfortunately then it was not as smooth again and needed servicing. Servicing took forever but it came back with some internal upgrades and has remained working perfectly for me for the past 2 years.
    However, while waiting for service I needed a replacement and bought the RRS 55. While pricey, I like it more and have nothing negative to say other than the neoprene case it came with then could have been designed better (case should easily make a full seal vs dust...not that anythign has gotten in to my RRS head but still on principle the case needed some minor design tweaks). I have not used Markins or Kirk.
    Kirk makes good stuff in general and I have not heard many negative comments on them on anything they do. However, I just have never had any problems from the folks in SLO (RRS) and keep giving them business based on that.
    Unfortunately it is hard to get your hands on RRS, Kirk and etc to compare. Possibly attending something like PMA works well for this but honestly ferreting out suggestions on photo.net may work well. Certainly if RRS had problems you would hear a lot of complaining on this board.
    As for Arca Swiss, even though both my heads are working perfectly now, I like the RRS one better. Level helps a little, quick release clap is better than screw, and it helps a little that it is slightly lower.
    Of note, I like this ball head end user summary: http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl...122&tbnw=108&prev=/images?q=Markins+M20&hl=en
  30. I am with Lil. I have been using Markins M20 since it became available. I see no reason to switch to another. I love the small footprint. For some reason the RRS ballhead is an "in thing" at this time. Hwvr, it does not tempt me. LOL! Only one suggestion, it will be better to use an RRS clamp on it. So, if you get it, buy the version without the clamp on top.

    Yes, I load the 200-400mm with Wimberley Sidekick on it.

    Good luck with your choice,
  31. I would second Kent. I love the open construction of my Acratech GV2.
    Burzynsky requires L-bracket for the camera unless you exclusively work with lenses with tripod collars. Otherwise you cannot set the camera to the portrait orientation.
  32. The Burzynski recommendation deserves a lot of warnings:
    1) I don't think it is sold in either Canada or the US. You will be paying a decent amount for shipping/customs and will need to ponder support issues.
    2) Since you are not likely shooting with a 6X6, you need to get L brackets for your bodies (unless mounting to a lens with a rotating colar).
    3) You will likely want to buy a panning 3rd party arca-swiss styled quick release plate to put on the head.
    4) I don't get why Bjorn didn't reference his own review of it (which seems very well done... http://www.naturfotograf.com/burzynski.html )
    I am not disputing that this could be the best solution out there. It's just unsupported and extremely pricey when comparing apples to apples:
    Ball head 360EUR (https://www.isarfoto.com/cms.php/_pid:22383,l:500,pp:1,ps:az,st:Burzynski/de/0/Produkt.html )
    Shipping to Canada/US 119EUR (possibly 99EUR...I don't speak German and don't want to rely on freetranslations.com to figure out the differences in the 2 shipping prices)
    Difference between L plate and standard plate for my camera $85USD (140USD vs 55USD using Really Right Stuff quotes for 5D mk ii)
    Panning Clamp $235 (quoting RRS PL-1)
    360EUR+119EUR+$85USD+$235USD = about $974.18USD or $1,202.59CAD (using www.xe.com for exchange rates)
    RRS - 55 with panning base = 455USD + 57.83 shipping (RRS was closed so I used fastest insured rate to Canada as basis...RRS did not quote online but gave link to USPS.gov). Total is $512.83USD or $632.75CAD
    RRS - 55 with dual pan = 575USD +57.83 (though I don't understand the need for a panning base and panning clamp and this would not be an apples to apples comparison then as the Burzynski would not have the matching base.)
    In any event, the Burzynski will end up costing a bit less than 2X the cost of the RRS - 55 should you wish to match functionality capabilities. I can't tell you that the Burzynski is better or worse but it certainly is not in the same ball park pricing wise if you are buying here and wishing to match panning and vertical shooting capabilities.
  33. Leonard,
    I've had the Markins M10 for about a year and love it. I use it on a Manfrotto tripod for my Olympus E510. My "big" lens is the 50-200mm Zuiko. Works very smoothly and stays where I put it.
    The panning feature does have to be tighten well but it only takes a little time to get used to it. As far as locking up in cold weather, I've found the mechanism works fine in cold weather, but while composing through the viewfinder my breath would condense on the ball itself and freeze the motion a little. Just took a little back-and-forth to release it. Composing via LiveView screen doesn't cause this problem since I'm not breathing on the ballhead.
    I especially like the small locking screw built into the main knob that allows me to easily set the release tension but doesn't present yet another knob to get confused with.
  34. If I was considering spending the money for BH-55, I would go with Arca Swiss Z1. I have used all three of the heads you mentioned and Arca Swiss is by far the best head I have ever used. None of others will maintain same tension when camera is pointed downwards. Makes for a nice smooth working head with plenty of strength to spare. I have owned a B1 for about five years now and another before that for about 2 years and never once had problem with mine, never locked up once.
  35. I have the Markins M-20 on top of a Gitzo three series carbon fiber tripod, and I love them both. I use the M-20 outdoors, in the winter, at night, in the snow, north of Plattsburgh, NY, on the shore of Lake Champlain. I have used them in the Adirondack mountains, and have taken them into creeks of the Adirondacks. No problemo. I was shooting before sunrise in the cold this morning and yesterday morning, at North Point on Point au Roche. I have had no problems at all. The M-20 is far, far more ball head strength than my current heaviest gear, D300 with 70-200mm + TC14E, and with older manual focus Nikkor combinations, such as 200mm F4 plus 2x converter (which is actually a bit of a bear because there is no lens foot -- the whole combination is cantilevered off the camera front on the ball head).
    I figure the M-20 has the strength to deal with much heavier gear when and if I figure out how to to afford them.
    I am sure the RRS and Kirk are fine products; I have plates from them, and from Wimberly too; they are all similar quality as far as plates go. I'd say pick the features that you want, and then pick the head that comes the closest. Years from now, the price will not be that much difference from one another, and you will rue not getting what you wanted. (Same theory as buying the tripod for the rest of your life.)
    For review of Markins heads and some comparison on a weight vs strength basis to Kirk, etc.:
    For a cute video of the M-20's predecessor with a heavy weight Nikon 800mm lens in its sweet spot, scroll down to the last video on this page:
    Again, I suggest getting the features you want, and, if at all possible, try to ignore the price differences.
  36. I've been bashing my Kirk BH-1 all over the world up and down mountains and deserts for years now and it still works like a dream. All of the ballheads you list are known to be high quality so there are not many grounds for trepidation in my view.
  37. There are a number of good choices. It's a good problem deciding which is best for you. I actually like the large knobs on the RRS BH-55, but other folks may prefer smaller knobs.
  38. I have the BH-55 and am quite satisfied with it. It is as smooth as silk and I love the quick release. I had a BH 40 for lighter gear but traded it for the Kirk BH-3. the BH 40 is too low profile and sometime awkward to use for that reason. It requires an extra movement of the binder as it will not clear the tripod if in the down configuration. You almost have to use one to understand what I mean by this. Not a really big deal but is annoying sometimes.
  39. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    My Arca Swiss B1 locked up numerous times in the 10 years I was using it. While I was always able to unlock it, it frequently happned at the most inconvenient time and could take a little while to unlock. That was what prompted me to buy the RRS BH-55 in the first place.
    I also talked to Joe Van Os, who owns a photo safari company that carries his name. Joe has taken his BH-55 to Antarctica some 30 times without any issues. There are a lot of scratch marks on his head due to frequent usage, though.
  40. As a Markins (M20) user, I can say that it has been a joy to use and has served me well. I find that I take most of my shots from a tripod mounted camera in all sorts of weather without a single problem. I have had a tendency to go camping over the past few years in January (don't ask) and I keep the tripod in my tent (but not in the sleeping bag!) and the cold has not had an adverse impact on its operation. I also purchased a Kirk L-Bracket (all for the D300) which make changing the orientation extremely fast.
    I thought about all of the options you are considering and after a lot of research and some questioning on a number of forums, I opted for the Markins. I've come to appreciate it as a fine piece of equipment.
  41. Get the BH-55. Period.
  42. I think that the need for an L-bracket when having a Burzynski is a moot point; using ball heads with a SLR without and L-bracket is a royal PITA IMHO. The camera position changes too much when tilting, the weight distribution is bad and the room for adjustment is too limited. A decent L-bracket is a basic requirement.
    What I don't fully understand is that how are steep angle shots done with a Burzynski? Or do Burzynski users have some extra gear with them when they have to shoot almost directly down?
  43. A big vote the Markins M-20. In my view, you can't go wrong with it. Besides being a beautifully engineered piece of equipment, its low weight and high carrying capacity beats allcomers, including the RRS BH-55, by some margin. I use it with a Wimberley sidekick for a 500mm f4 lens on a Gitzo 1325 tripod. It works like a charm. I've owned and used an Arca Swiss B1 (ball locked up) and the Kirk BH-3 and BH-1 heads. The Kirks do the job, but the friction knob seems to have only two settings: on or off.
    Comments like "get the BH-55. period" are simply not helpful - I'm sure the RRS product is a good one, but once you have the Markins you won't need it. Its all the ballhead you'll ever need, and its a joy using it.
  44. Hi Leonard: are you still selling that bronica body? I emailed you but no reply. Maybe you will see this thread
  45. I am leaning toward the Markins M20 but I've read about the panning base not locking fully and about binding in the cold.​
    Binding used to be the knock on the Markins but no more, they either fixed the problem or it wasn't there in the first place. I don't use a Markins ballhead but I made sure to get everything else I could from Markins except for the legs. I have a Markins base, three Markins clamps and and a set of Markins titanium spikes on my Gitzo tripod. All the Markins stuff I have is really well engineered and the build quality is excellent. My own choice of a ballhead was based more on the ergonomics of use given a similar level of technical competence. Many ballheads are very poorly designed from an ergonomics perspective.
  46. Fred mentioned the low profile of the RSS. For me that's an advantage because it makes the camera easier to handle when the ball is loose and you're adjusting the position. But I can imagine situations where it's a disadvantage. My previous ballhead was a medium size Linhof which was higher and heavier, but I did appreciate its smoothness, better than my BH-40.
  47. I have a Kirk BH-3 that has been more than adequate with a dslr attached to a 70-200 zoom. Naturally, I use the tripod collar on the lens The BH-3 is a big savings over the BH-1. Unless you are going to be mounting a 300 or 400 mm, I would have no reservations going with the less expensive option.
  48. Speed. Yes the Bronica is gone. Sorry
  49. I've used the Kirk BH-1 and the RRS BH-55 extensively. You can't go wrong with either of these amazing products.
    Kirk BH-1 pros: Classic deVery strong and durable. Controls are logically laid out and you can operate them easily without having to peek or grope. The tall design facilitates vertical orientation for cameras that don't have L-brackets. The BH-1 pan knob is smoother and easier to operate than the BH-55's pan knob.
    Kirk BH-1 cons: Adjustment is slightly more "floppy" than with the BH-55. The tension contol is touchy.
    BH-55 pros: The large knob is easy to grasp and operate. The low profile head is good for heavier cameras. Very strong and durable. Satin-smooth movement. Not nearly as heavy as it's size would suggest.
    BH-55 cons: Shorter design requires L-brackets for vertical orientation of the camera. The pan knob can "stick" and require a lot of strength to loosen. Some of the clamps won't support non-RRS plates. (I use the simplest (screw) clamp).
  50. At the bottom of the following page:
    there is a comment on how you could get the Burzynski ball head at reasonable S/H from France. A couple of years ago, I have decided for an Acratech Ultimate due to its low weight, and I am quite happy with it; however, I am not a professional.
  51. I used a Markins M-10 for 2-3 years, then downsized to a Q3 for the past year. Workmanship, operation, and finish are all excellent. The product box appropriately reads, "Fine Art Quality Professional Ball Head".
    Having a ballhead bind during damp/cold weather may not be unique to Markins. Some ballheads are made with a boot to keep out dust. Markins seem to bind in the left/right rotation direction, but not up/down. The reason is dust and moisture. This is quickly cured by a tiny application of WD-40. I use a WD-40 No Mess Pen.
    Touch the pen tip to a lint-free cloth, then apply to the entire ball surface while rotating. Finally, wipe away any excess. This removes dust and moisture and the ballhead once again moves silky smooth like new.
    Note: WD stands for Water Displacement ~ it's not a lubricant.
    This procedure is noted and explained under Cleaning and Maintenance in the Markins Operating Instructions which can be downloaded from:
    I was concerned the first time my M-10 starting binding a little. Applying/cleaning with WD-40 once before going out in the cold does the trick. While traveling, I carry the WD-40 pen.

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