The decision to get a ballhead was a no brainer. After having had a 3-way pan/tilt head, with three separate adjustments, and three knobs that seemed to catch on everything, it was a lay down misere.
As my maximum load is around the 2.5 kg mark, I was in the market for a mid range head. If I'm ever lucky enough to be able to acquire that 600mm monster of my dreams, I guess I'll also be lucky enough to be able to afford the gear to mount it on.
I am in the fortunate position (read that as retired, and watching my pennies) to be able to spend the time to do a fair bit of online research, and in my quest for the 'right head', I did heaps. I checked out every manufacturer I could find, from the long term market leaders to the emerging players from Korea and China.
As one of my main criteria was a head that was going to last me a very long time, a track record of longevity was a prerequisite. That is in no way a reflection on the newer manufacturers, hell, they all had to start somewhere, I just didn't want to buy from one that didn't quite cut the mustard a year or so down the track.
Most of the mid range heads matched up fairly closely with the 56mm base plate on the 055CXPRO3, however rated load capacities can be taken with a grain of salt, as there is no industry standard rating system.
I narrowed my choice down to the RRS BH-40, the Kirk BH-3, the Acratech GV2 and the Markins Q10, none of them cheap, but all very well thought of. These were the ones that had the most positive feedback in the dozens of forums I visited. There were some horror stories about some of the cheaper knock-offs.
RRS BH-40. A well regarded American manufacturer with a full range of dedicated camera plates and accessories. Maybe just a personal thing, but I tend to avoid levers on heads to minimise the chance of accidental dismount.
Kirk BH-3. Another top quality product from the USA, with dedicated camera and lens plates, but my requirements were probably somewhere between their BH-3 and their BH-1. The cheapest. Droop mentioned occasionally with gear my size.
Acratech GV2. Also from the States. I really like the open design of this ballhead as it has little chance of attracting gunk into the ball housing and is easy to clean. Was the second last head I deleted from my list. They offered me a 'special deal', 10% off RRP, on a factory second with cosmetic blemishes only, however one of their retailers were selling the same head, unblemished, for about $10.00 cheaper. They didn't get my business.
Markins Q10. These heads are made in Korea, and have gained an enviable reputation for quality and performance. They offer a full range of dedicated non-twist camera and lens plates. They are manufactured using top quality materials, and are hard anodised to give long lasting surface protection, as opposed to the powder coated finish used on some of the cheaper offerings. I did not come across one single complaint about droop or slippage, just the odd user who found the panning brake not to their liking. I find it locks quite well, and may only be an issue if your sling your tripod over your shoulder with your camera and big lens at 90 degrees.
I chose the Markins Q10.
It says on the boxI have no argument with that.Fine Art Quality. Professional "Ball Head"
The dedicated camera plate. Note the anti-twist flange.
It arrived in less than a week, direct from the Markins factory in Korea. They don't have dealers. It was very well packed and as I unwrapped it, I could not help but wonder whether it was going to live up to it's hype.
My first impression?
This thing is too damn pretty to mount my camera on. I want to hang it around my neck.
It seems too small and too light. They must have sent me the Q3 by mistake. Bugger. To be sure, I'll measure it and weigh it, and then contact them to arrange a swap.
Well cut me down and call me Shorty, this is actually the Q10. Gawd, this thing is never going to support the DA* 300.
I mounted it on my tripod, looks bloody brilliant, and grabbed the K20D and the 300, to which I'd fitted the lens plate. I'd chosen the screw release clamp over the lever type, because, as mentioned previously, in my mind it eliminates the chance of involuntary release.
The ball clamp is what Markins call "Bi-Axial Progressive", with a single large lock knob, and an incorporated finger tip operated drag lock. With your camera and lens mounted, you back off both adjustments until the ball is loose, then tighten the main control knob until you find the so called 'sweet spot', the point at which the ball wont sag, but can still be moved. You then use your fingertip on the second adjuster to lock the main knob.
When composing your shot the ball moves freely without any hint of droop, and when you are ready to shoot, all you need to do is tweak the main knob and the ball is locked, tight! You cant back the tension off with the main knob any further than where you have previously set it. So simple, and highly efficient.
The clamps and mounting plates are all Acra-Swiss compatible, a big plus if you want to mount something like a Wimberley Sidekick etc. The tolerances on the clamp and plate fitment are what you'd expect from a quality product.
Here is a link to Markins America, with more info and prettier pictures than the Korean site. http://www.markinsamerica.com/MA5/category.php?req=1
Well, I'm off to take some pictures.