A ball head is a ball head -- right? I used to think so! I've always had the attitude that it really doesn't matter what ball head you use, since all it does is clamp the camera in the position you want. I figured any ball head that was big enough to handle the weight was good, and all that really matters is the price.
Well, I come before you today with a different attitude. As the old song says, "I've seen the light!" Until I actually used a pro-level ball head I simply didn't know what I was missing. I'm just glad I never wrote any articles about less-than-professional ball heads, because I'd have to take them back.
Let me tell you how I came to this recent conclusion. Back last summer I was enjoying a nice photographic day in the Great Smoky Mountains. A couple of Nikonians and I were running around the Smokies bringing home lots of great early summer images. I stopped at a nice overlook on the Foothills Parkway West and got a few shots. I realized that the heavy workload of taking images had made me hungry, so we stopped to consume a few sandwiches. I leaned my Bogen® 3021B Pro tripod with its massive 488RC2 ball head up against the back of my Jeep while we ate. That's the last I ever saw of it!
Somehow, when we got in the Jeep and headed down the road, my tripod was no longer with me. Whether it was stolen or simply left behind, I cannot tell. We drove to a different part of the Smokies before I got out to take another shot, and discovered that my dear tripod was gone. Back we went in search of it, but, no joy. I had no tripod, in the middle of the day, in the most beautiful spot on earth.
Somehow I got through the day, and on the way back home I stopped at the local super-store and bought for myself a deluxe, crank-the-handle-for-maximum-height, $29.00 USD genuine plastic and metal tripod. I was set for the next trip! ?
That evening, I was sitting at home feeling particularly sorry for myself for losing my $250.00 USD tripod and ball head. I was Skyping with a certain famous Señor Palacios of Nikonians.org about my tragedy, and he was very sympathetic. In fact, he told me he was going to send me a nice Markins M10 Ball head to test, and that we could make arrangements later about purchase if I liked it. Since I was currently almost tripod-less (still had the plastic and metal crank unit), I agreed that it was probably a good idea. A few days later the UPS man drove into my driveway with a box from a certain Photo Pro Shop
Within a short period of time, my photographic life changed.
I opened that small box expecting "just another ball head" only to find that I had never truly ever seen a real ball head before. Every ball head I had used before that moment paled into insignificance. I had never spent over $100 USD for a ball head and had no idea what a few more dollars would bring to my photographic life.
The first thing I noticed was the highly refined finish on the ball head. "This Markins QBall is clearly made to last," I thought. Looking it over, I saw a thing or two that I had never seen before, and other things that were simply better than anything I had ever seen before.
I am now going to attempt to express my enthusiasm for this Markins M-Series Q-Ball head. I'll discuss the various features I found important, and tell you how I used the head during ANPAT 2006 to bring home some of the best images of my life.
I'll use a Markins M10 ball head as a reference point in this article, but remember that the Markins M20 is also available for a few extra dollars. It does everything the M10 does, plus allows for monster telephoto lenses witgh the same smoothness.