First, I have never implied that "there are not others making pretty decent heads". Quite the contrary. The fact that I prefer Markins does not mean others are not good, it is only a matter of degree and what comes out on top for my purposes and the purposes I suspect most put their heads to use.
If I have stated that in the past I would like to see the links. Otherwise I find it impossible to even discuss vague assertions, especially those that I believe mischaracterize many years of my own discussions here.
The Markins M10 is not "a copy" of the B1. What it does share in common is the tension limiting verses a separate tension shoe. If you tore them down I think you would see other differences. The most obvious example is that the A-S has an elliptical head, where the Markins is spherical. If you understood ballheads you would understand the fundamental difference and implications. Your assertion of "widely believed" is probably easier thrown out here than proven, assuming what others believe might be important in some context.
I still stand behind what I said before- if these products are over-priced, regardless of wage scales whereever they are made, someone would be out there by now eating their lunch. I would surely rather be buying less expensive heads but find them for me. I haven't. Same with gimbals. Lots of people think Wimberly is overpriced yet I've never found a truly comparable gimbal for significantly less money. And I have looked, and handled many other gimbals in the field. In this global economy real price/quality disparities don't tend to last. And that could change tomorrow...
I have a Markins M10 that I bought in 2004. I have beat it up as much as most people would in that time, perhaps more, but that head does not have a single scratch or mar on it. Same for the M20 and Q3, which I have now owned for years but less time than the M10. The Markins "hard anodized" process is the real deal, better than RRS for example, which is known to scratch easily (according to reports I've read).
Who do you want to believe, me with 8 years of wear and tear on that head, or someone apparently speculating on the future performance of his new head? And if your summation is accurate, that was all pure speculation and you even indicate it as such. I don't know what to make of that. And more importantly I think you have tough sledding to convince me I am wrong on that point based on some second hand review you read.
I can't compare that finish to the Photoclam I extensively tested because I never put nearly as much use on that head and was generally more careful with it. I was not tasked with destructive testing. I just know how well my Markins has stood the test of time.
Since you bring up the Photoclam as a specific example...
The Photoclam is a good head; I've spent considerable time with the (PC-44) model sized to the M10. My feeling is that the fit and finish is very good but in some ways it lacks the finish of the Markins. For example, no one except Markins makes a ball so smooth it has a permanent "wet" look. And it is the finish of that ball that matters more than anything you can see on the outside of the head. At least I've never seen a ball head with a ball finished in that way. By my way of thinking the Photoclam is a close second and smoother (looking) than, say, the RRS heads I've handled, but in my opinion they did not quite duplicate the Markins machining. That's just my personal observation and opinion, but a strong one.
In terms of performance I found the Photoclam to perform very well. The M10 sized model (PC-44) performs a hair under my M10 and a hair better than my Q3. That based on careful tests of the angles the two heads could hold at certain tension levels while supporting a wide range of lenses up to a 500/4.
I've never handled any other sizes but if the next size (48mm) model then performs about the same as an M10 then the relative value is not as distant (or perhaps non-existent) because that next size up is actually more expensive than the Markins Q10 and certainly heavier and bulkier for same or nearly same perfomance.
At best, assuming equal performance (not my experience) the PC44 is $300 verses $350 for the M10. I don't consider that "much cheaper" nor do I consider it a "better performer". In other words your assessment based on net surfing does not square with the basic specs nor is it remotely close to my actual extensive observations.
That is my "review" of the one Photoclam I have extensive experience with, verses the 3 Markins heads I've owned for many years. Were all these reviews you read based on extensive experience with one head, or both heads, or a comparison of specs?
Your research is obviously purely based on net surfing and not actual use and handling. Yet you are arguing my conclusions that are based on my own extensive exprience with these exact same products?
If you actually compared the Markins head to the Photoclam and tried to square it with what you've read, you might then come to the conclusion that to a great degree "fit and finish" and performance is in the minds of the beholder. You seem to be converting some vague unreferenced opinions into some sort of "ultimate truth" that I suspect you would find far more elusive if you did your own personal hands on testing instead.
The Luminous Landscape reviewer is entitled to his opinion (I have not even read it). But that can't change my opinion based on real world extensive use, and I find the comments about performance and finish odd because my own observations are in at least one case very different. Maybe I just prefer the "Markins Look" because I see nothing on the Photclam that is "better" in that way.
You may insist that we are "Markins dominant" here, or whatever you are implying, but the fact is that of the three most active mods here, I am the only one of the three shooting and recommending Markins.
We have a couple of active members here that shoot and recommend Photoclam, as well as a number of Kirk users. What the members at large shoot, and why they chose their products, is a matter no one can accurately even speculate on. However, I don't think your assertion would survive statistical scrutiny. If you want to insist on that you will have to do that leg work. I have lived this forum for many years and don't need to do that work. I "lived" those archives in real time.
I cannot and will not argue a case based on vague unlinked references to stuff you read on the internet. That because I read more than enough material that is senseless to me, in the context of statements about products with which I am quite familiar. In fact I find good reviews of support gear, by people that have actually compared enough gear to arrive at an intelligent conclusion, to be quite rare.
You may have spent a hundred hours researching this on the internet. That does not make anything in particular that you read "true" or something I might agree with, just as I do not agree with your 2nd hand summation of that Photoclam review. What is lacking in this exchange is comments from you based on real world experience. That is something we could discuss.