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Markins M20 and RRS BH-55 compared

jemaerca

River Forest, US
1117 posts

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jemaerca Registered since 28th May 2006
Sat 23-Dec-06 03:06 PM

I recently decided to upgrade my support system. One of the toughest decisions was which ballhead to get: a Markins M20 or a RRS BH-55. Since I liked the RRS L-bracket, lens plate, and lever clamp that I already had, I initially went with a BH-55. This ballhead is beautiful - the design is very pleasing to my eye, the knobs are knurled and tapered, and I liked the fact that you have a separate knob (instead of a thumbscrew) to set the friction. This ballhead has "heirloom" written all over it - as in it's so tough, you'll be able to pass it on to your children's children. But it didn't feel as smooth as I had expected. Not having a frame of reference (I have never before used a ballhead as nice as this), I was thinking that maybe my expectations were unrealistically high. So I ordered a Markins M20 from Markins America and for my purposes, I have to say that the M20 wins out and the BH-55 is going back.

Here's my opinion on the specifics:

Smoothness of operation (WITH friction) - Advantage Markins. This was the key stat for me. If you like having friction control set (so your camera and lens don't flop if you release the main knob), the M20 is much smoother to operate. I found the BH-55 to be jerky in comparison to the M20. For the BH-55, you have to overcome slightly more resistance when moving the ballhead and this is what leads to the jerkier motion. Hard to describe here but bottom line for me is the M20 is smoother all around.

Smoothness of operation (WITHOUT friction) - tie. When both ballheads are used without any friction control, they are both very smooth. I'd say that the M20 is still slightly smoother but the difference is minimal. This stat is not as important for me because I can't see myself using a ballhead without friction control set to prevent flop.

Ergonomics - Advantage RRS. This is really personal preference. The BH-55 has a separate knob to control friction which I liked. This knob has numbers so the friction settings are easily repeatable. The M20 has an embedded thumbscrew in the main knob. Easy enough to use but I prefer the RRS design. Again, this is entirely a matter of personal preference in my opinion.

Weight - Advantage Markins. At slightly over a pound, the M20 is lighter than the BH-55, which weighs in at almost 2 pounds.

Finish - Advantage BH-55. The M20 is no slouch, but to my eye, the BH-55 is just beautifully made and a piece of art.

Customer support - tie. I'm amazed at both Markins America and RRS customer support. With Markins, I've sent emails in the dead of night/early morning and have received responses within 2 hours each and every time. With RRS, I've always gotten someone knowledgeable on the phone if I call during business hours. I had a technical question once and ended up talking to Joe Johnson, the owner!

Shipping time - tie. RRS ships from California, Markins from Canada. Both ship orders the day of your order if you order early enough.

Return Policy - Advantage RRS. Markins America charges a 10% restocking fee while RRS does not.

If you look at the results of my comparison, the RRS wins in more categories but for me the key stat is the first one - Smoothness of operation (WITH friction) - and the Markins wins that one. That trumps everything else for me.

Peace.

Comments always welcome: My Smugmug Gallery

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  • zalan

    HU
    600 posts

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    #11. "RE: Markins M20 and RRS BH-55 compared" | In response to Reply # 30

    zalan Registered since 11th Dec 2005
    Wed 27-Dec-06 10:35 AM

    Actually my problem is with my current Acratech Ultimate Ballhead is that the precise framing is a bit difficult with it, especially with macro. The problem is that there is a slight drop after I tighten the knob and I have to frame a bit higher than I want and let the lens drop into it's place. If I manage to sell the head for a good price, I will get either an M20 or a BH-55. Unfortunately I had no luck yet.

    ---
    Zalán Szabó
    www.szabozalan.hu

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    Zalán Szabó
    www.szabozalan.hu

  • G