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Seeking input on ball heads

GeneralNikon

Sun Prairie, US
80 posts

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GeneralNikon Silver Member Nikonian since 29th Jun 2006
Fri 18-Jul-08 02:57 AM

All, I just ordered a new Gitzo GT3541 tripod, see my earlier post, and have just completed my research on tripod heads. Below is the list of heads I considered and my assessments of each one. This is where I need your help. Before I buy the ball head I am seeking your input to ensure that I have not missed any key points leading to a bad decision. The great thing about Nikonians forum is all the great experience out there. Thanks in advance for sharing your comments.

If I don’t tell you, some one will ask what equipment I will be using on my Gitzo tripod. The new ball head must support a Nikon D300 and one of the following lenses. I am not worried about my wide angle lens and the 70-200mm F/2.8 VR lens, I know these ball heads will support this weight. Once in a while I will use my Tamron 200mm-500mm AF lens which checks in at 4 pounds.

Induro DM-01 Ballhead
$176, 5-year warranty, height: 3.7”, 0.9 pounds with a load capacity of 17.64 pounds.
Nice looking with a good finish and smooth controls. Sweet spot took some work to find and set correctly.

Assessment: Good head. Friction limit hard to set. Price is excellent.
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Manfrotto ball head
Assessment: Looked at several models and did not like what I saw.
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Gitzo G1378M with quick release
$307 before rebate, 5.5” tall, 2.2 pounds holds 17.6 pounds. Great price point, especially with $40 rebate or $100 rebate if purchased as same time as Gitzo CF tripod which I did not do.

Assessment: Loved the great finish, very nice. Ball head was extremely smooth, the best I have seen. Easy to set friction limit and to find the sweet spot. For the money this is a great head, especially with the rebate(s). All I found in the forums are comments that they don’t get good reviews compared to Markins heads. This is my #2 pick.
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RRS BH-40 LRII
$390, 3.7” height, 1.86 pounds with a load capacity of 50 pounds. Like the size of the main knob. Have not found this one in a store or much about it in the forums.

Assessment: Good head but higher price than Markins M10. Big size maybe a plus or a negative. Dual drop notches are a plus. Uniquely shaped knobs look good ergonomically. Based upon my research I don’t see a reason to buy this one over the Markins M10L.
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Kirk BH-1
$355, height of 4.5”, 2 pounds with a load capacity of 88 pounds. Comes from a well known company. Have not seen this one in a store. More people talk about Markins ball heads than Kirk heads. Have seen a number of used and new ones selling on eBay.

Assessment: This is a very heavy ball head and it breaks the $350 price point. Markins M10L looks like a better buy.
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Markins Q3 Emile ball head with QR-48 quick release shoe attached.
$270, 3 year warranty, height of 3.58”, 13.6 ounce with a load capacity of 65 pounds. Again, have not seen or touched this model and many Nikonians appear to like it.

Assessment: Really good price point but may be too small for my use. I would rather spend the extra $70 for the M10L. This looks like a great head for smaller gear on a monopod or series 1 or 2 Gitzo tripod.
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Markins M10L ball head with QR-48 quick release
$340, 3 year warranty, height of 3.86”, 1.1 pounds with a load capacity of 88 pounds. Have not seen or touched this one, but everyone who has posted comments on wrote reviews love this head.

Assessment: Based upon the many reviews this appears to be an outstanding ball head for an advanced amateur or professional. Quality comments look very positive. My question, is the sweet spot large enough for the D300 + the Tamron 200-500mm zoom lens or do I need to move up to the M20L? I probably will use the Tamron lens on the tripod about 2 to 6 times per year. The 70-200mm will be my main tele zoom lens. Not sure if I will use the MB-D10 battery on the tripod or not. How much do I really sacrifice using the M20L with the Tamron lens? Your suggestions and comments are needed? Needless to say, this is my #1 pick.
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Markins M20L ball head with QR-60
$390, 3 year warranty, height of 3.98”, 1.25 pounds with a load capacity of 100 pounds. Again, have not seen or touched this model, but everyone who reviewed it or posted comments loves it.

Assessment: It has a larger head which translates into a bigger sweet spot. Is this worth the $50 over the M10L when the majority of my tripod shots are with the Nikon 70-200 VR lens? Do I really need the M20L over the M10L due to the Tamron 200-500mm lens or will the M10L handle the job?
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Summary
The tripod is due for delivery Friday so I want to order the ball head within the week, so let me know what you think. A pod without a head isn't worth much for taking pictures!

To complete my new tripod system, I will post my findings on camera and lens plates in another post. So be sure to provide your feedback to those questions as well.

Thanks again in advance for taking the time to share your comments and opinions, it’s greatly appreciated. This weekend I will give back to Nikonians with a special post for all those photographers looking to buy a Gitzo tripod.

Del
Captain Nikon

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