If by large lenses you mean a 400mm, 500mm or 600mm, yes, either one of those is almost a must, or a Korean Markins On the first, the Arca Swiss has been reported to "freeze" when left tighten, not the Kirk.
I opted for a non-Arca solution. The B1 is an excellent ballhead and is the only one with an elliptical ball design. This feature gives the head a unique quality of resisting "flop" since the tension gets higher as the elliptical ball rotates in the socket. However, this feature requires you to always transport the head with the tension adjustment loose, otherwise vibration can put the ball mechanism into a jammed position. You can often release the head by overtightening the friction knob, but I've read reports from people who've take vice grips to the mechanism (in desparation on a $400 head) with no luck.
Arca heads are hard to get due to low production and they're expensive. I personally dislike the idea of having to leave the head mechanism loose all the time. I have a Markins ballhead that is obviously designed with the B1 in mind, but it's a round ball instead of ellliptical. The Kirk head gets excellent reviews and is also a round ball. Kirk now has a BH-3 model that is smaller and lighter (more like my Markins heads). The price is reasonable at $240, but there are no load specs that I can see and the implication is that the head can't handle big lenses. The Markins is rated at 90 lbs. This sounds like overkill, but the extra capacity means the tension has a lot of finesse with less weight.
#3. "RE: Kirk BH-1 VS Swiss Arca B-1" | In response to Reply # 2
Wed 30-Jan-02 06:22 PM
I need a head that can be tilted 90% in order to put the Wimbley Sidekick on/in it. From what I read about the Markins this is not possble. Also Kirk does not recommed the BH3 for large lens. Do know who in the US sells Markins?
Hate to say this - From some reports The Markins is a good tripod head.
The problem now is how to get one in the US. Their distributor in the US are asking $290 for them and cannot accept anything but COD at an extra charge of $24.95 - making the total for the ball head at apprx $315. COD it a lot of hassel as well as it requires you tp pay with money order or cashiers check (no personal checks when I inquired).
With all that hassel - I'd just assume get a Kirk BH-1 for a little more. Which also comes with a generic plate.
I've basically given up on the Markins head as their choice of distributor in the US isn't moving forward after all this time to make it easier buy. If it is this difficult to buy I wonder how good customer service will be if something goes wrong with one?
I assume you meant 90 degrees, and yes it will rotate that far(plus a little more). Markins is only sold via the rep in L.A. and unfortunately the shipping charges are high and payment by credit card hadn't been set up last I heard. I have three Markins heads. The build quality is excellent as is the functionality, but I would certainly keep the Kirk BH-1 high on my list of choices considering the convenience and support Kirk offers.