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Shown here are the safety catch on the quick release clamp, and the opening in the sleeve and the main locking knob.
The "grey card" area on the main knob and the flower designed tension adjustment knob. The panning knob is the one on the right.
Oriented in the 90 degree position.
Sizing up the Kirk BH-1 (left) and the Markins M-10 (right).
Thanks to Kelvin Khor for allowing me to review his Markins M-10.
Having a ball head dramatically changed the speed and ease of my photography. I was rather stifled by the traditional 3-way pan-and-tilt heads. With the pan-and-tilt head, one had three separate knobs/handles to move in order to get a setup in the right position. With the ball head, thereís just one knob to loosen and with the other hand you can adjust the camera freely in almost any position, tighten the knob and youíre all done.
In the past, the ball head market was dominated by the Bogen/Manfrottos, Kirks and the Arca-Swisses. But up until recently a fairly new competitor emerged and from a very unlikely source. In came Markins from South Korea.
Head to head comparisons were made with the competitor and the Markins heads held just as much, but came in a smaller and lighter package. Before long, the ball head market was flooded with talk about the new marvel of Korean engineering.
In the Box:
The Markins M-10 came in a little black box, wrapped in a thick layer of foam. Nothing else came with the head, except for an instruction manual which is both in English and Korean. No frills there, but I didnít care much as my attention was totally affixed on the M-10 I was holding.
Being a user of the reputable Kirk BH-1, I was really attracted to the small size of the Markins M-10. I was also drawn by the beauty of its craftsmanship. The finishing of the ball head was just beautiful. Itís called hard-adonized finish by Markins which is said to be longer lasting than the competition. I believed them as I looked at my already finger-print covered and blemished Kirk BH-1. The M-10 has a much better finish.
On the Body:
Unlike the Kirk, that has three independent knobs, the Markins has only two. The smaller of the two is the panning base knob which allows for the rotation of the ball head on its base. As its name implies, itís used for panning movements. The larger of the two knobs is the locking/loosening knob which releases or locks the ball down. Instead of having a third knob for tension control, Markins integrated a little wheel into the main knob to control the tension; a very clever design. And you know that you wonít be confused with the knobs like I get with my BH-1 occasionally.
Itís a little known fact, but the grey area that you see around the tension wheel is actually 18% grey. That means that grey area can be used to assist you in making correct exposures in tricky situations. Sounds really cool, but I donít find it practical to have a grey card on the tripod head where youíre mounting your camera.
Like all ball heads, the Markins has a large opening on the side of the ballís sleeve to allow the quick release to be oriented at a 90 degree angle. This feature is great if you have a regular Acra Swiss camera plate. Users of L-plates will not find this feature too useful. However this feature is critical if you intend to use a Wimberley Sidekick to support your heavier lenses. Markins gives customers a choice if theyíd like their opening to be on the left or the right hand side of the knobs. Itís not really a left-hander or right-hander issue. Itís more of a personal preference.
The M-10 comes with a quick release clamp which is compatible with plates designed based on the Arca-Swiss system. The clamp also has a little retractable steel nipple that acts as a safety catch device. This prevents your setup from sliding off the ball head just in case you didnít tighten down the clamp sufficiently. Once again, very good design, not found in the Kirk BH-1. What the Kirk had which the Markins did not was an integrated spirit level which I use very often.
In the Field:
With my light setup, which consists of a Nikon D2H body and a 50mm Nikkor lens, the Markins M-10 performed extremely well. No surprise there. With a slight turn of the knob, the setup was locked tight with no slippage whatsoever. Having no slippage or sagging is absolutely critical for fine detailed photography like macros and copy work.
With my heavy setup, which consists of a Nikon D2H and a 300mm f/2.8 Nikkor lens, I get the same tight grip on the ball. No slipping which is remarkable for a ball head which is has a ball almost Ĺ the size of that of a Kirk BH-1. Just out of curiosity I also mounted my Wimberley Sidekick with the heavy setup and found it to be an absolute joy to use.
As of the time Iím writing this article the Markins M-10 retails for USD$339.99 plus shipping and its bigger brother, the M-20 retails for $389.99 plus shipping. This may seem like a pretty high price to ask for a ball head. But like good tripod legs, itís a one time investment. Once you get a good ball head, there shouldnít be a need for another. If I hadnít got my Kirk BH-1 for a really good price I would have gotten a Markins M-10 for myself. Iím pretty much sold. Highly recommended.
© Michael Ng 2006