Thursday, February 16, 2012

Markins Q-10 Ballhead: Initial Impressions

Markins Q-10 with Knob Quick Release
The Markins Q-10 is a professional grade ballhead designed with users of 35mm SLR (full frame) format camera equipment in mind. The construction of the head is impressive, being made of metal (type not listed on Markins website, but my guess is magnesium alloy) that goes through a hard anodizing process to increase the strength and durability. The heads and quick release plates are made of the same material in order to keep them tough and light weight. Markins products appear to be made in Korea (the head, and plates), which might turn some people off. To me it isn't a big deal, but considering that similarly priced Kirk and RRS heads and plates are made in the USA that might be a determining factor for some.

Markins Q-Ball Q10 Specs (from Markins website)
  Model  Markins Q-Ball Q10 with Knob Release (Black)
  Camera Connection  Screw-Knob Style Quickshoe (QR-60)
  Maximum Load  100 lbs (45 kg)
  Maximum Torque  200 lbf·in (225 kgf·cm)
  Weight  1.08 lbs (490 g)
  Height  3.86 in (98 mm)
  Housing Diameter  2.13 in (54 mm)
  Panning Base Diameter  2.44 in(62 mm)
  Ball Diameter  1.73 in (44 mm)
  Friction Control  Bi-Axial Progressive
  Panning  Yes
  Panorama Index  Yes
  Tripod Mount Hole  3/8"–16 UNC
  Available Colors  Black

I am using the Q-10 with the knob release, but you can also purchase the head with a lever release, or without a quick release at all, allowing you to pick your own Acra-Swiss type release mechanism (such as those from Wimberly or Acra-Swiss). The Markins release mechanisms are compatible with all Acra-Swiss release plates (such as from Acra-Swiss, Kirk and Wimberly), which makes it (like all Acra-Swiss style systems) flexible if you already have some Arca-Swiss compatible products.

Many users opt for the lever release, since it is quicker to use, but I opted for the knob release because it provides greater security when moving with equipment mounted on the head. For added security the release plate has spring loaded a pin to prevent the plates from sliding off the release in the event that you accidentally loosen it. The release also has a spirit level, so you can be sure that the ball is level for landscape shooting, although this must be set before you mount your camera.

Markins Q-10 mounted on Gitzo GT3531S
The load capacity (45kg) of the Q-10, considering the weight (490g) of the head itself, is very impressive, which is what drew me to it in the first place. The head handles all my gear with ease, while allowing room for potential growth, should I have the chance to upgrade to the 300mm F2.8 or something longer. Markins says the Q-10 is good for lenses up to a 400mm F4 lens, which is good enough for my needs at this time.

I've only had the Q-10 for a day, but so far I'm impressed with it. As I mentioned earlier, it seems to be very well made, the knobs are easy to adjust and the ball itself has nice fluid movement under load. One thing I'm not pleased with is that the panning base still can turn even when the panning knob is fully tightened. I never had anything like that with my Manfrotto head, and considering the price of the Q-10 I would have expected better. I may contact Markins and ask if that is normal or a manufacturing defect. I'm concerned because if the panning base is slightly loose now, what will it be like after a few years of use? I want to do some field testing, to see if it an issue, before I contact Markins about this.

Markins Q-10 with Nikon D700 mounted