Monday, April 30, 2012

Markins Q-10 Ballhead Review

Markins Q-10 Ballhead with knob release
Introduction:
The Markins Q-10 is a ballhead aimed at professional and amateur photographers that desire a high quality tripod head that can handle a hefty camera and lens combinations. The Q-10 uses an Acra-Swiss compatible quick release system (knob or lever release), making it usable with any accessories which work with that system. Although the Markins Q-10 is not directly comparable with the quality of Acra-Swiss's own heads, it is very close in some regards and better in others. The Markins Q-10 is one of the lightest ballheads in it's class (490 g / 1.08 lbs), weight anything from 100-360g lighter than the competition (Acra-Swiss Z-1, Kirk BH-1, RSS BH-55), while also having one of the best load capacities (45 kg/100 lbs). So does the Markins Q-10 have what it takes to meet the needs of a demanding photographer?

Features:
The Q-10 has all of the primary features for a ballhead in this class, having separate panning, tension and friction adjustments. The information below is from the Markins website for the Q-10 will Knob Release. The head is also available with a lever release or without a quick release clamp (choose you own). The Q-10 does not include a quick release plate, so you need to pick one for your camera(s) and any lens(es) that use a tripod collar (also available on the 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

Build Quality and Handling:
The Q-10 is made of ionized aluminum, giving it a reassuringly tough build, with a smooth finish. At first the finish appears to be easily marked, even by finger nails, but marks can easily be rubbed out with a cloth. The control knobs all have lock nuts to prevent them from being accidentally unscrewed from the head. The tension and quick release plate knobs have rubber grips, making them easy to adjust. Sadly the panning knob does not have a rubber cover, which seems like an odd omission.


The ball itself moves smoothly, and the amount of the friction on the ball can be adjusted by turing the friction adjustment dial (small dial on the tension knob). The importance of the ability to adjust the friction on the ball increases as the weight of the equipment on the head rises. To make adjustments a small screwdriver is recommended, thus it is ideal to make sure the friction is adjusted for the gear you are going to shoot with before heading out. When adjusted correctly your camera and lens combination should not take a noise dive when the tension knob is slightly backed off. When the tension knob is locked down the ball does not shift, which can often occur with entry level (and even some of the higher end) ballheads.

Loosening the panning knob and rotating the base allows you to quickly change the direction the ballhead is facing, without having to adjust the angle of the ball itself. The panning base of the head has markings (0º,  30º, 60º and 90º), which aid in setting up panoramic shots. The Q-10 does not have a levelling base, so if your tripod is not level the shots wont be either.


The Arca-Swiss compatible quick release system (Markins QR-60 - Knob Release) works very well and securely locks down any lens or camera combination that I have mounted in it. For reference, the heaviest load tested was a Nikon D700 with MB-D10 battery grip (loaded with 8xAA batteries), Nikon AF-S 300mm F2.8G VRII, and Nikon AF-I TC14E 1.4x teleconverter. The quick release has a few basic features, which can be useful, such as a spirit bubble level and more importantly a spring loaded pin to prevent your camera or lens from sliding off in the event that you accidentally (slightly) loosen the release clamp. This feature has saved my camera at least once or twice, since I was not used to the Acra-Swiss style clamp when I first got my hands on this head. Once you become familiar with the head and the placement of all the knobs by feel this is less of an issue, none the less this is a nice safety feature.

Comments and Conclusion:
The Markins Q-10 ballhead is truly a pleasure to use, thanks to its tough build and smooth operation. I have no complaints to make about this ballhead, it does what it was made to do, and does it well. Having spoken to a few other owners of this head/release clamp system, they all feel the same way about the Q-10 as I do. If I had to say one negative thing about this ballhead, it would be that the panning knob does not have a rubber grip. In any case the positives far out way this minor gripe, which unless you take a lot of panoramic photos is almost a non issue.

Overall Markins has done a good job, creating a ballhead the is light weight, easy to use, yet able to carry heavy loads, without any major faults. The Q-10 with QR-60 knob release comes with a very reasonable price ($349 USD), considering that it is a high quality ballhead. You really cannot go wrong by considering the Markins Q-10 if you are looking at getting a Arca-Swiss quick release compatible ballhead.

Pros:
  • Light Weight (490g)
  • Can support a lot of gear (load capacity is 45 KG!)
  • Smooth operation, including all knobs and the ball itself
  • Acra-Swiss compatible quick release clamp holds gear securely
  • Has locking pin to prevent gear sliding off the clamp
  • Price is lower than some competing heads with the given feature set
Cons:
  • Panning knob does not have rubber grip (it is just bare metal)