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Can't shake the idea of an RSS BH-55...

Discussion in 'Other Cool Gear, Camera Bags, Camera Straps' started by MMarz, Aug 20, 2008.

  1. MMarz


    Sep 15, 2007
    Long Island, NY
    It's been plaguing me for ages.. that BH-55 is just so sweet looking, and I love the second drop slot.

    I have a Markins M20 and that thing pans absolutely perfectly. Just enough drag, but still silky smooth. I can take or leave the location of the knobs, and the tension adjustment is probably just as good on the RSS. I don't do a lot of hiking so the weight difference is of little concern.

    So, let's hear from those of you who have had both. What is your impression..mainly of the panning action on the RSS. If you moved from the Markins to the RRS, were you happy? If you went the other way, do you miss the Markins??

    I might look to do a swap of ball heads just for a change of pace..
  2. Michael, I've handled both ballheads side-by-side. The main criterion I used when I was selecting my ballhead was smoothness under tension. When I did my test, the M20 was noticeably smoother under tension than the BH-55. The BH-55 was still ok but you could definitely feel the difference between the two ballheads. So I went with the M20. As an added bonus, the M20 is lighter and smaller than the BH-55.
  3. MMarz


    Sep 15, 2007
    Long Island, NY
    That's pretty much what I've read. The larger size is fine, and as I said, I don't travel a lot, so the weight isn't a big issue. Plus the Gitzo 1325 is real light to begin with.

    I don't often use the ball head in tension mode. Most often I have a Sidekick attached for long lens work for which the pan base is fully unlocked and the head is fully locked. Other than I use it for static work, but the smoothness would be a concern when shooting macro.
  4. I have an M10 and the BH-55.
    Both work great. In overall shooting I am actually more comfortable with the m10- but I have shot with it more. My problem with the m10 is when I am shooting macro it moves the slightest bit when I tighten it down. Not enough to even notice, unless you are filling the frame 1:1 or more- then it drives me crazy. The bh-55 is rock solid and does not move at all when you tighten it down. The markin is a little "smoother." The "drag" setting on my bh-55 is a little too sensitive- more an on and off feel- than the m10.
    My M10 is my light weight setup, the bh55 is my larger system. I know this probably doesn't help as both are excellent ballheads.
  5. MMarz


    Sep 15, 2007
    Long Island, NY

    I had the M10...switched to the M20 and have had no problems. You might consider cleaning the ball on your M10.. I used mine with a 300/2.8 & D2x, direct mount and in a Sidekick and it never budged.
  6. MMarz


    Sep 15, 2007
    Long Island, NY
  7. Michael and Gary,

    I always find it very interesting (and a bit confusing) when someone says that they do/don't get "creep" with their ballhead (shift when locking down). Some people say they get creep with a particular model, others don't.

    Unless there's sample variation, it must be due to either, or a combination of, gear (balance of camera/lens), measurement (I would think that 1:1 macro would show the most movement), and technique. E.g. some heads creep less if you use the tension knob to do the final lockdown, some heads creep less/more if you have the "right" tension selected, etc.

    Michael, when you say you didn't see creep with your 300/2.8 -- have you ever taken a shot before and after lockdown and then flipped between the two? That's usually the easiest way to see if there's any creep. Sometimes it's hard to see through a viewfinder.
  8. MMarz


    Sep 15, 2007
    Long Island, NY
    In fact, yes I did.

    I did some test shots before and after getting the M10..and then again after the M20. I had a Giottos BH that was a nightmare..creep, torque twist, you name it.. So I wanted to do some comparos. I actually shot a focus test pattern to see if there was any movement. I subsequently did the same with the M20.. all done with the 300 directly in the BH, no Sidekick. I always use the lock knob for the final lock-down, but often use the tension adjustment as well and for these tests I did both (didn't do the tension lock pics though because by then it was overkill..I had satisfied myself that there wasn't any creep).

    Also, I have often started a shoot of critical macro subjects only to leave the setup for a while...even overnight. If there is/was creep, I couldn't identify it.
  9. Michael,

    Thank you for your response. You've identified the (lack of) creep empirically then, on two Markins heads.

    When you say you didn't see any creep in the A-B photos, how far down in resolution did you go? E.g. I've been able to measure it to a pixel level.

    So if we rule out measurement approach, then the difference between your experience and Gary's would have to be sample variation and/or technique. I'm still confused there.

    I have a Q3 and I was disappointed to find creep when using 1:1 macro. It's at least 10x19 pixels but is sometimes more. I'm almost literally splitting hairs here because 10x19 pixels on a 10mp camera isn't the end of the world, but such is gear lust. The Q3 crept as much if not more than a BH-1 I had tried.

    I'm getting a BH-55 Pro to play with on Friday, and hope to do some 1:1 macro creep tests with it.

    FWIW I do think that you'll find the BH-55 less smooth than your M20. What is really good about the Markins heads is that their brake seems to work very well across the range of adjustment. E.g. on a Kirk BH-1, if you tilt the head 45 degrees off of its vertical axis (vertical = stem pointing straight up, so a camera would be pointing straight forward) -- you begin feeling a lot less resistance. To te point where the camera/lens starts to drift down.

    So you increase the tension so it doesn't drift down. The problem is that when you pull the head back to the vertical position, the extra tension makes it jerky when it's near vertical.

    What I've noticed with the Q3 is that I can dial in a tension that's strong enough to prevent drift at 45 degrees, but still not be jerky at near the top. This is one of the reasons I think the Markins is considered a "smooth" head.
  10. MMarz


    Sep 15, 2007
    Long Island, NY
    Sad to say, I didn't examine it at a pixel level.. I dismissed it before getting that detailed.

    I would also allow for wear, though one might consider this sample variation. Both of my BH's were tested when new. I've seen more than a few BH's where an owner used inappropriate concoctions to clean the BH unknowingly degrading it's performance. (I have a Cullman BH I purchased from a Cafe member that I believe was actually lubricated on the ball!! Cleaned it with some WD40 and it's as good as new now).

    Interested in your results...please post once you have some data.

    This is consistent with just about all the info I have read.. In an ideal world, I would have both heads.. but I am looking for a gimbal and a leveling base, and can't stretch the dollars far enough! I'd be interested in your opinion on the smoothness of the panning base on the BH55. As noted earlier, the tension adjustment is secondary to me..panning, creep when locked and the second drop slot are primary.

    I had the chance to try a BH55 but didn't.. I agree with the silky action with a bit of tension on the ball.
  11. Butlerkid

    Butlerkid Cafe Ambassador Moderator

    Apr 8, 2008
    Rutledge, Tennessee
    FWIW - When I was looking at the smaller RRS ballhead, I found out that the dual drop slots are not 180 degrees apart. In fact I think they were less than 90 degrees. Thus, the second drop slot became less important to me.

    Dont know about the spacing on the BH55...
  12. MMarz


    Sep 15, 2007
    Long Island, NY
    Karen, I can't tell from the pictures.. maybe a BH55 owner will chime in. Right now, when I use the Sidekick with the 300, I have to tilt the Sidekick back a bit or I won't be able to get enough movement vertically..the grip of both the D2X and D300 hit the lock knob on the M20. Also, once I tilt the Sidekick back, the lock knob on the clamp on the BH is too close to the lock knob on the BH to get a really good grip on it.

    If I turn the the BH around so the lock knob is in the front (Sidekick on the right side), and then tilt the Sidekick back, the twist torque imparted on the clamp on the BH is in the same direction one would twist to unscrew the clamp..so I worry that the weight might loosen the clamp and go BOOM!

    If I reverse the clamp on the BH (Lock knob pointing forward), keeping the BH with the knob in the back, then the lock knob on the clamp hits the bottom of the lens hood when I point down!

    I know one answer is to just use a gimbal...but that isn't without it's own compromises.

    The long and short is...Using the BH-55...relocating the lock knobs to the side AND repositioning the drop slot AND a lower profile for the BH55 AND a lever action clamp on the BH, should have the issues resolved.

    What I need is a BH-55 to play with for a little while!!
  13. rsprouse


    Jan 25, 2006
    Encinitas CA
    I think the BH-55 and M20 are both great ballheads. I have not owned them both, but I played with them both and settled on the M20. the BH-55 is sexy looking, but the M20 seemed smoother.

    -- Russ
  14. Long story, but I sold a new BH-55 here a while ago to a nice Cafe buyer. Maybe these photos will help you understand how the drop-notches are positioned.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Judging by the panning scale under the notches, it appears they are 90 degrees apart (not opposite of each other).

    The locking knob is not "in-line" with the housing given the BH-55's design, so you can have quite a bit of clearance away between the main knob and the opposite drop-notch. Though when you do that, you're then closer to the other knobs (tension control and pan lock).

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    In these photos, the stem is dropped into the notch where it's very close to the main control knob, but very far away from the tension and pan knobs. It'd have the opposite effect if you used the other notch.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Hope these help a bit. It is a beautiful head, no doubt, and probably the best-machined one I've seen. However, I find the Markins significantly smoother. Some say the BH-55 improves with age, though. I was also surprised that the BH-55's black finish on the housing could show marks quite easily. But any head is going to get spoiled pretty quickly!

    Hopefully I'll have time to play with a BH-55 Pro (knob clamp) coming in on Friday. I've gotta be home when the UPS driver shows up, though.
  15. MMarz


    Sep 15, 2007
    Long Island, NY
    Helps a ton, thanks!!

    Do I understand correctly, you sold the one pictured and purchased another arriving on Friday, though with a twist clamp?

    I have to study the images a bit before making any comments.. But, it sure is beautiful!!
  16. Leif


    Feb 12, 2006
    FWIW I use a Markin M10, and being small minded, do lots of macro photography. I agree that when using my 200mm micro lens, the M10 does have a tiny bit of creep on lock down, though I think it is only when the QR platform is to one side, rather than directly above the ball, and it is only for true macro (~1:1) when I notice it. A minor irritance and no deal breaker IMO. Otherwise, it is very smooth, and the lock is very gradual with no stickiness.
  17. davewolfs


    May 23, 2006
    I just moved from a BH-40 to a M10 and here are my thoughts.

    1. Both are excellent and well crafted.
    2. I prefer the friction control of the Markins, set it and forget it.
    3. Markins is WAY smoother, the RRS heads are jerky when friction is set pretty tight.
    4. Panning lock on RRS is better, Markins can move with enough force and needs to be locked down tight.
    5. The BH-40 had a tad bit of droop when being locked, the Markins has none.

    As far as the plates go, I chose to use the B2 LR II from RRS since I've found their locking mechanisms to be superb.

    My advice, your Markins M20 is an amazing ball head, if you haven't done so the only upgrade you need is a RRS clamp. The BH-55 is large and too heavy.

    Between the two, if I needed to buy a larger ballhead then the M10 in the future, it would be from Markins with an RRS clamp :) 
  18. davewolfs


    May 23, 2006
    I tried to visualize what you are describing but can't perhaps you should post a video :) 
  19. MMarz


    Sep 15, 2007
    Long Island, NY
    That's funny...

    from your prior post, you mean an RRS clamp? I already did that!!
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