After doing an exhaustive research on the internet, I had narrowed my choices between the RRS BH-40 LRII and the Markins M-10. My heaviest setup is a 70-200 2.8, but I didn't want to limit myself for future lenses. I initially purchased the BH-40 thinking that it was better after reading some reviews. Here are my first impressions of the BH-40:
- quality of workmanship is excellent (same for M-10)
- solid (same for M-10)
- it has a low profile (but not that much of a difference with the M-10)
- I loved the quick release clamp in comparison to the Markins screw type knob. Spirit level is also located in a logical place instead of underneath the camera body like the Markins version (why?). Also has small lines to help center the camera with the plate where Markins does not have this which is not a big deal but shows that RRS thought of every little aspect.
- Panning base locking knob brake seemed to have a stronger hold on the RRS in comparison to the Markins. Unfortunately I was not able to test this so I was not able to measure the difference.
- Vast selection of RRS accessories (Markins has a limited selection). I eventually kept the L-bracket from RRS since Markins doesn't offer one at this time.
- RRS return policy is excellent with no hassles (not sure with Markins since I kept the product).
- 3 sets of knobs with RRS to control the ball head instead of just two for Markins.
- The big reason why I returned this ballhead and purchased the M10 was because of the tension knobs. The Markins ball heads are leagues ahead of the RRS ones in this aspect. It's due to the design and after a closer look I figured out why. I read on the internet of people talking about the RRS "sticking". They should have clarified it by stating the reason why and what this "sticking" means. The clamp that locks the RRS ball is located at one end and applies a clamping force to only that one end of the ball which is not uniform across the ball. The Markins on the other hand pushes the ball up against the body and applies a uniform clamping force across the entire ball. This most likely is why the techniical data showes that the BH-40 can handle a max load of 18 pounds in comparison to the M-10 which is 90 pounds (I personally would not push it to this level). Because of this design, the RRS is difficult to obtain the desired tension. The tension knobs have an extremely small degree of turn to control the desired tensions. You either have it too loose or too tight, very difficult to obtain somewhere in between. The M10 on the other hand has a larger range of turning before it gets too loose or too tight.
After purchasing the M10 I am convinced that it is the better ball head. However, I highly recommend the RRS quick release clamp with spirit level and the accessories from RRS since they have a better selection.