I have owned this gear as long as I’ve had my Gitzo tripod, and I’ll say this right up front: I love this ball head. Yes, I am a Markins fan boy. This is not to say that I would never consider another brand. Any competitor will have to work very hard to overcome my experience with this head with a promise – no, some really convincing evidence – that their product is superior.
Now I need to provide full disclosure here: the Markins M10 is the only ball head that I have ever owned or used. OK, you may be chuckling now as you read these words but I did a lot of research back in 2007 when I set out to spend about $1000 on a tripod system. A poor match of either a mediocre tripod with a great ball head, or a great tripod with a mediocre ball head would produce just as much frustration and dissatisfaction.
The Markins M10 has be superceded by the “Q-ball” or Markins Q10 (and Markins Q10i, which adds a recess that isdrilled into the case to accept the BV-12 gimbal attachment). A refinement of the Q10 is a very slight taper to the cylinder of the head compared to the older M10 reviewed here. Beyond this they are almost identical.
I include in this review the TB-20 baseplate. It serves a couple of functions. As I chose a tripod that does not have a flat base (see photo below, left) the TB-20 serves as a replacement for the center column (and locking ring) of the tripod. Mounting the TB-20 onto the GT2530 column locking ring threads provides mechanical sturdiness and also adds vibration dampening.
Here’s how the various parts of the head assembly stack up:
The TB-20 baseplate screws directly onto the tripod locking ring threads and should be snugged up independently. The 5/16″ mating screw segment has a hex socket at one end that is used to tighten the M10 ball head to the base, taking care to leave enough thread beneath the TB-20 base to attach the coupling tube. The coupling tube seals the cylindrical cavity of the tripod head assembly and provides a convenient hook to attach a small bag – adding a bit of weight beneath the tripod in this fashion adds even more stability.
The smaller, indexed knob located within the main control knob, is a minimum compression adjustment. With a fully loosened main lock knob, you set the minimum compression you desire with the smaller indexed knob. This will change for different camera/lens combinations. Then use the main (larger) lock knob as an on/off switch to allow the ball head to work in a “sweet spot” when the main knob is loose, and then lock it down by when needed by tightening the main knob.
The idea of having a “sweet spot” dialed in is to have the ability to mount your camera and adjust its position smoothly and securely without slippage. It will not always be necessary to “lock down” with the control knob to have a stable hold for capturing an image. However, if you are mounting a $5,000 lens/camera combo it may be prudent to give the control knob a 1/4 turn to lock down your precious gear.
When fully assembled on the tripod, the Markins M10 plus TB-20 combination provides a sturdy, stable, mounting platform with enhanced rigidity because of the inclusion of the baseplate. Again, the baseplate replaces the center column which frankly gets in the way when the tripod is deployed for low angle shots. The result for me is a “Super GITZO.” It has served me well over the years and I expect it will continue to do so for many years to come.
I highly recommend the Markins ball head system. This product and its successors have earned a great reputation for fine craftsmanship for unparalleled fit and finish. In my experience the quality lasts and performance has never disappointed. I do have one gripe: the spirit (bubble) level is located on the mounting plate such that when your camera is mounted – you can’t see it! So be sure to level this ball head first before mounting your camera when you require a level shooting position.
Markins M10 Ball Head & Baseplate
Fit and Finish5.0/5
Enclosed moving mechanism to keep dust out5.0/5
Extra rigidity with baseplate5.0/5
Fluid style main tension knob5.0/5
- Unmatched High Performance
- 100-lb load capacity
- Light weight
- Fits all standard monopods and tripods with a 3/8" bolt
- Rough hard-anodized finish
- Spirit level on mounting plate