View Full Version : Arca vs Kirk ball heads

Steve Singleton
9-Oct-2000, 14:54
Considering a new ball head, I'm curious about the qualitative differences betwe en the Arca B1 and the Kirk BH-1. People talk about the Arcas sometimes locking up. Is that the problem the Kirk was created to solve, or is it simply that ma rgins are better and photographers save a few bucks? Anyone done a hands-on comp arison?

Lloyd Chamber
9-Oct-2000, 16:28
I've had my Arca Swiss B1 for about 6 months now. At first it was an absolute joy to use--silky smooth.

But it's no longer smooth and I've had brief "lock ups", which I resolved pretty quickly though it did give me a scare. Also the large tension knob has gotten sloppy. I think it needs service, but I'm so dependent on quick release I may have to buy a second head so I can send this one in for service.

It did get some abuse, but not that much. A few minor knocks perhaps, maybe a little fine dust, etc. For a $500 head I expected more robust performance.

QT Luong
9-Oct-2000, 16:33
The Arca has an ellipsoidal ball which gives more tension the further you go from vertical. The Kirk has two separate knobs for locking and adjusting the tension. I think this subject has been discussed extensively on photo.net

Ellis Vener
9-Oct-2000, 20:22
I've been using an abusing an Arca B1 monoball (I've got some chunks gouged out from the outer casing but the ball is fine) for about six years now. I have a friend (who admittedly is easier on his gear than I am) who has had one for about a year. Neither of us has had a problem. I don't work for Arca and I don't get compensated by them in any way. I'm a little suspicious about whether people's problems with the B1 is caused by bad product , the people using them, or something else.<P. I'm not saying good companies might not make bad products occassionally: I went through two Graf Studio Ball tripod heads inside of a year before I switched to the Arca (which I bought used.) The design ofthe panoramic base which bad (Last week I got an e-mail from Graf's USA distributor where they stated that they have revamped the design of the panoramic base to fix the problem I was having.

Julio Fernandez
9-Oct-2000, 22:33
I also had an Arca several years ago. It was treated with kid gloves in spite of which it froze once, giving me a real scare while on a photo expedition. I managed to loosen it with difficulty but the experience taught me this was not a dependable tool. Galen Rowell also had the same problem and switched to Kirk. I use a large Linhof head, no problems, ever.

Bill Glickman
9-Oct-2000, 22:51
How did the users who had the Arca freezes correct the problem? If the Arca needs service, where can it be serviced in USA? I have not experienced this yet, but want to prepare for it!

Larry Huppert
9-Oct-2000, 23:29
The unlocking procedure is well known. First make sure the set screw isn't the reason it isn't loosening. Then turn the big knob like your trying to tighten the head even more and it should unlock. I agree that a head of this cost shouldn't have this type of problem. In two years, this has only happened to me once, and was easily resolved.

John Hennessy
10-Oct-2000, 18:01
Does anyone know if it is the ellipsoidal ball that contributes to the freezing problem or the tensioning thrumbscrew?

It has never happened to me so naturally I think those complaining about it are overreacting or have buyers' remorse at having paid so much for the thing.

If the problem is a trade off for the ellipsoidal ball, which seems useful to me, then perhaps we can say the B1 has redeeming mechanical value, to paraphrase the Supreme Court.

Where is Bob Soloman on this qreat question?

David Nash
11-Oct-2000, 04:11
I use an Arca B2 head, and haven't had a problem with it. However, I seem to recall that a few people had experienced the 'lock up' described earlier, although there is the simple 'fix' for it. I think it was caused by a tensioning screw creeping when the head was exposed to extremes of temperature. Furthermore, I seem to recall that Arca redesigned the head so that this problem would no longer occur.

I've found that one of the 'problems' with Arca gear is that it doesn't sell very well, and may sit on a dealers shelf for years. It's possible to purchase something that is 'new' but which has been superceeded by a modified design.

Anyway, if you are worried, it might be worth contacting Martin at Arca to confirm the above.

11-Oct-2000, 13:09
The mentioned "lock-up" problem which some users have experienced is not caused due to a design flaw or whatever. The ARCA-SWISS Monoball B- series have a completely different and superior desig n compared to the original ARCA-SWISS Monoball and its copies. Therefore the handling of the Monoball is different as well.

The small friction screw defines the stroke of a disk in the multifunction knob. If you do loosen the multifunction knob onto this "limiter" the disk puts a high pressure onto the friction screw. Therefore you cannot loosen it until you have tightened slightly the multifuncti on knob and released the pressure. Another common mistake is that although the ball is unlocked, the multifunction knob is turned counter-clockwise onto the stop. ( pay attention which direction is clock- respectively counter-clockwise.) If you force the mult ifunction knob onto this stop, you will need the same power to tighten the multifunction knob again (as when you turned counter c lockwise)

If you experience a "lock-up", simply tighten (clockwise ! ) the multifunction k nob approximately 1/2 turn and loosen the small friction screw if possible. That's it. There is no need to always alter the friction screw when changing the camera/len s weight. Use the index ring on the multifunction knob.

ARCA-SWISS Monoball tripod heads are serviced in the USA through our Office in C hicago: E-mail: arcaswiss@aol.com, Phone: (773) 248 2513, Fax: (773) 248 2774

Julio Fernandez
11-Oct-2000, 13:14
I believe that both the problem with the Arca ball, and its advantages, are inherent in its design. You cant have one without the other. When the tripod with the ball firmly tightened is placed on the resting surface in such position that can put stress on the ball, it will cause the ball to tighten further as it is supposed to do. It is easy to visualize that in transportation, vibration can cuse repeated stresses causing the ball to tighten further. The same problem will occur if the tripod and ball are carried with the camera mounted on. Movements will result in the torque caused by the off- center weight of the camera causing stresses that will tighten the ball. The remedy obviously is 1) never to carry the tripod-ball with the camera mounted on and 2) before storing, always loosen the ball. OK, but Murphy being Murphy, sooner or later your ball will freeze and you may not be so lucky as to be able to unfreeze it in spite of all the prescriptions for so doing. I have not seen the Kirk but have seen the large Foba ball which I found to be very smooth and firm. My large Linhof is smooth and firm but it is not as smooth as either the Foba or the Arca. The difference is the Teflon inserts in the latter two. Some balls have a Teflon coating and will stay smooth until the coating wears away. A ball that is jerky is trying on your patience, one that goes loose is dangerous to your equipment and the one that freezes is dangerous to your health. You choose according to which you value most.

Struan Gray
11-Oct-2000, 16:11
What nobody dares to say is that Arca Swiss are part of a vast conspiracy to stop us taking good photos. Have you ever wondered why the same vibrations that loosen the lock nut on your quick release tighten the thumbscrew on your monoball? You may well think that it's just a reflection of unavoidable mechanical engineering tradeoffs, but that's what they want you to think, isn't it?

In fact, monoballs are made from spare titanium dimanganate left over from the secret helicopter project at Hanger 137 (that's why they're black). The parts are smuggled out of America via the Lebanon and Myanmar, and irradiated at the Kobi fast breeder reactor in Kazakhstan before being trucked to Hagenheim in the Valais Alps where the *real* Arca Swiss factory is situated. There, the secret mind transmitters are installed which, once activated by the initiator found in all Canon L and Nikon AF-D lenses, brainwash any humans which come within range.

Those who get too close too often notice nothing, but gradually they start to write occasional complementary notes about Arca Swiss products on photo.net. Quickly, the number and frequency of the comments grows, and soon branches out to include carbon fibre tripods, 600/4 lenses with white barrels, Novatron power packs and Tango drum scanners. Before the victim is even aware what is happening their fellow afflicted make them a supplementary moderator, and they begin to delete any threads which are complementary about Kirk ballheads, affordable lenses, or photo safaris in the mountains of Northern Missouri.

Only a few select photographers are given the secret antidote. They are the lucky few who amass fame, riches and filing cabinets full of stunning photos from the locations and gear kept secret by the unwitting pawns of the Arca Swiss empire. While B1 users are mown down in their thousands by their life-threatening equipment, these Faustian photographers gambol in forest glades with vast herds of cuddly tame wildlife and legions of Playboy models.

This is what happened to me after I bought my B1, and it is the real reason my photos stink. There's not a thing I can do about it, but knowing the truth makes me feel better, and I draw comfort from the fact that someone, somewhere will perhaps learn from my mistake and live a better life because of it.

Ellis Vener
11-Oct-2000, 16:31
Well Struan, as I return from my latest gambol in Kenya with several Playmates contently purriing by my side I realize that we have to kill you now along with everyone else who has read your entry. Ah but wait! You are saved by a mistake (deliberate?) on your part. You write: "Quickly, the number and frequency of the comments grows, and soon branches out to include carbon fibre tripods, 600/4 lenses with white barrels, Novatron power packs and Tango drum scanners."

Novatron? Profoto, Broncolor, Elinchrom or Balcar only sir!We do not trifle with Novatrons.

A very funny post!

Struan Gray
12-Oct-2000, 07:12
Ellis, I have tried several times to refute your mean-spirited attack on Novatron, but my B1 won't let me mention any of the other high-quality flash brands. If I type more than 'Pro', 'Vivit' or 'Centr', my B1 glows red hot and the pulsations start to disturb patients in the nearby teaching hospital. I don't know what Arca are using for batteries, but I wish I could get some for my Walkman.

Novatron it is.

Ellis Vener
12-Oct-2000, 11:58
In that case Wein makes a really nice analog flash meter: Needle and dial are all you need. Don't even think about a Sekonic, Gossen or Minolta, the B1 might go to white hot or beyond.

Struan Gray
12-Oct-2000, 13:16
Thanks Ellis, it's reliable information like yours which makes the internet, and this forum, so great.