Below is a brief review of a recent purchase; pardon my poor English, I hope it all makes sense.
I have this 1st gen. Gitzo 1155 Traveller Tripod, which I absolutely love, only the attached Gitzo 1178M ballhead didn't quite cut it anymore after I purchased a Canon 5D2 with 4.0/24-105 and some panorama equipment.
Some research lead me to believe the Markins ballheads were the obvious choice for an upgrade, so I got in touch with Markins America and ordered the Q3 Traveller along with a few other parts.
As I understand it, the Q3-T is identical to the regular Q3, only the panning base is slightly smaller and and the locking knob for the quick shoe shorter.
The T version is more expensive, but I figured it might fit my tripod better somehow, as it is custom designed to match the Gitzo Traveler series tripod legs.
More on that below.
The pre-purchase service has been exccellent, a few emailed questions have been answered quickly, on a weekend !
I placed my order on a Sunday, and it was shipped first thing the following Monday, got a tracking #, perfect.
The ballhead , a couple of camera plates and an additional quick shoe arrived on time, safely packaged, and I put everything together.
The head went on the Gitzo legs, the extra quick shoe was attached to a panoramic adapter, the custom non-twist camera plate to my Canon 5D Mk2 .
I don't like ballheads, but this one delivers.
The Canon 5D2 with a fairly heavy 24-105mm/4.0, attached to the pano adapter (added leverage and weight) is supported easily and still allows for smooth movements, considering it's not a pan/tilt head.
And at a bit over 400g , the weight/strength ratio seems amazing to me.
The base's finish feels kind of softish, for lack of a better term, nice to the touch and appears to be quite tough.
The main locking knob, in combination with the torque control, is a joy to use and keeps my gear safe and steady with just a quarter to half turn of the knob from fully loose.
However, the panning lock knob isn't quite as good; it requires considerable tightening to keep the head from rotating, and there's virtually no control - it's basically either on or off.
I've heard people call it a 'feature', yet I don't see the purpose in a panning lock not safely holding the camera in place .
On to the camera plates and quick shoe:
The finish for both scratches easily when you work on it with a tool or even a coin; there are differences between anodizing methods, and it seems Markins cut some corners here.
A $10 generic Arca-style plate held up better than the Markins plates, after only using them for a few hours, that is.
No trouble with the plate-quickshoe contact areas, though.
I had to use a 3/8 - 1/4 adapter to mount the quick shoe to the pano adapter - trouble is , none of the thread adapters I tried would sit flush with the bottom of the qick shoe, the area around the thread hole is not recessed far enough.
Hence it will only fit 3/8 size mounts, unless you have the tools to fix it, or use a collar-less adapter in combination with locktite or such - not a very flexible solution.
The camera plates sit more or less centered over the ballhead, but not exactly in the right position.
The anti-slip pin seems to act as a stopper for the plates, not sure why it's called anti-slip, might work for the larger plates .
I own a few Bogen and Gitzo heads, and their QR plates are a lot more safe and precise, but I wanted to move to the Arca-Swiss standard for my smaller cameras, so whatever.
I assume RRS, Kirk etc. parts might be better designed and more accurate.
Finally, the custom 'non-twist' camera plate for the Canon 5D2 .
Well, it doesn't fit.
Actually, it does fit, only the camera sits on it twisted by a few degrees , no matter how you attach the plate; the offset is clearly visible, and defeats the purpose of having a non-twist plate, in my opinion.
Certainly you can't use it for position critical purposes, like panoramic photography.
Markins explained the issue with possible manufacturing tolerances ; I call it poor engineering , but what do I know ?
T = Traveler
Quote from the Markins website :
•Custom designed for Gitzo traveler tripods with smaller panning base and shaftless quickshoe knob.
•Custom design allows the Gitzo traveler tripods to fold more compact.
This kind of suggests the Q3T(raveller) is a really good match for the Gitzo Traveler series, doesn't it ?
Only it's not...
Pictured below is the Gitzo 1155T, which is virtually identical to the 1550T re. measurements, and you can see how one of the legs is splayed quite a bit, due to the location of the two adjustment knobs.
The 1541T legs have the same issue, but you can work around it by extending one leg a bit, not perfect either, though.
So Markins looses a few milimeters in panning base radius (check the specs Q3 vs.Q3T), while at the same time the basic Q3 design doesn't allow any Gitzo Traveler legs to fold properly to begin with: one leg is splayed by more than 10mm at the head's base , increasing the radius of the folded legs by a lot more than the narrower base is (supposedly) saving.
Make sense of that if you can.
Of course it would have meant a greater design effort to change the position of one of the knobs, but then it would have actually worked as advertised and the higher price be justified.
The Q3T is a very nice, strong head, despite the weak panning knob, and I find it an excellent match for my 1155T in most respects.
The movements are fairly smooth, it's well made and is nice to use.
But the fact remains that this head doesn't fit the Traveler series Gitzos very well, even though Markins claims exactly that.
This and he insufficient panning lock are my main issues; the poor scratch resistance of the accessories doesn't bother me much, the poor fit of the 'non-twist' plate is quite annoying, though.
So all things considered, to me Markins seems to offer a decent product at a somewhat acceptable price, but is lacking in quality control, attention to detail and proper design of a few basic functions.
The North American distributer is great to do business with on the one hand, but there is a blatant case of false advertising, to put it politely.