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Arca-Swiss Monoball B1 Warning

Douglas J. Moo , Sep 20, 2001; 01:52 p.m.

I thought it might be worthwhile to add to the growing evidence that Arca-Swiss is doing a poor job with their B1 monoball -- and not just in manufacturing it, but in support as well. As a recent post here indicated, Arthur Morris is warning his newsletter readers about problems with this monoball. I purchased one from B&H in June only after considerable agonizing -- finally assured by folks such as B. Geyer at RRS that the famous lock-up problem is easily fixed. Well, not always. On a recent photo shoot in Alaska, the monoball locked up three times in three weeks -- I fixed it the first two times by following the usual advice, but it simply would not budge the third time (and I am big and strong). I finally took pliers to it, ripping off the rubber grip in the process. Now here is the real point of this rant: because the 14-day grace period had expired, B&H would do nothing. The only manufacturer rep. in the US would only promise a repair -- not even a replacement if my current monoball is defective. "They make them in France," she explained; so she could no nothing. How do I contact "France," I asked? No response. Not only, then, does the ballhead have manifest problems; you will not find any customer support once the problem takes place. Caveat emptor. As for me, sadder but wiser, I am saving up for the Kirk ballhead.


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Eric Friedemann , Sep 20, 2001; 04:57 p.m.


The Arca-Swiss B1 head costs a minimum of $379, not including a quick release feature or the quick release plate. This is an absurd amount of money to pay for a tripod head that in no way effects picture quality. (In other words, put your money in front of the film, not under it.)

Yes, the B1 head will allegedly hold 90 lbs. However, the last time anyone put 90 lbs. or more on a tripod and head was when Lester Bogen sat on one of his tripods for his long-running ad in the 1980s. This ad caused speculation in the industry that Bogen had developed a 1/4-20 to a$$hole adapter.

Stephen Ratzlaff , Sep 20, 2001; 05:15 p.m.

He he he !!! I remember those ads.

Steve Hovland , Sep 20, 2001; 05:51 p.m.

As a dedicated 3-way pan-tilt head user, I have never understood why one would want to pay a lot for a ball head?

Bogen makes a nice geared head- about $165 from Calumet.

Kevin Deacon , Sep 20, 2001; 05:52 p.m.

Get yourself a Kirk BH-1 ballhead and your worries are over. Not only does it come with the QR feature on the ball itself, it comes with a universal plate to get you started. Price is around $340.00 plus shipping. I've had mine for a year with no problems whatsoever.

Nigel Whitaker , Sep 20, 2001; 06:52 p.m.

I agree completely with Steve.

I use a Manfrotto 168 ballhead (cost me £45/$65) And it locks when I lock it, has never locked when I don't want to, I haven't tried mounting my car on top yet, but I'm sure my Benbo tripod would collapse first.

End statement: Video users need smooth movements, Stills users need zero vibration on the tripod, and quick, convenient locking controls on the head. When the shutter opens for 1/250 sec, the photograph will not illustrate how smoothly the $1000 ballhead mooved the camera into position, only the view in front of hte lens in that 2.5 millisecond.

Bob Atkins , Sep 20, 2001; 07:09 p.m.

Put a 600/4 on a 3 way head or even a lesser ballhead, shoot some moving wildlife, then tell me that a smooth panning ball head isn't essential! It doesn't have to be a B1, but it has to be similar (e.g. Kirk).

No, a B1 isn't essential for wide-angle landscape photography or studio portraits.

Tommy Huynh , Sep 20, 2001; 07:52 p.m.

3 way vs. Ball Head

What a ridiculous argument. Each serves their own purposes. Some need speed, simplicity, and the form factor of ballheads, and some need the control of 3-ways. Apples and oranges.

In an attempt to stay on topic, here's an account by Galen Rowell as to why he switched to Kirk:


"For years I put up with a great-when-it-works Arca-Swiss B1 ballhead that locked up occasionally in transport. Despite following instructions to avoid the acknowledged problem, it seized up at the South Pole after vibrating inside a pack in the open fuselage of a C-130, causing me to lose critical telephotos of the plane taking off from the ice as I was trying to free the jammed tension and locking knob in ­40F temperatures. I now use Kirk's improved BH-1 ballhead with separate knobs. I especially prefer it with big wildlife lenses, where it holds more positively at those partial settings that make for easy tracking of randomly moving subjects. "

I wonder if it's cold weather related?

Gerry Siegel (Honolulu) , Sep 20, 2001; 07:57 p.m.

Douglas, I am sorry that you have had that kind of aggravation. What kind of temperatures were you operating in I wonder? I have used that head for 7 years (along with some like Ellis V. who give it heavy duty use much more than I) and had one freeze up when I carried it locked in a car, and it released very easily using the standard counterintuitive twistareeno. Now it may be true that the current distributor of the A-S is unresponsive (who is it pray tell?), and that would be unfortunate for all of us. They have shifted at least once since Calumet had the franchise. But I would urge you to ask B and H to intervene if you get little satisfaction or no full repair for your lemon. Again, at that price, and within a month of purchase I don't think B and H will throw you to the wolves- write a personal to Henry Posner maybe? After all they sell a lot of Arcas. As for the cost yep, it was a big gulp (took me three years to do it) and I went through lots of the Bogen and Slik models before as well as the Sinar Bron Foba clamp style(which is not bad but not as nice as A-S). Personally, I disagree with you my friend Eric Friedemann on this baby. I think the product is a precision machined device no less than a fine lens or a fine German flash gun. Of course, domestic wines have surpassed French wines and maybe Kirk is a good one. Just not a bargain from what I see. But they do take American Express (inside joke.) Thanks for the update D.Moo.

Ken Halverson , Sep 20, 2001; 08:56 p.m.

I have so far not had a problem with Arca-Swiss Monoball B1 locking up(knock on wood). But my problem is that parts tend to fall off for no reason. First the Multi-function knob that locks the ball fell off. Had to send it in for repair. Now, the knob that tightens the quick release onto the plate fell off somewhere in Hawaii on the Na Pali Coast. Do not know how it fell off. May have hit a rock, though if it did, I don't think it was that hard. Warrantee did not cover this and have to pay for the parts. I have had Canon 550ex flash fall 6 feet onto hard rock surface and still works great. But this ball head hit something not nearly as hard, a knob or part falls off. This is not a very sturdy ball head in my opinion.

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