Review: Kirk Enterprises BH-3

You all know that I like gear; I got this addiction from my dad. I change my photography gear all the time, constantly trying to get the new sharpest lens, or more megapixels in my camera.

Through the years, my cameras, lenses, and tripod legs have been sold, traded and swapped for new or different gear. Through all these changes, one piece of gear has remained the same;  my tripod head. The Kirk Enterprises BH-3 has traveled with me across the country and across the world. It has been all around Montana, Georgia, Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Utah, Vermont and New York as well as Canada, South Africa and two trips to New Zealand. Throughout all of these trips, this has been that one item in my camera bag that has remained rock-solid when it comes to both reliability and sharp photographs.

One of the main things I hear from students in our Career Training and Workshops programs is how many of them dislike their tripods.  In my opinion, they should not be blaming their tripod legs as much as they should be considering their inadequate tripod head.

Their are many different kinds of heads out there and all have their advantages and disadvantages. My personal favorite and the choice of most professional photographers is the ball head design.

The Kirk Enterprises BH-3 is one of the best ball heads out there. I have used it with lenses up to 400mm in length as well as  for large format photography. If you ever plan on using lenses in excess of 400mm, I would suggest you look at the Kirk Enterprises BH-1 which is a slightly bigger version of the BH-3.

The BH-3 is extremely simple to use. With only one knob, you are able to move the camera in any direction that you require. There is also a tension knob that stops your camera from falling down when you loosen the main knob. A third knob allows you to rotate the head and makes taking panoramic images easy.

Most of us own, or have owned,  a tripod head that uses a quick release plate system. If you are one of these people, you probably have been bothered by the fact that every so often your quick release plate, no matter how tight, ALWAYS comes loose. Kirk Enterprises makes custom plates for every type of camera that fit perfectly onto the bottom and stops the plate from spinning and loosening. To me, this is the biggest advantage of the Kirk (Arca-Swiss) system.

My recommendation is that you purchase the ball head and the plate designed specifically for your camera.  Kirk also offers a universal plate that will fit on any camera.  I like to use this plate for the few cameras they don’t make a plate for such as  my large format camera.

Even though this system is the most expensive option available on the market,  as I said earlier, this will be the one piece of gear you only need to buy once and is worth the investment.  It feels weird to do a review of a product that,  in my opinion, has no flaws.  I personally believe the Kirk Enterprises ball head is a perfectly designed piece of equipment that is simple, easy to use and built incredibly well.

5 thoughts on “Review: Kirk Enterprises BH-3

Jo Muscutt

Have it, love it!

Andy Swan

Hey Forest, Andy Swan from SI/AI 2009. I’m looking into getting a new tripod setup and have a couple questions for you. First, have you heard of ‘Really Right Stuff’? They were recommended to me by a couple photographers (Joe Buissink and Denis Reggie) and I was wondering on your take of that brand versus Kirk. It seems like both are pretty solid quality. But here’s my main question. I’m a bit confused when it comes to the use of L Brackets. If I were to use an L bracket, do I still need a plate? It seems that it just replaces the plate. Is there a reason why I would need to have both if I had the L Bracket? Thank you for any insight you are able to offer.

Andy Swan

Avatar of Forest Chaput de Saintonge

Forest Chaput de Saintonge

Hey Andy, Really Right Stuff is very similar to Kirk, I have never used RRS so I cannot attest to the quality (I have heard its great though). I have always used Kirk and would always recommend them.

If you buy an “L” bracket their is NO need for the flat plate. The L bracket acts as both. I always use an L bracket on my camera.

Andy Swan

Thanks Forest

Mike Warfield

Forest I am in the processing of purchasing a new carbon tripod and ball head for my Nikon 300s. I will be using it for low light and night photography as well as macro photography. Since I do a lot of hiking weight is a consideration. My question is which tripod has the least viberation one with a center post or with out.

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