Perhaps it's a sign I'm finally over that bad case of GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). Seriously, one of the things that made this 7x17 project "affordable" is the fact that it borrows many of the parts from the ARCA-SWISS system I already own. That was one of the main reasons I went this route.
I suppose it's only fitting that I should also "borrow" the ARCA-SWISS head from my current system. The key to using the B1 with a large format camera is to get the tension pre-set adjusted properly. With it set just right, you can move the camera where you want, but there is enough tension that when you release the camera, it stays put until you tighten the locking knob. The proper amount of tension also makes it possible to move the camera in one axis without disturbing the others. I know, and understand why, many others prefer a three-axis head, and all else being equal I'm a sucker for a geared head. However, all else is not equal, I have yet to find another head that is anywhere as light and compact as the B1 that comes close to matching it's strength and smooth operation. The G1570 is a pretty good three-axis head, but it weighs twice as much as the B1, has huge handles sticking out all over the place, and is surprisingly less sturdy.
When I first started using the B1 (my first ball head in any format) for 4x5, I admit it felt awkward. It took me about a year of steady use to get to the point where I was as comfortable with it as I was the three-axis head (Bogen 3047) I'd been using for about nine or ten years. I just assumed, with the bigger, heavier camera I'd need a bigger, heavier head. That may not be the case after all.
It looks like it will be a while longer before I get the back for my camera. Everything else is ready to go. Once the rear box frame/back/bellows unit arrive, I just have to bolt the rear box frame to the metal u-shaped bracket. I pre-drilled the holes in the box frame before I sent it to Richard Ritter to make/attach the back.
In the mean time, I've been playing around with various configurations of front standards and rails. Depending on how much the back and bellows weigh, I now think the camera, in max. configuration (30" extension, geared front standard) will weigh around 11½ lbs. In minimum configuration (~18" extension, non-geared front standard), for hiking long distances, I think I might be able to get it down to less than 10 lbs. (perhaps 9¾ lbs.) In the min. configuration, mode, I would be able to use it with three lightweight lenses (240mm Computar, 305mm G Claron and 450mm Fujinon C) and my Gitzo 1325 tripod with the B1 head.
10-11.5 pounds, i'm impressed! I also have a 305 G-Claron and a 450 Fuji c, maybe I should try my Gitzo 1325 with a suitable head. That set up would certainly be easier to transport than my Miller tripod with the Ries head. Hmm, maybe...
I hope Richard Ritter gets your back ready soon. I'm not sure I should mention this, I don't want to depress you, but it took him 3 months longer to do my camera than he originally estimated. It is very nice though, and I'm sure in a little while I will forget all about the delay and just enjoy the camera.
P.S. Do you think you're really cured of GAS? What's your secret?
I've used a B1 with 8X10 stuff for the four last years. I used it under a 7X17 Korona, it was not very comfortable without the camera's rear rail, the head being very off-centered, but not so difficult. With a 305 or a 360, the longer lenses one can use without the extension, the Arca, even completely off centered didn't fail without having to support the front of the camera. It's also a pleasure to carry a head without levers, and I have found I could set more precisely the camera holding it directly without levers.
I received a 7x17 Canham three months ago and have been lucky to find a good used Arca B2 at reasonable price : it's a dream to use. The camera is now well centered on the head, of course that makes the setting much easier. The separate axis, the ability to set independantly the tension on each axis make the thing really easy to use, and I always can move freely the camera to search on the GG as I like to do. It's heavier, but I don't walk miles and miles with the camera, so this is not really an issue. The too small panning knob locks easier and stronger than on the small sister. I would like the smaller ball knob with a better grip or another design to help good locking.
I like very much the B1 with 8w10 and smaller stuff, it was strong enough for the 7x17, but in this larger format I felt, maybe because of the width of the camera and amplification of the least movement, a bit more difficult to level it so quickly and precisely. The B2 solved that.