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Thread: Quick releases for LF cameras

  1. #1
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    Quick releases for LF cameras

    The discussion in Neil Poulsen's thread about the weight-bearing capacity of particular tripod heads brought up the question of what experiences people have had with quick releases on LF cameras, and what design features would make for a secure QR for different sizes and types of LF camera. As I said in the other thread, I've been skeptical of QR's for big cameras, but I could well be missing something. I'd be interested to hear of others' experiences with QR's for LF cameras.

  2. #2
    Unwitting Thread Killer Ari's Avatar
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    Re: Quick releases for LF cameras

    Funny you should ask, Oren, I was thinking right along those very lines myself.
    I have had no direct experience with ULF yet, so I'll keep my comments to 8x10 and smaller formats.

    For years I used Manfrotto's hex plates, and, unlike some other people, I was fan; the problem was when the plate got a little win down, there would be a little play, resulting in having to over-tighten, which resulted in less-than-acceptable performance.
    I've since moved on to Arca-style-looking QR clamps and plates, the clamps I prefer are quick-locking lever types.

    I suppose Arca-Swiss must make some, but the ones I heard about most often are RRS and FLM, the latter because I deal in them. I use the FLM clamps.
    After 2.5 years of steady use, I still find this clamp/plate QR system to be rock-solid, without a hint of slop or movement.

    As I said in another thread, I'll shoot a quick video, or photos, of the clamp and plate holding a Toyo 810M (16 lbs.) upside-down, attached to a tripod. That's how solid I feel they are.

    In the past I've seen some custom-made systems coming out of the movie industry, and these are heavy-duty as well, but again, I have no direct experience with those, so I'll restrict comments to those products that are more readily available online or at a store such as B&H.

  3. #3

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    Re: Quick releases for LF cameras

    Horseman made a large clamp, about twice the size of an arca - I have used them for 4x5 and 5x7 field cameras. Nice design with a lever action for clamping.

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    Unwitting Thread Killer Ari's Avatar
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    Re: Quick releases for LF cameras

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Mann View Post
    Horseman made a large clamp, about twice the size of an arca - I have used them for 4x5 and 5x7 field cameras. Nice design with a lever action for clamping.
    Are they still available? I'd like to see what they look like.

    Here is my current set-up; I really like the lever-actuated clamp for its toughness and rigidity.

    The 70mm clamp; the plate clicks into the space, still able to slide back and forth, but impossible to remove from the clamp. A flick of the lever tightens it up:


    The clamp sitting on the video bowl, which is a Gitzo part that fits the FLM tripod very well:


    The 70mm QR plate:

  5. #5
    Unwitting Thread Killer Ari's Avatar
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    Re: Quick releases for LF cameras

    Folded Toyo 810M attached to the 70mm clamp, atop the tripod:


    The whole thing before I turn it upside-down:


    Holding the camera upside down, attached to a 70mm clamp and plate; rock steady (I never do this, btw, unless asked to):

  6. #6
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    Re: Quick releases for LF cameras

    Three things I most worry about with QR's:

    1) How secure is attachment of plate to camera? Will the plate tend to twist or otherwise loosen, without warning, under routine handling?
    2) How easy is it to attach camera-with-plate securely to the QR base on the tripod head while on the go? How easy is it to get it wrong, and thus end up with an insecure mount?
    3) How vulnerable is the clamp to unintended loosening?

    I've found the old Bogen system problematic on all three counts.

    I have one of the Horseman QR sets, unfortunately don't have time just now to photograph it. The camera plate has a pair of spring-loaded pins whose spacing is tailored to the dimensions of the Horseman metal field cameras, which provides good anti-twist protection with those cameras. This makes it an especially good match to my VH/VH-R. I've used it with other lightweight cameras, too.

  7. #7
    Dave Karp
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    Re: Quick releases for LF cameras

    Hi Oren,

    I have been contemplating the purchase of an ARCA compatible QR clamp like the one Ari uses. I already use a similar ARCA type clamp that tightens with a screw instead of the clamp.

    1. To date, I have not had a problem with the clamp loosening on the tripod head, but I have had a plate twist on my WP Improved Seneca under routine handling. On the other hand, I have never had the much longer plate that I attached to my 4x5 Walker Titan SF loosen or twist. That could be because (1) I cut put a piece of rubber and placed it between the plate and the camera on the Walker but not on the Seneca, and/or (2) the plate on the Seneca is much shorter than the one on the Walker, perhaps providing less friction. The twisting would be prevented by having two tripod screw holes on the camera base. I wish I had asked Mike Walker to modify my Titan that way when it was in England for servicing years ago. I guess I could probably do the mod myself on the wooden camera.

    2. I find it quite easy to attach both of the above cameras to the tripod out in the field. It is much easier than locating the screw hole and screwing it in. I used to use that tried and true method with my old Gitzo head when using the Seneca. I added the ARCA type clamp to the Gitzo head so I could stop messing around with the screw. I was thinking that a lever type clamp would be even easier. I was looking at one of these: http://www.ebay.com/itm/361206737578...%3AMEBIDX%3AIT.

    3. The old style screw clamp is pretty safe if you are careful. However, I narrowly and luckily averted disaster once when I neglected to fully tighten the screw when attaching my new Olympus E-M1 to the clamp. It slid off when I picked up the tripod. The luck occurred when the neck strap caught on the end of the tripod, leaving me standing there with my heart in my mouth and my camera dangling from the end of the tripod. I am more careful now! I was hypothesizing that the lever clamp style would make this sort of error or loosening less likely. I would love to hear of others' experiences with this sort of clamp.

  8. #8

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    Re: Quick releases for LF cameras

    I've standardized on Really Right Stuff lever-release clamps. For my 4x5 and smaller cameras, Really Right Stuff's own plates/rails work perfectly, providing adequate contact area and, with two screws mated to two sockets on the camera or an anti-twist lip, complete elimination of rotation.

    For my Ebony 5x7 and wholeplate cameras, I had S.K. Grimes machine replacement baseplates that incorporate Really Right Stuff-compatible dovetails. The attached images show those, as well as an earlier Really Right Stuff clamp I used at the time.

    For my 8x10 Phillips Compact II, I use a Kirk plate that's no longer offered. It's four inches square and has a ribbed surface that mates to the camera base, slightly digging in to Dick Phillips' composite material and totally avoiding any possibility of rotation. This is the closest thing I've seen that's still available new today:


    On my larger tripod, which carries a Burzynski ball head, I've added this Really Right Stuff panning clamp:

    It gets rid of the annoyances encountered with ball heads and view cameras. After setting up the tripod, I level the clamp using its built in bubble, then tighten down the Burzynski. If, after placing the Compact II in the clamp, a leftward or rightward framing change is desired, I simply loosen the pan lock and rotate my camera, which stays level.

    I've found it straightforward to correctly drop all my cameras' plate dovetails directly into the Really Right Stuff lever release clamps and had no issues with them loosening from the camera. Also note that both the PC-LR panning clamp and Really Right Stuff's B2-LR-II clamp

    now automatically adjust for most non-Really Right Stuff dovetails that might be slightly different in size or profile. Both securely grasp my Kirk plate by a simple flip of their levers, while also maintaining compatibility with Really Right Stuff's own plates as well as the Grimes versions on my Ebonies.

    In my experience, the most critical aspect of selecting a quick release for large format cameras is ensuring adequate contact area. Once you've met that minimum, which varies with camera weight and size, other factors must be dealt with.

    Either of the Really Right Stuff clamps linked above provide more than sufficient clamping force for anything up to (and possibly beyond) an 8x10. I've performed extensive testing to determine the weak link in these support systems and found that, in addition to needing a sturdy and adequately rigid tripod, the head itself must be selected with care. The Linhof 3663 seen in one of my attached images is only sufficient for cameras as large as 5x7. It's incapable of avoiding vibration when asked to hold the Compact II, even though those cameras' weights are within ounces of each other. If wind excites things, the Compact II's greater moment arm exceeds the Linhof's damping ability, even on the same Series 3 Gitzo carbon fiber tripod I've outfitted with a Burzynski. Many decades ago, Art Kramer wrote a magazine article about tripods titled "Law of the Thinnest Section." My investigations confirm that its premise applies equally to heads and quick releases.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails SK Grimes Ebony baseplates.jpg   SV 57 Grimes baseplate.jpg   SV 57 Grimes baseplate profile.jpg  

  9. #9

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    Re: Quick releases for LF cameras

    I've done well for 15 years with a manfrotto 410 head/QR plates on a bogen reporter tripod carrying up to an 8x10 wista field. Everything looks well used now but still functions properly so I'm keeping it simple.
    The only trouble with doin' nothing is you can't tell when you get caught up

  10. #10
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    Re: Quick releases for LF cameras

    This is great information so far - thanks, everyone! Thinking out loud:

    Seems that the most secure connection for a large flatbed camera ought to be a plate that screws into two sockets. I guess that might require a custom-made plate in many instances. Some of my big wooden cameras have two tripod sockets, but I'm reluctant to do surgery to add a second one to those that don't.

    Just took a peek at the RRS website. I was aware of the many plates they have tailored to the shapes of specific small-format cameras, but was not aware of their somewhat more limited LF line, including their generic, somewhat adaptable two-screw B35 plate.

    David: good point that fussing directly with the tripod screw itself poses challenges and risks during setup.

    I guess a fourth consideration is how secure is the attachment of the clamp unit to the tripod head or legset.

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