Camera Support Systems

If you’ve read my previous posts about tripods, then you understand that high quality tripods are sold “bare”, without anything to attach them to your camera. This is where the ballhead and quick-release clamp come in. Good quality ballheads are designed to support heavy loads, move smoothly but lock solidly. Ballheads are easier to use and much more stable than the old fashioned “pan & tilt” tripod heads. Aiming and leveling can be accomplished as one motion, and solid lockup is accomplished with a tightening of only one control. The best designed ballheads also offer variable tension that makes them easy to control. Tripods with ballheads are much easier to pack and carry than pan & tilt heads since they have no long handles to get in the way.

Ball_Head_Blog

But the ballhead is only half the story. The other half is the clamp system which is used to attach your camera to the ballhead. Mounting your camera using the standard ¼”‑20 screw is far too slow and insecure. Instead, many manufacturers adopted the “Arca-Swiss” standard which uses an open-ended dovetail channel with compressing side jaws that grip the mounting plate or bracket attached to the camera. This unique setup provides a quick and easy clamping system that is very solid and secure.

When used in conjunction with an L-Plate designed for your specific camera the quick-release clamp system allows the landscape photographer to quickly switch between shooting horizontally and vertically as shown in the images below.

Quick Release Clamp & Camera L-Plate

Quick Release Clamp with L-Plate

Really Right Stuff
In my opinion the best designed and highest quality ballheads, clamps and camera plates are made by Really Right Stuff, a great little company in California owned and operated by Joe Johnson. The folks at RRS are incredible to work with and their attention to detail in the design and manufacturing of camera support systems is second to none. That’s why you’ll see nine out of ten professionals using RRS gear including guys like Joe McNally, Moose Peterson and Scott Kelby.

The advice I give to any serious amateur is to buy the best tripod and ballhead you can possibly afford and buy them only once.  Really Right Stuff (gotta love that name) gear is expensive folks but worth every single penny. The workmanship is something I’ve only seen in medical devices before and the various parts fit together perfectly, time after time.

I’ve put an RRS L-Plate on every camera I currently shoot with from my 5D mark III to my G10 and can lock them into my BH-40 LR / Gitzo Traveller in just seconds to capture that perfect light at the end of the day. I honestly can’t imagine using any other brand than Really Right Stuff.

Instagram

L-Plates for your Canon 40D

Happy Thanksgiving! (for those of us in the US)

Once you’ve invested in a good set of tripod legs, a ball head and arca-swiss style clamp you need to look at an innovative little piece of technology that brings it all together, the “L-Plate”.  Really Right Stuff precision machines their L-Plates from a block of aluminum and each one is designed to fit a specific camera model like the Canon 40D.

rrs_l_bracket_back_blog

The design and workmanship of this little device is nothing less than spectacular and as you can see in the image above, it fits my Canon 40D with battery grip like a glove. The unique design leaves nothing to chance as you can see in the image below. You can even use a cable release while the bracket is attached to the camera, making this a great landscape accessory.

rrs_l_bracket_left_blog

The L-Plate securely attaches to the clamp in “landscape” mode as shown here. Both the clamp and L-Plate are marked to ensure that the camera and lens are perfectly centered over the tripod.

rrs_l_bracket_clamped_landscape_blog

The real advantage of using an L-Plate over a regular plate is it’s ability to switch from “landscape” mode to “portrait” mode without having to recompose the image. All you need to do is make sure the centerline marks line up and you are ensured that the lens has not changed position.

rrs_l_bracket_clamped_portrait_blog