3-way head for 4x5
After taking the Intro to LF workshop at the conference I've come to the conclusion that part of the reason why I haven't been shooting much 4x5 has been that my equipment has been making the set-up process much more difficult than it needs to be.
In particular, I'm using a ballhead that has limited tension control, especially when it's carrying a lot of weight. This makes the task of levelling my Arca a complete pain since I have to carefully hold the camera while I unlock the ball, level everything on both axis at once, lock the head and hope that the camera doesn't shift when I let go.
At the workshop I had the opportunity to shoot with a Manfrotto 3-way head and it was a complete joy by comparison to be able to tweak each axis independently.
Currently, I'm leaning towards either the Manfrotto 229 or possibly the 410 which would be nice for the geared movements.
But, I'm not a fan of Manfrotto's big quick release plates. Plus, as far as I can tell, my Arca-Swiss F's rail is the same dovetail as the Arca-Swiss style QR plates (can someone confirm this?). So I'm thinking a 3-way head with an Arca-Swiss style quick release could be ideal. Plus, that would allow me to get much smaller plates that are designed to fit my 35mm bodies instead of using those giant hex plates. Short of spending ridiculous sums of money on the Arca-Swiss cube head, are there any 3-way or geared heads with an Arca-Swiss style quick release built-in? Or at least with just a male thread so I could add a base plate to it easily?
As far as I can tell, the quick answer is none. I have a number of Manfrotto heads, from ball and sockets, to three-way heads, and geared heads. Each is rated for different loads, which roughly corresponds to camera format (35, 120, 4x5, etc.) The way Manfrotto designs its camera support systems, the larger the carrying capacity of any given head, the larger the mounting plate. This is the reason behind the different-sized plates. Which, as a consequence, guarantees non-interchangeability of mounts from one head to the next.
Someone else might be familiar with support systems from other manufacturers. But as far as Manfrotto heads go, the size of the plates correlate with the load rating of any given head.
Not that it's ideal, but the way I got around this is using an old gitzo 3 way head with a
quick release clamp from Really Right Stuff. The clamp attaches to the head, and you can use Arca-Swiss style QR plates. The newer style low-profile Gitzo 3 way heads in combination with the clamp would provide more stability than the old (tall) head that I have.
A similar setup I have is
the Linhof three way head with an Arca Swiss clamp mounted on the top. This head is very heavy and stable and I've used it with my 8x10 Deardorff with no problems. It's very pricey new, but I bought mine used and saw one for sale used a few weeks ago on photo.net. And, yes, the Arca Swiss rail fits the clamp just fine.
Or, you might just remove the head, leave it at home, and shoot with the camera on the tripod.
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Personally I swear by (not at) the Manfrotto quick-release plates (the larger hexagonal ones). Have about 15 of them and 3 matching heads. Have a Manfrotto 229 head which holds all my cameras including 8x10" Sinar very happily in the studio. As I am just about to take to the field with my 8x10", I have bought a Gitzo Rationelle #4 head on e-bay for £35 - this is a tad more robust than the Manfrotto head, the reason I got it was it has a large top and you can use two mounting screws (in conjunction with a monorail with 2 "feet") about 4" apart, which I find is very good for damping vibration with monorails out of doors.
PS: Here's one - a bit tatty but quite a bargain:
Thanks for the quick replies.
I do realise that Manfrotto design their plates around what load the head will carry. The big downside for me is that the big hex plates are so bulky on 35mm gear. They actually interfere with one of my lenses that has a DOF preview lever, I can't fully stop down the lens while the plate is on and I have to remove the plate for mounting and removing that lens.
For 4x5 work obviously the weight and size of the hex plate is minimal compared to the rest of the gear I'm lugging around. However, I find that the rail can twist in the plate which is a little disconcerting and can be a hassle when working. Using an Arca-Swiss style QR system would eliminate this since the entire rail of the camera becomes the QR plate.
I also like the idea of being able to get plates that are designed to fit the specific body I will mount them on. This way I could keep plates on each body more or less permanently without adding a lot of unnecessary bulk or weight.
Currently I only own 1 tripod (Manfrotto 055) but I'm thinking about getting a 2nd smaller pod for when I'm travelling light with 35mm gear but want to have a pod with me. I'd like to still have the option to switch to the bigger pod for when I'm doing more precise work, such as macro. Having the same style plates for both heads would be really nice then.
One thing I did happen to find is that Kirk Photo makes a Arca-Swiss base that's on a Manfrotto hex plate so that might be the best solution.
If you have a Manfrotto hex plate that disturbs a DOF preview, or mounts (like Tamron) file it off. Its soft aluminium so it comes off easy, plus that small corner that needs removing isn't doing anything anyway.
RRS, Kirk, and Wimberley all make good Arca-style clamps, but one thing to watch out for is the RRS clamp with the cam lever lock, which may not close tight enough for an actual Arca-Swiss monorail (they mention this somewhere on their website)--the ones with the screw lock are okay. I have all three and A-S style plates on almost everything.
Yes, it is a Tamron lens that it's interfering with. It's fine as long as I remove the plate before attaching or removing that lens. Filing is tempting but I think it's a more significant chunk of the plate than just a small corner but I'll have to double check.
Originally Posted by richard littlewood