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What I've learned about QR plates. (1 Viewer)

PlayFreeBird

Active member
Recently I added a Pentax PF-80 to my panoply, with a The Birder tripod and a Manfrotto 502 clone head. Up to now I had an old Slik travel tripod, very light and equally flexible, but suitable for my mirrorless camera and Nikon ED50. I'm very impressed with the RC5 plate for the quick release on the clone head. The Pentax has both 1/4 and 3/8 inch threaded socket, so I can use both screws on the plate as well as the alignment pin and get a very solid connection. Then I got to thinking about using the heavy duty tripod with the 50 or the camera. But I don't want to put the honking 4 inch plate on either. And I certainly will never mount the Pentax on the Slik.

So I started looking at QR systems on the web and Amazon and trying to educate myself. I thought I would pass on what I've found in my rigorous two days of study. Please feel free to correct, expand, or commentate on any of this.

QR systems
There are 3 systems of note, the Arca-Swiss style, and Manfrotto systems RC2 and RC5. The Arca-Swiss style, named after the company that introduced it, is a plate with opposite edges beveled at 45 degrees. This allows it to be clamped to a flat base with jaws of a corresponding angle. The clamp is tightened either with a screw or a cam lever. If the entire jaw is mobile, then the plate can be dropped in from above before tightening. If part of it is fixed, the plate slides into the jaws from the edge. Pretty much everyone offers a version of this style. While many try to emulate the 38mm width, others do not. And because width, depth, height, and grooves and protrusions differ from maker to maker, it is a style rather than a standard.
For every different base and plate pair that works together, there is a pair that is incompatible.

The Manfrotto systems are, essentially Arca-Swiss style as well, although sufficiently distinct (in particular, they do not use a 45 degree angle) that they are not usually lumped together. Nor are they particularly superior to anyone else's version of a quick release. However, Manfrotto is sufficiently prominent that their abundant system is the choice of cloning third party makers. The RC2 is a smaller (about 2 inches square) plate, typically secured with a cam lever. The RC5 is about twice as long, with a hollow grooved bottom that will latch onto a safety catch pin projecting from the base. The pin prevents the plate from sliding off before the clamp is tightened. The plate is also slotted for the attachment screw access, allowing the instrument to be secured where needed for balance or access.

Like most people, I'd like to be able to mount any device on any stand. However as mentioned, the RC5 plate is fine for video cameras, big scopes, or other large equipment, but hardly appropriate for smaller devices. Therefore I searched for a short plate that would fit a RC5 base. As far as I can tell, no such choice exists. The next idea was to find a RC5 converter. And I did find one, by Pro Media which will fit an RC5 base and offers a Arca-Swiss clamp on top. The downside is that a single plate costs $40. Which makes DIY attractive. Buy a cloned RC5 for about $12 and screw on your choice of clamp and you have a converter (with a plate) for a little more than half the cost.

Now what to put on top is still obscure. For me, I could replace the Slik ball head with screw, with a ball head with QR. But the Slik version is quite minimal (in keeping with a minimal tripod, to be sure) and not necessarily the best general (or economical) choice. So I will probably find a base to screw on (tightly!) to the Slik and match it on a spare RC5 plate as a converter. Assuming I avoid analysis paralysis,:eek!:
 

Alexis Powell

Natural history enthusiast
United States
...The Arca-Swiss style,...is a style rather than a standard. For every different base and plate pair that works together, there is a pair that is incompatible...
In practice, I don't think most users (at least in the USA) suffer issues with Arca-style compatibility. Really Right Stuff, Kirk, Wimberley, Desmond, and all Chinese brands that I've tried (e.g. Neewer) are all intercompatible.

...The RC2 is a smaller (about 2 inches square) plate, typically secured with a cam lever...
Unfortunately, the plates (i.e. 200PL or 3157N) for the RC2 system are not square, and clamps from Manfrotto differ according to whether they are held with the long axis front-to-back or side-to-side, often making it impossible to use the antirotation pin even if your scope has a receptacle. Although a few of these type of plates attempt to incorporate antirotation features, none that I've tried works very well. The rubberized top makes for an insecure connection compared to direct metal contact. By contrast, perfectly square Arca-style plates that incorporate an anti-rotation lip are available (e.g. Really Right Stuff B9 plate) and work fantastically well.

...the RC5 plate is fine for video cameras, big scopes, or other large equipment, but hardly appropriate for smaller devices. Therefore I searched for a short plate that would fit a RC5 base. As far as I can tell, no such choice exists...
The smallest plates for this standard are square ones such as Gitzo GS5370C. They are larger than a square Arca-plate, and they aren't available with anti-rotation lip, just the pin. Their rubber top also compromises security.

...The next idea was to find a RC5 converter. And I did find one, by Pro Media which will fit an RC5 base and offers a Arca-Swiss clamp on top. The downside is that a single plate costs $40...
The most elegant way to fit an Arca-style plate to the RC5 clamp is a plate adapter. They used to be available from Gitzo for a ridiculously high price or from Desmond for only $12 (DGZA-1) but now I can only find them for about $20 from various Chinese sources, such as this one.
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Metal-Adap...703904?hash=item2ce5c8cfe0:g:LhAAAOSwd4tTwN2r

...Now what to put on top is still obscure. For me, I could replace the Slik ball head with screw, with a ball head with QR. But the Slik version is quite minimal (in keeping with a minimal tripod, to be sure) and not necessarily the best general (or economical) choice. So I will probably find a base to screw on (tightly!) to the Slik and match it on a spare RC5 plate as a converter. Assuming I avoid analysis paralysis,:eek!:
I struggled with this question for years and have settled on using Arca-style plates and clamps that match the RRS/Kirk/Desmond etc standard. I have some heads that use other clamp standards (esp. RC5) or screws, but these are easy to use with Arca-style plates as described above and below.

For some of my really big equipment that is only used on RC5 type heads (e.g. panning heads from Sirui, Gitzo, Manfrotto), I sometimes use RC5 type plates from Gitzo, Sirui, or Manfrotto (modified to be anti-rotation). Alternatively, and for everything else with which I might want to use with either RC5 or Arca-style clamps, I use Arca-style plates and fit them, when needed, with an RC5 adapter as described above. I use plates from RRS, Kirk, and Desmond. Desmond makes a nice series in different lengths from 100 mm to 169 mm with anti-rotation lips that are inexpensive and precise:
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1062507-REG/desmond_dpl_169_7_3_4_long_lens.html

I have converted a few of my small minimalist heads to an Arca style mini-clamp, such as this very good and inexpensive one ($17) from Neewer:
https://www.amazon.com/Neewer-Aluminum-Screw-Compatible-Release/dp/B00KNPITI2

Otherwise, for a few of my very minimalist heads that have a 1/4 inch screw, I just use the screw the old fashioned way since all of the Arca-style plates from RRS, Kirk, Desmond etc have a 1/4 inch threaded socket (which is another advantage that they have over the Manfrotto 200PL plates for RC2 system, which have no socket).

--AP
 
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PlayFreeBird

Active member
Thanks Alexis, very informative. I did pick up that RC2 wasn't burning down the house. The asymmetry and alignment issues certainly explain that. I see the detente ramps on the bottom of the Gitzo. Indeed it is the short RC5 I was looking for. But now I realize I would have a half-honking plate on my M43 instead of a honking one. The converter seems the better way to go. Very helpful to me, and I hope others.
 

PlayFreeBird

Active member
Well just received an Andoer CL-50LS clamp from a US reseller. While I don't have anything to clamp it on yet, it looks to be very nicely made and thought out. It's open ended with a thumb screw for adjustability (between 38mm and 40 something). On the other side is a cam lever with a nicely tactile latch. Claws are 50mm long. Reasonably small but quite solid. The only issue I can see is forgetting to tune the clamp between different plates and getting loose or crushing bindings, but I'm guessing one might notice pretty quickly in practice.
 

PlayFreeBird

Active member
Coincidentally been updating a vintage bicycle I have. I now need a part that used to be ubiquitous. (A headset mounted cable hanger to get low enough to accommodate aero lever cabling.) What a headache! Turns out there are only 3 ready manufactures left - Japanese and US boutique operations way overpriced and marginally effective, and a venerable Taiwanese company still stamping out the old product (with a spiffier logo;-). And I still have to dig through multiple Google searches to find a supplier.
---
And Arca plates seem even worse!-)
---
Let me say again I'm very impressed with the workmanship and design of the Andoer levered clamp. In addition to the safety latched lever, and a non-protruding thumbscrew, I now understand the cutaways on the floor of the clamp. They allow closely set safety pins, often found centered on the bottom edges of a plate, to nestle securely.
I did find a Breakthrough Photography 60mm plate that works really well with the Nikon ED50. It does not have an alignment pin, but does have a (removable) lip that fits flush with the rear of the Nikon mount. It also has a strap lug on the side for which I do not think will be of use, and two (removable) pins underneath. Unfortunately, though some whim of the geometry, I cannot drop it in from above with the clamp tight enough to clinch. So I removed the front pin, and can slide it in with the clamp set appropriately.
Finding a plate for my camera, a Panasonic GX-85, has been less successful. The problem with the camera is that the tripod socket sits centered along the front edge of the shallow camera bottom. The otherwise straight front edges bows forward around the socket at that point.
Therefore you want a small plate with the mounting bolt as close to the front edge as possible. I tried a moderately priced Hejnar one inch plate. The long slot allows the Allen head bolt to sit well forward. It has anti-rotation lips at each end of the plate, which is ideal to avoid the bulge of the tripod socket. Unfortunately, it is a couple millimeter short of perfect, so while it will keep the camera from swinging wildly if loose, it won't keep it aligned. And it does not have rubber padding (which is the way some prefer).
So I decided to try the cheap, recommended Desmond plate, which is small, well slotted, and rubber padded. To my disdain, it comes with a huge D-ring bolt. The bolt is so big that it can only move a couple millimeter in either direction before hitting the edges of the plate, except that does not account for the D-ring which keeps the bolt from moving at all. In other words, the slot is completely pointless as supplied.
---
To top it off, all 3 of these plates are ever so slightly different such that you must set the clamp separately for each. (Which, again, the Andoer does with flair.) What a can of worms!
 

fazalmajid

Well-known member
The most elegant way to fit an Arca-style plate to the RC5 clamp is a plate adapter. They used to be available from Gitzo for a ridiculously high price or from Desmond for only $12 (DGZA-1) but now I can only find them for about $20 from various Chinese sources

I am inthe opposite situation. My Meopta MeoStar S2 HD 80+ has a Manfrotto RC2 type plate on the foot, with no Arca option. It works on my Manfrotto 128RC fluid head, but I have a fancy Katana Jr gimbal head from ProMediaGear I'd like to use, and it's only got an Arca clamp. I can mount an Arca plate to a RC2 clamp, but then I'd lose antitwist protection.
 

Alexis Powell

Natural history enthusiast
United States
I am inthe opposite situation. My Meopta MeoStar S2 HD 80+ has a Manfrotto RC2 type plate on the foot, with no Arca option. It works on my Manfrotto 128RC fluid head, but I have a fancy Katana Jr gimbal head from ProMediaGear I'd like to use, and it's only got an Arca clamp. I can mount an Arca plate to a RC2 clamp, but then I'd lose antitwist protection.

Can't you just bolt a non-rotating Arca plate to your scope foot, then use it in the Arca clamp of your head?

Something like this, with a lip to prevent rotation:
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1062506-REG/desmond_dpl_150_5_7_8_long_lens.html

--AP
 

Alexis Powell

Natural history enthusiast
United States
Coincidentally been updating a vintage bicycle I have. I now need a part that used to be ubiquitous. (A headset mounted cable hanger to get low enough to accommodate aero lever cabling.) What a headache! Turns out there are only 3 ready manufactures left - Japanese and US boutique operations way overpriced and marginally effective, and a venerable Taiwanese company still stamping out the old product (with a spiffier logo;-). And I still have to dig through multiple Google searches to find a supplier...

I know this isn't BikeForum, but some of us are enthusiasts, so maybe if you described what you are after in more detail you could get some help. When I think of headset mounted brake cable hanger, I think of the traditional sort, which are widely available from any place dedicated to real bikes, like Rivendell, Velo Orange, or Soma, just to name a few.

Are any of these headset mounted brake cable hangers what you are after?
https://www.rivbike.com/collections/braking?page=2
https://velo-orange.com/collections/brake-parts
https://www.somafabshop.com/shop/category/components-cable-housing-cable-hanger-guides-stops-730

You should also be able to find the part used from any large bike co-op.
https://www.thehubbikecoop.org/articles/used-bikes-and-gear-pg304.htm

...Finding a plate for my camera, a Panasonic GX-85, has been less successful...

That's no fault of the plate manufacturers, that's Panasonic's fault for having such _crazy_ socket positioning on many of its cameras. Good luck!

--AP
 
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PlayFreeBird

Active member
Well if I have an audience of at least one, it might raise my average;-)
I'm looking for the Dia-Compe without the QR - I've checked all those sites and the local used bike parts collective is closed for the shut-down. It is available in Japan and Europe, so I have one in the mail, it's just going to take a bit.
The bike is a Ritchey touring frame with cants. I was using old fashioned levers and Velo Orange's elkskin bar wrap. I had originally asked that the fork crown not be drilled. So when I added a SON I had to hang the lamp from the bars. I ended up with a little cockpit on a Nitto lamp holder, consisting of the lamp, a bell, and the cyclometer.
But I decided to go with aero bars (maybe a mistake!-) and move the auxiliaries off the holder. The first order of business was drilling the crown for a lamp mount. I bit the bullet a couple Friday's ago which was a work holiday. Removed the fork and agonized for the rest of day thinking about how to use my undersized drill and minimal drill jig to drop the bit down correctly. I did work it all out, and left it for the morning. And just about plugged in when I realized my Imperial system mind had not noticed the difference between 8 and 18 millimeters! Quickly straightened that out. Dimpled the fork with a jewelry maker's finger drill. Discovered I could align my jig with a toothpick in the dimple. Took the plunge put an eighth inch hole in, check it, aligned the jig with the prior bit for the next two bits till I got a 5mm hole bored. Came out perfectly and now the lamp sits serenely on the Thorn mount.
With this accomplished I took the next step - strip down the bars, set up the new levers, tape down the housing, and sew on the new elkskin. I've done this before, but it's still a pains-taking process. I ran the seam right along the housing, over the lever clamps, and then along the barcon housing. After several hours in the evening, it came out rather gorgeous.
Which brings me to my current dilemma. Velo Orange has run out of elkskin - i guess I bought from their last hide. In theory I could open up the seam and extract the brake housing (the barcons can slide in a "tunnel"), and restitch. But that's theory and I'm paranoid I will cut the brake housing too short. I got the rear done, but when I worked on the front, I realized my stem clamped stop was not going to cut it. I need as much drop as I can get. (Although I don't want to resort to a crown mounted stop.) So the quest for the now obsolete small part. As a local repairman said - Everyone that needs one has it, and it never wears out.
So the weather is turning nice and I'm waiting impatiently for to postman so I can see if I can corkscrew the housing into the stop or have to resort to a flexible noodle...
---
And to keep some semblance of topic - Hejnar is selling his custom CNC'ed plates to address the crazy. So it's disappointing that it doesn't work - albeit he didn't say it would. I guess I can use my machining experience and underpowered drill to fix that up!-)
The manufaturer's incompatible 38mm plates, though, are maddeningly sloppy.
---
And looking at the MeoStar it does look like you can use it directly in an RC2 clamp, or bolt a plate into the 1/4" socket (and it has an alignment pin socket too, I belive, judging from the accessory plate they sell).
 
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Alexis Powell

Natural history enthusiast
United States
Well if I have an audience of at least one, it might raise my average;-)...

Sounds like an excellent project but maddening. You have everything you think to be perfect, then decide to fix one detail that triggers a cascade of consequences so you end up having to rejigger the whole thing with the risk of bunging up something along the way that might be more bothersome than the thing that you fixed in the first place. I've gotten involved in more than a few of those, with bikes especially since they always offer opportunities to tweak something a bit.

--AP
 

PlayFreeBird

Active member
At a certain age, one starts to understand the deep meaning of "good enough".
Now where's my drill...

Calvin and Hobbs: [I pray for] The strength to change what I can, the inability to accept what I can't, and the incapacity to tell the difference.
 

Kevin Conville

yardbirder
Well here's "What I've learned about QR plates"-PlayFree
Convert everything to Arca Swiss compatible.-Kevin

Everything from cameras (large and small), big binoculars and mounts for smaller binoculars, and spotting scopes can attach to any of my monopods, tripods, and parallelogram mount I have, and they are many.

"While many try to emulate the 38mm width, others do not. And because width, depth, height, and grooves and protrusions differ from maker to maker, it is a style rather than a standard.
For every different base and plate pair that works together, there is a pair that is incompatible." -PlayFree


The latter is not my experience, with screw type Arca clamps. I have a complete hodgepodge of clamps from RRS, Kirk, Sunwayphoto, no name eBay, and so on. I've even made my own from phenolic.
They ALL work with each other.

Quick release (cam lock) clamps are more fussy certainly, if that's what you are specifically talking about.

"The Manfrotto systems are, essentially Arca-Swiss style as well, although sufficiently distinct (in particular, they do not use a 45 degree angle) that they are not usually lumped together. Nor are they particularly superior to anyone else's version of a quick release."-PlayFree

They are not essentially Arca style. The cams that retain the ramp on one side have nowhere near the clamping pressure of an Arca clamp and have little contact area. The fit of the plate is somewhat loose by design and relies wholly on a small cam to keep everything tight. I used to take the lever attached to the cam and jam it tighter than the spring does to get better contact. Manfrotto plates have inferior anti twist measures as well. They'll still twist a little bit as the pins are undersized to the holes a bit. The pins occasionally fall out and get lost. And this is all assuming there IS a hole for the pin. Many items one would want to mount don't have such holes. Arca plates use lips that catch edges and I have never been unable to find an appropriate plate for any camera, scope, bino mount, or homemade gizmo of my own creation. Also, there are a few such systems that Manfrotto has of which none are compatible with each other.

"Nor are they particularly superior to anyone else's version of a quick release"
-Play Free

This is an understatement.

"Like most people, I'd like to be able to mount any device on any stand."-PlayFree

Yeah, me too. I suggest using Arca Swiss style with screw clamps.
 
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PlayFreeBird

Active member
Thanks Kevin, for the info. My OP wasn't my opinion so much as what I gathered the general consensus was from various sources. I'm quite convinced by both Alexis and you that RC2 is a misfire.
But I think RC5 is much better designed and a very competitive alternative with bigger instruments. I really don't anticipate using my Pentax 80 on a monopod :)
I suspect the observation of widespread incompatibility is a snapshot in time. Now that there are lots of screw driven clamps - an obvious solution to an unnecessary problem - one can overlook the variance. But think what might be if one manufacturer dominated, or everyone agreed on a common and precise standard? After all, the 1/4 inch bolt is a universal solution;-) And, yes, to a cyclist a QR is a cammed lever!-)

Lips are nice but again a feature necessitated by a bug. (Either the ignorance or the inadequacy of the standard?)
"I have never been unable to find an appropriate plate..."
That gave me a smile. As a birder I appreciate the thrill of the chase. As a consumer, not so much!
 
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Kevin Conville

yardbirder
Now that there are lots of screw driven clamps - an obvious solution to an unnecessary problem - one can overlook the variance. But think what might be if one manufacturer dominated, or everyone agreed on a common and precise standard?

Screw type clamps have been around a lot longer than cam type. Though it would be preferred if all plates and clamps were identical it just doesn't matter much as they work together fine. If one has to have a cam release clamp then yes, buy both from the same maker. Otherwise don't worry about it.

Lips are nice but again a feature necessitated by a bug. (Either the ignorance or the inadequacy of the standard?)

It is/was not necessitated by any bug. It is an improvement that works brilliantly and, along with slotted holes for the retaining screw of plate to device, allows for a wide range of fitment to many devices. In this case, "ignorance of the standard" was what was called for as nearly all of the actual Arca Swiss plates did/do not have such lips.

The drawing shows how the angles don't always match up on plate/clamps from different makers. The top being ideal and the other two being somewhat exaggerated. But it doesn't really matter as the plates get clamped just fine and stay put. As you've pointed out, the overall width of various plates do differ slightly as well but this is also of little consequence when using screw type clamps because of their greater tolerances.

The photos show how and why the lips are such a good idea and all I can say is that any criticism of this design must be coming from complete lack of experience as they just work perfectly.
 

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PlayFreeBird

Active member
To paraphrase Gandhi on Western Civilization, I think Arca plates are a great idea! I also think slots and lips are a good, flexible solution. I mentioned I was pleased with the way the Breakthrough Photography plate worked with my Nikon ED50.
My objection is the current state of implementation. If there was a readily accessible plate with an ISO alignment pin, I would not need the slot and lip.
I started this conversation for practical purposes, to solicit advice for my situation. I have not found the perfect plate for the GX-85. As Alexis says, that's entirely Panasonic's fault for designing a mount so incompatible with the de facto standard. But I still need to find a plate for it. (And also in fairness, many plates will, sort of, work. I just want to do better than "sort of".)
It's the kind of situation you see in every enthusiast niche. I got great bargains on my camera and scope. And now I'm bleeding nickels and dimes on almost perfect aftermarket enhancements!-)
 
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