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01-24-2009, 01:03 AM   #1
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QR overrated??- see this ballhead

Its probably just me, but quick release plates have been a nuisance for me. Putting them on, making sure the camera is latched down securely on the legs, removing them, getting the plate back on the tripod head before i lose it, etc.

Anyway, i found this used $49 Gitzo off center ballhead at Kenmore Camera in Seattle.



Notice the big thumbwheel underneath the mounting plate. This makes it quick to remove and install the camera - no messing around with the intricacies of QR plates. Obviously, this is designed into a high quality ball head, but i've seen a similar arrangement on some cheaper heads.

I'm sure some people love and have good reasons for their QR plates - and thats fine, I just think that case could be made that they aren't as essential as some manufacturers would have us believe. When i take a photo on a tripod, I seem to rarely have a need to take the camera off before the shot gets taken.


Last edited by philbaum; 01-24-2009 at 01:09 AM.
01-24-2009, 06:54 AM   #2
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I have one of those heads. I'm not really one for ballheads, but it is a good one. Quick releases fall into the category of trading security and stability for convenience. I've almost had a few cameras drop because of poorly designed QR mechanisms not working as easily in the field as they could (the Manfrotto six sided QR is a particular offender for me).
01-24-2009, 07:16 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
SNIP> I've almost had a few cameras drop because of poorly designed QR mechanisms not working as easily in the field as they could (the Manfrotto six sided QR is a particular offender for me).
Really?!?! I've been using a Bogen (now Manfrotto) RC0 QR plate (the 6 sided style) on my heavy tripod for years. I've used it with an old (heavy wood) Burke and James 5X7 Field Camera (with 4X5 back) as well as my older 35mm Pentax Cameras when using longer lenses. I've tilted my 35mm's full 90` and the 4x5 to at least 60`with absolutely no feeling of insecurity what so ever.
Admittedly with the 35mm and now with the K10D I use a much lighter Slik U212AF with the pistol grip style ball head. That head has a QR plate that has a double lock on it. one is a push button that locks the round plate onto the head, but allows the plate to spin on top of the head. The second is a thumb plunger that locks the rotation of the plate. This system has always been very secure in any orientation (if the plate is screwed to the camera securely).
The only QR plate I've ever had a problem with was on a used, really cheap, old, light, monopod that I bought used ages ago. Luckily I still had the camera strap around my neck. That monopod got thrown out immediately (seconds) after the camera almost fell.
01-24-2009, 09:20 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by calicojack Quote
Really?!?! I've been using a Bogen (now Manfrotto) RC0 QR plate (the 6 sided style) on my heavy tripod for years. I've used it with an old (heavy wood) Burke and James 5X7 Field Camera (with 4X5 back) as well as my older 35mm Pentax Cameras when using longer lenses. I've tilted my 35mm's full 90` and the 4x5 to at least 60`with absolutely no feeling of insecurity what so ever.
Admittedly with the 35mm and now with the K10D I use a much lighter Slik U212AF with the pistol grip style ball head. That head has a QR plate that has a double lock on it. one is a push button that locks the round plate onto the head, but allows the plate to spin on top of the head. The second is a thumb plunger that locks the rotation of the plate. This system has always been very secure in any orientation (if the plate is screwed to the camera securely).
The only QR plate I've ever had a problem with was on a used, really cheap, old, light, monopod that I bought used ages ago. Luckily I still had the camera strap around my neck. That monopod got thrown out immediately (seconds) after the camera almost fell.

For some reason, I have more mounting failures with that QR than any other. I seem to have an affinity for missing the lip on one side or the other when inserting the plate. Once mounted properly, the mount is secure enough, and doesn't tend to allow the plate to drift, which is something I've seen in cheap releases.
I have used the 6 side plate with cameras up to a B&J Orbit monorail which had to weigh close to 25 pounds. There is no problem with the strength of the mount, for me is is just a problem to get the plate registered properly.

01-24-2009, 11:29 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
I have one of those heads. I'm not really one for ballheads, but it is a good one. Quick releases fall into the category of trading security and stability for convenience. I've almost had a few cameras drop because of poorly designed QR mechanisms not working as easily in the field as they could (the Manfrotto six sided QR is a particular offender for me).
Well, my brother lost a PS camera when it flipped out of the tripod QR socket and landed on some river rock. Really banged it up beyond repair according to the Canon shop. It was a new tripod to him, bought that day, and he didn't realize you had to really mash the lever shut.

I like to take long exposures of night scenes and thought i was always going to be a panhead guy because i like to take the time to get the composition right. With a panhead, you can tweak this lever or that knob and adjust the frame very precisely. I'll have to see if i just get frustrated with the ballhead or really like it. First impressions is that its built like a rock and once set in position doesn't move, and yes, its faster to get into position.

I was out on one cold winter evening this month and stopped to take one last picture of a scene painted by some street lamps. one of my best pictures ever, but i begrudged every cold second it took to setup.

So is that why you don't like ballheads, everything changes each time you loosen the ball, or is there another reason?
01-24-2009, 12:55 PM   #6
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One thing that may help the OP is that the QR only works quickly when you have a QR plate permanently mounted to each camera body and a plate permanently mounted to each tripod collared lens. Then you just grab and tab. If you have to mount the plate first then secure the plate in the head you probably aren't saving any time and could screw in just as quickly--though the screw mounting system is susceptible to twisting loose.

Wheatfield's honest assesment is not the only person I've run into with issues. My shooting buddy can't manage to fit a plate to the jaws to save his life. Just plain hates it. I personally have no problems and like it a lot. Diversity...the spice of life!
01-24-2009, 03:02 PM   #7
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I am with you Philbaum. I have owned tripods both with and without QR. The ones without allowed quick, easy, and secure attachment with a minimum of additional weight and bulk. While the ones with QR are nice, but are somewhat of a pain at times. Here is my assessment of QR systems:

Pros:
  • Quick (and sometimes easy) to attach. This is particularly important with a heavy lens/camera combination
  • Quick to remove (usually)
  • Very secure once mounted

Cons:
  • The QR plate gouges me in the chest when off tripod (this truly pains me)
  • Many QR plates have sharp metal edges (see above) that can be easily damaged
  • Many systems are not particularly quick to attach to the head. My Giottos Arca Swiss style plate falls into this category. It must be slid on from the end and cannot be pressed down to mount.
  • Additional plates are expensive
  • Mounting the camera to the QR plate is often a pain compared to the thumbscrew on a non QR head
  • Plates are not standardized even within a given system.
  • Additional bulk
  • Additional weight

Steve

Last edited by stevebrot; 01-24-2009 at 03:31 PM. Reason: Added additional pro
01-24-2009, 03:11 PM   #8
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But surely, use of the tripod implies that any shot is pre planned. It's not as if you are going to miss a shot because you couldn't get the QR plate on, that's more a case of being unprepared. I like the security and stability that a QR plate gives.

01-24-2009, 04:36 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Damn Brit Quote
But surely, use of the tripod implies that any shot is pre planned. It's not as if you are going to miss a shot because you couldn't get the QR plate on, that's more a case of being unprepared. I like the security and stability that a QR plate gives.
A voice of reason, who would have thought especially on the interwebz.

I too agree, if you are fumbling around with QR plates or thumbscrews you simply weren't prepared. If you must shoot that quickly that a few seconds one way or another really makes a difference then you should have hand held the camera in the first place.

I have never found any well made arca swiss style place to have sharp edges or for that matter even the bogen/manfrotto either. You can always find an inexpensive used plate on eBay or even some times in the local camera shop junk bin.

Every camera and lens I have that has a tripod socket has a plate attached to it, and so I am not tempted to remove them willy-nilly I replace all the easy to remove screws with Allen Cap Screws.
01-24-2009, 10:51 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ron Boggs Quote
One thing that may help the OP is that the QR only works quickly when you have a QR plate permanently mounted to each camera body and a plate permanently mounted to each tripod collared lens. Then you just grab and tab. If you have to mount the plate first then secure the plate in the head you probably aren't saving any time and could screw in just as quickly--though the screw mounting system is susceptible to twisting loose.

Wheatfield's honest assesment is not the only person I've run into with issues. My shooting buddy can't manage to fit a plate to the jaws to save his life. Just plain hates it. I personally have no problems and like it a lot. Diversity...the spice of life!
Ron, I appreciate your equitable assessment. I think it also only works when you use only one make of tripod head or one tripod so that you can keep the same QR plate on all the time. I dislike keeping a plate on due to the concern it might snag something. Also it adds one more mechanical joint system to the tripod head, which is just another opportunity for something to go wrong.

Luckily, we can all use what we like and still take fine images.

Best to all, Phil
01-25-2009, 12:39 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
Cons:
  • Many systems are not particularly quick to attach to the head. My Giottos Arca Swiss style plate falls into this category. It must be slid on from the end and cannot be pressed down to mount.

Steve
It's ironic, Steve...when I played with every single B/M head 2 local dealers had, none were secure...I could move the QR plates even without a camera on them.

So I won't buy the "snap in" style...thinking about a Vanguard Elite since it has a "slide in" style QR with a thumb screw. To me this is the only way a QR is viable both for stability and security.
01-25-2009, 08:59 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by philbaum Quote
Well, my brother lost a PS camera when it flipped out of the tripod QR socket and landed on some river rock. Really banged it up beyond repair according to the Canon shop. It was a new tripod to him, bought that day, and he didn't realize you had to really mash the lever shut.
I had that happen to my 6x7 using a Manfrotto 6 sided QR plate. My story ends happier, as I had the strap around my neck so when the camera fell it didn't hit the ground.

QuoteQuote:
I like to take long exposures of night scenes and thought i was always going to be a panhead guy because i like to take the time to get the composition right. With a panhead, you can tweak this lever or that knob and adjust the frame very precisely. I'll have to see if i just get frustrated with the ballhead or really like it. First impressions is that its built like a rock and once set in position doesn't move, and yes, its faster to get into position.

I was out on one cold winter evening this month and stopped to take one last picture of a scene painted by some street lamps. one of my best pictures ever, but i begrudged every cold second it took to setup.

So is that why you don't like ballheads, everything changes each time you loosen the ball, or is there another reason?
The first ballhead I had was a piece of junk Manfrotto that would weld it's ball to it's socket if left unused for more than a day or so, and was impossible to get a fine adjustment out of it.
We have some of those silly pistol grip ballheads at the studio that are equally impossible to position with any real accuracy.
I like that with a pan head, I can position the camera with great accuracy. I've used the Gitzo head a bit, and found it to be better than most heads in that it is pretty easy to position, though still not as good as a pan tilt head, and I recently bought a ridiculously big Feisol ball head which I've used a bit, not enough to form a permanent impression about, so the jury is still out on that one.
01-25-2009, 12:36 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by philbaum Quote
Its probably just me, but quick release plates have been a nuisance for me. Putting them on, making sure the camera is latched down securely on the legs, removing them, getting the plate back on the tripod head before i lose it, etc.

That indeed is contradicting the very basic purpose of a QR system. It only makes sense, if you leave the plates permamently on all camera bodies and lenses and then you can swap these with all the tripods in a second.

That is at least the way, I use the old Manfrotto RC0 (the hexagons) system. I have the clamps on all tripods, even if they don't sport a Manfrotto head (you can buy those on their own) and the plates are mated permanently to the bodies and lenses, mostly with a second screw to prevent any rotation of the plate. That in my experience works fast and reliable. It alsways seemed to me much easier and more secure, than some of the dove tail (i.e. Arca) mounts, because getting the plate into the dove tail seems fiddly and accident prone - but may be, I am just too clumsy for that...

Ben

Last edited by Ben_Edict; 01-26-2009 at 05:47 AM.
01-25-2009, 04:04 PM   #14
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My RRS L-bracket lives on the K10D, no sharp edges and it's not that heavy. It's very very quick to lock into the ballhead and once done it's solid as a rock. It was expensive but the problem is solved and I can't imagine ever wearing it out. In other words, a one time expense.

Ben, I don't find it fiddly at all. I have the Lever action quick release and when the lever is opened all the way the plate simply sits straight down onto the clamp and then you close it, no threading the dovetails into the clamp.
It really is this quick:
http://reallyrightstuff.com/video/L-Plate.html

Last edited by Eaglerapids; 01-25-2009 at 04:13 PM.
01-25-2009, 05:01 PM   #15
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I ventured into QR only mid last year. The plate is permanently attached to the collar of my Sigma 70-200, and the rest of the head is on my monopod. Therefore it's quick to use! I don't have to put the plate on separately each time, I think even I could see that wouldn't be nay quicker than a normal head. I can then detach the camera quickly and easily to take crowd shots or players leaving the field without the pod attached. If I want to use it long term hand held I either turn the collar 90 so it's out of the way of my hands, or take the collar off altogether, both are quick to do.

The Manfotto head has the normal lever to hold the plate on, and a smller one to ensure it doesn't open accidently. I have no trouble holding my camera and monopod holding only onto the monopod.

I think you have to think about how you are going to use a QR system before you buy one thinking it's automatically going to be quicker.
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