Interchangeability of quick-release plates?

Started Apr 5, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Chris J Newman
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Interchangeability of quick-release plates?
Apr 5, 2012

Hi,

My first tripod was a Benbo Trekker, chosen for its versatility for macro pictures of flowers, etc. It came with a ball head complete with tripod screw.

Subsequently I received a gift of a Velbon CX 440, a lightweight budget tripod with integral pan and tilt head.

With both of these tripods, I had difficulty trying to use my venerable Pentax Super A in portrait mode, as the weight of the lens tended to rotate the camera on the platform of the head. The Velbon has a quick-release plate, and I noticed a spring pin designed to locate in the camera. I assumed that when I eventually bought a DSLR, it would have a locating socket for the pin, but my D90 does not, and I have since heard that the pins are only for video cameras. I wonder why stills camera manufacturers deny us the benefit of the pin system?

This year I took advantage of the sale season to buy a Sigma 150-500mm telephoto lens. During the cold, snowy spell that followed, a flock of redwings and fieldfares came to eat the berries on our pyracantha, and I set up the lens on a tripod to photo the birds through the living room window. But I found that the ball head on my Trekker was very cumbersome for aiming a 500 mm lens carefully enough to place the focal point on a bird’s head. The pan and tilt head seemed to be right in principle, but with the lightweight Velbon, as soon as I released the locking handle the lens would droop below the target. (The lens and camera combination also exceed the rated capacity of the Velbon, but I was not concerned about that, as the Sigma has a tripod collar, and is pretty well balanced.) So I decided I needed a better quality pan and tilt head to use on my Trekker.

I bought a Giotto’s MH5001 3-way head. I thought its quick-release plate might be interchangeable with that of my Velbon tripod, in the same way that tripod screw threads are standardized. I was considering drilling a hole in the foot of the tripod collar of my Giotto’s MH642 quick-release plate, until I noticed that whereas the Velbon quick-release plate had its tripod screw and spring pin arranged along the lens axis, on the Giotto’s MH642 quick-release plate the spring pin is beside the tripod screw, aligned with the sensor plane. The Giotto’s MH642 quick-release plate is also larger, and its wedge-shaped sides that clamp it to the tripod head are positioned at the front and back, whilst the Velbon quick release plate has the wedge-shaped sides to each side of the tripod thread. (I think the Giotto’s arrangement, clamping front-to-back, is probably more robust.)

The Giotto’s MH642 quick-release plate has a transverse slot rather than a simple circular hole for the camera screw. I appreciate that the ability to mount the camera and lens off-axis might be useful in some circumstances, but for me the slot only makes it more of a fiddle to mount the quick-release plate centrally. In fact, currently I need to mount is slightly off-centre, or the tripod screw fouls the spring for the video pin (but I think I could remove that).

Is anyone aware of a quick-release plate with a simple round hole for the camera screw that I could substitute for the MH642 on the Giotto’s MH5001 3-way head? The MH642 measures 47.3 mm across its wedges, and 50 mm across its square sides.

With thanks in advance,
Chris Newman

Nikon D90
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