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I'm used with Manfrotto's QR2 release system and I find it really quick when I need to detach the camera from the tripod and shot hand-held. I do this rather often when I alternate long-exposure shots with normal, photojournalism shots (at a wedding for example).

OTOH, I'm looking at Arca Swiss type of plates but I think that these are more slow in operation because one needs to (un)tighten a knob in order to (un)lock the camera which is slower and, also, is much prone to human errors (wh/if I don't turn enough the knob in order to keep the camera firmly in place?). I found that there are RRS lever clamps but AFAIS are rather expensive, more complicated to use and also the ball should support them.

What do you think?

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1  
What's the problem you're trying to solve? It would appear that the Manfrotto option is working for you, but yet you're looking at something else. –  John Cavan Nov 3 '12 at 11:40
    
@JohnCavan: 1.) The ballheads. I find some Arca Swiss ballheads quite impressive. But I'm thinking that the QR system is worse than Manfrotto's. 2.) I'm afraid to blindly ditch a QR system that I don't have practical experience with when anyway I must buy a new (ball)head. –  John Thomas Nov 4 '12 at 7:28

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

First, there are quick release Arca Swiss clamps, I highly suggest Really Right Stuff products at reallyrightstuff.com, but there are others that use a lever to set and release very quickly.

I have used the RC2 system for decades until recently when:

  1. I started using larger DSLR with battery grip and heavier, pro-grade, lenses

  2. Trying to shoot landscape, or architecture, in the vertical (portrait) orientation

The RC2 system is quick but too sloppy (moves around in the clamp) and not even close to as secure as an Arca Swiss plate. The amount of clamping area is significant and I have NEVER had any thoughts of inadequacy when using Arca clamps. Especially with moving over five pounds of gear around on a ball head.

When many thousands of dollars of gear is at stake, next to welding the camera to your car, Arca clamps are the only way I’ve seen that is reasonably quick, affordable, and simple way to mount a camera.

For tripod head, I really like my Manfrotto 496RC2. It's inexpensive, yet holds heavy loads pretty darn steady. And, you can remove the RC2 clamp and purchase an Arca Swiss conversion clamp.

As far as tripods themselves, the number of suggestions/conversations for that could easily take a few pages. I only mentioned the ball head because it directly related to your question about clamps.

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The Arca-Swiss release system is what I standardized on specifically because it's a standard. Plates from Really Right Stuff fit clamps from other manufacturers that use standard AS fit. Not to mention RRS has plates for any camera or lens I care to use, all custom fitted to that particular model.

If you want something that's quick release get one of the lever clamps from RRS. That's what I have on my BH-55. I also have a couple screw clamps that I use when I'm doing a panorama or mounting a bunch of gear on rails. It doesn't bother me because I'd rather take a few seconds to unscrew something and know it's going to stay secure than suffer with another plate system.

On top of what I've already mentioned, the standard AS provides makes it possible to mount all kinds of stuff to my camera. I can rig a cage around it, put some flash brackets on, mount a large display to the other side, and center it all on my ballhead. Then I can move that entire setup to any other AS compatible clamp.

It comes down to compatibility and security for me, and AS wins on both counts. Add in RRS's phenomenal build quality and I don't see how any other system compares well do AS.

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Incidently, I spend time trying different plates last week at a camera store and still find my Manfrotto RC4 most efficient. The RC2 is probably in the same category.

It takes longer to untighten an Arca-swiss plate than to release an RC4. It takes even longer if you want to lift the camera upwards. Otherwise you with Arca-Swiss (and several Gitzo plates I tried) you have to slide the plate into the head.

The sliding motion is not only longer but also puts yourself a greater risk for moving the tripod. This depends on your workflow but as I spend a lot of time calibrating and profiling cameras, I frequently have to take the same shots over and over without moving the tripod and between those shots I may have to remove the camera to get at the memory card or battery.

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