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I have come to undrestand that there are systems for quick release plates. Which are the most common systems out there?

I ask as I am considering buying a tripod and wondering about compatability for switching cameras on it.

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    Let's please try to make questions evergreen rather than year-by-year. – mattdm Sep 7 '18 at 20:39
  • I'm slightly confused by the question (answered anyway). But, if you have additional questions after reading my answer, please clarify. Also, I second @mattdm - it's a better question leaving off the 2018. Tripod tech changes, but the head attachments and screws have been standard for quite some time. – Hueco Sep 7 '18 at 20:51
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The camera has a hole in the bottom that will be meant to take either a 1/4-20 UNC or 3/8-16 UNC threaded screw.

Most attachments for this will either come with both types of screws or will necessitate the use of an adapter if what the item comes with is not fit to your camera. This monopod, for example, has a reversible screw for both. Point is, these attachments are standardized so the tripod world is your oyster, so to speak.

The quick release plate will attach to your camera via one of these screws - so you can use the same plate across any of your cameras. Or, if you're lazy like me, you'll buy extra plates and just keep 'em on your bodies.

The plate will be designed to fit whatever head you're using. They could be custom designed for the head or could be something more standard, like the Arca-Swiss style plate.

That being said, I've never tried to mix brands and I have heard stories of one brand's arca-swiss plate not quite meshing well with another's arca-swiss head, even though those should be universal.

To summarize - because of the universality of the attachment screw, don't let this impact your tripod head decision. Buy that for the features you want and then worry about the attachment, whether you need an adapter or not.

If you want universality in the QR plates, then go for a head that supports Arca-Swiss style plates. Though again, be warned that that is no guarantee of a great meshing between the head and plate if you choose to mix brands.

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Other than Arca-Swiss style plates, which are not standardized and can come in wide variety of sizes from various makers, the most common type of QD plate with standardized dimensions is probably the Manfrotto RC2 plate and receivers.

Arca-Swiss plates come in several widths and lengths. The most common width is about 1.5 inches (38.1 mm). As long as the width is the same and the beveled angles on the edge of the plate are close enough to the angles of the groove on the receiver, plates from one maker and receivers from another maker may be used together. The exact angles of the beveled edges that run along the sides of the long dimension do vary from one brand/maker to the next. Slight differences between the angles of the plate and the angles of a receiver can usually be ignored, but there are cases where a plate from one maker and a receiver from another maker don't line up well enough to be used together. When considering using an Arca-Swiss style plate from one maker and an Arca-Swiss style receiver from another maker, one should always test the compatibility in advance of "mission critical" usage.

Many Manfrotto products are offered with RC2 connectors, but there are also a plethora of third party heads, plates, receivers, and knock-offs of other Manfrotto products that use the same connector.

  • What is a standard? Really Right Stuff drafted and distributed their specification (they use the word standard, but I'd argue it's more precisely a specification). If several companies adhere to the proprietary spec, at what point does it become a de facto standard? Or does it require some standardization body (ISO, ANSI, etc.) to adopt it / give it their imprimatur before it can be called a standard? (Honest question, I'm not arguing facetiously) – scottbb Sep 9 '18 at 0:03
  • @scottbb In the case of RRS, they were far from the first to use Arca-Swiss style plates and receivers. (Coincidentally enough, Arca-Swiss was.) The dimensions-angles they use are copied by some other folks in the U.S., but they're almost universally ignored everywhere else in the world, where the 35mm width is much more common.. – Michael C Sep 9 '18 at 2:45
  • P.S. The answer above makes no reference to a standard. It uses the word standardized instead. That choice was intentional. – Michael C Sep 9 '18 at 2:48
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    re: standard vs standardized: I don't see much distinction. Something that has been standardized is following a standard (whether written spec, or de facto practice, etc.). Loose or non-written standards largely imply poor or non-standardization. Standards and standardization go hand-in-hand. – scottbb Sep 9 '18 at 2:53
  • Something that has been standardized is following a standard. Arca-Swiss style pieces do not all follow a single spec. There are many variations of the exact dimensions and angles used by different makers. Thus, Arca-Swiss style QD plates and clamps/receivers/bases are neither made to comply with a standard nor standardized. I tend to consider standard to mean spelled out in a specification by an independent "standards" organization. If everyone follows suit from an entity other than such an organization, then that is what I would consider standardized. – Michael C Sep 9 '18 at 2:58

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