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There seems to be some play between the quick release plate and my camera. What can I do to limit this?

Essentially, once focused I'll lock the camera in place and I can see the focus point drop and aim lower. I noticed this more with my 70-300 (longer focal range and heavier).

I have about 1100g/4000g on the tripod. The tripod is a Manfrotto MT293A3, the head is a Manfrotto 494RC2. Camera is an E-620 with a Olympus Zuiko 70-300mm.

I have a colleague that has bigger/heavier gear and a nicer tripod that says she notices the same thing. Would this be normal for the type of tripod that I have?

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Are you sure all of the movement is between the quick release plate and the camera? From your description of what is happening in your question it sounds like the 494RC2 head is settling a little when you let go of the camera with your hands.

The Manfrotto 494RC2 is rated to support up to 4kg/8.8lbs. That assumes the load is relatively centered over the head. The E-620 + Zuiko 70-300mm lens only weighs in at about 1150g/2.5lbs. If you are attaching the camera/lens to the tripod using the camera's base plate it should be able to support the weight, but you need to be sure the ball head controls are adjusted properly. This will be especially true when the lens is set to 300mm and the barrel of the lens is fully extended. With some telephoto lenses a tripod collar that attaches the lens directly to the tripod head can be used to center the weight of the camera/lens over the tripod, but the design of your 70-300mm lens does not appear to allow for a collar.

Try tightening up the smaller knob marked friction and see if that helps any. You should make adjustments with the larger main lever released, then lock it to test how much "give' you have dialed in. Some users actually want to be able to shift the camera/lens with varying amounts of pressure when the main lever is locked and the friction knob allows them to adjust for the weight of the camera/lens. If you are shooting "hands free" via the timer or a remote, you want to set the friction control much tighter than if you are holding the camera to aim and focus while shooting.

Another possible source of instability is play between the quick release plate and the quick release base on the top of the ball head. I've found that the 200PL-14 plate can eventually wear under heavy use to the point it gets a little loose and needs to be replaced. The looseness usually manifests itself in side-to-side rocking rather than up/down, but it will depend on which way you connect the plate to your camera. I usually connect the plate to a lens collar with the long side of the plate running parallel to the optical axis. The newer 200PL is now listed as the replacement and fits all versions of Manfrotto equipment with an RC2 quick release connector.

  • from the view finder, I'll set the focus point to where it needs to be and attempt to lock the camera in place (while holding the camera in my right hand). Once it's locked with the left hand, I'll let it go from my right hand and the focus point will dip. Also, once it's locked in place, I can "wiggle" it, see the space above the plate and camera widen/narrow between the camera and the plate (I cannot tighten the plate any more, tight as can be). I really think it's not the head itself, but the plate. Let me try the friction nob and see if it makes a difference. – TekiusFanatikus Feb 6 '14 at 21:14
  • turning the friction button on seems to be doing the trick! – TekiusFanatikus Feb 7 '14 at 1:06
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Tripod play is unavoidable and the effect gets worse in general with longer focal lengths.

You should use a different focusing method than the shutter button as it causes some physical stress and the tripod will definitely move a bit when you remove that force. You can use an infrared/radio trigger to focus (emulate half-press) and also for taking the picture on most cameras.

Another way is: a timed release (e.g. 5 second). You focus on your subject, press the shutter button, then you have 5 second to correct focus point drop.

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This is normal. Tripods have a hard job because they have to be able to both move freely and also be able to lock down. This means there is some play and when the camera is off balance, their can be some head movement before there is enough tension to counteract the off balance forces.

Some higher end tripods try to counter-act it with a spring based counterweight system, but such heads are substantially more expensive. I have a Manfrotto 501hdv head because I do some video and it does a very good job preventing a downward shift when I engage the counterweight system, but that head is also bulky, heavy and more than twice the cost of yours. Even then, at extremes it wouldn't hold up if I move the center of gravity too far.

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