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I want to replace this

picture of part which screws to rest of tripod head

with something less prone to error, but I'm having trouble searching for it and not everything else related to tripods. This is the part that attaches the quick release plate (attached to the camera) to the rest of the ball head.

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The general term for that part would be "quick release adapter". They're generally (but not always) sold with one matching QR plate. If you're buying a new one, I'd suggest looking for one that is Arca Swiss compatible; that will greatly increase the number of gadgets and gee-gaws available to fit it. (Including things like replacement feet for tripod collars on large lenses, L-plates, and so on.)

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This is called a Quick-Release Adapter or Quick Release Clamp. You can easily buy one and they tend to be compatible between tripods of the same brand. I have replaced Manfrotto clamps with another and each clamp lists the tripods it is compatible with but only among their own brand.

The one you show does not look like one I can identify but you probably know the brand. Check with them for compatible clamps.

  • It's from Vanguard and came attached to a ball head that is now discontinued. The flaw with this particular one is the adjustment screw is prone to moving when not clamped shut which means the clamp may be too tight/loose when you go to use it again or may fall apart altogether. – tenmiles Mar 6 '14 at 13:39
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That's a quick-release clamp, typically matched to a quick-release plate of the same make / design. Some designs (ex: Arca) are widely emulated, though it's difficult to find 100% compatibility from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Also note that the top of your tripod head may or may not have alignment slots that will need to match up to the bottom of any clamp you buy.

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