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Many tripod quick release plates have a plastic or metal peg near the screw. You can press down on the peg, and then when you release it, it pops back up. I've looked at photos of many camera bottoms, and I haven't seen any camera that has a hole that the peg would fit into. What is the purpose of this peg?

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I just got a smartphone tripod adapter, and this adapter has some concave areas on the bottom part that sits flush against the quick release plate. As I was screwing the adapter onto my tripod's quick release plate, the peg on the plate got caught in one of the concave areas and then got ripped out of the plate. I'd like to know the purpose of this peg before deciding if I can get rid of it.

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It’s called an anti-rotation pin. This pin interfaces with most cine (motion picture) cameras. Cinematographic camera applications often involve panning the camera. Such activities can result is the camera slipping on its mount. A anti-rotation pin locks the camera and prevents unwanted gyrations. Additionally, on a film cine camera, to reload a fresh roll of film, the camera may need to be dismounted from the tripod. This pin does double duty, it serves as a locater pin that helps restore the camera’s position when remounted to the tripod.

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    Many of these tripods also have handles steer pan and tilt capabilities. The pin makes sure your camera is pointing in the right direction. – Oli Oct 3 '17 at 11:58
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I haven't seen any camera that has a hole that the peg would fit into.

Let me fix that for you. Here is the base of an old video camera of mine:

camera base with hole for the pin

The little hole is where the peg goes. If you don't have a camera base with a hole, you don't need the peg. If you do, you do. It stops the camera from rotating relative to the plate you clip to the tripod.

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    Actually, with some plates, it would be helpful, if the photo camera had this thing, too, as the plate tends to unscrew sometimes. – Gnudiff Oct 3 '17 at 5:26
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    As a funny quirk, that pin also helps to locate some old Soviet telephoto lenses, which have two screw holes - one is for the standard size, while one is somewhat larger (presumably meant for an internal standard), and the edge of the larger of which overlaps perfectly with the pin. – Sebastian Lenartowicz Oct 3 '17 at 6:49
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    Does your video camera have any mechanism to push the pin out of the hole? Given how the pin on my plate caught onto the adapter and broke off, I wonder how you'd be able to continue screwing your video camera onto the plate once the pin goes in the hole, or how you'd unscrew the plate from the video camera, if the pin is supposed to prevent it from rotating as you say. – pacoverflow Oct 3 '17 at 7:14
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    @pacoverflow You don't rotate the entire plate to attach it to the camera. You press the plate up against the camera and tighten the screw from the other side of the plate. – Michael C Oct 3 '17 at 7:18
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    @MichaelClark Wow, I've been doing it wrong all this time. I'm a novice who never felt it necessary to detach the plate from the tripod, so I never realized you could turn the screw from the other side. – pacoverflow Oct 3 '17 at 7:36

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