Block Heads

DSCF0002With apologies to Mr Dury. I write about the little attachment plate or block that the accessory manufacturer interposes between your camera and their tripod. It has three functions:

1. To allow you to quickly release the camera and then drop it into the mud.

2. To become lost.

3. To be irreplaceable.

The first is not inevitable, if you are prepared to put the neck or wrist strap of the camera around either of those anatomical bits. You choose which.

The second and third are going to happen no matter what. You might be able to retain your teeth or hair as you get older, and you might be able to get a second genuine copy of the HINDENBURG if you accidentally set fire to your original but none of this will apply to quick release plates. They will go and never return. You will have to buy another tripod with another different release plate…

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You can fight back against this by refusing to use tripods that have proprietary designs – Manfrotto, Gitzo, Slik, Velbon, Haldex, Inca, etc. Hold out for a manufacture who makes something that will take the Arca-Swiss mount. It is the only thing that looks to be possibly becoming a standard in the market.

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This standardisation is not the result of Arca-Swiss themselves – they are as difficult to deal with as Unicorn flight schools. They live somewhere up a Swiss or French valley, possibly under a rock, and have the sort of communication skills that are valued in Roswell, New Mexico.

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But all the Chinese copycat designers  – and a few American and European copycat designers – have pounced upon the Arca-Swiss mount and dimensions and have programmed their CNC machines to turn out pretty good copies. Even if they are blocky looking, they generally interchange. Screwed up tight, they are a safer base for heavy cameras than most other alternatives. They can be incorporated into hand grips, baseplates, tripod mounts, and flash assemblies. You can use the cheap components to convert other older gear to a standard.

To be fair to Arca-Swiss, if you capture one of their employees and sprinkle salt on his tail he has to grant you three wishes and the panoramic heads and studio heads are worth wishing for. But try getting them to answer an email…

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