The photo market has had any number of devices sold as quick-release mounts for cameras – I can list Manfrotto, Cullmann, Slik, Giotto, Vanguard, and Inca off the top of my mind. There are probably a dozen more that have been added to the top of tripods but have faded from the scene. Indeed, even amongst the names listed many of their designs have disappeared.
Unfortunately the tripods they belong to have survived, even if the mount is gone, and there is always a steady stream of customers visiting a camera store to see if they still have one of the old sort about. We tried valiantly, but in the end had to suggest that may of the hopeful customers would do better to make their own mount from wooden or aluminium backs or just throw the useless tripod away.
But out of the whole mess, Arca-Swiss have come through shining…or at least their design for a standard rail mounting has. The Arca-Swiss people themselves were devilishly difficult to contact or get a straight answer out of, but it may have had something to do with our telephone calls being lost in the mountains. We were often tempted to yodel up the valley…
The Arca-Swiss rail has a standard trapezoidal section that can be made to suit any length of camera. Once a mount grips it, it is held with extreme rigidity. The profile in metal can be incorporated into hand grips, flash holders, and any number of flat plates. Accessory makers go mad with it in all sizes.
It can also be used to grip other things – I mount a flash gun holder to the side of Fujifilm cameras with the Arca-Swiss rail. It might seem redundant when there is a hot shoe on the top of most Fujifilm cameras, but the top shoe is only so strong – the Arca mount on the side on the side is more like the coupling for a railway car. You can sometimes make a very neat combination with a coupling block or wireless transmitter. Hint: try the Flash Q system for neat manual coupling.