Indexed quick plate for Giottos ball head?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by sarah_fox, May 30, 2010.

  1. Hi all,
    Tired of fighting with my badly battered Tiltall tripod, I bought a set of carbon fiber legs and a Giottos MH-1302 ball head with a 655 quick plate system. I was led to understand that the Giottos quick plates were Arca Swiss compatible. In fact they are only similar in design but definitely not interchangeable. I had hoped to use an Arca Swiss plate for my 5D, with an indexing pin to keep the camera from rotating on the mount. That's not a possibility.
    The 655 system's generic quick plate has two red plastic tabs that supposedly keep the camera from rotating on the mount. Good idea, I suppose, but it doesn't really work that well. I'd still like an indexing pin. Giottos does not manufacture a camera-specific quick plate with an indexing pin.
    Is there some other manufacturer that would make a quick plate with indexing pin for mounting a Canon 5D on a Giottos head?
    Failing that, is there another quick plate system that would mount on the 1302's ball?
  2. The typical camera specific plate for Arca Swiss qr systems has a lip, not pins. RRS and Kirk are the usual sources, I believe Acratech has some as well but not sure. If these plates fit the Giottos head, then the lip should hold the camera in place to keep it from rotating. Since there isn't a real "standard," I don't know if those manufacturers plates will fit the Giottos head.
  3. Thanks, Craig.
    Actually the Arca Swiss system does use indexing pins, and there are pin holes in the bottoms of our cameras. RRS uses lips, as you suggest, and apparently has the same QR flange as Arca Swiss, so they are interchangeable but won't fit Giottos. I have nothing against lips ;-) and that solution would be fine if I can find a plate with lips and a Giottos compatible QR flange.
    I still don't know whether Kirk or Acratech has any solutions that will fit Giottos.
    I might just have to make myself an indexed plate. I'm thinking of modding a Giottos plate by attaching an aluminum platform with appropriately spaced holes and pins for both my 5D and 40D. I'm currently on the road, and all I have with me is a hand drill and a hacksaw -- maybe a file or two. I'd rather not get into this right now if I don't have to.
  4. I have experimented with customizing plates for the Manfrotto hex system, and found that it requires only a very shallow indentation to keep a camera firmly planted, so if the plate is thick enough, one option is to mill or file out a depression that matches the footprint of the camera on the plate. A couple of millimeters is more than enough. As long as the camera doesn't start to rotate, it will stay tight. You don't even need to match the whole footprint. If you simply file away everything but a ledge at the back, it will work fine. I have some machine tools at my disposal (my experiment involved making the plates themselves too), but a good coarse file and reasonable technique could customize an aluminum plate in a relatively short time.
    An alternative would be, if you can find a little piece of aluminum or other material, to screw it to the plate to serve as a lip.
    If you prefer pins, how about just drilling the plate and pressing in pins? If you can find the right size material for the pins, just find a drill bit that's a tiny bit smaller, drill the hole and press the pin in with a small vise or vise grips, etc. If you're equipped, you could also tap the hole and screw in a set screw, or screw in a regular machine screw and saw the excess off.
  5. Hi Matthew,
    I considered pressing a pin into a Giottos plate, but the plate I have is too small to do that. I could order a longer plate and mount the camera 90 deg from the way it was designed. Then I'd have the distance needed to insert a pin.
    All things considered, though, I think I'd rather just make my own QR plate from scratch if there are no turnkey solutions out there. All I need is a 1/8" thick x 1 1/2" wide piece of aluminum stock. I can fit a piece maybe 3" wide, round the edges for comfort, file a dovetail in the middle for the QR mount, and place holes and pins where I need them. I can use electrical tape for cusion between the plate and the bottom of the camera. That would be a lower profile solution than any pre-made QR plate, as far as I can tell, and it would be comfortable enough to keep on the bottom of my camera. Moreover, as there seems to be quite a lot of flex in the interface between camera and a smaller plate (like Giottos' and even Arca Swiss'), I think my larger-plate solution would add rigidity to the rig.
  6. I think making your own is a great alternative if you can do it. Once you get the pattern right, you can make custom plates for everything you have. If I read your post correctly, you would be making a sandwich of plates, to provide clearance underneath for the screw. A single layer of 1/8 inch plate isn't nearly thick enough. I suspect whatever design you come up with you'll find you're better off with something thicker than that. Most QR systems require a pretty thick pad because the underside must be recessed for the screw head. One of the reasons I've been playing with the Manfrotto hex system is that it's the only one I know of that has a hole in the head for screw clearance, so the screw head need not be recessed. The standard plate is about 3/8 of an inch thick.
    Electrical tape is too soft. It squirms under pressure and exudes gooey adhesive. Very little padding is needed anyway, so something like plastic shelf liner works better. Even just some thin cardboard glued down will be sufficient.
  7. I'm actually aiming for a 1/8" thick plate if I can get away with it! I want it lean, mean, and compact -- for constant wearing. I think a 1/8" plate will be strong enough to give me the stability I need. I've made lots of photo hardware out of this material (mostly 1/8 x 1"), and it's held up well.
    1/8 is barely thick enough to clear the QR jaws. I'll be recessing a screw into the material, and I *think* 1/8" might be thick enough for that. I can either drill a 1/16" recess with a pilot-point bit for a round-head screw and file off some of the top of the head (still leaving a bit of a bulge). Or I might be able to recess a flathead screw far enough. (How deep is the head a 1/4-20 flathead screw?) I might be able to file off the last bit of the taper to make a flathead work. I suppose 3/16" would be better, but I think I'd be lucky to find it. I don't want to go with anything as thick as 1/4", as that would start to feel bulky and awkward for handholding.
    I like your idea of plastic shelf liner! Definitely better than electrical tape. :)
    I might need to file away some material from the screw at the lower part of the head. A 3/16 plate would be better, but I think I'd be lucky to find that. I don't want to go to a 1/4 plate. I'll probably use a roll pin for the indexing pin. As far as I can tell, the right dia would be 3/32". I don't know whether the things come that small. I suppose they do.
    When I get home, I can sand the thing, spray it with black epoxy paint, and substitute a stainless 1/4-20 screw. I think it'll look sharp! :)
  8. Good luck. I still think you may find you need a thicker plate to recess the screw, but it's also true that the thick ones are a bit bulky for hand holding and for case storage. But one advantage of a custom plate is that you need not sock the screw down so tightly to hold the camera from moving, so it's also quite easy to take off and put back on. Have fun, and I hope you post back with results.
  9. I really wish 3/16" material were more common! I think that would be the stuff to use. Anyway I'll post pics if it works. I always like to share good solutions I find with my fellow photogs! Thanks for brainstorming with me.
  10. Sarah, if you find that you simply cannot obtain material, and if you're in the continental US, email me and I think I could arrange to slip a piece of thicker aluminum of appropriate size into an envelope and mail it to you. I have a pretty good bunch of scraps of 3/8 inch that I've used for Manfrotto plates, and could likely come up with some a little thinner as well.
  11. Thanks, Matthew! That's very kind of you! I might end up doing that. I'll let you know if my shopping trip to Home Depot doesn't turn up what I need. As for now, I'm going to try to make the 1/8" plate work. I'll feel as though I have a very chic solution indeed if I can pull it off. :)
  12. If the clamp will come off of the ballhead, an easy solution would be to replace the clamp with a clamp that is compatible with Arca-type plates. Kirk and Really Right Stuff sell just the clamp by itself for that purpose.
  13. Hi Sam,
    The clamp will indeed come off the ball head, and a different clamp is a possibility. I simply don't know about compatibility. For instance I think the RRS clamps use a 1/4-20 screw to attach to the ball, and the Giottos uses a 3/8. I don't know whether a 3/8 to 1/4 threaded adapter sleeve would take care of all incompatibilities between ball and clamp, and nobody has been able to tell me.
    I'd love to hear whether any other clamp is (confirmed) compatible with the Giottos ball. I've asked everyone I can ask, so far, and nobody seems to have an answer. The only compatibility answer I've gotten was wrong -- that the Arca Swiss QR plates will mount in a Giottos clamp.
  14. Done!
    I spent the night at Pinnacles National Monument. No phone, no 3G, no WiFi, no televisionm ergo more productivity. (That's a sad commentary on my life.) ;-) Fortunately I had made a run to a small-town Ace Hardware store en route. It's absolutely amazing how well some of these little hardware stores are stocked. I found some very fancy stainless screws (1/2" flat cap-head), some brass ones in case I couldn't machine the stainless ones with the hand tools I have with me (came in handy, because I couldn't), some beautiful 3/32" steel pins, and the 1/8 x 1 1/2" aluminum. They didn't have 3/16". So at Pinnacles, after sunset, I pulled out my drill and my file and went to work.
    Here's what I did to make my Giottos-compatible 5D quickplate:
    I cut myself a 3" length of the aluminum and beveled the edges in the middle to fit the jaws of the clamp. I drilled a hole near one of the bevels to accommodate the safety catch. The plate then doesn't mount the usual way. Rather, you open the jaws up a little bit wider than you would with a Giottos plate, insert the one bevel, and then lower the second bevel into the jaws, with the safety catch inserting into the hole. The plate cannot be removed to the side. The plate is also 90 deg turned with respect to the direction Giottos intended. This leaves the quick release knob sticking out the back side of the camera, rather than under one side. This isn't as inconvenient as it sounds. My original intention was to face the knob forward, beneath the lens, but there wasn't quite enough clearance, and the knob would press against the zoom ring of my 24-105 lens.
    So that's the basic plate. Next job was to make a 3/32" dia x 1/4" indexing pin. The problem I had that I wouldn't have at home was that the pin was made of hardened steel, so I couldn't saw it. It was 1/2" long, and I needed 1/4". After fretting about that, I realized I had fire. So I heated the pin red-hot over our propane camp stove and dropped the pin into a cup of water, thus annealing it. NOW it would cut. I simply cut it with some wire snips and dressed the cut with a file. Other than being sort of black, it looked beautiful.
    Next job was inserting the pin into the plate. I drilled a 5/64" hole (1/64" too small for the pin), took pin and plate out to a big, granite boulder, held the pin with needle-nose pliers, and tapped it into the aluminum with my claw hammer. (Note: doing this on the picnic table would be pretty loud at 11:00 PM!) Beautiful! Done!
    I next drilled the hole for the 1/4-20 screw and reamed it until it was perfectly centered. I then took a countersink bit and tapered the hole to accommodate a flat-head screw so that it was flush. As I anticipated, I did have to file some of the head taper away to accommodate such a shallow hole.
    Next I trimmed my brass screw (shortening it), filed down the taper of the head a bit, and screwed the plate to the camera. It all looked good.
    I did have to shim the plate just a bit to give the assembly enough height to clear the tops of the jaws. (3/16" material would have made this unnecessary.) I used 4 layers of adhesive-backed aluminum tape and 1 layer of vinyl shelf liner material.
    Finally I wanted to make the plate comfortable for constant use. I trimmed it a bit on one corner and rounded all the edges with a file.
    The result: The plate fits the camera beautifully. The indexing pin does its job and keeps the camera from rotating on the mount. It's very solid in that direction. There's still a bit of flex in the mount between the camera and plate. I had hoped my plate would work better than the smaller Giottos plate in this regard. However, I have the same issue even with the camera mounted to my much larger Leitz Tiltall plate. (Do people understand that the wobbliest part of almost any tripod system is actually the bottom of the camera? A beefier bottom plate would be on my wish list for Canon. Short of that, I have an idea for stabilizing the camera on two mounting points, the second being at the hotshoe. That will have to wait until I have more to work with than a hack saw, a file, a drill, a pair of pliers, and a claw hammer.)
    Anyway I have a much better mount now that WILL NOT allow my camera to rotate on the mount. It fits like a glove and doesn't look half bad. Pics later... when I get around to it. I think I'll even put up a little how-to page on my website.
  15. A nice conclusion and a clever solution considering the paucity of resources at your disposal.
    I have noticed the same thing as you, and done away with almost all the padding on my plates as a result. I have only vinyl shelf paper on the camera mounts, and no padding at all on the mounts for my 400 mm lens and my spotting scope. For my wife's 500 mm. lens, which has a second screw hole, I milled the top off the plate, and drilled it for the second screw, also with no padding at all.
    I wonder if, when you have more resources at your disposal, you could laminate another layer of aluminum to the top of the plate (little countersunk screws in tapped holes, perhaps?) to provide the necessary clearance. Anything you can do to reduce squish will pay off.

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