So as a precursor to the Yellowstone photo posts, the topic today actually originates from a couple of lessons learned while we were out there. Linda and I currently shoot with three Nikon bodies, a D70, D90 and a D7000. This allows us to each have our own bodies with our preferred as keep one additional lens on the third body for convenient switching without having to swap glass in the field. Well, let’s refine that last statement to “reduce” the amount of times we have to swap glass because we still find ourselves playing musical lenses to take advantages of specific body features. Now, both our big lenses are configured with collar tripod mounts and we generally keep an Arca Swiss quick release plate on those while out with our carbon fiber travel tripod. Bodies with the wide glass need the tripod mount directly on the body. When I purchased our Benro head for the tripod and the same Benro head for the travel tripod I also added an additional release plate giving us a total of three. You would think this would be enough, but we soon found out in Yellowstone that this is insufficient if you are changing glass across all three bodies. Inevitably Linda would end up trying to take a wide angle shot on a camera without a mount. After a few choice words the camera with the mount was located, the plate removed and then added to the desired camera. This became extremely frustrating and depending on the situation could cause you to completely lose the shot.
The second lesson learned was there are situations where both of us would like to use the tripod at the same time or there were conditions that favor one tripod over another. Generally we only take one tripod with us, the lighter travel tripod since I’m the one who usually gets to carry it. Our other one is a SLIK built to withstand a small hurricane.
Now the weight isn’t a big issue since we would just throw the heavy one in the car and only bring it out when we needed it. The underlying annoyance is they use a different quick release plate system.
Here is a shot of the plates from the top – the part that attaches to the camera:
and now from the side that attaches to the tripod which is the heart of the problem:
We would be spending more time trying to mix and match the plates than capturing the shot. On the drive back a decision was made to try and solve both of these problems.
First task was to purchase three more Arca Swiss plates. One was a little longer than the others to provide a better hold for the Beast since the smaller plates only provided for one screw allowing it to shift on the plate if we were not careful. Problem one SOLVED.
Hit the jump to see how problem two was resolved.
Now on to problem two. When the travel tripod was originally acquired, we asked a local camera store (where we bought the SLIK) if the plate system could be switched to the more universal Arca Swiss format. When that answer came back negative we explored the option of replacing the head entirely. Same negative response (this was actually the same thoughts I had when looking at it myself). This was dropped at the time, but thanks to our frustrations in Yellowstone, there was renewed interest. After assessing the situation for about 10 minutes I simply grabbed the center column of the SLIK and the head and gave it a crank. Surprisingly, something gave below the head. A few spins later the head was officially off revealing a connecting screw. It was the 3/8 size screw and my Benro heads use a 1/4, but this was a problem that can be easily solved. Rather than simply use just the screw sleeve, I ordered a Manfrotto conversion plate that provided the sleeve attached to a wide plate that would fit nicely on the top of the SLIK. Of course we tested the plated for fit before buying the new head, but everything was a go. You can see both in the picture below.
Now all that was left was to screw the converter plate on and then attach the new Benro head – a perfect fit.
This shot shows how nice the conversion plate fit on the top of the SLIK (note, it sits flat against the post when screwed all the way down – also note the rubber coding on the top of the plate to prevent slippage against the head):
We now have the same head on all three of our pods (two tripods and a monopod) which all use the same quick release plate system. Admittedly, the long SLIK head handles provide a stable way to pan, but the benefits far out weigh this small loss – besides, there is a nob on the Benro to allow for the head to spin on the Y-axis if needed. Problem two officially SOLVED.
By the way, you might have noticed we had a Tri-pod Tri-fecta happening in this post since we were discussing converting one tripod into another tripod while using pictures from a camera on a tripod – you might want to lie down for a little nap after that one.
Now we just need to head back to Yellowstone – anyone up for a trip!