Author Topic: Manfrotto Hex to Arca Swiss  (Read 497 times)

Matthew Currie

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Manfrotto Hex to Arca Swiss
« on: June 14, 2020, 00:51:22 »
This latest project won't get any prizes from the machinists, but as a "proof of concept" I think it may have some merit. At least it was a way to kill an afternoon without going out into the big old infectious world.

I have several old Manfrotto tripods, and though my main one has a Kirk ballhead on it, I also have a couple of very nice old 3-way heads that use the Manfrotto hex plates, and I've always kind of liked 3-way heads for landscapes and macros.  The 3047 is very nice, and the 3039, with adjustable drag, is able to handle even very heavy components.

Although they're bulky and hard to store, I always liked the Manfrotto hex plates because they are easy to make.  They are thin and flat, and they allow a protruding bolt at the bottom, no recess required.  The problem is that if you use lens feet as well as a camera, the hex plates don't go 90 degrees around, so if you just put an A/S clamp on a hex plate, you have to remount it if you occasionally use a foot that's rotated.

I have an older Bogen head with a screw clamp, and it occurred to me to try making a round plate.  That worked, so then I wondered if the quick-release Manfrotto heads can also use a round plate if the size is just right.  Sure enough, though you have to sock it down a bit to keep it from rotating, you can use a round plate, and this allows you to turn it any way you want. 

So here, anyway, is the quick and dirty version. The A/S clamp was milled out of a hunk of aluminum and should have its seating surfaces neatened up, but it clamps nice and tight.  It's a bit thicker than usual, because otherwise you need a spacer to keep the clamping screw from interfering with the plate. The circular pad holds reasonably tight despite very small contact area with the head, and with a little tap on the quick release lever it's quite snug too. 


Seapy

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Re: Manfrotto Hex to Arca Swiss
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2020, 09:32:24 »
Very neat Mathew, what about a thin rubber pad on the underside, or perhaps a peg inserted in the underside of the disk to slot into a hole or pocket in the clamp to positively prevent rotation and give 90º alignment?
Robert C. P.
South Cumbria, UK

Akira

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Re: Manfrotto Hex to Arca Swiss
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2020, 12:31:54 »
I just admire people creating such useful accessories by themselves.

An anxious mind of me would want to round out the edge of the silver mounting plate, so that you wouldn't cut your fingers accidentally.
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Matthew Currie

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Re: Manfrotto Hex to Arca Swiss
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2020, 16:07:08 »
A little bevel on the circular plate is a good idea.  It's not as  sharp as it looks, but it would be less scary.  As for indexing, I thought it might be necessary, and contemplated some kind of stops or pins but found it clamps tight enough even for vertical shots with a normal lens.  The quick release lever may eventually leave little dents in the disk which will self-index.  But if it turns out not to be as stable as it seems, a single little hole drilled in the head could easily accept little pins in the disk.  A pin that protrudes even a tiny bit would do.

I thought also of the possibility of an octagonal plate, which might engage the head more positively. Maybe my next one if I get less lazy about layout.

In earlier projects, when I was still using the Manfrotto heads exclusively, including a ball head that wasn't very smooth, I made several custom hex plates for cameras, and found that a depression milled to fit the camera base need be only about a millimeter or two deep to make it very secure from rotating, and capable of steering the ball head,  with the screw finger tight. 

After I took the picture I realized the finish on the clamp wasn't good enough so I redid it.

edit to add:  much as I like my Kirk ball head for general use (and for supporting a gimbal) I had forgotten how much I like the precision of a good 3-way head.  For those not familiar with it, the Manfrotto 3039 has adjustable drag on all axes, making it useable even with big, unbalanced loads without flopping.  I took mine out for a quick trial today.  Here's a shot cropped to 600 pixels wide, otherwise only lightly sharpened, done with 200-500 at 200.  Just out of sight is the house to which the good parent wren is taking the tasty morsel.


Akira

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Re: Manfrotto Hex to Arca Swiss
« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2020, 19:29:44 »
Manfrotto's hex clamp system seems to be a bit insecure.  A long-term member of another forum had his D3S fall into the sea, because the hex plate was not securely bit by the clamp.  Fortunately, he had the insurance for the camera.
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Matthew Currie

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Re: Manfrotto Hex to Arca Swiss
« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2020, 21:50:52 »
I've never had that issue with the hex plates when they're in right, but it's not impossible to put them in wrong.  Because the plate mounts at three points, it can seem to clamp on if it's put in crookedly and misses one or both of the stationary points.  If it's put in properly, and if it's one of the newer heads that requires the plate to be fully down before the latch pops shut, I think it's pretty secure.  The newer heads I have have a secondary lock also that makes it impossible to unclamp it by accident.  I have just as many blind misses with Arca Swiss, and always check to make sure the pad is really in right.

My main issue with it was first of all that the plates are so big and clumsy that it's hard to stow a camera in a backpack, and second that I didn't much like my Manfrotto ball head.  The hex plate version of an L bracket is huge and clumsy too.  Especially now that almost every small travel tripod has an A/S compatible head, it seems reasonable to standardize on that, and adapt the Manfrottos.

I may yet try again and see if an octagonal plate would work. It will require a little more actual measuring as opposed to eyeball engineering, probably a good thing.

e.t.a.  A little further calculation suggested that the contact area from an octagonal pad wouldn't be appreciably better than a round one, so insted, I went out and made another circular pad, with more careful angle at the perimeter, with the hope that the added surface contact will allow increased stability without putting little dents in the disk.  Seems to work well.  It clamps very tight and doesn't rotate, so I think I'll stop there.

Hugh_3170

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Re: Manfrotto Hex to Arca Swiss
« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2020, 08:24:25 »
Akira, that has also been my experience with the Manfrotto Hex plate. 

Great care needs to be exercised to ensure that the Hex plate is seated correctly.  The custom made circular plate may in fact be the easier of the two to be seated securely.  A Tasmanian photographer known to me also lost a D3 into a creek due to the Manfrotto Hex plate not being seated securely.

Manfrotto's hex clamp system seems to be a bit insecure.  A long-term member of another forum had his D3S fall into the sea, because the hex plate was not securely bit by the clamp.  Fortunately, he had the insurance for the camera.
Hugh Gunn

Akira

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Re: Manfrotto Hex to Arca Swiss
« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2020, 12:36:45 »
Akira, that has also been my experience with the Manfrotto Hex plate. 

Great care needs to be exercised to ensure that the Hex plate is seated correctly.  The custom made circular plate may in fact be the easier of the two to be seated securely.  A Tasmanian photographer known to me also lost a D3 into a creek due to the Manfrotto Hex plate not being seated securely.

Oh, yes, I just remembered you and that Tasmanian photographer shared the same tragic experiences elsewhere.

Personally, even an Arca-Swiss lever clamp looks skeptical to me.  Or, I'm skeptical about me operating lever clamps!
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Asle Feten

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Re: Manfrotto Hex to Arca Swiss
« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2020, 16:07:05 »
The problem is that if you use lens feet as well as a camera, the hex plates don't go 90 degrees around, so if you just put an A/S clamp on a hex plate, you have to remount it if you occasionally use a foot that's rotated.

As long the lens feet is rotatable, one doesn't have to remount the plate. At least I doesn't need to do it. I have mounted the AS-clamp so the camera will be mounted the right way. When I use a collared lens, this will go 90°, so I use the usual portrait/landscape rotating  for tilting, and rotating the lens collar for portrait/lanscape. That way I can have the AS-clamp permanent on the hex plate.
Of course the panorama handle will point in another direction, but I haven't found it disturbing.
There is no illusion, it just looks that way.

Matthew Currie

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Re: Manfrotto Hex to Arca Swiss
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2020, 16:36:32 »
As long the lens feet is rotatable, one doesn't have to remount the plate. At least I doesn't need to do it. I have mounted the AS-clamp so the camera will be mounted the right way. When I use a collared lens, this will go 90°, so I use the usual portrait/landscape rotating  for tilting, and rotating the lens collar for portrait/lanscape. That way I can have the AS-clamp permanent on the hex plate.
Of course the panorama handle will point in another direction, but I haven't found it disturbing.

That's true, of course,  and I do this stuff partly just as a diversion to see if it can be done.  On the 3-way heads it's quite easy to reverse the function of the two tilts, but the round plate was more fun.  The plate and the home-made clamp might be classified as "machining therapy."  Especially the part that uses a shaper, which is hypnotic to watch.

pluton

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Re: Manfrotto Hex to Arca Swiss
« Reply #10 on: June 15, 2020, 20:32:49 »
An enterprising piece of machinist's handiwork.
Hopefully, the new circular plate is more likely to be securely mounted, and the classic 'improperly attached Manfrotto plate causes smashed camera/lens' scenario will be less likely to occur.
Keith B., Santa Monica, CA, USA

Bill De Jager

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Re: Manfrotto Hex to Arca Swiss
« Reply #11 on: June 16, 2020, 06:11:21 »
An enterprising piece of machinist's handiwork.
Hopefully, the new circular plate is more likely to securely mounted, and the classic 'improperly attached Manfrotto plate causes smashed camera/lens' scenario will be less likely to occur.

The first two tripod heads I purchased were Manfrotto pan-and-tilt heads.  I found them less than user-friendly so I gave in and purchased a RRS BH-40.  What a difference - to me the Arca-Swiss system is much more confidence inspiring, and much more appealing functionally and ergonomically than the Manfrotto plate system. I finally sold off my Manfrotto heads when I realized I was just not going to use them, much preferring the RRS ballheads and later adding Manfrotto fluid heads.   The latter have a different plate system where you can attach a RRS clamp to the large plate. The plate can be left in place and the clamp used to attach lens feet to the head.