Photography is an expensive hobby, especially if you want to get serious about it. A DSLR camera isn’t cheap but building up the accessaries can be a lot more expensive. One good example is the tripod and associated mounting hardwares.
A solid aluminum tripo can be found for around $100. A sturdy and light carbon fiber tripod is typically more expensive but $200 can buy you one. The next item you need is a tripod head. This makes adjusting composition a lot easier. The most polular choice is perhaps the ball head. A good ball head can easily cost more than the tripod it is attached to.
To make attaching camera to the tripod head quicker and easier, a quick release system is needed. Over the years I have converted to the Arca-Swiss quick release system. It is simple, strong, and flexible. Compatible hardwares are made by many companies such as Acratech, Arca-Swiss, Giottos, Kirk Enterprises, Markins, Really Right Stuff, Wimberly, and others. A large variaties of mounting hardwares are available for almost every mounting needs imaginable.
The bare minimum Arca-Swiss system is a clamp and a plate. The clamp is attached to the tripod head and the plate is attached to the camera (or lens if it is big and has its own tripod collar). If you try to find name brand plates and clamps, a two piece set can easily cost you more than $100. When you purchase any products, you are paying for their production/marketing costs and a decent profit margin. Luckily you can find much cheaper but equally well made arca-swiss styl clamps and plates from eBay or Amazon Market Place venders.
Recently I started to build a 4-way focus rail system for macro photography and wanted to add Arca-Swiss style QR system so I can mount it on the ball head easily and mount my camera on the rail easily. After some searching on ebay I acquired the Fotopro QAL-500 clamp and Fotopro P-60 plate.
The Fotopro P-60 plate (as shown in the pictures below) has the standard 1/4-20 screws and it is possible to put the screw in one of the three opennings on the plate. None of them will be at the exact center of the plate. This is typically not a problem but if that is important this plate may not be for you. The plate is 60mm long and 38mm wide. The plate is nicely made. The surface has a black anodized layer that looks glossy but has a fine grain texture in it.
The Fotopro QAL-500 clamp also has good build quality. Originally I thought the knob was plastic but it turned out to be anodized alumimum as well. It has a bubble level in the knob, which I found interesting. Perhaps it was originally designed for a special vertical mounting application. It has 3/8″ standard tripod thread but comes with a 1/4″ brass bushing adapter that converts it to 1/4″ thread if needed.
The plate has two safety stops (two screws on the backside). The safety stops work with the clamp to prevent accidental slide-off of the mounted equipment when the clamp becomes loose. The following image shows how far the plate can be offset on the clamp before the safety stops stop it.
How much did they cost? About $40 + shipping. Perhaps not the best deal but the price definitely seems more reasonable. Not long after I made the purchase though, I found this Fotopro 60mm 3/8″ 1/4″ Clamp & QR Quick Release Camera Plate Arca Compatible on Amazon that seemed to be a better product for less $.
If you haven’t heard, Fotopro is a brand name of a Chinese company, ZhongShan Nikow Precision Industrial Co., Ltd. Its website (English version) is http://www.fotopro.net.cn/.
Keywords: Arca Swiss, Quick Release