“This product is custom designed for Sony A7RIII, A7III and A9 cameras. Both the base plate and the side plate are of Arca-Swiss standard. It mounts to the camera’s tripod socket and extends 20mm height for more comfortable gripping. The side plate is detachable and slidable as per your needs. Accessories such as hand straps, and Metabones adapter support 1764 could be attached to it, providing more stability….”
SmallRig L-Bracket for Sony A7III/A7RIII/A9 2122, SmallRig Cold Shoe Mount 1593 and SmallRig Lens Adapter Support 1764
I was browsing through the pages of the SmallRig video camera accessories website this morning when I handed upon what appears to be the company’s very first L-bracket, for Sony’s Alpha a7 III, Alpha a7R III and Alpha a9 mirrorless 35mm sensor format hybrid stills/video cameras.
This is an exciting development especially as SmallRig’s design provides for mounting on Arca-Swiss tripods heads or adapters, allows access to the cameras’ batteries, and looks sturdy and well-machined.
L-brackets can come in handy when using hybrid cameras for video and stills, in portrait and landscape format, swapping rapidly from one to the next.
Some manufacturers such as 3 Legged Thing make universal L-brackets that can fit a range of cameras with varying degrees of usability and ability to easily access batteries, media cards and other essential hardware features but there is no question that custom L-brackets designed to fit their intended camera perfectly are the best option by far.
Regrettably though, custom L-brackets are not always available for specific cameras nor are they always designed and manufactured in the way one might desire.
For example, I am still looking for a good enough L-bracket for my beloved Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 hybrid professional rangefinder-style camera.
The GX8 remains one of my favourite and most-used professional-quality cameras for stills photography and video even though it was supposed to be “superseded” or “updated” by Panasonic with the enthusiast-level Panasonic Lumix DC-GX9, a marketing misstep about which I have written in several articles here at ‘Untitled’.
I and a good many others are still waiting for Panasonic to come up with the actual professional-quality rangefinder-style successor to the GX8.
Meanwhile, getting back to L-brackets, the best GX8 L-bracket so far had vanished from sale just before I discovered it, though its design was far from perfect and was neither as advanced as SmallRig’s solution for the Sony A-series cameras nor as affordable.
Nor did that disappeared GX8 L-bracket offer the option of attaching a special cold shoe for mounting microphones or other accessories off to the camera’s side, or a lens adapter support below the lens while securely screwed onto the L-bracket itself.
I ended up buying a GX8 camera cage from SmallRig as a form of consolation gift to myself, but a cage and an L-bracket are two different things made to solve two different sets of problems even though, as SmallRig has illustrated in its Sony L-bracket product page, an L-bracket can be useful to moviemakers too.
I encourage SmallRig to consider making L-brackets for other cameras.
“… A native New Yorker, he has roamed through America constantly since earning a BA in Art from Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, in 1965, already obsessed with “the great underlying theme of my work: the utopian vision of America contrasted with the dystopian one”.”
I recommend learning photography with a view camera, analog or digital, if that is an option as it is a very different, more contemplative experience than can be had with most smaller format cameras.
With the ongoing depletion of available 4″x5″ and 8″x10″ sheet film stock, professional processing labs and top-quality analog printing services, it may be wise to consider digital options if contemplating photographing on location with field and portable view cameras.
The gallery and list below contain a number of digital alternatives that accept mirrorless cameras and digital backs of various brands via adapters.
The medium and large format film colour photography of Joel Sternfeld, Joel Meyerowitz and other North American photographers crucially influenced my own ways of seeing and working as much as that of small, hand camera photographers.
Notable colour photographers of the former persuasion worth checking out include these:
Alpa 12 SWA Rosewood Natural shift wide angle medium format digital camera …
Arca-Swiss F-Universalis DSLR camera for Canon, Fujifilm GFX, Leica M, Nikon and Sony E digital cameras via adapters, illustrated with with Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II tilt/shift lens, can be used with a wide range of other lenses.
Cambo WRS-1600 shift/swing/tilt digital view camera for use with Hasselblad, Leaf, Phase One and Sinar digital backs and a range of digital cameras via adapters.
Cambo Actus-GFX view camera for use with the Fujifilm GFX-50S digital camera and in configurations for a range of other mirrorless cameras and digital backs.
Horseman SW612 Professional medium format digital camera with rise/fall/shift camera movements.
Linhof Master Technika 4″x5″ view camera can be used with a range of roll film, sheet film and digital backs. Image courtesy of Linhof.
Sinar LanTec Mobile Camera Platform with SinarBack S 30|45
Fujifilm GFX 50S Medium Format Mirrorless Camera (Body Only) – B&H – remarkable effort from Fujifilm with the next version of this camera to be the GFX-100S, and with a rangefinder or rangefinder-style alternative apparently also coming sometime soon in the form of the GFX-50R.
Horseman VCC PRO View Camera Converter for Canon – B&H
Linhof 4×5 Master Technika 3000 Metal Field Camera – B&H
Linhof 4×5 Master Technika “Classic” Rangefinder Metal Field Camera – B&H – this really is the classic folding portable view camera for use in the hand or on a stand aka tripod, with rangefinder and optical viewfinder.
Linhof Techno Digital Field Camera (Body Only) – B&H
Silvestri Bicam Professional Modular Camera Body – B&H
Wildly innovative British tripod and tripod accessories maker 3 Legged Thing has updated its website while launching its new QR11 Universal L-Bracket, with the side benefit of making the entire 3 Legged Thing product range more comprehensible via plenty of product shots and descriptions. An unexpected revelation of the new website is the addition of a second pro tripod colourway alongside established bronze and blue Equinox in the form of the more subdued Eclipse.
3 Legged Thing describes its new Eclipse colourway as “metallic slate with subtle hints of British Racing Green”, appealing perhaps to the patriots and Anglophiles in the photographic community but also useful in potentially drawing less unwanted attention to the presence of a tripod-using photographer in places where tripod laws and regulations still reign.
I rather like 3 Legged Thing’s beautifully anodized blue and bronze Equinox colourway and find mostly-grey Eclipse dull by comparison though the copper orange accents shared by each spice up the Eclipse look as much as it does Equinox.
Although I do not own a 3 Legged Thing tripod yet, I was lucky enough to try one out when I began the Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success project and learned firsthand how innovatively designed and carefully manufactured 3 Legged Thing’s products are.
3 Legged Thing’s 3 Professional tripod range – Leo, Albert and Winston
My experiences with the Equinox Leo Carbon Fibre Tripod System & AirHed Light, now updated in the form of the Equinox Leo Kit that includes the Airhed Switch, were so positive that I added the next model up, the Equinox Albert Kit which includes the Airhed 360, to my stills photography wishlist.
In the course of the tryout I discovered that the jewel-like colours and finish of the Equinox Leo drew in and even fascinated portrait sitters so they focussed more on the experience of being before camera and tripod, taking their minds off innate self-consciousness.
I was reminded how the relatively unusual sheet film and 120 roll film cameras I favoured for portraiture during the analog era created a similar fascination in my sitters and concluded that any hardware with that capability had to be a good thing.
Today’s digital cameras are bland-looking things in comparison to those hand-made marvels of optical and mechanical design and engineering to the point where I often blend into the crowd, or the darkness, even when standing right in front of a subject mere centimetres away from their eyes.
A tripod-shaped place in my heart
After almost a lifetime of being a tripod and monopod user when shooting photography and video, I have owned, sold off or lost through theft a great many of them and none has won a special place in my heart apart from the very first, a black Leitz Tiltall exactly the same as one depicted in the first photography book I bought about the work of two female photographers in the United States.
That first tripod of mine was described by its US makers as “The Leica of Tripods” and its high quality design and engineering prompted me to investigate Leica cameras, after which I quickly sold off my Nikons and invested in Leica M-System rangefinder cameras and lenses.
As the demands of my professional work increased, so did the size and weight of the tripods with which I attempted to replace my lost Tiltall.
Not one could have been considered a “micro-traveler” or even a “travel tripod”, terms 3 Legged Thing rightly uses to describe its Leo and Albert, and were more in the league of 3 Legged Thing’s Winston and beyond.
I owned all those many tripods in the days before carbon fibre and portability were considered common standards to aspire to and one British-made tripod in particular, bought for corporate photography assignments in the deserts of Western Australia, presented a real transportation challenge due to its size and weight.
Despite that, it was a stellar performer in the nastiest of conditions and I miss it still when needing a tripod capable of bizarre angles or positioning, or of carrying the heaviest of heavy loads; pity that particular model was discontinued when the company sold itself and the new owners chose to truncate the product range.
The QR11 Universal L-Bracket
3 Legged Thing’s new universal L-Bracket is available to two versions, the Equinox Copper-coloured QR11-LC and the Eclipse Metallic Slate-coloured QR11-LG. Your choice will hinge on how much attention you want to draw and whether you like 3LT’s Copper colour.
Given I am considering buying an Equinox Albert travel tripod for easy carrying to shoot portrait-orientation head-and-shoulders portraits and landscape-orientation environmental portraits, I may well opt for a QR11-LC.
Being about to dip my toes into the multicoloured Equinox colourway, why not go that little bit further with an orange-ish L-Bracket to match the orangeish accents on the Albert?
Until coming across QR11 online, I had never seriously considered a universal L-bracket of any brand. Despite digital cameras of all formats being more similar in their sizes and designs than analog cameras of all formats could ever be, any “universal” accessory must of necessity be a compromise, neither fish nor fowl, good in parts but not perfect in all of them.
I had been leaning towards custom L-Brackets for all my cameras for the obvious reason that each is designed to fit its intended cameras perfectly, allowing full access to the camera’s functions and especially its battery and card compartments.
Then the downside of relying on a range of third party custom accessories marks became apparent, with sudden discontinuation of L-Brackets for still-current cameras, as well as the many variations between third party brands, and their design and manufacturing quality.
Strike that particular accessories maker off the wishlist for L-Brackets and perhaps everything else they make. Unreliability is the last thing one needs in a supplier and makes one wonder whether that particular company is flakey in other ways as well. Their recommended substitute for their now-dead GX8 L-Bracket is pathetic, a simple square Arca-Swiss plate, hardly inspiring confidence.
From what I can tell by looking at 3 Legged Things’ product shots, the QR11 is one of the better-designed universal L-Brackets. I love its two camera strap attachment bars given I have standardized on a Peak Design Clutch and Cuff for every camera I own, only attaching conventional neck or shoulder camera straps when doing the two-camera documentary thing.
Another potentially useful element in the QR11’s design is its 1/4″-20 threaded hole for attaching accessories, making the QR11 a little more like a cage and less of a conventional L-Bracket.
Given the nature of compromise, the QR11 does not work perfectly with every camera in common use nowadays, but the 3LT team has tried out and documented its usability with a range of cameras from makers including Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon and Sony and I hope that they will soon add the results of their tests with current Panasonic cameras like the GX8, GH4 and GH5.
Other essential accessories for your 3 Legged Thing tripod
The 3 Legged Thing product world is built upon the Arca-Swiss quick release system and benefits from a working relationship with Peak Design, as proven by 3LT’s adoption of Peak Design’s square Arca-Swiss camera plate.
3LT makes quick release camera plates other than its square QR4, such as the rectangular QR6 and QR7. I am considering the QR7 with its strap connector and 62mm length as compared to the 38mm of the QR4 that comes with every 3LT tripod.
Many is the time I have put a camera equipped with QR4 or its Peak Design equivalent Standard Plate down upon a flat surface to watch it suddenly tilt over, with dismay at possible dire consequences to camera and lens. Will a longer quick release plate like the QR7 prevent this?
I am planning on converting all my tripods and tripod plates over to the Arca-Swiss system whether they are designed for stills photography or video and have been researching custom and third-party Arca-Swiss clamps. I have yet to make my final decision but 3LT’s two current clamps, the lever-operated Switch Clamp and panoramic 360-Clamp, are possible candidates.
Likewise I like the look of 3LT’s Stilettoz, Heelz and Clawz Footwear solutions for replacing the Bootz rubber feet that come with each 3LT tripod as standard.
I have photography and video tripods and monopods that come equipped with soft rubber or hard plastic feet that can be screwed upwards to reveal short metal spikes. Again, a neither fish nor fowl solution that could be bettered with exchangeable feet designed for each specific surface in varieties of hard or soft as 3 Legged Thing’s Footz have been.
Mould, the ever-present danger
At a certain point in this ongoing global warming aka climate change that out political overlords insist does not exist, mould suddenly appeared throughout apartments and houses in suburbs that had never experienced it before.
Mould infestations were formerly only the thing of inner city terrace houses with poor ventilation, tiny windows, no insulation, and little to no heating or cooling.
Cameras and lenses hate mould and so do I. Certain plastics and almost all leathers attract mould which embeds its spores into them then sprouts pale grey powder onto the outer surfaces. It is the simplest thing to accidentally transfer the powder onto your equipment then watch in horror as mould invades its insides and outsides.
I implore the 3 Legged Thing team to look into their plastics for process to mould infestation and replace them with anti-mould alternatives.
Future 3 Legged Thing products
The updated 3 Legged Thing website has helped me better understand their product range and many items in it go together. It has boosted my interest in them as a brand and, from my time with an Equinox Pro Leo & Airhed Light Kit, one clearly capable of coming with uniquely creative and innovative hardware.
The folks at 3LT have hinted that more products are on the horizon and have not denied one persistent rumour, that a video tripod may be one of them.
I have two very good video tripods at the moment, one large and one small that is designed for travel. Both are far from what I really need, so I am looking forward to seeing what 3 Legged Thing comes up with.
“In the last couple of weeks my little brand, 3 Legged Thing, launched a brand new Universal L Bracket – the QR11. For the most part, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
Then, somebody sent me a link to a well known forum, where a conversation had started about the press release for the QR11. The comments were almost wholly negative with more than one contributor stating “You can buy this from **insert website name** for $7″ or “I got one from China for $5 and it works just fine”….”
The above excellent and informative article by Danny Lenihan of 3 Legged Thing is partially in reference to 3 Legged Thing’s QR11 Universal L-Bracket aka L-Plate.
I have been looking for an L-Plate for my still-current Panasonic Lumix GX8 camera for some time and thought I had finally found a good solution in Really Right Stuff’s BGX8 L-Plate, only to discover to my deep disappointment that it was discontinued six months ago.
Really Right Stuff’s now discontinued BGX8 L-Plate for the GX8
The sadly discontinued Really Right Stuff BGX8 L-Plate for the still-currently-in-production Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 for use when shooting in landscape or portrait orientation.
The discontinued Really Right Stuff BGX8 L-Plate for the still-in-production Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8.
Really Right Stuff bizarrely discontinued this L-plate before I had a chance to buy it, so if any readers have one for sale please let me know.
L-plates like this one by Really Right Stuff are invaluable when quickly switching from horizontal to vertical orientation during environmental portrait photography sessions.
The GX8 is a brilliant camera for portraiture and even if the GX9 eventually appears with IBIS and Dual IS per the GH5, I will continue to use my GX8 for tripod-mounted portrait and landscape orientation environmental portraiture due to its lovely sensor.
Why throw away something that works well and keep feeding the camera GAS churn cycle when perfectly good cameras can keep performing for years to come?
My current GX8 “L-Plate” solution
An L-Plate would make shooting in both orientations much easier and surer, quickly swapping from vertical to horizontal and vice versa in a way that is simply not possible by flipping the tripod head from one to the other.
Relying on third party manufacturers to supply custom solutions to common problems that should, perhaps, be attended to by camera makers is prone to all sorts of problems.
A universal L-Plate is a good solution in theory so long as it is designed in such a way that access to all your cameras’ functions are not impeded.
It seems that 3 Legged Thing did not have access to Panasonic Lumix cameras so may not have designed their QR11 L-Plate to fit it, and has not rated it for usability with the GX8 or other Panasonic cameras, or Fujifilm’s X-Pro2 for that matter.
I have managed to obtain a half-baked solution to my problem with the GX8 by purchasing SmallRig’s Cage for Panasonic GX8 1844 but a camera cage is hardly the same thing as an L-Plate.
I can understand camera-users resorting to Chinese cut-price copyists – I have had to do that myself in the absence of decent local product supply or in the presence of situations like this one with Really Right Stuff, but one thing remains constant – every Chinese-made item I have bought so far has failed spectacularly, or has been poorly-made, or is mediocre a best, or is just a lousy copy of the real thing which I have not been able to obtain for whatever reason.
I am hoping upon hope that 3 Legged Thing’s QR11 can work well enough with the GX8 or better yet that they will update it to work with the GX8 without impeding its full functionality, but the fact remains that L-Plates (and cages) customized for each specific camera are the best solution by far.
I would have thought that the whole point of contemporary CNC machining is that products can be made at any time, without having to produce in big batches, and so making even just one more Really Right Stuff BGX8 on demand should not be an impossible or insanely costly task.
Or do I have the wrong end of the stick? Independent in-demand solutions providers like Hejnar Photo prove otherwise.
As the destruction of the incredible and unique Samsung NX1, NX500 and Galaxy NX cameras proves, well-established manufacturers can and do make lousy decisions all the time and small manufacturers like Really Right Stuff are no exception to this.
Or, for that matter, Manfrotto, with their unique but tragically killed-off Lino Manfrotto Collection and Fig Rig product lines as well as other equally unique products like the Xume filter attachment system that appears to have been blessed with some pretty lousy marketing and distribution.
Rod Klukas, operating under the name Arca-Swiss USA, has released an image of the soon-to-be released Arca-Swiss Universalis II view camera system for Fujifilm’s GFX 50S medium format camera. Like Cambo’s Actus-GFX mini view camera, the Arca-Swiss Universalis II uses the GFX 50S as a digital magazine in combination with existing view camera system elements.
Magazine editorial portrait photography with large format view cameras using 4″x5″ sheet film, Polaroid Type 55 instant positive/negative film and Linhof fixed-size or Sinar variable-format 120 roll film backs with the choice of 6×4.5, 6×6, 6×7, 6×9 and 6×12 aspect ratios was a passion of mine during the analog era.
I discovered that my subjects responded very differently to view cameras than they ever did to all other camera types, and I easily achieved an intimacy and calmness in my subjects that took more work to obtain using smaller cameras in the hand or on the tripod.
The cameras’ movements – swing, shift and tilt – provided extra creative control of what was in or out of focus, especially when using longer focal lengths like 210mm and even standard focal lengths such as 150mm.
This hardware also came in handy photographing architecture and figures in landscapes when I was a corporate photographer working for mining companies in the deserts of Western Australia.
I miss those cameras and that very craft-oriented approach to photography. It is so rewarding, then, to see similar aspect ratio and camera type choices appearing in the digital era and I hope that more technical camera makers will adopt Fujifilm’s GFX camera series in the way that Arca-Swiss and Cambo have now.
I was lucky to have learned the art and craft of large format photography with a pair of Linhof cameras owned by a university art school, then bought a Cambo studio technical camera followed by a Graflex sheet film press camera then a Wista folding field camera made of brass and cherrywood.
Those who have not been exposed to technical cameras using 120 roll film or sheet film may wish to do a little reading via the lists of links below.
Technical camera & lens brands, current and defunct
Deardorff – made wooden field cameras between 1923 and 1988.
Ebony – made wooden and all-metal field view cameras for analog photography only but recently ceased production.
Fujinon – made some of the most highly-regarded large format lenses, reportedly Richard Avedon’s favourites, but appears to no longer be producing them. Fujinon large format lenses are being sold on eBay at affordable prices. My two favourite focal lengths are 90mm and 210mm, with both available in f/5.6 maximum aperture versions.
Gandolfi & Sons – makers of traditional mahogany folding field cameras from 4″x5″ through to 11″x14″ format for decades from 1885 until closing their doors in 2000.
I love using custom camera cages when making movies with small, mirrorless Super 16/Micro Four Thirds or Super 35mm/APS-C hybrid cameras. One such cage saved my only camera at the time and thus saved my career, not so long ago.
The recent arrival of a custom cage for my Panasonic Lumix GX8 camera means I feel a whole lot safer toting it around in public while shooting video.
And, it got me thinking about the current state of the art of cages and rigging for any camera, whether my GX8, my GH4 or Fujifilm’s X-T2, which has so much currently unfulfilled potential as a movie camera and which could be the best affordable Super 35 video camera if Fujifilm adds some crucial features to its firmware.