Gaffer Tape Fix for Loose Arca-Style Lever Clamps

A couple of years ago I finally converted all my Manfrotto RC2 Quick Release plates and clamps to the Arca-Swiss standard. Looking back, I don't know why I waited so long.

Arca-style plates and clamps lock down your gear so well that they've become the industry standard in camera support. And thanks to the system's popularity, you can buy Arca-style plates and clamps from a myriad of manufacturers, meaning there's a brand to fit nearly every budget. As there aren't a lot of technologically demanding aspects of the plate and clamp system, I oftentimes buy well-reviewed (and significantly less expensive) plates and clamps from the cheaper brands like Sunwayfoto and Desmond. Generally speaking, I've been very happy with these price conscious brands.

Unfortunately, there's a small catch. Even though the Arca system is indeed an industry standard, there still seems to be some variation in the widths of plates among the wide range of manufacturers. If you're using a typical quick release clamp that is tightened with a knob, the slight variation in plate widths is no problem and you can use any plate with utter disregard for the brand name. But if you're using a clamp with a lever release, things can get a big trickier.

A lever release is designed to clamp down with a sufficient amount of tension at a very specific width. Even though the clamp can typically be adjusted to different widths, the adjustment usually requires the use of a hex key. If you're using several plates from a range of manufacturers, the adjustments necessary would be less than convenient when switching between cameras. This is the exact problem I experienced with a recent QR plate purchase.

Backstory

I own a Glidecam HD-4000 that I use for video production. As I wanted to use the gimbal stabilizer with more than one DSLR, I decided to use an Arca-style clamp on the top to make switching out cameras faster and easier. Finding just the right QR clamp proved challenging as I needed one whose clamping mechanism did not extend beyond the bottom of the base of the clamp. That requirement ruled out all of the knob style clamps I came across. The one product I found that worked was the Desmond DLVC-50 Lever Clamp (seen above). Its tensioning lever does not extend past the base of the clamp meaning that it can sit flat on top of the Glidecam. Its "skeleton" design saves weight and the hole in its lever makes it easy to tighten and release even with the camera in place. I adjusted the clamp with the included Allen wrench so that it provides the optimal tension when used with my Kirk L-brackets and the setup worked well – but not perfectly.

I'm a huge battery grip fan and both my cameras have L-brackets designed for use with the battery grip. And while using a battery grip with the Glidecam works, it's trickier getting everything balanced when the weight of your camera and lens sits that much higher off the stabilizer's base. Therefore, I bought a universal QR plate for the times I wanted to use the Glidecam with a battery grip-free camera. Unfortunately, the plate proved very slightly narrower than the Arca-style plates on the Kirk L-brackets, meaning that the plate would slide back and forth in the clamp when tightened.

To prevent this, I could of course adjust the clamp so that it was properly calibrated for the new plate. However, I wanted to leave the clamp's adjustment as-is just in case I wanted to use it with a DSLR with the battery grip attached (for times when extra battery power trumps ease of stabilization). I considered returning the plate and getting one from another manufacturer in the hopes that the new plate would fit better. But then I had an idea...

The Fix

Gaffer tape.

Or in this case, technically speaking, spike tape (a narrow width gaffer tape). I cut the gaffer tape so that it would fit along the lower half of the groove where the QR clamp should come into contact with the plate. Two small strips (one on each side) was all it took to provide the perfect amount of friction between the plate and the clamp. If I had needed an even smaller adjustment, could have used gaffer's tape only on one side of the plate.

Will this solution work forever? Probably not. With enough use, the tape would likely wear down enough to warrant replacement. However, my guess is that because the tape is consistently being squished against the plate via the clamp, it'll stay in place relatively well. It should only experience wear during the mounting and unmounting of the camera, thereby leading to a relatively long lifespan for the fix.

In the end, a $12.50 plate and a few cents of spike tape worked just as well for my needs as buying a comparable Kirk-branded, $50.00 plate. Gaffer's tape never ceases to amaze me when it comes to its usefulness in photography.

Posted: 11/23/2015 8:45:40 AM ET   Posted By: Sean
Posted to: Canon News, Sony News    Category: Photo Tips and Stories
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