In the past I have spoken about using Arca-Swiss compatible plates and tripod heads when using a tripod (or any mounting system that uses a ball-head). For the un-initiated, the Arca-Swiss system is a standard that any plate or tripod-head manufacturer can adhere to and thereby work with other manufacturer’s plates and head.
For example I have a ball-head a “BH-55” that is made by Really Right Stuff (RRS) mounted to a tripod made by Gitzo. I have plates made by RRS, Kirk, Joby and PhotoMadd that attach to a variety of devices.
So if most photographers know and use the system (if they are using tripods) why is that no camera/lens manufacturer bar one (that I am aware of) seems to be unaware or unwilling to make Arca-Swiss compatible items? I am not talking about making the base of a camera mount directly to an Arca-Swiss head; I am talking about items such as the feet on tripod-collars (on long lenses). These can still offer the standard tripod quarter-twenty (1/4” diameter, 20 threads per inch) tripod socket so are not mutually exclusive.
The sole manufacturer who seems to be aware and willing to do something about it is (you guessed it) Fujifilm. When Fujifilm released their first wave of cameras (X-100, X-Pro1 and X-E1), they provided probably the most essential (and at the same time the dumbest) hand-grips. The grips enhance the handgrip of the camera for all users (except those with small hands possibly) and also “moved” the tripod socket so it is now at the central axis of the lens. However, they also blocedk the battery/SD-Card door.
But then, Fujifilm after the release of the X-E2 and X-100s released new versions of the hand-grips, whilst they still provided the advantages of the former models, the major disadvantage (access to the battery/SD-card door) was removed by simply providing a cut-out in this area so that the door could be opened un-hindered and either the SD-Card or battery removed/replaced, etc. However they added another advantage, the bottom of the plates had a wedge added to them that was Arca-Swiss compatible. Although this may sound a bit clunky, this is the best way to describe the bottom of the plates, see the picture below:
Since this time all of the new-hand-grips released by Fujifilm now have cut-outs for the battery or battery/SD-Card compartments and also have the Arca-Swiss compatible bottoms too. The only exception to this is the battery grip for the X-T1 camera (VG-XT1) but as this isn’t technically a hand-grip and doesn’t have a metal base isn’t surprising.
Later this year Fujifilm will be releasing two lenses that will have tripod collars (the 50-140 f2.8 R OIS WR zoom lens and the 120-400mm OIS telephoto zoom). Whist we don’t know much about the 120-400mm (what is the aperture range and is this a WR lens) we can be pretty sure that the “feet” of the collars on these lenses will be Arca-Swiss compatible (I hope I’m not wrong on this one). This is a slight leap of faith as the mock-up of the 50-140 lens I saw at this year’s UK Photography Show did not have an Arca-Swiss compatible foot, in fact the tripod collar kept falling off 🙂 .
Whilst Fujifilm should be commended for providing something that users actually want there is still room for innovation/improvement here. When you use your camera in portrait orientation an “L-plate” is a better proposition and this is where some of the third-party companies such as RRS or PhotMadd come into play. For example I now have a couple of PhotoMadd combo-L-Plate/Hand-grips for my X-Pro1 and X-E1 too. When I started writing this article I didn’t have one for my X-E1 but in grabbing the URL for the PhotoMadd shop I noticed that there was a single one at a reduced price available, I love a bargain.
However although PhotoMadd will be releasing an L-Plate for the X-T1 in the future I would like one for my X-T1 and VG-XT1 combo. I have been looking around and to my surprise RRS are going to be releasing one (I have already pre-ordered one of these for myself). RRS don’t usually release L-plates for cameras that they think will be low-volume or cameras considered very consumer-based i.e. Nikon D3300 or D5200, Canon’s EOS xxxD series of cameras. This is a real pleasant surprise; when they eventually ship these I will be provide a video overview.