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Stopping Short of Rails

Back in April, in my post Zacuto Stuff, I looked at mating a Zacuto Gorilla Plate or DSLR Baseplate with Really Right Stuff rails and clamps to create a quick release system that would allow you to move from platform to platform without having to reconfigure your DSLR.

Zacuto Z-finder, RRS MPR-73, RRS B2 AS II clamp, and Sachtler FSB-8 head all playing nice together.

That setup worked well but it fell short in one area – the addition of longer lenses with their own lens collars and mounting feet. On shoots this past year I have had to switch between my 70-200 lens, my 300 mm lens, and shorter focal lengths on many occasions. The problem with this is the orientation of the RRS rail which parallels the film plane when mounted via the camera body but is perpendicular to the film plane when the body/lens combo is mounted via a lens foot.

You could use a screw driver on location and change the orientation of the RRS clamp as needed but that is leaving room for error and it eats up time. Likewise, you could set your camera up on a 15mm rail system with its own lens support but that too adds time and it adds to the overall bulk of the system. Lastly, you could opt to not support the lens and continue to the mount the camera by its RRS rail but you are asking for trouble with that setup. It could damage the lens mount on cheaper cameras and on all cameras it creates an unbalanced, somewhat wobbly setup.

My first attempt at conquering this involved using whatever I had on hand MacGyver style. In this case, I had an extra older RRS base clamp and an extra Zacuto Gorilla plate. The latter was needed to raise the level of the second clamp up higher (a lens foot mount is often low and with a taller camera body there can be clearance issues.)

Two RRS clamps at 90 deg. to each other to accommodate a long lens or a camera mount.

While this setup worked, in practice it was a bit unwieldy. It required turning the Sachtler camera plate 180 deg. depending upon which clamp was being used and with a taller DSLR there were still some clearance issues.

The answer I found required getting a new Sachtler camera plate and a new RRS clamp. Since I had bought my FSB-8 fluid head Sachtler had released a new camera plate, the DSLR Plate. It is longer to allow for more balancing options with longer lenses and it is slightly raised at the mounting point to give additional clearance.

The new RRS clamp I opted for is a pan head, the PCL-1 Panning Clamp, so you can leave it locked down on the tripod’s camera plate but rotate it 90 deg. as needed to shift between a lens mount or a camera mount.

While this costs more money it’s a far more elegant solution.  It can adapt quickly to a lens mount or a camera mount and it stops short of everything that comes with putting the camera on 15mm rails, needing a matte box, or in a cage.

Sachtler DSLR Plate for FSB fluid heads and the RRS Panning Clamp.
The Panning Clamp has a 3/8-16 center socket and a 1/4-20 side socket allowing for two mounting points.
The Panning Clamp’s large knob is to lock the clamp, the small knob allows rotation.
Canon 1D Mark IV, 70-200, with Sachtler DSLR Plate and RRS Panning Clamp.
The setup allows for just enough clearance to leave a Zacuto plate and RRS mount on the camera body.
As with the prior picture you can quickly switch to a short lens and use the camera mount.

Notes:

Zacuto has two plates called the Gorilla Plate and the DSLR Baseplate. Both allow you to mount a Zacuto Z-Finder.

Sachtler’s new plate, the DSLR Plate, is made for their FSB series fluid heads.

Really Right Stuff (RRS) makes the clamps, panning or fixed, and they make the rails which will fit a lens collar mount.

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