Camera L Plates ("L" is for "Liberating")
Traditionally, in order to take a take a photo in vertical mode, you need to flop the tripod head over on its side (except when using a lens with a rotating tripod collar, or course). This can be a real pain to do since you have to now recompose and your camera is likely now no longer at eye level either.
Well, there is an alternative — the "L" plate (or "L" bracket). These nifty accessories are basically a standard Arca-Swiss quick release plate that wraps around a camera, providing a mounting foot on both the bottom and the side. Using one, you can now remount your camera at 90 degrees to its original orientation by simply taking it out of the tripod head clamp and remounting it on its side — the tripod head itself never moves.
"L" brackets come in basically two varieties, "custom" to fit a specific camera model, and "generic" to fit any camera.
"Custom" L plates are made for a growing list of camera models by both Really Right Stuff and Kirk Enterprises. If one is available for your camera, this is your best bet. They conform well to the shape of the camera and offer the sturdiest support. Since they replace the traditional Arca-Swiss camera plate, they can be both lighter weight than the alternative camera-plate-plus-generic-plate solution and can also cost less than purchasing the components needed for the alternative. As of this writing, custom L plates for the following cameras are available from either Kirk or RRS or both:
- Nikon F-80 with or without the MB-16
- Nikon D100 with our without the MD100
- Nikon F-100 with or without the MB-15
- Nikon D1, D1H and D1x
- Nikon F5
- Canon EOS 1D
- Canon D30 and D60 with or without PG-ED3
- Canon EOS 1V and EOS 3
- Fuji S2 Pro
- Pentax 6x7 II
- Mamiya 6.45AF and 6.45AFD
- Hasselblad XPan
"Generic" L plates are also available from both RRS and Kirk, but the RRS B16 plate is one of their earlier models and is much bigger and heavier (nearly 14 ounces) than it needs to be. It does come with an integrated Arca-Swiss clamp on its long side so it is easy to attach and detach. The underside has a standard Arca-Swiss foot running cross-wise on each face. The Kirk "Big L" plate on the other hand is more sparingly designed. It consists of a fairly basic "L" shape with a continuous A-S foot running along the underside of each face. On the top, there is a slot that the foot on a regular camera plate will fit into that requires an Allen screw to attach.
Which ever kind you get, once you use one you'll be hooked. When you get your camera out, there's now no difference in the method used to mount your camera whether you choose to work with a horizontal or a vertical composition. Switching from one orientation to the other is equally easy. Personally, I cant image being without one.