I'm going to say a few words on a camera support topic that doesn't get much attention: camera plates and brackets.
I'll start by saying I personally don't put too much demand on a support system because I mainly use small primes on my cameras. I do have a couple of longer lenses but they are fairly small and light (a 80-200 F/4.5 AI and a 300 F/4.5 AIS) and they don't get much use. My tripod and ballhead are thus correspondingly modest. I have a Benro A-157 and a Benro B-1 ballhead. This is a 1-series, 3 section, aluminum setup weighing about 4 pounds total. I have read most of the material on this site regarding tripod selection and I am well aware of its shortcomings but still feel it is adequate for my needs at present.
Recently however, I read a post where a fellow stated he tested a tripod by mounting his camera with a long lens and depressed it with a finger to see how long it took to stop vibrating. I tried that with my setup and while I wasn't too displeased with the result (<2 sec) I was shocked to see that nearly all the deflection was ocurring in the joint between the camera and the camera plate! My ballhead came with a universal Arca-Swiss type plate and it appears nicely made. The side which attaches to the camera has six oblong areas milled out and filled with a pebbled rubber gasket material. Now this works fine against a flat metal camera bottom such as my FM2N's. The gasket compresses and a metal to metal fit is obtained. My F6 and F100 cameras have bottoms with their own rubber gasket, however, and when the universal plate's rubber met the camera's rubber it was too much to compress. The result was a wiggly jiggly, non-rigid fit.
The solution of course was to obtain proper plates fitted to the F6 and F100. I did manage to find Kirk plates which have rolled up edges (and no rubber) which fit tight when bolted down with a good metal to metal contact. I have eliminated to weak spot in my system.
Nikon F6, F100, F4s, FM2N, D80, D7100, CoolPix A
Rollei TLR's are my other passion!
Visit my Nikonians gallery.
#1. "RE: Reflections on camera plates" | In response to Reply # 0nrothschild Registered since 25th Jul 2004Mon 07-Jan-13 02:26 PM | edited Mon 07-Jan-13 02:29 PM by nrothschild
One of the reasons that many of us prefer custom fit Arca-Swiss plates is that there is metal to metal contact without cork or rubber to try to add friction and eliminate plate twist.
And as you observe, it is not discussed regularly here although the subject has come up from time to time.
However, considering the above, it is likely that better tripods and better materials (CF vs alloy) more quickly dampen all vibrations, including the vibrations caused by the deflection you observed. It is not the deflection you observed that creates the most problem. It is more likely the time required for the subsequent vibrations to settle (the damping characteristics) that ultimately determines the stability of the tripod *system*.
Edit: I'm not suggesting a good tripod eliminates the rubber interface problems, only that it may (or should) substantially mitigate it. I've never seen any detailed (measured) analysis of the rubber issue and it would certainly vary among various plate models using rubber interfaces.
You can see some vibration charts, created with various tripod/camera configurations, in our Vibration Study linked to our "What Tripod" FAQ. Those charts illustrate the "settle time" and what happens during the settle period.
Consider that the mirror lift prior to image capture is functionally equivalent to a tiny finger pressing the lens, or even better described as a tiny hammer tapping the camera at the worst possible time
my Nikonians gallery.