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Brian's Photo Blog — Article 271
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Converting a Manfrotto Head to an Arca-Style Clamp
Thursday 8 August 2013   —   Category: Equipment
Last month I wrote about purchasing some Really Right Goodies for better camera tripod support, all of which use the arca-style mounting system. Unfortunately, my preferred tripod heads are made by Manfrotto, which does not use arca-style clamps. So I needed to come up with some way to convert my Manfrotto heads to an arca-style clamp.

Amazingly enough, just after I wrote that article a few weeks ago, Manfrotto announced that they now have an arca-style clamp! What timing! Their new Manfrotto MSQ6 Q6 Top Lock Quick Release Adaptor with Plate is just what I have been dreaming of!

But my hopes were dashed once again, because this new clamp fits on only a small selection of Manfrotto’s ball heads — it does not fit on any of the four Manfrotto heads I already have, particularly my main, everyday head, the 322RC2 Horizontal Grip Action “Joystick” which I prefer above all others. So unless Manfrotto makes a specific clamp to fit on my joystick head, their recent embracement of the popular arca-style mounts will not benefit me at all.

So, despite the seemingly good news from Manfrotto, I was still forced to come up with my own solution. As I had mentioned in the “goodies” article, I decided to purchase a Really Right Stuff (RRS) B2 LR II 60mm LR Clamp with Dual Mount, which I planned to attach to my Manfrotto camera plate, and then mount that assembly onto my beloved Manfrotto joystick head. Today’s article gives all the step-by-step details of how I went about accomplishing that.

The first thing I did was take the RRS clamp and screw a 3/8 inch to 1/4 inch reducer bushing into the 3/8 inch threaded center mounting hole, as shown in the photo to the right.

The more I thought about mounting this RRS clamp onto a Manfrotto camera plate, the more it became apparent to me that I was most likely going to have problems with the clamp rotating about the mounting screw. Ideally, the clamp would be firmly attached to the place, with no rotation at all. But with only one mounting screw, you’re just asking for trouble.

As you can see from the photo of the clamp, there are two additional mounting sockets — and each one is already tapped with the standard tripod 1/4" threads. If only there was some way to take advantage of these extra sockets!
So I turned my attention to the Manfrotto 200PL quick release camera plate. As you can see from the photo, besides the hole in the center of the plate for the mounting screw, there are three additional holes in the plate. It’s hard to see them in this picture because two of the holes are partially covered by the finger clips attached to the screw.
Obviously, if I was going to make use of the additional holes, I would not be able to use the original mounting screw because of the huge finger clip.

Under normal circumstances I appreciate this finger clip very much, but since the camera plate was going to be pretty much permanently attached to the RRS clamp, and I would not be attaching them and unattaching them frequently, there was really no reason to use this toolless screw.

So, after a bit of grappling with the retaining washer, I was finally able to remove the original mounting screw. Now the four holes in the plate are clearly seen.
I searched through my drawer of miscellaneous tripod parts until I came up with a couple of spare mounting screws from some of my Manfrotto 501PL rapid connect sliding plates.

Then I found that the extra holes in the plates were just slightly too small for the mounting screw to fit through. So I headed out to the garage and drilled out one hole to make it a bit bigger. Now the two screws fit side by side just perfectly!
 
The next step was to mount the Really Right Stuff clamp onto the Manfrotto plate. The photo to the right shows the bottom of the plate, with the two mounting screws tightly holding the RRS clamp very securely to the plate. With such a set-up, it is completely impossible for the clamp to rotate on the plate.
Here is an angled view of the Really Right Stuff arca-style clamp mounted on the Manfrotto camera plate. Now it’s all ready to be attached to my Manfrotto joystick head.
My Manfrotto joystick head with no plate in the clamp.
(Photo 1 of 3 — click for next photo)
 
At this point I had finally reached the end of my procedure, and we have also reached the end of this article. I now have a Manfrotto joystick head with a Really Right Stuff arca-​style clamp, so that all of my RRS goodies will mount on it.

The photo to the right shows the stock Man­frot­to clamp with no camera plate attached. Click on the photo to see what it looks like with the plate inserted. Click one more time to see the whole assembly with the Really Right Stuff clamp mounted on the Manfrotto camera plate.

I still wish Manfrotto would make their own arca-style clamp which would replace the stock clamp on this joystick head, but who knows if they ever will? Even if they don’t, I've come up with my own solution, which works perfectly and does not add much weight or bulk to the existing head. Mission accomplished!
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 271
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Reader Comments
On August 31, 2014, Tim wrote:
After a day of frustration with my new Nikon 400mm lens being too front heavy for my Manfrotto 322RC2 mounting scenario, I Googled far and wide and found your ingenious solution to my problem.

I need to do exactly what you did in order to bring love and harmony back to my universe. Thanks for the detailed photos and the links to the Monfrotto screws. Your trail blazing and willingness to post your guinea-pigging efforts are what make the Interweb great.

I'm am off to the drill press to enlarge a hole.

Thanks!
On August 26, 2015, Trevor Dennis wrote:
Brian, interesting article, and one I found while searching how to convert my Manfrotto 468MG Hydrostatic head from its current RC4 to a RRS QR plate. I'm hoping that I can unscrew the current top plate, and replace it with the RRS top plate directly to the Manfrotto ball though.

It seems to me that stacking the RC4 and RSS plates is too much of a compromise. At the very least you are increasing the distance from ball to the camera's CoG which multiplies any vibration. I am also not a fan of the Manfrotto grip heads, but at least you use the horizontal version. The vertical grip is so wrong from an engineering point of view, it is scary.

But thanks for sharing what you have done. If you happen to know if the Manfrotto top plate can be unscrewed from the ball, that would be useful.

Trevor Dennis
New Zealand
 
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 271
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