Things We Love: An L-bracket Obsession

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Confession time. Are you sitting down? My L-bracket obsession has gotten so bad that I recently purchased an L-bracket for a camera I didn’t yet own. In the photography world, many of us are afflicted by G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) but rarely does the disease progress to the point where you accessorize cameras you don’t own. My friends, I have disturbingly reached Stage 4 L-bracket GAS.

3 Legged Thing; QR11-LC Universal L-Bracket (<em>left</em>) and Dedicated L-Bracket (<em>right</em>)
3 Legged Thing; QR11-LC Universal (left); Dedicated L-Bracket (right)

What is an L-bracket and why am I obsessed? The L-bracket is, at its name implies, an L-shaped device that you attach to your camera. It is used when you are shooting on a tripod. Its primary purpose is to allow you to rotate your camera from landscape to portrait perspective (horizontal to vertical) without having to roll your tripod head 90º or try to find that notch on your ball head so that you can shoot vertically. The L-bracket is usually designed to connect to a tripod head’s quick-release (QR) system. Most have the common dovetail mount we call “Arca-type compatible.” (Some tripod brands, like Manfrotto, have proprietary QR plates and those manufacturers usually sell L-brackets that are compatible with their tripod head QR system.)

Gitzo L-Bracket for Sony a7R III and a9 Cameras
Gitzo L-Bracket

Am I too lazy to roll my tripod 90º? Apparently I am. You might think that the L-bracket is a solution to a non-existent first-world problem, but, after you use one, you will struggle to go back to shooting from a tripod without one. I promise. Being able to detach your leveled camera, rotate it, and reattach onto your tripod head in just a few seconds is so much faster and easier than rolling the tripod 90º and then trying to re-level your camera.

Kirk L-Bracket for Fujifilm X-T3 (Black)
Kirk L-Bracket (Black)
Kirk L-Bracket for Fujifilm X-T3 with VG-XT3 Battery Grip
Kirk L-Bracket with Battery Grip
Kirk L-Bracket for Fujifilm X-T3 (Silver)
Kirk L-Bracket (Silver)

Now that I have sold you on the L-bracket (or perhaps just appeared pathetic in my self-diagnosed illness), let me talk about some of the finer points of purchasing an L-bracket.

Many companies make custom L-brackets for specific camera bodies, and there are also universal L-brackets that you can use on multiple cameras. The advantage of the custom L-bracket is that they are usually designed to let you access the different ports and doors around your camera, as well as not interfere with things like articulating LCD screens. Having to remove an L-bracket to swap your battery or memory card or plug in a remote shutter release kind of defeats the convenience factor of the L-bracket.


Acratech Universal "L" (left); Arca-Swiss L-Bracket (right)

Of course, not every L-bracket is inexpensive and many photographers, in their constant search for ultimate image quality, upgrade their camera bodies every couple of years. Gone are the days of owning and using a camera for a decade or more. A relatively expensive accessory that will only work on one specific camera for the limited amount of time one uses that camera may make for a tough sell. If you aren’t an everyday tripod shooter, but you want to have the absolute blissful pleasure of using an L-bracket on those days when you are shooting with a support, the universal L-bracket might be a reasonable long-term, multi-camera/multi-year investment.

Really Right Stuff B5DMkIV-L Set L-Plate for Canon 5D Mark IV
Really Right Stuff B5DMkIV-L Set L-Plate for Canon 5D Mark IV
Really Right Stuff L-Plate Set for Fujifilm X100F
Really Right Stuff L-Plate Set for Fujifilm X100F
Really Right Stuff L-Plate for Fujifilm X-H1 Battery Grip
Really Right Stuff L-Plate for Fujifilm X-H1 Battery Grip
Really Right Stuff Ultralight L-Plate for Nikon D850
Really Right Stuff Ultralight L-Plate for Nikon D850

Let me know, in the Comments section, if you want to chat about L-brackets all day, every day. For those of you who are worried about my GAS affliction, I thank you for your concern and I promise to let you know if I decide to start buying L-brackets for cameras that I will never own or use.

Sunwayfoto Custom L-Bracket for Sony a7R III and a9
Sunwayfoto Custom L-Bracket

The “Things We Love” series articles are written by B&H Photo Video Pro Audio staff to talk about products and items that we love. Opinions expressed in the articles are those of the writers and do not represent product endorsements from B&H Photo Video Pro Audio.

21 Comments

I wish there were a picture of the L bracket in use, because I have no idea what you are talking about, yet I have the L bracket bug, and I want to get an accessory I don't even understand

Fun article. Thanks.

Pentax got it right by providing 2 threaded mounting holes on their 645D and 645Z bodies, eliminating the need for an L-bracket. Perhaps we'll see this with other brand bodies in the future, a real aid to landscape and product shooters.

Hey Mike,

I always thought that was a brilliant idea by Pentax and an interesting solution to the problem—despite it having a (perhaps) negative effect on the overall design aesthetics of the camera!

It definitely works if you have room to mount a QR plate on each hole—and probably looks pretty hard core! But, with most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, the sides are completely overrun with doors covering ports and sockets!

Thanks for reading and thanks for the kind words on the article!

Best,

Todd

Hey, it's Mike O of Pentax 645D fame! I'm pretty sure I know your EPIC nighttime landscapes in California!

 

Occasionally a famous person comments on an Explora article. Shall we add Mike O. to the list? :)

Best,

Todd

I probably wouldn't need an L-bracket if my largest telephoto lens had a proper tripod collar. But grrr, it doesn't offer one. Rotating my camera 90° into portrait mode doesn't overstress my tripod's ball head. However, the front-heavy torque from my Pentax DA* 50–135mm f/2.8 causes my K-S2 camera to rotate downward, overcoming the paltry friction of the rubber grips on the quick-release plate.

The L-bracket /mostly/ solves the problem by allowing me to keep the weight of the camera/lens over the ball head, instead of beside it. B&H doesn't sell L-brackets designed for Pentax DSLRs, but they are available elsewhere. Totally worth it. Anybody with reasonable 3D-printing skills could do pretty well making custom L-brackets for niche cameras; printed polymer L-brackets might be preferable to these aluminum/steel chunks we all seem to carry.

Hey Artie,

Have you looked for an aftermarket tripod collar for that lens? I see some banter on forums about it.

We do sell some collars [https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/buy/lens-plates-tripod-collars/ci/38007] — none specifically for Pentax lenses, but there might be a hack out there that allows one of them to work on your lens.

What kind of head are you using?

Best,

Todd

 

Hey Todd:

Head is a Manfrotto 496 (the Arca-version) atop the legs from a Manfrotto Element Traveller.

Pentax forums are full of carping about how the pricey Pentax 70–210mm f/4 doesn't come with a tripod collar even though the OEM collar for the less-pricey Tamron 70–210 f/4 fits it exactly, due to the startlingly similar designs of these two lenses, ahem ahem. But the Pentax DA* 50–135mm f/2.8 doesn't have any "blank ring" area on the lens body. Any lens collar would have to cover up the AF/MF switch and/or the distance window. I tried a third-party collar designed for the Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro, but it was too tight. If I were in New York, I'd spend an hour at B&H trying ten different lens collars.

(Five years from now, I could see B&H having a 3D printer station that could customize L-brackets, lens hood petals, and battery doors for customers. I'll be there with a laundry list!)

The DA* 50–135mm f/2.8 is a magnificent lens; only Fujifilm has something similar for APS-C photographers (X-mount 50–140mm f/2.8). But the Fuji lens has an optional tripod collar. Grrrr.

I guess the argument is that the DA* 50–135 weighs about the same as a Pentax camera, so the stress on the lens mount would be the same whether the tripod supported the lens or the body. But that's a bad argument because
1. Torque! Again, it's not my ball-head that slips, but the contact plate itself. In portrait orientation, the weight of the lens wrenches the camera down.
2. Teleconverter! My Pentax 1.4x TC + lens weighs more than my Pentax K-S2, and the TC moves the weight even farther down the optic path.

Hey Artie,

Good info. I am kind of surprised that the plate is slipping, but the L-bracket is definitely the best and easiest tool for you to avoid shooting vertically out of the 90-degree notch in the tripod head. You might want to try a different brand plate? One with a screw that can get tighter and maybe rubber grips? I am not familiar with the Manfrotto plate for the 496.

Interesting that the Tamron and Pentax lenses are similar, but the Tamron has the ring and the Pentax doesn't. Pentaxians revolt!

Thanks for reading, Artie!

Best,

Todd

Well, I was for sure ready to revolt last night, although against whom I couldn't quite say. I was on the cold and windy Marin Headlands photographing the "Strawberry Super Moon" through the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge. Great position, great timing, decent visibility, L bracket on my DSLR, heavy f/2.8 telephoto zoom. Despite the four dinky rubber pads on my "custom for Pentax" L bracket, the camera drooped ever...so...slowly down during vertical shots. My exposure times were 20–30sec, so all the city lights show a slight vertical elongation, as if I were shooting star trails and had pushed the 500 rule a little too far. Grrr.

Coulda been the cold, coulda been the mist/condensation, but I had my tripod screws coin-tight, and things still shifted in place.

A few of my horizontal shots came out great, so it was still a good outing. But I'm officially on the hunt for a five-star L bracket that won't let me down.

Hey Artie,

Ugh...that sucks. Have you seen my new articles on Intentional Camera Movement? Perhaps you got some artistic UNintentional Camera Movement there! :) :(

Want to email me a pic of your setup and I will see if I have any ideas?

Depending on how windy it is, I wonder if using a sand bag atop your tripod head for those vertical shots would be an outside-of-the-box jury-rigged solution?

Let's solve this issue!

Best,

Todd

a rookie question - what will keep my camera (esp with longer lens) from slowlytipping towards ground when I'm taking vertical shots on a tripod?  It may simply be that I need a new tripod.  If so, does ball vs plate mount matter?  And would an L Bracket help stabile the camera as well?  I switch back and forth between horizontal and vertical a lot  --and while my current gear is ok for horizontal, vertical shots are a mess. I end up holding my camera with one hand, trying to make adjustments and shoot with the other.  help.

Hi Sandy,

Far from a rookie question...and actually a very good question!

I have a couple of possible solutions for you:

The first solution is that you likely need a new ball head with a higher load capacity (or your current one is simply worn out) and needs replacing. Generally speaking, if you are getting movement, in any axis, with your rig, it is a load capacity issue.

And, yes, an L-bracket might save the day as you can leave the ball head in the horizontal position but flip the camera/lens 90 degrees. This keeps you from having to rotate the ball head 90 degrees which really causes physics to win the battle with the tripod head.

Another culprit might be the physics of your kit's center of gravity. With a large, heavy lens on a camera, you shift the CG forward into the lens body and not all tripod heads can handle the shift. This is why a lot of larger lenses have their own tripod (or quick-release) attachment points to help minimize the CG shift.

If you don't mind, please share your camera/lens combo and current tripod and tripod head and that will help me diagnose further.

Thanks for your question and thanks for reading Explora!

Best,

Todd

You kind of missed the best part of an L bracket. The balance on the tripod stays the same when you don't have to throw a camera's weight off once side to go vertical. And a decent L bracket will keep the center point of focus in the same spot when changing from vertical to horizontal and back. 

Hi Art,

Yes, those are great benefits that I failed to mention! Thanks for the backup!

Best,

Todd

Hi Sebastian,

We definitely do not carry every brand of L-bracket out there, so search the internet and see what you can find!

Best,

Todd

Take a look at these L Brackets:

B&H # UU1132R004

B&H # CAC2038

B&H # SUDPL04R

B&H # 3LQR11FBG

I have not been able to find an L bracket for a Canon 6D Mark II with a battery grip.