Essential Camera Support – The L-Plate

February 16, 2010

Photo Gear

I wanted to take a quick post and describe a piece of camera support gear worth it’s weight in gold but often overlooked by most photographers. Regardless of subject, a stable shooting platform will give you the ultimate in sharpness as well as other tremendous benefits. Most discussions center around the need for a stable tripod and solid, efficient ballhead to connect the tripod with the camera. I will leave those two pieces for another post though.

Today, the star of the show is the mounting plate (specifically, the L-plate.) A mounting plate attaches to your camera body, collared lens, or extra battery grip and fits into your ballhead’s quick release or screw clamp. The plate is an integral part of your stability system and is often the weakest link in the chain.

In my simple ex-fighter pilot’s opinion, there are no better mounting plates than those made by Really Right Stuff. The integrity of construction and unrivaled direct contact with the camera body give the photographer the highest quality and stability when mating camera with ballhead.

Most mounting plates attach to the bottom of the camera and are perfect for shooting landscape orientation. When shooting portrait though, the simple mounting plate must be maneuvered into the ballhead’s drop notch to provide vertical orientation. When in this configuration, the load (camera/lens) is not centered on the tripod reducing our overall stability and performance (worst case, the off center load can cause a tripod to tip!)

The solution is the L-plate. The L-plate partially wraps around the camera and has two mounts, one for horizontal and one for vertical. In either orientation, the load is centered and stability is at it’s highest. The L-plate gives you increased flexibility in the field since you are completely free to rapidly switch from landscape to portrait and still have the true benefits of your tripod. (Fig 2 and Fig 3)

I cannot overstate the benefit of the L-plate. Once you use this plate, you will be hooked and your camera will feel naked without it. If you want to give one of them a try, head to Really Right Stuff’s website ( and find the plate for your specific camera.

Regarding gear, I always give full disclosure. I am not endorsed nor paid by Really Right Stuff but I do believe their gear from tripod, to ballhead, to mounting plates, to pano kits, etc. is the best on the planet.

Check Six!


P.S. In some of the photos the tripod does not appear to be level. Interestingly it is not. I use a piece of gear from Really Right Stuff called a PCL-1 to eliminate the tripod leveling requirement. For ideal stability, level both tripod and camera but in many situations it is not needed. More on this later.

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This post was written by:

- who has written 8 posts on The Digital Photo Experience.

Hal “Bull” Schmitt is a former FA-18 pilot and two-time TOPGUN (Navy Fighter Weapons School) instructor. He is the Director and Lead Instructor of Light Photographic Workshops. Hal’s courses and photo tours are recognized worldwide as the “Best of the Best.” Follow Hal and Light at

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5 Responses to “Essential Camera Support – The L-Plate”

  1. Jeremy Pollack Says:

    Hear hear! I love my L plates. Can’t imagine life without them now. Same goes for my RRS equipment.


  2. Jeremy Kerwin Says:

    Great post, I’ve been looking for an L-plate and think I might take the plunge and get a RRS ball head and plate.

    What brand is the eye cup? I’ve been looking for that exact eyepiece for my Canon


  3. Bull Says:

    The eyepiece is the Hoodeye from Hoodman. Cannot imagine shooting without it. For those who find the viewfinder LCD too dim, the Hoodeye is perfect.


  4. Ivan Boden Says:

    I completely agree! I have a BH55 and “L” plate for my Cann 5D, and love the outstanding quality. No doubt, the best ball head I’ve ever tried.

    I only have one small issue, and I’ve written RRS about this, but so far they’ve done nothing to address it.

    I wish there was a built-in provision or holder for the allen wrench that’s needed to attach the “L” plate. I thought that a small slot or snap-in holder would make it more convenient.

    Better yet, I’d love to see an integrated solution for attaching and hand-tightening WITHOUT an allen wrench. Similar to what Manfrotto uses for their plates.

    I hate dealing with loose tools and tiny allen wrenches. Since you are an ex-fighter pilot, I’m sure you’ll agree with me on this.

    Seems like such a simple, yet important detail. I don’t know why RSS didn’t think of this. Ugh!

    Your thoughts?


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