Simple enough problem: I need to mount ordinary cameras on a Wimberley head.
Like all gimbal heads, it moves left and right and up and down, but does not rotate to level a horizon or switch between portrait and landscape orientations because this is not necessary. These heads are designed for and mount directly to long lenses using a standard Arca-Swiss plate; you rotate by spinning the lens (and attached camera) inside the lens collar. It's a simple system and it works perfectly.
Now, what if you want to mount a camera instead of a lens? There are three or four common ways of doing this. None of them are any good.
- Use a small Arca-Swiss plate screwed onto the camera. No good. You can't rotate at all so portrait orientation is out, and you can't even level a horizon short of fiddling with the tripod legs. Also, the plates generally need a tool (such as an Allen key) to fit and remove, which is a pain to have to carry around and lose.
- Use an L-plate. This is the orthodox solution, and it's no damn good at all. I really don't understand why people use this method. First, L-plates have to be made specifically for the camera so that they don't block battery removal, flash and USB connectors, and so on. This means (a) that they are very expensive hand-made items ($200 is not unusual), and (b) that you have to have a different plate for each different camera you own, and (c) buy yet another new L-plate every time you buy a new camera. AND you still only get to switch 90 degrees between portrait and landscape - after all that extra cost and inconvenience you are still leveling a horizon by mucking bout with the tripod legs.
- Carry a second head; a ball head for example. No. This means you would be forever unscrewing the Wimberley to mount the ball head, and it's a really bad idea to be doing that in the field 'cause you want that big head screwed in solid as it is all that's holding up a ten thousand dollar lens as you walk around with it over your shoulder.
- Carry a second head and tripod. This is what I do now. It really sucks to carry two tripods any distance, but at present it's the only way.
- Get rid of the Wimberley in favour of a ball head. No. Not a chance. With a long, heavy lens, no ball head ever made comes even close to the stability, smoothness, and droop-free precision of a good gimbal head like the Wimberley.
- Shoot hand-held instead. I often do this, pushing ISO and trusting the IS system way beyond what I'd prefer. Not a very satisfactory solution.
The obvious answer is to have some kind of two-dimensional swivel arrangement with an Arca-Swiss plate on one end and pretty much any mounting method on the other; a sort of "mini-head" that mounts to the quick-release of the Wimberley. I can't find one for sale anywhere. Surely, surely, surely I am not the first photographer to want a better way of mounting a camera to a gimgal head? Surely there is an answer out there?