Podcast 239 : Manfrotto Video Fluid Heads with Really Right Stuff Plates

by | Apr 17, 2010 | Gear, Podcast, Review, Videos | 18 comments

I recently figured out how to mount my cameras and lenses fitted with Really Right Stuff plates, to my Manfrotto 519 Pro Video Fluid Head, and today share my secrets with you. The video below is really all you need to watch, but I also recorded an audio section for those that cannot get to the blog to watch the video.

I’d been waiting for a company to come out with a fluid head that uses a standard Arca-Swiss dovetail plate, like the ones Really Right Stuff make, so that we can just drop our DSLRs straight onto the fluid head. As of April 2010 though, I’m not aware of any companies that make these. There’s also the problem that most video fluid heads have no way to mount with the mounting plate sideways, the orientation of the plate when fitted to the camera body, as opposed to a lens tripod ring, and video heads also don’t usually have a way to flip the camera on its side, for portrait mode either.

Anyway, I gave it some thought, and bought an extra quick release clamp for the Manfrotto head, and with a couple of orders for some new brackets etc. from Really Right Stuff, I’m now pretty happy with how my lenses and cameras can be fitted to my new Manfrotto 519 Pro Video Fluid Head. If you have been trying to do this yourself, do watch the video.

To begin with, video heads have a quick release plate that is made to mount length-ways, along the bottom of the video camera. This means that the orientation is the same as that of lens plates when fitted to the bottom of a tripod ring, such as those that you see on the 70-200mm and longer lenses. This means that the only thing you have to overcome is the difference in format between the Arca-Swiss style plates, and the manufacturer’s plate on the video head.

When you use shorter lenses though, that don’t have the tripod rings, you will need to mount the camera directly to the tripod, with a plate fitted to the bottom of the camera. Because these run sideways across the width of the camera though, the camera would be facing sideways on the video head, unless you introduce something to rotate the camera 90 degrees, to make it face the front again.

This is where the 80mm LR clamp from Really Right Stuff comes in. The quick release plate on Manfrotto 519 fluid head comes with both a 1/4″ and a 3/8″ screw, and it just so happens that the B2 LLR II, or 80mm quick release clamp from Really Right Stuff also comes with a 1/4″ and a 3/8″ screw thread. So you simply screw both of the screws into the base of the 80mm clamp, and you have a new quick release clamp that slides into the top of the Manfrotto fluid head, and you can mount all of your lens plates from RRS directly into that. Brilliant!

But what about the body plates, when you aren’t using lenses with tripod rings? In preparation for this, when I bought my fluid head, I ordered an extra Manfrotto 501PL Sliding Quick Release Plate, and a second 80mm quick release clamp from Really Right Stuff. This time, I just used the 3/8″ screw, and screwed that tightly into the center screw thread on the RRS 80mm clamp. There is probably a little more chance of the plate turning than when using two screws, but the screws have a groove for a coin, and could be easily retightened in the field, unless you were out and about with any money at all that is. The top of the Manfrotto quick release plate is rubberized too, so I doubt that it will turn easily if you tighten it up enough to begin with.

Now what you have is a second plate that you can use to mount your camera body plates directly too, and the camera will face forwards. How do you flip the camera sideways though, to go to portrait mode? This is where another ingenious invention from Really Right Stuff comes in. The L-Bracket. These are metal L shaped brackets, as you might imagine, and they fit to the bottom of your camera body, screwing into the tripod screw thread, and they extend along the base of the camera, and up the left side, and they have an Arca-Swiss standard plate on the bottom and the side. This means you can just release the quick release clamp with the lever, flip the camera itself up on its side, and you are now in portrait mode.

This means that I can now take out just my video tripod, and I don’t have to take a second tripod with a ball-head, or just the ball head and change the tripod head out in the field. Don’t get me wrong, for still, my Really Right Stuff BH-55 ball-head is still my favourite. This is an engineering work of art, and I have never used a ball-head that locks my camera into place as firmly as the BH-55. But, if I’m going to be walking far from the car, and there’s a chance that I’ll be shooting video, I’ll probably opt for the video tripod, which is a new 5 series Gitzo, and the Manfrotto 519 fluid head, and I’ll still now be able to mount my cameras and lenses directly to the 519 head, without taking my plates off, and mounting the Manfrotto quick release plates, and I can quickly go sideways, or vertical into portrait mode, and shoot my still as well.

In fact, there’s probably even a place for vertical video, as I hear that’s becoming more popular now for use in TV billboards, and the Really Right Stuff L-Brackets will make it very easy to do this too.

In case you missed it, I released my first short movie last week, shot with this new rig, and that was available on my blog and on Vimeo, and I’ll put links to those in the show notes for you to check out. It was really just a practice session, as I tried to get used to panning around with the new 519 head, but I quite liked the results, so have been proud to share that with folks over the last week.

I’ll also put links to some of the key pieces of gear into the show-notes too, but the Really Right Stuff L-Brackets and lens plates are specific to your camera or lenses, so you’ll need to search for the right one in their store at reallyrightstuff.com. If you already use RRS plates like I did, then hopefully this will be a relatively inexpensive way to get the best of both the video and still photography worlds.

UPDATE 2010/06/19:

Today I received notice from listener Wayne Smith, from Manitoba, Canada, letting me know that Kirk have released a clamp with a turning head that does exactly what I am doing with the Really Right Stuff quick release clamp and Manfrotto plate. This is great news, although I wish there was a quick release lever version.I’ll probably wait for that now that I’m set with my current gear, but this certainly is a better option.

Anyway, here’s a link, courtesy of Wayne, so take a look if you are interested.


Thanks for letting us know about this Wayne!

Podcast show-notes:

See the full sized video on Vimeo here: http://vimeo.com/11002725

Manfrotto 519 Pro Video Fluid Head: http://bit.ly/mbp519fh

Manfrotto 501PL Sliding Quick Release Plate: http://bit.ly/m501pl

Gitzo GT5541LS Systematic 6X Carbon Fiber Tripod Legs: http://bit.ly/bOvmcB

Mounting the 519 head on Gitzo legs requires a Gitzo GS5320V75 75mm Bowl Adapter: http://bit.ly/cVm2UO

Really Right Stuff 80mm Quick Release Clamp. Search for “B2 LLR II” at: http://www.reallyrightstuff.com/

Music: Studies In Ether, by Andrew Aversa – Recording Licensed from the UniqueTracks Production Music Library Inc.


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    Really enjoyed the video. You did a great job explaining how you rigged your equipment for shooting video. I only wished the video loaded faster on your website or that I could see it embedded in the podcast on my ipod touch. Keep up the good work!

  2. Martin Bailey

    Thanks Brenda,

    The speed of the video load depends on how loaded Vimeo servers are and your internet connection, so I have no real control over that.

    As for viewing on your iPod Touch, the episode that I released before the audio Podcast is the video, so if you grab that, you should be set.




    Thanks for your response. I tried downloading the link for the Manfrotto Video both from your website and through iTunes but was not successful. It seems to be a repeat of the Meguro River video (also very nice). Could you check that the file link is correct?

    I really enjoy your podcasts which have been tremendously helpful to me this past year. I especially liked your archival podcasts #23, 24, 32 and 33 concerning telephoto lens, tripods, teleconverters, and reducing camera vibration. Your advice really helped in my purchase of the Canon 500mm f4 lens and accessories last Fall. Looking forward to more podcasts!…….Brenda

  4. Martin Bailey

    Doh! I messed up the filename when I switched the audio for the video in my feed. Thanks for pointing that out Brenda! I fixed it now.

    I’m very pleased the Podcasts have helped. Congratulations on the 500/F4 too. Very nice lens! 🙂




    I really appreciate being able to view your videos on my iPod Touch! They look great! The video about your setup for using the new Canon 5D Mark II cameras to shoot video was very informative and well done. Thanks for the hands on approach!……..Brenda

  6. jeff johnston


    Rather than the second plate and clamp, did you consider attaching a Wimberley M8 plate to the bottom of your camera? It may provide the connection you were seeking at a reduced cost.


  7. Rod Prouty

    I enjoyed the video and information on the 519 fluid head and RRS plates. I’m new to this but would like to have something that I could use with my MIV and 800mm lens. Thanks again for taking the time to put this together.


    I did this last year in Yellowstone and it’s obvious that I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t even know how to shut off the sound recording so I wouldn’t sound like an idiot…:-)


  8. Martin Bailey


    The M8, as far as I know, is just another Arca Swiss style dovetail plate, which don’t fit into the Manfrotto Fluid Head’s quick release system. This is the point. Unless I am missing your point.


    I’m glad this was useful.

    Cool video too! I would not have turned the sound off as such, rather just edited it out later if I didn’t need it. In most video editing software you are able to reduce the volume or simply remove the entire sound track later if you don’t need it. My philosophy is capture whatever you can when shooting, and then decide whether or not to use it later. If you’d turned it off and the wolves started baying, that would have been a shame. 🙂


  9. Michiel

    Hi and thanks for the idea !

    I also have invested in Really Right Stuff and i can confirm that their stuff is really right.

    It brought me to an even better solution which i have implemented. I was about to buy an additional clamp and an additional lens plate for my 70-200. At the last minute i had a brilliant idea. I already had everything to solve this problem. I have a RRS Ballhead with a PCL-1 rotating clamp. It doesn’t have a lever but believe me; i have both and it is just as easy and just as fast.

    It is somewhat more expensive than the Kirk-solution but the PCL-1 can be rotated in any degree you like, not just in 90 degrees increments. And it is as sturdy as can be. Rock solid !

    Works perfect for me and i was lucky to keep any additional money in my pocket.

    You can check it out here;


    If it helps i can post a tweetpic.

    Let me know !

    Michiel from Amsterdam, Holland.

  10. Martin Bailey

    Aah, yes. I can see that would be very useful. Thanks for sharing Michiel!


  11. Morden

    Great idea. I’ve used this technique on my video head too after seeing your video and it works a treat. I’ve had my 500mm lens mounted like this as it has an RRS replacement foot and this also works fine.

  12. Steve

    Hey there, do you think this will also work with Manfrotto 502HD? I have one on order and I’ll be needing a solution to allow it to integrate with my RRS legs and heads. Thanks!

    For reference, I’m currently using a BH-40 head with L bracket for my 5D

    • Martin Bailey

      Hi Steve,

      I can’t see why you wouldn’t be able to mount an RRS Quick Replace plate to the Manfrotto 502HD, and once you have the plate on, your L bracket will drop right in. There are better options available now though. I’d probably just go for an RRS video head instead now. My Manfrotto video head is great, and I still use it, but I bought it and came up with this workaround when there was nothing else available.


  13. James

    the video link for downloading dos not work & your email dos not work also when watching the video it freezers but you can here it but cant watch it

    • Martin Bailey

      The video plays fine here, and on Vimeo, and the download links work fine too, so it’s probably a local network problem or a Vimeo restriction for your location James. If you still can’t download, I suggest contacting Vimeo.

      Which email are you referring to? Either way, if you want to contact me, please use this form: https://mbp.ac/contact

  14. Geoff Miasnik

    Martin, I came up with a similar and I think simpler solution to adding an Arca Swiss Clamp to the Manfrotto Fluid Heads. I use a Really Right Stuff PC-LR Panning Clamp. This allows 180 degrees of rotation of the clamp on the fluid head and uses two fasteners at the base to keep it from twisting on the Manfrotto Plate. Also I can very simply use this with a L-Plate on a camera (perpendicular alignment) or a Lens Foot (parallel alignment) without taking anything apart or purchasing extra sets of plates and clamps.

    • Martin Bailey

      Sounds great Geoff. A lot has changed in the almost five years since I used this workaround. If I was buying this stuff now, I’d just go for the Really Right Stuff video head, which all just work. 🙂

  15. John Ellsworgt

    Excellent, Martin. Innovative. And as a commentator suggested, a panoramic-clamp configuration would be a good alternative. Many thanks.


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