Getting set up with a “universal” quick release plate for all my cameras and gizmos (rigs, dollies, hi-hats, jib arms, cranes, sliders, steadicam, etc.) took quite a bit of research and decision making. At first I was going to go with Manfrotto, because they are high quality and pretty much the “standard” in photography. However, after looking at how many plates and cradles I would need to purchase, I quickly realized that Manfrotto products would be cost prohibitive.
One of the first things I purchase for my new (then) DSLR filmmaking set up was a tripod and fluid head. Sure I would have loved to purchase a carbon fiber Sachtler video tripod, but I don’t have $2k to drop on sticks, and in the “no budget” range, the Fancierstudio Professional Heavy Duty Video Camcorder Tripod Fluid Drag Head Kits WF717 (currently listed as unavailable; I paid $140) seemed like the way to go. It’s got a really solid “crutch” style tripod, a ball mount head with fluid motion (I assume at this price it’s actually friction based, not really fluid), and an included handle. I have been really happy with the tripod and head for my filmmaking needs (I use a Bogen/Manfrotto 3046 with a 3047 head for my still photography).
The head for this video tripod system is the Weifeng WF-717A, which is marketed as MANY different fluid tripod heads, among them:
This head seems to be the best “bang for the buck,” and since it’s marketed as several brands, it’s readily available, and less prone to disappearing from the market (longevity of availability is definitely something to be considered when making a decision about what product/brand you’ll be using, especially for small/replacement parts). The head goes by names such as WF717, WF717AH, EL717 (pretty much anything with the 717 number will work) and is usually credited to either Weifeng or Fancierstudio. Thus I decided to base my video/film quick-release plate decisions on this model.
For the longest time, you could find the quick release plate for the camera, but not the receiver or base (the cradle) for this system. In other words, there was no way to purchase the part of the system to attach to your hi-hat, camera rig/cage, steadicam, etc.
Thus is was a godsend when PNC Photography and Cinema decided to manufacture the Custom Fancier 717 Quick Release Adapter Base (currently $35 each, but when I purchased mine they were three for $60). These are a CNC machine-made receiver base with a very low profile (which makes them great for rigs and steadicams). As much as I like their low profile, I have never really come to like them because of the way they function. They are not spring-loaded like a typical receiver base, and you have to REALLY crank them down to make sure they grip your quick release plate tightly. The tightening knob is a burled metal knob (not a spring-loaded lever like you’d see on a typical tripod head), and I find that I have to actually use a pair of pliers to get the PNC 717 tight enough. This is a real pain when you’re trying to work quickly in the field.
So even though I do still use these 717 P&C/PNC plates on a couple of things, I really wanted to find a better receiver plate base that would work with the 717 format. Luckily, ePhoto recently started selling a “replacement part” for the WF717 Fluid Head, which is just the quick release plate and receiver base (ephoto replacement quick release plate with Base Mount for fluid tripod head 717AH, $25.69 shipped).
I have successfully modified the base plate by drilling out the mounting holes and adding additional metal/nuts to the underside of the base plate so that it can be mounted on my rigs and other gadgets with 1/4” 20-thread bolts. Thus I now have low profile receiver plate bases that are spring loaded and MUCH easier to tighten. In addition to the spring loaded tightening lever, they also have the typical tripod lock knob for added security. This base plate is MUCH easier to use in the field than the more rigid/difficult to tighten PNC 717, and I plan on buying a bunch more from ePhoto.
UPDATE [8-12-2016]: I haven’t had time to do a proper post on the modified 717 base, but here are some photos for those who’ve been asking. I purchased two more of the 717 replacement quick release plates, but I haven’t had a chance to modify and use those yet (still just using the one).
As you can see, the quick release plate is mounted to a cheese plate, which is then in turn mounted to the camera cage/rig.
I actually mounted another 717 quick release plate to the back/underside of the cheese plate so the entire camera rig can easily be mounted to a 717 receiver plate on a tripod (the entire rig can be mounted on a tripod, jib, etc. using the 717 plate).