Nathan Griffin Photographs

really right stuff (rrs) b40d l-plate review

Palo Duro Canyon

With the purchase of a new Canon 40D last year, I wanted to make an investment into a piece of equipment that I have wanted for a long time: an L Plate. I have a wonderful RRS BH-40 Ballhead and have enjoyed its use; however, taking vertical pictures without an L-Plate is a pain. I have a separate article on what an L-Plate does and it fully discusses how it has helped me operate my camera on a tripod.

 

The L Plate Advantage: using an L-Plate keeps your subject in line and means you don't have to reposition your tripod.
Side with L-Bracket
Without an L-Plate, keeping your composition lined up when "flopping" your camera into a drop slot is almost impossible, especially if your subject is close to the lens.
Side Flop

Once you realized the immense importance of using an L Plate to help you take vertically oriented pictures, you have to decide what type to purchase and from whom. My experience with Really Right Stuff and their line of products made them the only choice for me.

An L Plate is quite simple - two sets of dovetail "Arca-Swiss" type slots for connection to a clamp. There are a number of companies that could manufacturer an adequate L-Plate; what sets Really Right Stuff apart is the attention to detail and their effort to make each plate model specific to fit your camera perfectly.

RRS parts are wonderfully made, machined, and anodized. The finish is terrific with every edge smoothed and radiused in a fully thought-out manner.

The RRS B40D shown on Canon 40D in portrait mode.
RRS L-Plate Bottom

The model of L-Plate that I purchased for the Canon 40D is Really Right Stuff's B40D-L. It is designed to work with just the body and not Cannon's optional BG-E2N battery grip. For that application, you would need the RRS BGE2-L40.

Again, an L-Plate in inherently simple, but RRS takes care of a few details to make it operate well. The leading edges that you insert into a clamp are heavily radiused and rounded to make side entry very easy. I can usually slide the plate into the bracket with only a glance.

Transitioning from horizontal to vertical using the B40D-L is very simple and extremely quick. I attach the plate to my ballhead with a RRS B2 AS II lever release clamp. To change from horizontal to vertical orientation, I open the clamp fully, remove the camera from the top of the clamp, rotate to the left, put the "L" slots into the clamp, and tighten the quick release. It takes all of 3 to 5 seconds to do this.

Front Flop
Front L-Bracket

Bad: Roll your mouse over the image to see how off-center your camera is for portrait shots without an l-plate.

Good: Now roll your mouse over the image to see the RRS L-Plate in action.

Note that the extreme smooth finish and operation of the L-Plate with a lever-release clamp does bring a hazard. Really Right Stuff's design does not incorporate limit stops. If you fail to fully clamp the plate down, the camera can slide off in either direction. This is true for both sets of dovetails (landscape and vertical). When using the lever-release, I have gotten into the habit of gently pulling up on the camera after the lever is closed to make sure both the front and back dovetails are engaged and everything is secure.

Using an L-Plate is a revelation: Being able to quickly try out vertical and horizontal images without scooting the tripod up/down, right/left is a huge time saver. I find that I am more likely to try a vertical composition now, especially for macro photography.

The part of the L-Plate that covers the left side of your camera has a cutout for access to the flash sync and cable release plugs.

Access to the left hand terminal cover.
L-Plate End
The slot cut in the end of the L-Plate allows exit of a remote release cord.
L-Plate Covers

Access to the terminal covers is the only sore spot in the design. To truly gain access to the terminal cover and connect a remote release cord, you have to loosen the L-Plate and slide it away from the end of the camera. This creates the clearance needed to make access functional, but adds bulk to the camera profile. The picture on the left above shows that the oval shape of the cutout formed by the L-Plate is very close to the rubber covers on the body. Even with the plate fully snugged against the body, it is possible to pry the covers up from the bottom and get your remote cord connected; however, you would not be able to then mount the L-Plate for a vertical picture because the sync cord and rubber cover would conflict with the clamp.

I choose to position the L Plate as tight to the camera as possible, even snugging the L-plate against the body before I tighten the allen bolt into the tripod socket. Leaving even the smallest gap between the right edge of the camera and your L-Plate creates a cantilever that could allow vibrations when shooting vertically. This is mostly theoretical and I can't prove it, so don't loose sleep if you want to set the plate away from the camera to use the sockets.

One other thing to consider with this L-Plate is the weight; it comes in at 99 grams. The Canon 40D weight is 822 grams, which means that adding the RRS L-Plate increases your camera body weight by 11%. I do not consider this to be a weakness in the product. Really Right Stuff did an excellent job of removing all the unnecessary material for an elegant design. I simply bring it up because the added mass was more noticeable than I expected.

Overall, I give the B40D L-Plate for the Canon 40D a hearty thumbs up. L Plates are in general a necessity for effective use of a tripod. Really Right Stuff has done a great job on the design of this plate with the only weakness being access to the sync and remote cords and a lack of limit stops. Compared to other manufacturers of plates, I think that Really Right Stuff's build quality puts them at the top. For any new cameras that may be in my future, a matching RRS L-Plate is sure to follow.

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