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LensVid Exclusive: Quick Release plates – RC2 vs. Arca Swiss


Recently we got a few comments on a number of our YouTube reviews asking why we keep stating that we prefer the less common Manfrotto style RC2 quick release system over the more standard Arca Swiss style system – in this video we try and give our answer.

We have been using quick releases for years, not just for connecting our cameras to tripods and monopods but also for connecting almost an endless amount of accessories and DIY projects.

There are quite a few types of quick releases on the market –  the most well known in the industry and possibly most used is the Arca Swiss type (named after the manufacturer – Arca Swiss although dozens of manufacturers now make compatible products).

What is possibly the second most common quick release type – at least when it comes to stills – is the Manfrotto style RC2. There are a few other systems as well – especially for video – one of the more common is the Manfrotto 501 which has a few versions (Manfrotto actually has quite a few larger ones as well).

So why did we choose the RC2 system over the Arca Swiss? Before I’ll go into this I would like to briefly show how both systems work which will help me explain our choice.

Typical Arca Swiss quick release system like the one on the Oben head in the video above is made out of a plate and a clamp that squeeze the plate into place. In this case this is done using a knob which you need to turn about 3 times (there are different types of mechanisms – but the twist knob is the most common). The plate which comes in different sizes fit inside a rail in the base. Most Arca Swiss systems have a security mechanism which should prevent the plate and your gear from falling out if you tip the head and the clamp isn’t fully locked, however the plate with your gear would still fall forward or backwards a bit which we don’t really care for.

The RC2 has a very different working mechanism. The plate has two different sides – the forward side is a bit narrower and when you insert it into the base in the correct orientation and push downwards a metal pin is pushed inside and the leaver automatically locks – no need to actively turn anything. For tighter hold it is recommended to push the leaver in and of course close the tiny security lock which prevent accidental release of the plate and your gear.

Now that we have a better grasp of the way both systems work – here are the main reasons why we prefer the RC2 for most of our uses:

  • A (really) quick release – although they are all called “quick release” systems – we think that for the most part only the RC2 is truly quick to deploy. This is true not just because of the lever (there are Arca Swiss systems with a Lever as well – for example these sunwayfoto units) but because of how easy it is to place the plate in the base – there is no sliding or precise placement – you just push the plate down and it locks – super fast – which brings us to the second point.
  • One hand – one of the biggest advantages of the RC2 system in our opinion is the ability to connect a camera or an accessory with just one hand – as far as we know there is no Arca Swiss system that can do that. For us this is extremely important as we sometimes hold other things in our other hand. It’s a shame that it isn’t as easy to release your gear with one hand – it is possible – especially for people with larger hands – but if you have smaller hands like we do – you run your risk of your gear falling to the ground.
  • Security feature – While many quick release systems have a security features preventing accidental release of the plate and possible damage to your gear – the tiny leaver of the RC2 proved to be extremely effective and easy to use. We actually prefer the older, original Manfrotto design of this leaver than the one they implemented on the newer X-Pro ballhead which also has an RC2 version which we shall review here soon.
  • Price – if you are going to use just one or two quick releases – price might not be a huge factor but if you have two dozen accessories, heads and cameras that need to be connected using quick releases like we do – price starts to be a major factor. While original Manfrotto RC2 units are sold for around $34/35 – you can get very decent 3’rd party knockoffs which worked fine for us (some people swear by the originals – for our the knockoffs do the job very well) use the for around $7 on e-bay – this is a very inexpensive option – especially when you need a lot of them.

Despite all of this, there are a few situations where we would actually prefer to use other systems:

  • Large video rigs – when we use our video rig and want more stability we prefer to use the longer 501 Manfrotto plates. Although we can use the RC2 as well (and we do that some times when we are in a rush) – especially with heavier cameras and lenses it makes much more sense to use the 501 as it is held much tighter. For smaller video work we adapted a 501 with an RC2 base on top of it so we can keep the RC2 on our camera all of the time. We would actually like to see Manfrotto or some other 3’rd party manufacturer come up with a similar – non DIY solution which integrates 501 and RC2 on top.

Our “DIY” RC2 on 501 – we are still waiting for a real combo

rc2-501

  • Long telephoto lenses – Another situation where we prefer a different system is when we use long heavy lenses. It’s not that you can’t use an RC2 on the foot of say Nikon 200-500mm lens – it is just not as stable as a long Arca Swiss plate. Plus more or less all gimbals use Long Arca Swiss plates – so if you are using a gimbal head – you will need to use one.
  • Shooting vertically – If you are shooting a lot of vertical shots you will probably prefer to use Arca Swiss as it has a lot of L shape plate options, there are also better options for panorama shots. Recently we discovered that Manfrotto has the Q2 L Bracket which uses RC2 however it is quite expensive compared to most Arca Swiss type L brackets.

One more addition (this is something that we didn’t mention in the video. We use the RC2 for a lot of DIY builds. The problem is that the base has no flat back (i.e. the security lock protrudes a bit and you can’t connect it to a flat surface). We already suggested to Manfrotto to fix this and there are way around this, but it is worth mentioning.

RC2 – Can’t sit flat on a surface

rc2-not-flat

We know this can be controversial subject and different people have different needs but we still think that as a more general purpose system – one that can be good in a wider range of photographic related applications – the RC2 is the superior system overall.

You can check out more LensVid exclusive articles and reviews on the following link.

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