I need some sort of support for my rather heavy d-SLR plus 140-600mm (35mm equivalent), zoom lens, which would also be capable of taking a spotting scope.
My idea was to use an Opticron 42605 BC2 hide clamp, a relic of my birding days (used once, the day I discovered the nearest RSPB hide was at the bottom of a heart attack-inducing hill!). (And a word of warning to any budding birders who happen to be arachnophobic – hides are full of the buggers!)
Clamping it to the armrest of my Shoprider Lugano – the perfect position – proved impossible as, moulded from polyurethane over a steel core, it was just too soft. There is, however, an alternate mounting position – not entirely sure what for – near the front of the seat, on the side of the base, but that put the camera way too low.
So, an old monopod, a hacksaw, and some duct tape to get the right tubing diameter, and that slipped neatly into the hide clamp – er – clamp.
In use, there will be a strap securing the clamp to the chair’s base – I’m taking no chances with it coming loose. I’m also going to make some metal shims (soft drink cans are perfect for this, and can be cut with scissors), to bring the monopod tube up to the correct diameter, and remove the duct tape. That way the assembly will be rather more rigid (unless, that is, I can buy the correct size insert for the clamp). What I did instead was remove the screw from the side of the clamp, dropped a couple of washers of the right size in the hole, and replaced the screw (a small nut or even a ball-bearing would have done just as well) – this gives the effect of having a longer screw, and locks everything up immovably.
The tripod head is from my Slik Able 300DX, rather than the Opticron unit, as it’s my favourite.
However, the pan and tilt locking arms get in the way too much, even though they’re shorter than many, including the original, so I’ll replace it with a ball head that has a quick-release plate and locking pin, like this Manfrotto 496RC2 Compact Ball Head.
As you can see, the armrest can be folded down against the support as a brace, and looping a strap around the support and the back of the armrest will lock them tightly together for added security.
And this is the thing fitted and ready to go. The support isn’t quite vertical, which matters not at all – the head will compensate for that.
Update: Going with this head, the Manfrotto 056 3D Junior 3-way, about half the price of the ball head, above. No quick-release, but I can live with that.
This does work well, but as received, would not rotate around the base. I had to peel back the graduated sticker on the base to access a socket-head screw – luckily I have zillions of Alan keys – and back it off a few turns. Problem solved, but I expect better from a company like Manfrotto.
And this is how the support now looks, strapping it to the arm as well, to make it more rigid.
And the Manfrotto 3D head in situ – nothing sticking out to get in the way or poke the user.