Small Things Make a Big Difference: Why Smallrig’s L-Bracket Is My Favorite

Small Things Make a Big Difference: Why Smallrig’s L-Bracket Is My Favorite

The L-bracket is a pretty simple idea: have a way of mounting your camera vertically or horizontally to the tripod. Between that simple idea and the actual product, however, is a big difference in execution. I recently tried out Smallrig’s L-bracket for the Nikon Z6 and Z7 series, and I was really impressed by how it elevates that fundamental concept to accessory perfection.

If you’re still using the older, smaller-style tripod plate, upgrading to any L-plate will be an improvement. L-plates are typically compatible with Arca-Swiss style tripod mounts, the common mounting method across most mid and high-end tripod heads (and even a surprising number of entry-level heads now). As L-plates are typically tailored to your camera, unlike a generic base plate, they’ll often result in a better fit, and can even include grooves or pegs that help prevent the camera from twisting on the plate.

What sets Smallrig’s bracket apart, however, is all the additional features over other plates that I’ve used in the past. The first and most prominent feature is the addition of a small pinky rest. Specifically for my Z7, the handgrip is just a hair too small to be truly comfortable with larger lenses. This additional surface area is just the right size to give a solid grip, although it’d be perfect with a little texturing or even rubber to match the existing Z7’s grip.

Also on the handle area is a slot for mounting a strap. While I don’t typically use one, it’s nice to have, especially as many side straps don’t play well with tripod plates. Beyond straps, the bracket provides 3 1/4"-20 threaded holes on the side plate for mounting other accessories. Overall, the plate gives plenty of options for mounting and rigging, beyond just being an Arca-Swiss tripod plate, all without the complexity and weight of a full cage-style rig. With hybrid use in mind for mirrorless cameras, it’s really nice to have these options.

Moving along the bottom, you still get full access to the battery door, along with some more 1/4"-20 threaded holes and a 3/8" hole. On the bottom is a slot for the included hex wrench, capable of turning both the mounting screw and the screw that controls the adjustable side bracket. As I’ve been burned in the past by not having a wrench in the field, having one built-in is so convenient. The wrench is held in by a number of magnets, and I’ve not had to worry about it coming loose at any point.

In Use

SmallRig’s L-bracket works perfectly for mounting your camera to your tripod, but these days, there’s a lot of options to do just that. What has really set this bracket apart is how useful it is in every other situation. If I’m trying to set my camera up for recording a short video, I can easily attach a monitor, light, handle, or other accessory, thanks to the included mounting holes. For casual video use, this makes the bracket a great alternative to a cage rig. 

When using the camera handheld, I’ve found the extra grip along the bottom to be a game-changer when working with longer and heavier lenses, like the 24-70mm and 70-200mm f/2.8. Additionally, and this is particularly unique, SmallRig makes a small plate that goes on the FTZ adapter’s tripod foot, which then connects to the base of the L-bracket. This can take a lot of the load off the lens mount, redistributing it into the much sturdier bracket structure and tripod mount. I’ve had issues with the FTZ mount’s clearance to a camera-mounted tripod plate in the past. This approach completely solves that issue, letting you mount an FTZ setup via the camera plate, while still being sturdy.

While I haven’t tested them personally, SmallRig also makes a number of accessories that pair well with the L-Bracket, typically in the context of setting up a video rig. This includes things like HDMI cable clamps, cold shoe mounts, handles, and more. 

The Value Proposition

The camera accessory market is interesting and varied. There’s everything from no-name brands on Amazon and eBay, up through artisanal, made in the USA or Italy brands that charge a hefty premium. While it seems like any of these companies could make a small, L-shaped piece of metal that works, that hasn’t been the case in my testing. I've run into fit or finish issues, clearance problems, and more, particularly when testing new gear.

SmallRig’s gear, in contrast, has always been a phenomenal value, offering the same build quality as plates 2 or 3 times as expensive, but with better features. The Z6/7 L-bracket is no exception to this. The all aluminum construction is incredibly durable, while the finish and markings are perfect. All the screws and threading are cut perfectly and turn smoothly. 

I’ve tried some other plates and brackets from other manufacturers, including some “universal” ones, and I’ve just never been very impressed. Whether it’s fit issues with my tripod head or a poor connection with the camera itself, very cheap plates just don’t work well enough. This is especially evident when testing at 1:1 macro, with a heavy telephoto lens, or when shooting something like a focus stack, where sequential shots have to be taken from the same position. With this plate, the fit is perfect, and the ability to torque it down with the Allen wrench ensures a solid connection.

I’ve also really come to appreciate that I don’t have to remove the plate for any reason. I can access the battery and ports with ease - this is in contrast to other plates that claim to make those connections available, but in practice, are still in the way.

I put the plate on my Z7 when it first arrived and I’ve not taken it off since. It is functional, convenient, and has held up to daily use perfectly, all while improving the usability of the camera itself, thanks to that crucial little grip extension. If you’re looking for a mounting option, check out SmallRig’s product line — they’ve got solutions for everything from iPhones and GoPros to cine level cameras. This particular bracket is currently available with the hotshoe kit at B&H.

Alex Coleman's picture

Alex Coleman is a travel and landscape photographer. He teaches workshops in the American Southwest, with an emphasis on blending the artistic and technical sides of photography.

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Great article! I felt the same way about my Z6II when I got it. While the Z6/Z7 have the most DSLR-esque grips in the mirrorless offerings, like you say, they felt a tiiiiny bit too short for me, coming from my trusty D800 workhorse with battery grip. I'm used to those hefty clunky grips that feel like holding a tank. The smallrig bracket was the perfect addition. Never comes off the camera anymore :)

I got a cheap one with grip extension from Amazon for my X-T2, 25 quid and still going strong after 4yrs.

I have a SmallRig for the R5, bought it right when it came out because it was the only L-Braket availlable - I payed no more than 30 USD :-) Still have it and it works perfect with my setup. Only with quick-release plates it doesn't work so well because the material is not as still as the RRS brackets. This is the feedback I got from some other photographers.

I agree completely. I ran Smallrig cages and accessories on all of my Sony cameras. Smallrig made up for many of the shortcomings that I felt plagued my Sony cameras such as small handgrips and no form fitting arca swiss plates. Now that I have switched to the Fuji system (X-T3), I have the same problems again. Unlike my previous Sony cameras, I won't put the cage on my X-T3. It's much (much) bulkier and makes any dial adjustments more inconvenient. The Smallrig L-Bracket was the best possible alternative. Dollar verses quality is unbelievable with Smallrig!

On a side not: Many Amazon companies have copied this design and offer it at a much lower price point, with equal quality. But you cannot get the custom branding offered by Smallrig.

I really like Smallrig gear though I went with the LeoFoto L plate for my A7r4. Almost identical features but at ⅔ price and I have a ton of LeoFoto gear already so I'm very comfortable with their exceptional quality.

I should point out that when you talk about the L plate being a great alternative to the cage for video (it is) your picture below that comment is showing the cage (that I bought and returned) which doesn't have any Arca Swiss compatible rails (landscape or portrait).