The L-Bracket; A Piece of Metal That Will Always Be a Part of My Camera Body

The L-Bracket; A Piece of Metal That Will Always Be a Part of My Camera Body

Once I bought a Manfrotto pistol-grip-upside-down ball head, with the typical Manfrotto camera plate. After a while I wanted something more robust, and I choose for an Arca-Swiss compatible ball head from Kirk Enterprises, and a matching L-bracket. The latter was one of the best choices I made.

I used to get a lot of questions about that piece of metal I had underneath my camera. A lot of photographers never heard about a L-bracket before. This was somewhere around 2007, perhaps even earlier. After a while I got tired of the terrible camera plates of the Manfrotto 322RC2 ball head and started looking for something else. I cannot remember how I discovered the L-brackets, but it seemed to be exactly what I needed. I spend a lot of money for a Kirk Enterprises ball head, and a matching L-bracket for my Canon EOS 20D.

I used a Canon EOS 5D for a while, together with a battery grip. Once the RRS L-bracket was mounted, it never came off. Except when I needed to clean the camera.

The L-bracket became part of my cameras since that moment. With every new camera, a new L-bracket came with it. I changed from Kirk Enterprises to Really Right Stuff (RRS) because it had a better design for the Canon EOS 1D mark III, and I stayed with RRS ever since. Even when the much cheaper brands started to sell L-brackets of their own, I stayed with the perfect designed RRS.

My Canon EOS 1D mark III also had a L-bracket. It gave a lot of protection from damage when placing the camera on stage during my concert photography, just like in this example.

About Camera Plates for Tripods

Why did I choose that expensive L-bracket? That is one of the questions I got frequently. To answer that I would like to look at the way we connect a camera to a tripod. It used to be a simple screw, but as time passed manufacturers invented the camera quick connection plate. You would connect a simple plate to the camera, that would click into a slot on the tripod. It was easy and quick. That system was perfected over time and now it is used for almost every tripod.

Unfortunately every manufacturer made its own design, that was not compatible with any other brand. One of those systems was the Arca-Swiss type connection, and eventually that system became the most common one.

The difference between a normal cameraplate and a L-bracket. This L-bracket fits the camera like a glove

I find the Arca-Swiss system very well designed, making it possible to integrate the camera plate in such a way, that it becomes a part of the camera itself. It does not stick out in any way like many other types of camera plates. The design of the Arca-Swiss makes it also possible to prevent the plate from rotating when a camera is placed in the portrait orientation on a tripod. If the common plate is not fastened enough, it can rotate. Especially when a large or heavy lens is connected to the camera. In the worst case scenario a camera can get loose and fall.

When a normal cameraplate is not connected secure enough, due to the weight of the camera and lens it could unintentionally rotate.

The L-bracket is designed for a specific camera model, like this Kirk Enterprises L-bracket for the Canon EOS 20D. There is no risk this plate will rotate when connected to the tripod.

The design of a good the Arca-Swiss compatible camera plate can prevent the rotation of the camera in portrait position. It was something that I liked very much. But the L-bracket has another benefit that would prevent this unwanted rotation from the camera even more. 

A L-bracket is nothing more than a well-designed L-shaped metal camera plate. It not only fits underneath the camera, but also to the side of the camera. This way, the camera can be connected to the tripod in the normal landscape position, but also in the portrait position without the need for flipping over the ball head.

Using a L-Bracket 

The real reason for a L-bracket becomes obvious when we connect a camera to the ball head. In landscape position it is not much different from a normal camera plate. But when you need to place the camera in portrait position, a few things will happen with a normal camera plate. First of all, the camera with lens will be tilted 90° towards the left or right of the ball head. With a heavy camera, or a light tripod, the setup may become unstable. But also the composition will change because the camera had a different position.

With a regular camera plate it is necessary to flip the camera to the side, placing it next to the tripod. Unless you use a sturdy tripod, the setup may become unstable. You also need to correct the composition offset.

When we use a L-bracket, nothing has changed with the landscape position. When we want to change it into portrait position, we have to disconnect the camera from the ball head, rotate the camera 90°, and connect it again to the ball head. This way, the weight of the camera and lens is still right above the center of the tripod, keeping the setup well in balance. But also the composition remains the same. Sure, it has changed in orientation, but the position of the camera has not changed. It just rotated.

Using a L-bracket the camera stays above the center of the tripod, no matter what orientation it is in. It is much more stable, but also the composition is maintained.

I found the L-bracket very convenient in many situations. It made a lot of unusual tripod setups possible. I also have used a flash bracket for a while, keeping the flash above the camera when switching from landscape to portrait. Another benefit is the ease of panorama setups, reducing parallax with a nodal slide while holding the camera in portrait mode.

A rather unusable tripod setup, made very easy with a L-bracket. With a regular camera plate this would be much more difficult.

I once used a flash bracket for my wedding photography. The L-bracket made this modular system possible. Nowadays I use flash in a much more convenient way, without the need of these brackets.

An L-bracket makes it very easy to use a nodal slide for panoramic photography.

The L-bracket provided a lot of protection throughout the years. It protected the camera when it was placed on stage (concert photography) or a simple rock for support (landscape photography). The L-bracket got scratched, but not the camera.

Another nice benefit was the extra protection I got from the L-bracket. I could lean onto dirty surfaces without the risk of damaging my camera. It once even protected the camera from a fall onto a concrete floor, although that was also a bit of luck.

Nowadays L-brackets come in shapes and sizes. The best ones are the L-brackets that are designed for a certain camera model. These are also the most expensive L-brackets. The dedicated design makes it possible to reach every connection on the camera without the need of removing the L-bracket. The cheaper ones are often universal and may obstruct the use of cables or even battery compartments.

The camera specific L-brackets allow access to every port or connection on the camera. Just like the remote connected to this Canon EOS 5D, with the RRS L-bracket installed.

The L-brackets I use from RRS, and Kirk Enterprises, also have a normal tripod threat, so you still be able to connect straps like a Black Rapid or similar. This way you never have to remove the L-bracket from your camera. It just becomes part of it.

My Final Thoughts

After more than ten years of using L-brackets I know for certain it was one of the best choices I made concerning tripod connections. It made every new camera a bit more expensive, but it was well worth it. When my trusty Canon EOS 5D mark IV cameras have to be replaced, I am sure the next camera will also get that wonderful piece of metal called L-bracket.

What I Like About L-Brackets

  • It is completely integrated to the camera body
  • A good fixed connection to the tripod
  • Composition will be maintained when changing from landscape orientation to portrait on a tripod
  • Every compartment and connection slot will still be accessible
  • Extra accessories can be used with a L-bracket like nodal slides, macro rails, and flash brackets
  • Connection for Black Rapid straps or similar is still possible without removing the L-bracket
  • Extra flexibility for positioning the camera with a tripod
  • Extra protection

What I Don’t Like About L-Brackets

  • The extra weight
  • Expensive
  • Every camera needs its own designed L-bracket
  • Takes more space in a camera bag

These likes and don’t likes are about the more expensive L-brackets, that are designed with a certain camera in mind. Today cheaper L-brackets are available on the market. Some of these brackets are one-size-fits-all. But be aware, these brackets can obstruct accessibility, making it necessary to remove it every time you need to connect a cable, or to change a battery. These brackets are also sticking out, making it more voluminous. 

If you use a tripod often, a L-bracket may be a very good choice for you. Most brands have Arca-Swiss compatible ball heads now, making it easier to use L-brackets on many different brands. The L-bracket may be a bit expensive, but I think it is well worth it.

A real world example of a portrait orientated camera, with filters for a long exposure. The L-bracket makes this so much easier.

Do you use a L-bracket? Please let me know what brand and about your experiences. And if you never used a L-bracket, what do you think of it? Would you consider it? I would love to read about it in the comments below.

Nando Harmsen's picture

Nando Harmsen is a Dutch photographer that is specialized in wedding and landscape photography. With his roots in the analog photo age he gained an extensive knowledge about photography techniques and equipment, and shares this through his personal blog and many workshops.

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Completely out of place, toxic comment. You should learn a thing or two about respect.

You must be new here (not been here that long myself) but mark mark is the resident prick on this site. He pops out of the woodwork to insult people based on their "lack of knowledge" but has very little to offer himself unless it's the same recycled shit he posts daily on medium format cameras, or scrims. I'd be willing to bet he's not very socially able and probably mostly lives an imaginary internet life. His lack of willingness to post any of his own 'work' backs this up.


And dimes to dollars he couldn't make a decent image if his life depended on it. Insecure troll who hides behind his keyboard. Oh and by the way, my L bracket is indispensible.

What you might find useless, can be a life saver for others.

I've not tried their L brakcets, but Smallrig cages are pretty bloody good. Well built and very affordable compared to Tilta and the like.

They function as an L bracket

I just took a look on Amazon, it has an arca swiss rail on both sides so it'll clamp straight onto whatever head you're using (assuming it's arca swiss).

SmallRig... isn't that a modular system for making a (huge) video rig from your compact DSLR or ML?
You can also use it as a L-bracket, by the looks of it. :)

Sort of, though SmallRig is the brand, they make a plethora of grip related accessories for pretty much all cameras, cages, rails, tension arms etc etc. This is the L-bracket that they make.

I do not use an L-Bracket for two very good reasons, one I can't attach my WT-5a's to my Nikon D4s body's and two they are terribly uncomfortable when shooting in portrait orientation. It's not about being able to afford them, for me I can't afford to use one and they are out of the question. I do not know how you guys do it, it feels like crap when you're holding the camera vertically!

I own two D4s bodies and a D500, all three of which have wifi capability as I am a photojournalist and need to transfer images either to a laptop or iPhone. So an L-bracket will not fit on the D4s with WT-5a wifi adapter attached. The D500 has a very nice and deep grip, have you ever held a D500? I had a D7200 with vertical grip before the D500 with grip and the D7200 was a little too small for my liking. I don't have huge hands, but larger than average I would say and I love camera's with either built in or added vertical grip. However once you add an L-bracket to a camera that has a vertical grip it get very uncomfortable to hold in my opinion. Also I almost never use a tripod, I either shoot with my 400mm f2.8 VR on a monopod with D4s attached or my backup camera handheld with either a 70-200mm attached or 24mm/35mm attached to the third camera. I probably use a tripod about 10 times a year if that, so an L-bracket would just be ridiculous for someone like me, but I understand why people who use tripods would love this addition!

I bought my D500 a few months ago for only $900 used in great shape and 22k shutter count so they have really gone down in price! I do a lot of sports photography and a little bit of breaking news as well and I am in southern California so that means wildfire's, shootings/murder's, etc. We have quite a few sports teams, from college D1 to every type of professional sporting team, and I even help out a friend with youth sports. My friend is actually a millionaire from photographing youth sports from T-ball to AYSO soccer leagues. I would love to do what he does, but it is difficult to acquire new leagues and it has taken him 30 years to acquire the amount of teams and league's he has today. Photojournalism is somewhat dead, but where I live there is a lot of breaking news and a lot of sporting events so you can "survive" lol.

Why would you even consider using a L-bracket if you almost never use a tripod. Have you tried an L-bracket? I guess you do since you are so convinced..
I want to add; I believe the RRS L-bracket is designed in such a way that you can also use it with the wireless adapter. But I agree it is not the most wonderful setup.
I can say, I never had any problems with holding a camera with a L-bracket vertical. It is absolutely not uncomfortable (I have small hands).

the one from ebay cost me $11 for my D800 and for my D4s it cost $45 shipped. been using for years and very happy.

If it works, it works. Amazing handy little thing, the L-bracket. Isn't it?

Some time ago I purchased an L-bracket by a brand called Sunway for my 6D. It wasn’t exactly dirt cheap at $60 and I was not happy with it: no matter how much I tightened the screw, there was some camera movement, especially in portrait with heavy lenses. Some thin sheet foam sandwiched between the plate and the body solved the problem, but still. (At the same time I purchased a Sunway Arca type plate for one of the tripods and that piece works OK, to be fair). Anyway, for the EOS R I purchased the RRS and everything is fine and dandy, super snug. [I now tend to avoid brands that have Sun, Moon, Stars, Pride, Honor, Great Wall and whatnot in their naming]

I heart about similar problems with L-bracket from Sunway from other photographers. Quite some list you are going to avoid ;)

Promediagear is also an excellent brand.

Ah, yes, from the flash brackets. Thanks. I forgot about it.

Also, they're great people with excellent customer service. Even better for me, they're very close to Chicago!

I paid 20 quid off amazon for one that’s designed to fit perfectly to the XT2, and includes a grip extension. Been using it for over a year and it’s in the same condition as it was when I bought it, sorry but I’ve got much better things to spend £170 on than 2 bits of alloy screwed together.

Also got a 3LT Ellie which is excellent but it hasn’t replaced the cheapo one on the Fuji, can use it on our other camera.

No need for excuses. If it works for you, it is perfect. Isn't it?

I hope everyone finds someone who loves you as much as Nando loves L-brackets.

Wondering if Tony deliberately took his profile photo in the same pose as the 'blank avatar' profile pic...

I do love my girlfriend even more :p

She's the best :D

To be fair Nando you fall perfectly into the Gearhead 101 bracket perfectly.

-Canon/Nikon FF DSLR... check
-Super expensive Gitzo tripod... check
-Trinity f2.8 lenses... check
-RRS 2 pieces of alloy... check
-I’m guessing Lee filter system.. check
-some vastly overpriced rucksack... check

It’s like someone has written a guidebook on how Landscape photographers can spend 1000s of pounds as it’s the only surefire way of making good images.

I’m my opinion they also fall into the bracket of the above.

You only have to look on YouTube/UK Facebook to see there is a certain demographic who will ‘only buy the best’ and use phrases like ‘buy cheap buy twice’ to justify spending such amounts of money.. they normally say stuff like ‘son, I’ve been shooting since the film days’ etc. They are like some kind of programmed robot, check out Tom Mackies YouTube channel and you will see it in all its glory.

The camera and lenses I kind of get although I think anybody using a 14-24 f2.8 is nuts when the 16-35 has a filter ring, and not sure why an f2.8 tele is needed when you can halve the weight with a 70-300. Similarly a good tripod is essential but when there are things like the 3LT Winston about there is just no need to spending 1200 quid. Filters I don’t mind too, but other brands have far surpassed Lee now. The Rucksack argument is just pathetic, it’s paying for a name and nothing else, usually lowepro or some equally ridiculously priced bag.

So that leaves the L bracket, I happen to know a bit about CNC machining. Both the £20 and the £170 ones will be made using a CNC milling machine, you key in the measurements and design and the machine will make them from some form of treated Alloy, then the holes will be drilled and tapped. As long as the thread size is correct to the thread size of the nut and the machine has done its magic the 2 pieces will fit together perfectly.

On the back of that what exactly is the difference between the Chinese one and the American one? Aside from the fact the American one is more than likely created using Chinese machines? I can buy 8 of my cheap ones before I’m losing money on the RRS one, so does that famous saying then become ‘buy cheap, buy 8 times’.

Of course when you are out in the field it doesn’t look anywhere near as cool to your friends that you don’t have RRS written on it, you could paint it on and pretend to be rich I suppose.

To be fair the phrase "buy cheap buy twice" has some merit. Very cheap filters are just no option. I tried this and regretted it immediately. But there are very good filters that are an alternative to Lee (and may even be better, depending on your preferences) and sell for less (Haida, Nisi).

Fully agree on that, im not saying bargains are always going to be good, but when there is no technology involved (like on an L bracket) its much less important. Like you say though there are definitely good value filters like Hoya etc that do exactly the same job as the expensive ones. Id say tripods fall under the same bracket, ultra cheap ones tend to be rubbish but there are loads of mid range ones that are just as good as the mega brands.

I just take issue with companies charging a premium with this fallacy that they are selling far superior equipment. Its got nothing to do with people being happy with what they have, its the principle of charging 7.5 times the amount of money for 2 pieces of metal.

Fair comment, im not going to sit here and say every cheap bracket on eBay etc are going to do the job. And i did pay a bit more for a good one myself, which is good.

But there is still that bubble that a certain group of photographers sit in where they have the exact equipment i stated above, piece by piece. I wouldnt dream of going as far as stating who they are, ill leave that to your imagination:)

Indeed. I agree :)

Pat, no point in reasoning with Sturt little. He's complaining about the high price of "2 pieces of metal" yet he claims "i did pay a bit more for a good one myself, which is good." Then he says " im not going to sit here and say every cheap bracket on eBay etc are going to do the job." Guy is all over the place. He claims 3LT at 49-89 pounds is way cheaper than other brands like benro L bracket which is... drumroll.... 49 pounds.

he should mind his own business as to what people do to get the most of their expensive gear.

Solid gear like RRS saves you time with ease of use as well as reliability. I have a lot of Profoto gear and after buying a few Godox AD200 for a travel compact kit I am glad I invested in Profoto. The AD200 and controllers have a lot of misfires as well as inconsistent TTL when on the move. The Profoto Air is solid on the B1x, B2, and now b10. The Godox still has its place in my kit but when I need to get the job done without any issues I use Profoto.

"I'm happy with my expensive gear and you appear to be happy with your inexpensive gear. I see no reason for anyone to disparage another over their choices. You'll never hear me do so."

I have bought the cheap stuff and cannot afford it. Because if I miss a botch a job because some cheap crap malfunctioned I lose much more than I saved buying the cheap stuff. I spend years when I was starting out buying the cheap stuff and getting burned. I do not have RRS but their stuff saves you time and ultimately money.

So are you saying 3 legged thing L Brackets are rubbish, because they are 'cheap'? will i get burned by using one?

Hi stewy, define "cheap". to me 3LT is not exactly "cheap". some of their L brackets range from 49-89 pounds. a few of their tripods are 399 pounds. monopods 179 pounds. get the 3LT airhed it might suit you.

Firstly, my name is spelt with a u, not ew, thats a different name.

Secondly, compared to RRS, Gitzo, Benro etc their equipment is definitely cheap.

As for the Airhed comment, anonymous forum trolls who darent show us any pictures, well their comments are just meaningless.

"meaningless" enough to comment on, stuart little? so 3LT at 49-89 pounds is "definitely cheap" compared to the Benro BLB1 Universal L Bracket which is... drumroll.... 49 pounds? ok, stuart, enogh, go back to your hole.

Go away troll, you are boring, faceless, nameless, imageless, with an embarrassing comment history.

no, sorry stuart little. i am a troll because your math skills are worse than my 2-year old nephews?

At least he uses his gear.

Yes he does. and thats fair enough.

You forgot a few things.
Funny, you mention an overpriced "rucksack". If it keeps my gear safe, it is a small price to pay. A new camera because the backpack fails is more expensive

Again its one of those things that i think you can invest a bit in, but when its say £180 for a Manfrotto pro line and £400 for Lowepro thats when we enter rip off territory.

i believe a certain fruit company have even managed to render their own unofficial slogan on the back of overcharging people, is it something like 'apple tax'? i dont think its fair that they are the only company who gets picked on for this, when there are plenty of others, particularly in our world that are doing the same, wacom cough cough.

I use Thinkthank bags, and it has kept my gear very safe. I wouldn't want to trust my gear with cheap bags... :D

See is the Manfrotto cheap? or just cheaper? at what point does the quality level out and the extra money means nothing?

Manfrotto is also expensive. Nothing is really cheap when you talk about gear from a larger brand. You also pay for the name.
Your question can not be answered very easily. It all depends on what it is. :)

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