Wimberley FAQs and Support Topics

Can I use the Sidekick with a ball head that uses a lever clamp?

Due to the security concerns we have with mounting our Sidekick to a lever clamp, we are now recommending the use of the AK-100 Sidekick Adapter Plate as a preferred accessory for this combination.

AK-100 Sidekick Safety Plate for lever clamp         Attachment of AK-100 to Sidekick

Lever-style quick release clamps are very popular with some photographers. They have both advantages and disadvantages. The advantage of these clamps is in their speed. The major disadvantage is that there is some variability among the dovetail profiles they are designed to clamp.  Lever clamps are usually not or have very little adjust-ability.   Lever clamps use a stack of spring washers that are compressed as the clamp closes. These washers allow the clamps to accommodate to a modest range of dovetail profiles. In most applications, the user has a pretty good idea as to whether the lever-style clamp is grasping a plate with adequate force.

If the dovetail cross-section is too small, the lever clamp will still close. Let's say it closes, but doesn't compress the spring washers very much. This might be adequate in some applications, but the Sidekick is not typical. A lot of users throw their tripod on their shoulder with the Sidekick and lens behind them. If the Sidekick is not clamped with adequate pressure, the Sidekick and lens could fall out or be pulled out when the lens is snagged by a tree branch. The user of a lever-style clamp should always be aware of the limitations of the design.

Using a lever-style quick release clamp to mount the Sidekick may be a problem. The dovetail machined at the bottom of the Sidekick is powder coated. The thickness of the powder coat can be quite variable.  Therefore, we have changed the machined dimensions of this dovetail so that our Sidekicks will work with most lever-style clamps currently on the market. Nevertheless, it is probable that some of our Sidekicks may be too large in cross-section to be accommodated by these clamps. On the other hand, it is also probable that some of our Sidekicks will be a little too small for these clamps.  Even though the Sidekick may appear to fit perfectly in the lever clamp jaws, there is a chance that the Sidekick may slip when  when taking this second combination out into the field and subjecting it to vibration and shock forces.

Part of the concern stems from the fact that there is a greater amount of powder coating at the top of the Sidekick tail (to coat the lip completely) than at the bottom, so the mounting edges that the clamp is grasping are somewhat wedge shaped not parallel, slightly wider at the top and narrower at the bottom. This is not much of a concern when using a screw knob clamp because the clamping force is adjustable and slightly conforms to the shape. However, when using a lever clamp, the clamp pressure is fixed and the shape of the Sidekick mounting surface is not fully clamped. This could cause the tail to slide out of the clamp, especially when the camera and tripod are slung over one’s shoulder in the field.

We realize that lever style clamps are becoming more popular due to the ease of use, but as a general rule we do not recommend using the Sidekick with a lever clamp. This is primarily due to the fact that it is inherently less secure for the amount of weight put on it when using the Sidekick and the clamping force is not adjustable as with a screw knob clamp.

The adapter plate for the Sidekick (AK-100, $43), is similar to an arca-swiss style lens plate but with a lower profile. It mounts to the bottom of the Sidekick using the tapped screw holes already available. This allows the Sidekick to fit snugly into any lever clamp as would a regular arca-swiss style lens plate. It also features our innovative safety stop screws that will work with lever style clamps with safety stop grooves such as Really Right Stuff lever clamps. This will prevent the Sidekick from sliding completely out of the clamp if it catches on something, or accidentally flips open and becomes loose.

In any event, the photographer who is using the Sidekick in conjunction with a lever-style ball head clamp should make sure that his or her Sidekick is adequately clamped. In an effort to make sure this is the case, we strongly recommend that photographers using a lever clamp to mount the Sidekick to a ball head use the AK-100 Sidekick Adapter Plate to reduce the possibility of equipment damage.

Posted on December 1, 2011 at 6:08 pm