As a cityscape enthusiast photographer primarily shooting long exposures at blue hour (twilight and dusk), tripods are something I can’t live without. That said, we occasionally come across places where a full-size tripod is prohibited or there is no appropriate space to set one up.
In such situations, I used to rely on a mini tripod like Gorillapod (I own the “5K Stand”, their top end model with a load capacity of 5kg). However, mini tripods are a bit shaky and don’t always hold the camera weight too well. This is especially problematic when using it for long exposures, where the images end up with somewhat “soft” (i.e., not sharp enough).
How to set the Super Clamp up
This is where a clamp tripod like Manfrotto Super Clamp comes in very handy. I own the Manfrotto 035 Super Clamp without the Stud and use it with the separately-sold Manfrotto 208HEX 3/8-Inch Camera Mounting Platform Adapter, as described below.
Avoid standard stud
By the way, Manfrotto also has a Super Clamp that comes with a so-called standard stud (Manfrotto 035RL Super Clamp with 2908 Standard Stud), but I recommend avoiding it because the standard stud is a bit too long. Thus, the tripod head sits about an inch out of the clamp, making the setup vulnerable for heavier camera/lens combos.
Besides, the standard stud only comes with 1/4″ screw. If your tripod head uses 3/8″ screw (most tripod heads do), you’ll need a screw adapter to convert 1/4″ screw into 3/8″ in order to screw your tripod head in.
Reversible Short Stud
Therefore, I recommend photographers get the aforementioned Manfrotto 208HEX 3/8-Inch Camera Mounting Platform Adapter, or opt for Manfrotto 037 Reversible Short Stud (cheaper alternative). In fact, this reversible short stud is handy as it comes with both 1/4″ and 3/8″ screws. Like the mounting platform adapter, this short stud also allows a tripod head to sit flush with the Super Clamp, giving much better stability to mount a camera.
Super Clamp in action
Note that a clamp tripod cannot be used anywhere you like, as it needs a rail or something similiar to be clamped onto. However, where possible, this setup is rock solid (with a load capacity of whopping 15kg), and the resulting long exposure photos are appreciably sharper than those photographed using a mini tripod or even a regular tripod.
In addition, a clamp tripod also comes in handy at crowded photography spots that attract a lot of tourists. Setting a regular tripod up at such locations takes space on the ground and always has a risk of someone accidentally kicking tripod legs. It’ll be a catastrophe if that happens in the midst of a long exposure. With a clamp tripod that takes no space on the ground, there is no such worry.
I hope this post helps you consider a clamp tripod as a tripod alternative. Indeed, Super Clamp is like a game changer and more than just a mere alternative to a mini tripod, etc. Last but not least, be extra vigilant and tighten wherever must be tightened when using a clamp tripod somewhere high up. If the camera or any part is dropped, it could seriously injure people or break your gear.