Manfrotto 393 DIY Flash Bracket - $12.83
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Old 10-23-2010   #1
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Default Manfrotto 393 DIY Flash Bracket - $12.83

I recently purchased a Sigma 500/4.5 lens and my poor tripod heads just couldn't handle the weight, even with the tension set to max - so I purchased a Manfrotto 393 gimbal-style head. First off, it works great - it's a wonderful head and works perfectly with my set-up!!

The one negative is that it has no accessories for it - especially a flash bracket.

My pet project for the day was to create one, so I headed to my local Lowe's and picked up some parts. I succeeded in getting it built and I think it looks really good (if I do say so myself) - especially for only costing me $12.83 in parts (some parts and the paint I already had). The 393 has two extra 6mm holes in each side of the inside "U" base for adjusting it; I used those holes to hold the bracket. Deciding on the height and bending the flat aluminum to that height and width were the hardest part of the project.

I took pics along the way to show the progress and am posting the information here just in case anyone else may have a 393 and is wanting a flash bracket.

Pieces and parts:


Close-up / description of parts:


Close-up of holes:


Bracket attached with flash:


Complete set-up:


I hope someone else finds this post to be useful.


Bob S.

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Old 10-24-2010   #2
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Default Re: Manfrotto 393 DIY Flash Bracket - $12.83

Quote:
Originally Posted by rshunk View Post
I recently purchased a Sigma 500/4.5 lens and my poor tripod heads just couldn't handle the weight, even with the tension set to max - so I purchased a Manfrotto 393 gimbal-style head. First off, it works great - it's a wonderful head and works perfectly with my set-up!!
I also use a Manfrotto 393 gimbal head, which I prefer over the single arm Wimberley gimbal design. I've never wanted to put a flash on it though, but given how nice (and how inexpensive) your gizmo is that may change.

However, I'm going to cost you a couple bucks... because you need to buy another bit of aluminum flat stock and do it again! You've got the 393 set up incorrectly for that lens.

See where the center of gravity is on the camera and lens... just above the pivot point of the gimbal? That means if the gimbal is loosened enough to let it swing free and then you let loose of the camera it will either tilt forward to smack the front of the lens on the tripod or it will tilt back to smack the camera. That's not good, and there is a fix.

Mount the lens upside down, with the pivoting fork of the gimbal above the tripod mounted fork such that the lens and camera have their center of gravity below the pivot point. With it lower than the pivot point the camera and lens will come to an equilibrium much like a child's swing set, directly below the pivot point (and tilted forward or back a little depending on weight distribution).

The setup procedure for ideal configuration with any specific lens is to use the set of holes in the fork that positions the center close to but below the pivot points (for small lenses that may be with the fork low as you have it, but for many big lenses it is with the pivoting fork above the mounted fork), and then with the tension on the pivots loose move the camera and lens back and forth horizontally on the QR release clamp until it pretty much balances level below the pivots. After doing that the pivots can be tightened so there is just a little friction, but not enough to restrict up and down movement of the camera. The result is the lens can then be tilted at a given angle and it will stay there even when not being held. If the balance isn't quite right or the tension is totally loose it will slowing go back to a level position.

With just about any adjustment at all the center of gravity below is much preferred to having the center of gravity above the pivots which will cause it to be a teeter tauter and tilt to either the front or the back.

A few pictures would probably be worth a thousand words here, and I'm sure that for those who have never used a gimbal it doesn't make sense. If anyone expresses a slight bit of either confusion or interest, I'll go shoot of few shots of the adjustment process and then doctor them up with lines and arrows and so on to make this understandable.

The Version 2 of your gismo needs to be wide enough to bolt to the outside, rather than to the inside of the fork, which will allow it to work with the lens hanging down rather than sitting up.

Note also that to maintain balance you'll want the flash as vertically close as possible to the lens. And while without the flash the "center of gravity" is pretty close to exactly the center axis of the lens, once the flash is mounted it will be above that (how far depends on the flash location and weight). That means the holes to use on the pivoting fork might be one notch down from the set that just gets the center of the lens below the pivot axis. (If that turns out to be the shortest set of holes, you're going to have to find some other way to attach the flash bracket to the fork. Details... )
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Old 10-24-2010   #3
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Default Re: Manfrotto 393 DIY Flash Bracket - $12.83

Quote:
Originally Posted by apaflo;1120901
See where the center of gravity is on the camera and lens... just [B
above[/B] the pivot point of the gimbal? That means if the gimbal is loosened enough to let it swing free and then you let loose of the camera it will either tilt forward to smack the front of the lens on the tripod or it will tilt back to smack the camera. That's not good, and there is a fix.
My camera and lens do not move when I let them go. I have the tension knobs set so that it stops no matter what position I leave it in. It's perfectly balanced and I can move it around with one finger and let it go and it stays in position.

I've seen what you are talking about - changing from a "U" position to an "O" position and having the lens upside-down. I found many more comments online from various users who, like me, prefer the "U" position.


Bob S.
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Old 10-24-2010   #4
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Default Re: Manfrotto 393 DIY Flash Bracket - $12.83

I found some images on the web that show both the "U" position and the "O" position.

First - the "U" position with a Nikon 600/4:




Now here's one showing the "O" position with what I believe is a Sigma 300-800mm:


I think it comes down to whichever the user prefers. Both of these lenses pictured are larger than mine and I think it shows the versatility of the terrific (and not well known) head that it can be used both ways.


Bob S.



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Old 10-24-2010   #5
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Default Re: Manfrotto 393 DIY Flash Bracket - $12.83

Quote:
Originally Posted by rshunk View Post
My camera and lens do not move when I let them go. I have the tension knobs set so that it stops no matter what position I leave it in. It's perfectly balanced and I can move it around with one finger and let it go and it stays in position.

I've seen what you are talking about - changing from a "U" position to an "O" position and having the lens upside-down. I found many more comments online from various users who, like me, prefer the "U" position.


Bob S.
If your lens stays put when the pivot tension is loose then it is absolutely true that the center of gravity for the lens is at or below the axis of the pivot. The 2D picture you posted previously looked to me as if it is too high, but the physics is pretty simple and if it doesn't tilt then it has to be lower than the pivot axis. And of course if it can be configured that way in the "U" position, then that is the right way to set it up.

I have an older Canon 800mm f/5.6 SSC lens that mounts correctly in the "U" position as do all of my "small" lenses except for a shorter (and heavier) Nikkor 400mm f/2.8 that only mounts correctly in the "O" manner. I didn't really understand the significance of the different mounts when I first tried it with the 800mm lens and various things like an 80-400mm zoom or a 400mm f/5.6... but then I put the 400mm f/2.8 on and discovered that in the "U" position it cannot be positioned low enough to work. In the "O" position it can't be centered, but rather than 1/2" too high it is just a bit too low... and low is fine.

It really is not "just user preference", it's where the center of gravity is. If it is virtually centered or below, all is well. If it is above the pivot axis there is no way it can balance (with horizontal adjustment) well enough to trust it with loose tension and not being held in place. It's pretty easy to experiment a little and determine that to be true. Try mounting a lens in both well above and well below the center, and see which one can be balanced well enough to be let loose without tension! The closer they are to exactly centered the less problem there is, but the "problem" with it above the center is dangerous to the lens and just inconvenient if it is below the center.

If it's below the pivot axis it is hanging there. If it is above the pivot axis it is balanced there, and will try to fall to where it is below... except the tripod necessarily will be in the way.

As far as pictures on the Internet go, 90% of what can be found will show lenses mount in a "U" configuration. There is one picture of the "O" position that is very commonly used by many reviews and sellers though... and it comes from Manfrotto/Bogen! It also appears that the lens is below the pivot axis, though just as with your image that's very hard to judge with a 2d image.



Incidentally, that lens is physically similar to the Nikkor 400 f/2.8, with a larger diameter front element than various 800mm f/5.6 lenses. That requires the base of the mount shoe to also be farther away from the center, which is why those lenses are mounted in the "O" way rather than the "U". It isn't helped any by having a Swiss Arca foot and requiring a matching clamp to be mounted with a QR plate to the existing large QR clamp on the head. I remember exploring the idea of switching original QR clamp with a Swiss Arca clamp and don't recall now why I decided not to. It could have been just that I had parts that could be used for an adaper and they wouldn't work as a replacement.
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Old 10-25-2010   #6
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Default Re: Manfrotto 393 DIY Flash Bracket - $12.83

I really admire your creativity. While the holes are a little off, and not machine-shop perfect, the overall result looks professional. Keep up the good work.

Having said that, the last thing that I would have thought that I needed for use with my 500mm lens, is a flash bracket. Minimum focus distance is somewhere around 13ft?
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Old 10-25-2010   #7
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Default Re: Manfrotto 393 DIY Flash Bracket - $12.83

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Originally Posted by Harry View Post
I really admire your creativity. While the holes are a little off, and not machine-shop perfect, the overall result looks professional. Keep up the good work.

Having said that, the last thing that I would have thought that I needed for use with my 500mm lens, is a flash bracket. Minimum focus distance is somewhere around 13ft?
Thanks Harry! My next weekend project is to create some kind of camo "lenscoat" cover for the lens, for which I can't see paying $100 (or more). If it works out as planned, I'll do another DIY post.

I plan on adding a Better Beamer (flash extender) so I can add a little fill flash to some birds and wildlife shots. Without the BB, there's probably no need for a flash (or the bracket).


Bob S.
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Old 10-25-2010   #8
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Default Re: Manfrotto 393 DIY Flash Bracket - $12.83

Excellent DIY instructions. I have made one like it a few years ago from an image I found online. If I had your instructions, the fabrication would have been simpler...

Two thoughts...

1. If you contact Manfrotto, they will tell you that a flash cannot be used with this bracket... DUH!

2. Manfrotto persists in illustrating their bracket with the camera mounted under the swinging bar...



I tried mounting it this way but, mounting the camera/lens "ON" the swinging bar is a far better method...
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Old 10-26-2010   #9
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Default Re: Manfrotto 393 DIY Flash Bracket - $12.83

Thanks Richard - glad you liked the DIY post.

I cannot understand Manfrotto insisting on only showing this head in the "O" position and also listing it as a monopod head - seems like they're missing the boat on this one. This head looks very similar to the Dietmar Nill head from Germany that costs roughly $850usd ($600 Euro) and they always show it in "U" position unless you are mounting 2 camera/lens combos (which looks extremely cool!)

Here are a couple pics from their user's guide:








Bob S.
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Old 10-30-2010   #10
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Default Re: Manfrotto 393 DIY Flash Bracket - $12.83

[QUOTE=rshunk;1122315]

QUOTE]

Oh man, that is the photographers version of:



I want one of those... just for the looks I would get!!


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