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Lightweight but sturdy super clamp?


kye

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I'm now thinking about travelling again (but not doing it yet!!) and am looking for recommendations for a camera clamp for a balcony handrail.

The context is that I often shoot time lapses from balconies and want something that can clamp a full-size camera and lens combo securely to the balcony.  Some of them have a handrail, but others are just a piece of toughened glass that isn't capped off with anything.

Here's some random shots of various balcony hand-rail setups..

greece-hotel-balcony.jpg

balcony_2310739a.jpg?impolicy=logo-overl

1561412062-1-hotel-brooklyn-bridge-new-y

Ideally, I'd like it to:

  • be able to clamp on just glass, or a thicker handrail
  • have the camera mount on one side of the clamp so I can put the camera on the balcony side of the railing so if the clamp fails the camera falls into the balcony and not over the edge
  • be lightweight as I'll be travelling with it, although size isn't as much of a concern so sturdy plastic would be fine I think

I've carried gorilla pods before, but I've realised that I don't end up using them except for this, and they're big and heavy and not actually that sturdy for clamping to anything, especially as I'd like to be able to leave them unattended, even in a decent breeze, and not be afraid they're going to fall.

Does anyone have any recommendations?

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1 hour ago, kye said:

This looks like a good option as it looks like it can clamp on flat and round things, but it's 1.2kg / 2.7lb !!!

Kupo_KG500511_Large_Gaffer_Grip_13276615

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/840831-REG/Kupo_KG500511_Large_Gaffer_Grip.html/specs

 

 

Call me paranoid but in your situation I'd rather just take a travel tripod. I just can't imagine trusting my camera setup to something like a clamp. Induro, Manfrotto, and other brands like that make some great travel tripods that are very light and collapse using 4 joints instead of the usual 3 so they get really small. What I do is put the two front legs against the balcony, extend the third leg until the tripod is fully braced against the balcony, then I typically hang my camera bag or some kind of weight to a hook at the bottom of the tripod center pole.  I've shot quite a few time lapses like that and the nice thing is, I can also use the tripod for other things too like long exposures. Of course lugging around a tripod can take the fun out of any vacation, but travel tripods in my opinion are a reasonable compromise.

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4 hours ago, herein2020 said:

Call me paranoid but in your situation I'd rather just take a travel tripod. I just can't imagine trusting my camera setup to something like a clamp. Induro, Manfrotto, and other brands like that make some great travel tripods that are very light and collapse using 4 joints instead of the usual 3 so they get really small. What I do is put the two front legs against the balcony, extend the third leg until the tripod is fully braced against the balcony, then I typically hang my camera bag or some kind of weight to a hook at the bottom of the tripod center pole.  I've shot quite a few time lapses like that and the nice thing is, I can also use the tripod for other things too like long exposures. Of course lugging around a tripod can take the fun out of any vacation, but travel tripods in my opinion are a reasonable compromise.

You're paranoid!

Not sure why you requested that, but anyway, moving on...  😆😆😆

Ideally I'll have two, one for my action camera and one for my second camera (likely a GH3), so spending $100 each for tripods that weigh ~1kg each doesn't really make sense, especially considering that I wouldn't use them for anything else.  I've taken a tripod on long trips and never used it, and taken a large Gorillapod and only used it for time lapses mounted to a balcony rail, so this is literally the only thing I need anything for.

1 hour ago, TheRenaissanceMan said:

Standard mafer/cardellini clamps not doing it for you?

Thanks, half the battle is knowing the right terminology.  However, it does look like neither is a good fit.

The problems with the Mafer style is that they don't seem to open very wide, with the max I could find being 2" which is probably fine for rigging etc but is on the smaller side for handrails, so I'd be running the risk of it just not being large enough if I got a larger handrail.

The Cardellini look to solve this issue, and the vise-clamping motion seems to be perfect, but I'm not that sure the geometry quite works.

If I oriented it like the below then that would work for free-floating handrails but wouldn't work for handrails capping a glass sheet, which are very common.

Ie, I can't attach the clamp upright like this:

impact_me_106_6_end_jaw_vise_1544010634_

on balconies that are a rail on top of a sheet of glass like this:

balcony_2310739a.jpg?impolicy=logo-overl

In that situation I could clamp it so the threaded rod is horizontal, but then I'd have trouble attaching the tripod mount on the end.

This clamp has the right geometry, but it's special order from B&H and the price is getting a little high at USD$54 each.

Dedolight_CLAMP1_Light_Clamp_1346667526_

This could really be achieved with a cheap hardware store clamp with an angle bracket welded to it.  I think my late father-in-law had a welder gathering dust in the shed, so maybe I should fire it up and with a few dollars of parts and the worst welding job in the world I'd have something suitable.  I was just thinking there would be a $7 high-impact plastic clamp on eBay that someone knew about.

 

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@kye I'd suggest investing in some industry standard grip equipment.

As an example I put an overload loaded FS5MII (~10 lb) on single cardellini clamp. Wood adds rigidity and makes surface even, improving the clamping force.

Note: this is a totally unsafe rig, if it pivots kiss your camera goodbye, but if all you had was just a cardellini and gobo head... 😆

grip.thumb.png.1b6dea1b005ae12894881553a413c3e2.png

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4 hours ago, andrgl said:

@kye so in your case, for weight and size, you're after:

Total weight is around 210 g. If you're in Europe, not sure what the Matthews equivalent is.

You'll still need to mount your camera to a 3/8" pin, or even just a threaded rod cut to size.

Ah ha... now I get it!   You use the clamp to attach and then the head to change the orientation 🙂

Considering the cost of these things I'd be more likely to buy one and put both cameras on it rather than buy two.  For that I'd probably mount a couple of arca-swiss quick-release clamps to a flash bracket and then the flash bracket to a ball head and then the ball-head to the grip head.

So how do I mount a ball-head to the grip head?  Is there a pin of some kind that goes in the grip head and ends in a 1/4-20?

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Believe it or not, I don't have any 1/4-20 sized gear on hand. This demos the versatility of a gobo head really well actually. Here's a Sony a6500 with a just a hardware store 1/4-20 machine bolt screw:

rig.thumb.jpg.a071dcf1201f31c181f76babc4e987c0.jpg


There are baby pins with your selection of thread, male of female. Mine is all 3/8 unfortunately, but should give you an idea of what you can do:

pin.thumb.jpg.3209a47abddc5d479efcffc2fff19107.jpg

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These rigs on a balcony rail are scary.

 

I'm with @herein2020 -- use a small "safety'd" tripod gently leaned against the rail.  However, in addition to weighing down  down the tripod with a bag, also safety it with a tag line(s) attached to something solid (or very heavy) that is further in from the balcony.

 

Don't even think about clamping to a glass balcony panel or putting any kind of torsion/flex stress on a balcony rail supported by a glass panel.  It is probably a good idea to avoid raining shards of glass and loose camera gear/rigging onto hapless pedestrians below.

 

If you insist on clamping to a rail in lieu of using a tripod, definitely use one or more tag lines as described above, and don't make a hi-CG nor awkwardly offset rig.  Keep the rig light-weight, compact, low and well balanced above the rail.  That Dedolight clamp is a more expensive and less stable version of the original Tota-Clamp, which has a shorter baby pin that tucks into the clamp for travel.  That shorter pin is safer on a balcony rail and there are several compact ways to mount a tilt/ball head to that baby-pin.  Tota-Clamps can scratch surfaces if you don't tape the jaws.  The Camvate clamp with the ball head could likewise work, but the jaws might be to small (just like the Tota-Clamp).  There are other clamps not shown that would work better.

 

If you don't have a lot of rigging safety experience, it probably would be best to avoid complex grip solutions on the edge of a balcony.  Regardless, always use a strong tag line(s) on any gear on a balcony, and don't detach the tag line until the gear/rig is moved safely away or below the balcony rail.

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11 hours ago, tupp said:

These rigs on a balcony rail are scary.

 

I'm with @herein2020 -- use a small "safety'd" tripod gently leaned against the rail.  However, in addition to weighing down  down the tripod with a bag, also safety it with a tag line(s) attached to something solid (or very heavy) that is further in from the balcony.

 

Don't even think about clamping to a glass balcony panel or putting any kind of torsion/flex stress on a balcony rail supported by a glass panel.  It is probably a good idea to avoid raining shards of glass and loose camera gear/rigging onto hapless pedestrians below.

 

If you insist on clamping to a rail in lieu of using a tripod, definitely use one or more tag lines as described above, and don't make a hi-CG nor awkwardly offset rig.  Keep the rig light-weight, compact, low and well balanced above the rail.  That Dedolight clamp is a more expensive and less stable version of the original Tota-Clamp, which has a shorter baby pin that tucks into the clamp for travel.  That shorter pin is safer on a balcony rail and there are several compact ways to mount a tilt/ball head to that baby-pin.  Tota-Clamps can scratch surfaces if you don't tape the jaws.  The Camvate clamp with the ball head could likewise work, but the jaws might be to small (just like the Tota-Clamp).  There are other clamps not shown that would work better.

 

If you don't have a lot of rigging safety experience, it probably would be best to avoid complex grip solutions on the edge of a balcony.  Regardless, always use a strong tag line(s) on any gear on a balcony, and don't detach the tag line until the gear/rig is moved safely away or below the balcony rail.

I agree, all of these clamping solutions look like an accident waiting to happen or an expensive bill if you damage the railing of the venue. To get enough clamp force most clamps will damage any surface softer than their own teeth and hotels/venues aren't too happy with that kind of damage.  As you mentioned, glass is twice as bad. I go out of my way not to attach anything to anything I don't own if at all possible, so that's why I use the travel tripod; the tag line is a good idea, I might add that if I ever get to travel again. 

When I do a setup like that I have the camera lens literally inches from the top of the railing and my heaviest bag hanging from a hook in the center pole to lower the center of gravity as much as possible, as much as I don't like hauling around a tripod, I'd still rather that over one of these clamping solutions.

 

On 1/23/2021 at 5:27 AM, kye said:

You're paranoid!

Not sure why you requested that, but anyway, moving on...  😆😆😆

Ideally I'll have two, one for my action camera and one for my second camera (likely a GH3), so spending $100 each for tripods that weigh ~1kg each doesn't really make sense, especially considering that I wouldn't use them for anything else.  I've taken a tripod on long trips and never used it, and taken a large Gorillapod and only used it for time lapses mounted to a balcony rail, so this is literally the only thing I need anything for.

I do tend to use mine for more than just the balcony though, especially as it gets dark I can use it for longer exposures; when I travel its mostly for nature and landscapes so a tripod is pretty important; my biggest gripe usually is that I don't have a fluid head on the tripod for video but hauling around a good fluid head just makes hauling around the tripod even less like a vacation so I stick to a normal photography head. 

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Ok, now I am going to call you guys crazy..

Balconies are designed so that drunk people partying will be stopped by the fence/railing when they trip or get shoved towards the railing.  People who fall from balconies do so because they fall over the railing, not that the railing fails!

I'll take the structural integrity of something designed to hold up 100kg+ falling people over the structural integrity of an aluminium tripod with a rating of 10lb/5kg 🙂

Obviously it's important not to over-tighten the clamps, and also to ensure that the teeth or clamping surfaces aren't sharp in any way, which can easily be done by just putting a towel or t-shirt inside the clamp, but the setup only needs to hold up a GHx and lens combo, so that's not a problem.  I can also arrange to put a tether around it to catch the setup if the clamp fails, but the orientation I would set it up in would put the centre of mass on the balcony side of the railing so it would tip into the balcony rather than over it anyway.

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It's worth mentioning that with the right geometry you don't even need to tighten the clamp at all.

This hook, which is designed to sit on top of a door, works because all the force is applied to one side of the door, and because the force from gravity is down, which keeps the hook securely on top of the door:

product_d_e_designstuff_yamazaki_hanger_

Obviously the clamps we're talking about can easily rotate if kept loose, but I'm just saying that they don't need to be super tight because they're not fighting gravity, they're working with it.

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@BTM_Pix @gt3rs thanks for the suggestions.

I now understand WTF is going on.

I swear that half the handrails I use are larger than 2 inches in diameter, and I was beginning to think that everyone had gone crazy making tiny undersized clamps.  I looked up the standards for handrail design, and found https://www.stepform.com.au/as1675-2018/handrail-guardrail-detail.html which outlines AUSTRALIAN STANDARD AS1657 HANDRAIL / GUARDRAIL:

Quote
  • Where circular metal handrails are provided, external diameter shall be 30mm to 65mm.
  • Where square or rectangular handrails are provided, the sum of height and width shall be 70 mm to 100mm.

So, handrails will be 1.18-2.56 inches in diameter.....BUT, now I get it.  The US, UK and EU standards all place an upper limit on handrail diameter of 2 inches / 50mm.

FFS.

So now I am wondering what I do.  Buy one of the many handy and affordable things that will work in almost every other place in the world except where I live which will be a crapshoot if it happens to fit or not, or go the custom rigging that's heavier, much more expensive, but will definitely fit any handrail I come across?  And if I get it wrong then I'm basically screwed as there's nothing I can do.

*sigh*

More research reveals that https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_id=10924&p_table=STANDARDS says "For wood railings: Wood components shall be minimum 1500 lb-ft/in(2) fiber (stress grade) construction grade lumber; the posts shall be at least 2-inch by 4-inch (5 cm x 10 cm) lumber spaced not more than 8 feet (2.4 m) apart on centers; the top rail shall be at least 2-inch by 4-inch (5 cm x 10 cm) lumber, the intermediate rail shall be at least 1-inch by 6-inch (2.5 cm x 15 cm) lumber. All lumber dimensions are nominal sizes as provided by the American Softwood Lumber Standards, dated January 1970."

This picture clearly shows a guardrail that is oval in shape and waaaay larger than 2" in diameter:

image.png.4a50ebdc1cdc7de15369f85ba37018a1.png

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