Arca Swiss D4

Posted by neale on September 22, 2015


There have been a good number of tweaks to the set up recently, as ever all born of necessity in a bid to speed the workflow up without compromising the quality of photography. I rarely buy equipment flippantly, it's always very considered and usually fuelled by problems when I'm on location. So what you see here is the evolution of equipment based on my changing workflow, in a bid to open up more creative possibilities as well as efficiency. I've found that working fast doesn't always produce the best work, there's so much to consider in this line of work, especially when you have ten portable studio lights set up, it can be very easy to make a mistake that can't be fixed later down the line. This can be a problem if you've travelled a long way and access is tricky. Working efficiently is a different thing altogether.


I've been eyeing the Arca Swiss D4 tripod head up since I first clapped eyes on it. I've been using an Induro BHL3 for years now, and I can vouch highly for this bomb proof bit of kit, it's a keeper, and despite my need for the D4 I will be holding onto this, everyone should have a decent ball head in their kit bag. Getting it totally level for interior and architectural photography was a bit of a trick though, even more so at the end of a fourteen hour shoot when generally everything gets a bit trickier. After a bit of digging about I found a new product, which in the short term was getting some very favourable reviews. The KPS T5 looked to me like a better option, as there are times where I prefer the functionality of a ball head, but this offered up precision geared movements in that format. Too good to be true, but on reading some favourable reviews from some very reputable sites I decided to give it a go. Now I'm not here to deride this product, on the face of it I think it is an excellent idea, the quality of materials used in the head was high, and it was reassuringly heavy. I'm not convinced I was sent an entirely new product, the only place I could find UK stock was on ebay, I'm just not willing to get thumped by import tax on equipment purchases at this price, it can end up being pretty expensive. I think I was unlucky enough to be sent someone else's faulty return, and the long story short is the head didn't work as it was supposed to, in fact it pretty much came apart. Once the return and refund was sorted I was straight onto the Arca Swiss D4. I can't tell you the difference it's made. Bomb proof, precision built, lovely bit of engineering, the finish is immaculate, I reckon this one is for life. The rotational top plate is so good for shooting interiors and getting all the lines straight, especially in single point perspective shots, there is a lower rotational plate as well which is great for getting the head roughly in line with your subject before the fine tuning starts. Teamed up with the Kirk L plate on my Canon 1Ds3 I can't think of a better 35mm digital set up for shooting interiors and architecture, especially when I'm tethered to my Google Nexus 10 via DSLR Controller, which you can read more about on an earlier blog over here. My only gripe about the D4 is the spirit levels aren't quite 100% accurate, but I have a top plate circular level to get it bang on. The only problem I have with the full set up you see on the top image is the weight, which has benefits when it comes to a compositing work flow, but the bottom line is, you're not going to be dragging this lot up a hill. Especially not the Manfrotto 161mk2B which is 9kg before you put a tripod head on it, never mind the Tether Tools AeroTab S2 and your tablet of choice. I have made the mistake of shouldering this tripod up a medium size hill before, and it wasn't a great experience, I'm not a physically huge person though.


Might have to get another one of these powerbanks, so handy not just in this line of work, but I can power a small set of speakers and an mp3 player off this 12000mah model for days, and I mean days. However the best use is what you see here, I can power my TP-Link TL-MR3040 and Nexus 10 tablet for 3 days straight before I need to charge them. I have had to shop around for short length micro USB cables for the TP-Link though, a good deal of which have failed until I found the one you can see in the image above, the tension the flexi cable provides keeps a solid contact with the router and keeps it charged at all times. It's details that please me the most sometimes, and when you find a solution that works for a bespoke set up, it's always satisfying. This is about as much as I can improve on my own set up for now, new problems always arise when you change how you work, short of buying into medium format I don't see this changing much in the near future. Any questions about this blog post to