l-plate-for-a-camera

Sorry, this isn’t exactly the most beautiful photo I’ve ever taken. I’m typing this post while in the airport, flying home from a free meetup with some readers of Improve Photography in Arizona.

For years I’ve been recommending that every photographer should get an L-plate for their camera. Yet, when I go on meetups with readers of Improve Photography from around the world, only about 1 out of every 30 readers of this site actually has an L-plate-probably because it’s a little confusing until you see one in action.

So in this post I want to show you what L-plates are, how inexpensive they are, and how useful they can be.

What’s an L plate for a camera? An L plate is a piece of metal that replaces the quick release plate for your ballhead. The piece of metal turns 90 degrees up the side of the camera so you can attach the side or bottom of the camera to the ballhead.

Why I (Highly) Recommend Getting an L-Plate

First of all, I should clarify my recommendation. If you shoot portraits and don’t work on a tripod very often, then I’d skip the L-plate. An L-plate is only useful when shooting on a tripod. However, if you shoot architecture, landscape, product, commercial, night, nature, macro, or any other type of photography that is done on a tripod, then it’s an awesome accessory to have.

The benefit of an L-plate is that you can attach either the bottom of the camera to your ballhead, or you can flip the camera on its side (for taking a vertical orientation photo) and attach the side of the camera to the ballhead. This way, you don’t have the camera flopping off the side of the ballhead, unable to get your composition right when shooting a vertical.

Also, an L-plate allows the photographer to center the lens on the ballhead. Traditional quick release plates for ballheads (the little thing that attaches to the bottom of your camera and came with the ballhead) put the lens too far to the right. This means the tripod is off center (and more likely to tip if bumped or very windy). It also means that when you shoot a panorama, the camera is not pivoting on the right spot, so it can lead to problems in stitching the shots together.

Cost of an L-Plate

This is one of my favorite photography accessories partly because an L plate is very inexpensive, generally. Usually you can find an L-plate for under $50.

There are much more expensive L Plates. I once bought one from Really Right Stuff for over $100 and it really was no better than the $40 l plate I had purchased on Amazon. So I’ll tell you some things to look for when buying, but don’t feel like you have to get the premium L-plate.

Where To Find An L Plate for Your Camera

Step 1: Click this link to see the L Plates available on Amazon.

Step 2: Look on that page for one that works with your camera model. You may want to type in your camera model in the search box with the term “l plate” to find one. Just be sure you DON’T buy one that says it’s “universal”!!! It needs to be formed specifically for your camera model.

You’ll probably find one for $50 or less that gets decent reviews. I really wouldn’t worry unless it has fewer than 3 stars. Since these are very simple pieces, most people don’t really bother to write positive reviews for an L plate because they are mostly all the same. It’s normal to see some negative reviews from the few people who were picky about something.

This is a GOOD L-plate. It goes around the ports on the side so I can change the battery and use the ports without taking the plate off. The plate stays on permanently.

This is a GOOD L-plate. It goes around the ports on the side so I can change the battery and use the ports without taking the plate off. The plate stays on permanently.

What to Look For When Buying an L-Plate

L plates are pretty simple, so you really won’t find any with crazy features or tech. However, here are some handy features to have. Don’t feel like any of them are deal-breakers.

  • NEVER buy a “universal L plate.” You’ll see many of them advertised on B&H and on Amazon. They claim to fit any camera. These are NEVER a good idea. They’ll almost always block the little doors and ports on the side of the camera, or require you to take off the L plate to replace the battery. Only buy an L-plate specifically fitted to your camera. I have links below to help with that.
  • Make sure it’s made of metal. I wouldn’t trust a plastic L Plate. They are essentially cramped down in a vice (your ballhead) every time you use one, so it’s probably best to get a sturdy metal plate.
  • It’s handy if you can find one that attaches to the bottom of your camera with something other than an allen wrench. If it has the little flippy hand crank on it, it makes it easier to tighten by hand if it works loose.
  • It’s nice if they come with a rubberized bottom so it couldn’t scratch the bottom of your camera, but this shouldn’t be an issue as long as you tighten it very well to the camera so it doesn’t move around.

Original Content provided by Improve Photography

12 Comments

  1. Robin Kaspar

    I had to laugh. I went to Amazon to see what is available for my 70D. One of the choices is from China and costs $400.

  2. There can always be some extreme overpriced knuckleheads, but I bought 2 Nikon and 1 Sony camera model specific l brackets that costs between $17 to $35 each from Amazon and eBay new that fit the cameras very well.

  3. Hey Robin, you probably found one by now, but for my 70D I bought a Fotga F70DL for $35.99. It worked perfectly. Well, if there is one issue that I am sure is true with most 70D L-Plates, is that when the LCD is out, you could scratch the plastic a little like I did if you pull your LCD in without folding it parallel with the ground first before rotating it back in. The L-Plate makes room for the LCD screen arm, but the screen sits a little inset into gap of the L-Plate.
    Crud, not sure how helpful my post is now that I went to get you a link to it and Fotga is not selling it currently. Maybe you can still use this info to look for a used one.
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B011NT47Y6/

  4. Nevin Hilliard

    Every L-Plate I have seen for my Canon T3i looks like it impedes the flip-out screen

  5. Susan Koppel

    I use them just to protect the camera because I hardly ever use a tripod. But I’ve had the camera fall and the plate has taken the hit, not the camera.

  6. This is true about not finding some l brackets, but for your specific case it’s usually not due to high end cameras, it’s due to the flip out screen.

  7. My issue with the L plate for my D750 (made by RRS) is that it is too close to the side of the camera. I can’t use a trigger when in portrait orientation. as the cord sticks out too far. Any thoughts or suggestions would be very helpful.

  8. I am new to photography and looks like I will be needing this one since my focus would be on birds and wildlife. Thanks for the tips , I always tend to buy things that are universal ( you know those with the likes of universal charger), and glad to know that it is not best for this.

  9. Craig Stampfli

    Jim, could it be that the reason you see few L-Plates on meet ups is because L-Plates are typically purchased after a tripod, and if the tripod doesn’t have an Arca Swiss mount/head, then the L-Plate won’t be compatible? Two quick release plates would be needed otherwise, which would be quite annoying. I agree they are useful and I keep one fitted to one of my bodies all of the time.

  10. Almost all ballheads are arca swiss, and all of the ballheads I recommend here on the site are Arca Swiss compatible, so I’m not sure if that’s it. But it’s a good point to remember.

  11. I had to chuckle a bit when I saw your search criteria on your Amazon link “l plate -universal”.
    In all seriousness I thank you for your post. I have been interested in buying one for a while, but I have a Fuji XE2S. I have not found any that explicitly say they fit that body.

  12. Does anyone know of an L Plate for the XT-1 that will work with the Fuji battery grip other than the RRS?

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