*note: I am in no way affiliated or paid by Manfrotto. Views are my own and a response to the numerous questions I've received over the past year using this device
For about six months now I've had a secret weapon in my camera bag. Traditionally, I always carry my tripod with me when shooting almost anywhere at night. However, In the case of photographing in busy cities, a bulky tripod is not always the best tool of choice for a stabilized setup. Enter the Manfrotto Super Clamp.
In any given situation where I need to set up for long exposures or to bracket my shots, I can now give consideration to what best configuration will work for getting the shot. Busy area with lots of people? Limited physical space to set up? Desired angle too tricky? No tripod rule? These are the types of scenarios where having a clamp comes in really handy. The obvious caveat of course, is that you need a suitable object to latch onto. Railings and poles being the natural candidates.
I've used this clamp a lot in Hong Kong to mitigate the amount of space that would otherwise be taken up by setting up a full-size tripod setup. A great example of this is up at the peak, a very busy tourist spot. At the Peak Tower, although tripods are allowed, it's too cumbersome to setup and to keep people from knocking the legs. Not to mention the often strong winds from being on top of a hill which can ruin an exposure. Here I can easily set up the clamp by latching onto the glass railing. This gives 2 benefits, firstly it's insanely stable, and secondly, it allows me to position the camera over the edge of the railing, making for easier wide-angle compositions.
The same applies to the photographer's spot along the walking trail on Lugard Road. Every evening hoards of photographers make claim to the minimal railing space at this shooting location. It can often be difficult to find a gap, so again utilizing the clamp allows for a more minimal and stable setup. It also makes all the other photographers really jealous!
The clamp in action at The Peak Tower and Lugard Road
Given that the main focus of my photography has always involved shooting in big cities, I'm just surprised I never thought to invest in one of these clamps earlier. Sure it's not perfect for everything. It's not as adaptive as say a Gorillapod, but it makes up for that with its sheer sturdiness. Given that it's rated to take about 15kg weight, pretty much nothing is going to budge an inch on this once firmly clamped down. I have no qualms about dangling my D810 & 70-200 over the edge of a high building if it's secured to this.
Even in a horizontal position, the clamp is rock solid. Allowing for setups like this on a busy tram otherwise unobtainable.
The operation of the Manfrotto 035L is extremely simple. It has a set of metal jaws designed to latch onto circular objects between roughly 1/4" to just over 2". To attach to flat objects, there is a little plastic wedge with rubber feet that fits in-between the jaws.
To attach a tripod head, you will also need to buy the correct 'stud' that attaches to the top of the clamp. Manfrotto sells a reversible stud that takes both the standard tripod head mount and camera/speedlite mount at the other end.
I suppose the only downside to this clamp might be its weight. For a DSLR + heavy zoom lens, it's perfect. Probably overkill for a smaller mirrorless or compact setup. Weighing 400grams (0.88 pounds), it's also not an item that will naturally find it's way into your camera bag for every outing. I only bring it with me if I'm 50/50 on its usefulness for a particular location.
All that being said, the Manfrotto 035L surprisingly costs less than 30 bucks.
For that amount and the number of times its allowed me to achieve shots otherwise difficult or outright impossible, it's already paid for itself. If you are into long exposure or night photography in busy urban areas, then I would seriously consider adding one of these to your camera bag.
For this shot taken in Laos, there was simply too much foot traffic on this tiny bridge I was shooting from. Setting up a tripod would have been both cumbersome, and inconsiderate to other passing tourists.