Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's

Wildlife Photography

June 2002

Tip of the Month


Wimberley 400 & 600 IS adapter plate

As I've described elsewhere, the Canon 400mm F2.8 IS lens is my favorite long lens, with incredible versatility because of its close focusing ability and its wonderful matching up with both the 1.4X and the 2X tele-converters. However, the lens is heavy -- not like a pig, but more like a hippo. I'll put up with the weight for the versatility, however. But, both the 400 and the 600mm have rather large tripod-mounting feet that add considerably to the over-all bulk of the lens. This might not be a problem when carrying the lens on a tripod, but it can be a problem, or at least a headache, when either one of these lenses is slipped into, or out of, a Kinesis or Lowepro or Domkee long lens pack or case, and it surely is a problem when packing the lens in a roll-on piece of carry-on luggage.

We fly a tremendous amount, and we usually pack our long lenses in a 19" carry-on with rollers (the type you'll see flight attendants using). The big tripod mounting foot of my 400mm lens sticks out far enough from the body of the lens that it creates a sizable space, or gap, that eats up packing room in my case. I've filled that area with spare clothes or with small bags of loosely packed film, but nonetheless, the foot created minor problems for my packing.

On safari, I often carry my big lens in a Domkee lens case (although we are in development for an Ultimate Safari Lens Bag!), and the foot sometimes hangs up as the lens goes in, and sometimes even presents minor problems by catching when I pull the lens out of the case. In the field, when I'm using either a Lowepro Long Lens Pack or the Kinesis Long Lens Pack (both are great, and I use one or the other, depending upon my needs at the time, or if Mary is using one of the two, as well), the big foot also creates some difficulties. I love using a Lowepro PhotoTrekker, but the big foot on the 400 really made fitting much else in that bag almost impossible.

Still, I persevered, because I love the lens. But now, I love it even more, because I've replaced the foot of the 400mm lens with the Wimberley 400 IS Adapter Plate (Part #AP-602). This foot replaces the big L-shaped foot of the lens, and gives the lens a sleek look that allows the lens to pack easily into all my carrying equipment. The profile of the lens is so narrow, now, that the lens hood actually fits OVER the tripod foot. With the original foot, the L shaped foot extended over the hood.

The new lens foot is dove-tailed, of course, to fit on Arca-Swiss style ballheads, and also has tapped screw holes for both the Really Right Stuff flash arm or the Kirk flash arm -- a super convenience for those owning either one of these flash arm brackets. Of course, the Wimberley flash arm connector fits too, and it is the one I use. The flash arm attaches directly to the lens plate via a clamp, and can be disassembled and removed (or mounted as required) in seconds. No other flash arm allows this -- it is super! When I'm using the Wimberley Gimbal-styled tripod head I use the flash arm assembly designed specifically for the tripod head -- mounted on the vertical grove that also allows for precise vertical placement of the clamp/mounting assembly. That's the one I'm illustrating, below.

If there is one drawback to my new lens plate it is this: Because the foot mounts so closely to the lens barrel, you cannot easily grip the lens plate as a handle for carrying the lens. The old L-shaped foot (with a plate attached) made a convenient handle. I can get a grip on the plate with my fingers, but I wouldn't want to trust carrying the heavy lens like this for any length of time, or over water! However, that's what the lens strap (attached to the camera lens) is there for! This drawback is minor, and after testing the plate for three weeks in Yellowstone and upper Montana, I'm a believer. The plate is staying on, and my original L shaped tripod foot is now resting peacefully in my equipment drawer.

Above is the rig as I often have it, with the Wimberley flash arm attached and a TTL flash mounted. Only thing missing is the tele-flash that we usually have mounted on the flash unit, too. The smaller lens profile seems to help in balancing the Wimberley tripod head, too, and I've had no trouble, now, finding a quick center of gravity for the most efficient lens/camera mounting. If you own a Canon 400 or 600mm IS lens -- buy this plate!


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