Looking for the best L-bracket for your DSLR or mirrorless camera? This guide will tell you what to look out for, help you pick the best one, and find you the best prices.
We all know the value of using a tripod for shooting landscapes. Not only does it keep your camera rock-steady through the duration of an exposure, it’s also a vital composition aid. It enables you to carefully compose your scene, then wait for the opportune moment just before firing the shutter.
Jobbing pros also know that to maximize the sales potential of their shots, they have to shoot in both landscape and portrait orientations, so that their images are suitable for magazine or brochure spreads and covers.
However, tripods are primarily designed for shooting horizontally. While most tripod heads can be tilted by 90 degrees to flip the camera into a vertical orientation, this shifts the position of the camera to the side of – and often below – the original shooting position, so your carefully considered composition needs to be redone from scratch.
It also shifts the centre of gravity from directly above the tripod legs, potentially destabilising the entire setup.
An L-bracket is a camera plate that wraps around the camera in an L-shape, with the tripod mount running underneath and to the side of the camera. To change the shooting orientation from horizontal to vertical, you pop the camera off the tripod and remount it using the socket on its side.
On the face of it, an L-bracket is simply a right-angled piece of metal – but, as ever, there’s a little more to it than that. Let’s check out the L-bracket options…
The best L-bracket for your camera
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Available in a striking copper orange or a (slightly) more sober metallic slate gray finish, the Ellie certainly is eye-catching. Like the Benro and Zhiyou brackets here, it’s crafted from two pieces of aluminum, but the key difference is that while the rival brackets’ plates are fixed in place, here hex keys can be loosened to slide the base plate along rails, to snugly fit the shape of your camera.
Rather than the camera attachment screw sliding along the length of the base plate, there are two slots for them to slide across the width of the plate, and this enables the opening on the side plate to be aligned with the connector door openings. On our Nikon D850 test DSLR, we were able to access the HDMI and USB sockets. The headphone and mic sockets were still blocked by the bar across the top of the plate, but these aren’t used for the type of stills shooting scenarios for which L-brackets are designed. On our Nikon Z7, everything was accessible.
Another thoughtful touch is that the slide plate edges are contoured, to enable flip-out screens to be easily accessed.
By far the most substantial bracket here, Manfrotto’s RC4 is a one-piece design and is constructed from magnesium. While the other brackets come with an Arca Swiss fitting, the RC4 is compatible with Manfrotto’s 410PL quick-release plate; Arca Swiss plates slide along the length into a tripod mount, while this clicks into a fixed position on the tripod head. Further variations are the Q2, fitted with 200PL-14 plates, and the Q5, which uses 501PL plates.
The RC4 comes with a Y-shaped ruler to measure the distance between the lens barrel and plate; the idea is you set the same distance between the lens and both the base and side plates, so the centre of the lens is perfectly lined up in both portrait and landscape orientation. Other features include a level bubble, and a pullout peg to prevent the camera rotating.
The RC4 dwarfs our test Z7 to the point of being difficult to use the controls, and even felt like overkill on the D850. This bracket is really designed for the more square shape of bigger pro-grade cameras, such as the Nikon D6, or when a battery grip is fitted to the camera.
Benro’s bracket has a shorter base plate than the Zhiyou, but it fits both a full-sized DSLR and a full-frame mirrorless, thanks to the camera screw that slides from left to right along the base plate. The chunky camera-mount screw has a D-ring to enable hand-tightening, but is also supplied with a hex key to fully secure the plate to the camera.
Like most of the plates here, rubber pads run along the top of the plate to protect the underside of the camera, and there’s a slot for a hand strap to be attached. It’s constructed from two plates of aluminum, joined securely with a hex bolt.
Most of the side plate is open, with the tripod plate fitting running along two arms. The idea is that this gives access to the camera connectors, but we found that all the sockets on our test DSLR (a Nikon D850) were obscured by one of the arms, blocking access to the HDMI, USB, headphone and mic sockets.
On our test mirrorless (a Nikon Z 7) you could just about access the headphone/mic sockets, but the camera remote socket was also obscured, in addition to the HDMI and USB ports.
Kirk is one of the oldest names in the L-bracket game - and is still a great choice for the serious photographer. American made, Kirk brackets are custom made to fit a wide range of mirrorless and DSLR cameras, old and new - and they even make models that are suitable for use with optional vertical grips. When shopping for a Kirk, you need to make sure that you have picked the right one for your camera - as there are lots of options available.
We were keen to see how a cheaper option found on the likes of Amazon and eBay fared against its brand-name rivals. We plumped for the Zhiyou Universal Camera L-Bracket.
It feels solidly made, despite its low price tag, and is constructed from two hefty chunks of aluminium, joined together with a pair of hex bolts. We were relieved that, when switching the camera from horizontal to vertical orientation, the camera remained perfectly level.
Both the base plate and the side plate have a measuring scale marked along their length, to make lining up the camera with just the right place on the tripod head easier for framing the scene.
It’s actually one of the longer brackets in the test, with the base plate measuring 13.5cm, and the camera screw mounting slot extending a good 7cm of this, ensuring it fits a wide variety of cameras. However, it’s so long that it obscures the battery door of even a big camera such as a D850. The side plate blocks all the camera connection ports too, although it’s packed with a multitude of accessory mounting screw holes.
Originally launched alongside the Nikon Z6 and Z7, the Zelda is a custom-fit bracket designed solely for Nikon’s full-frame mirrorless range. With their form factors being virtually identical, it also fits the more recent Nikon Z 5, as well as the Z 6II and the Z 7II. The smaller Z 50 has its own variant, the 3-Legged Thing Zayla.
Unlike the other aluminum brackets, this is crafted from a single piece of metal; with
no joins, there shouldn’t be any danger of the right angle sagging over time.
The camera connection screw doesn’t slide along the frame but is fixed in place; a notch next to it slips into a recess on the underside of Z-system full-frame bodies, ensuring that the camera is perfectly lined up.
The open side plate is designed to fit the ports of the Z cameras precisely, and there’s also a screw hole for attaching accessories. It fits the Z cameras so well that it’s the obvious choice if you own one of these mirrorless machines.
The downside, of course, is that it won’t fit any other non-full-frame Z mirrorless cameras you might have – now or in the future.
L-bracket: things to look out for
1. A universal bracket offers flexibility to upgrade your camera, but a custom-fit bracket ensures a perfect fit.
2. Most L-brackets are Arca Swiss-compatible: if your tripod head doesn’t have this mount, it won’t fit.
3. Designs that enable you to access the battery door are handy should you run out of juice mid-shoot.
4. Some brackets obscure the connection ports, which may be a problem if you like to shoot tethered. It may be preferable to use a wireless remote, rather than a cable release.
5. An L-bracket often obstructs the battery compartment of the camera – insert fully charged batteries before you attach the bracket to save you time disassembling the setup during your shoot.
6. Take advantage of your bracket and don’t move the head once it’s level (excluding pivot functions). Adjust the legs if you need to re-level your camera.
7. Rubber strips on the base plate prevent scratches and scrapes on the underside of your camera.
8. Larger lenses often come packaged with a rotatable lens collar, fitted with a tripod screwthread. This is a better option to an L-bracket for these front-heavy setups as it reduces strain on the lens mount.