October 14, 2012

Sunwayfoto DDH-02 compact Panning Clamp Review

Sunwayfoto DDH-02 Panning Clamp in box overview
A little while after the announcement of the Sunwayfoto DDH-02 Panning Clamp and the publication of Sunwayfoto DDH-02 compact Panning Clamp Preview, I received a complementary copy from Sunwayfoto headquarters for a hands on evaluation.

In my original article, although I liked the clamp I had also expressed some reservations concerning the abilities of this panning clamp, due to the very small and compact size. Since I have already described all specifications and dimensions in the previous article, I shall engage more in the testing and evaluation results as well as the functionality of this little fellow with some implementation ideas.

The Clamp

Sunwayfoto DDH-02 Panning Clamp box
The clamp came shrink wrapped in the usual by now Sunwayfoto recycled-carton box. A large label shows the content photo, model and main specification.

As seen in the first photo above, all parts are inserted in pre-cut foam sockets that protect them during transport.
There is an extra layer of foam bellow (thicker) and above (thinner) for even better protection from scratches.


Sunwayfoto DDH-02 Panning Clamp box contents
DDH-02 is accompanied by an M6 flat-head hex screw for mounting on a ball head together with the appropriate Allen hex key. Enclosed in a zip nylon bag are the Sunwayfoto credit card sized Warranty card stating model and serial number and the "Customer Information Card" for use together with the Warranty card in case of applying for a warranty claim.
I should repeat here, that Sunwayfoto offers a 5 year limited warranty extension, upon registration of certain products in their website within one month from the date of purchase.
Sunwayfoto DDH-02 side top view
First impression besides the very small size is the usual to me by now Sunwayfoto quality in machining, finishing and fitting of the parts. Everything operates smoothly and fluidly due to the thick silicone-grease and very small tolerances.
Sunwayfoto DDH-02 top view
All dimensions and specifications extensively described in the DDH-02 Preview article were verified to be in par.
The control knobs although small are quite capable for their task. The screw knob tightens the clamp jaws firmly while...
Sunwayfoto DDH-02 bottom view
...the small Friction/Lock lever needs only half a rotation from a quarter to nine till a quarter past three in order to completely immobilize the slim panning base.

A small comparison
Is another thing to speak about compactness and other to take this panning clamp in your hands. So I made this comparison photo in order for the readers to comprehend better how really small DYH-02 is...

DDH-02 vs Benro PC-0 and PC-1 & Sunwayfoto DDP-64MX and DDP-64SX size comparison
DDH-02 between "Giants". On its left Benro PC-0 and PC-1 Panorama clamps and on the right Sunwayfoto DDP-64MX and DDP-64SX Panoramic Indexing Rotators.

Jaw and Panning Strength Assessment
By receiving DDH-02, one of the first tasks I had in mind was to either confirm or obliterate my doubts about the ability of such a small clamp to cope with substantial weight.

Sunwayfoto DDH-02 w/ rail & sand bag - torque test
Therefore, I performed a simple torque test that would prove the clamp jaw strength as well as the panning lock strength in a few steps. The DDH-02 panning clamp was attached on top of the Sunwayfoto DB-36TR Traveler Ball Head, mounted on the Triopo GT-3228X8C Traveler Tripod as shown above. Then a 10" long rail was clamped in the DDH-02 jaws which offered me a handy decimal scale and then one of my counter-balance weight bags was hang on the rail. By moving slowly the bag outwards I reached the maximum point before the clamp lost its inert status.
Sunwayfoto DDH-02 w/ rail & sand bag - closeup
A weight of approx 5,3 Kg (11.68 lb) hanging at an offset position of 13 cm is translated to a Torque of ~68.90 KgF*cm. Maybe the number does not tell you much by itself, but from now on I shall include such a number for all panning clamps, heads or panoramic rotators evaluated, as a comparative measure for their panning lock ability.
In other words, this small clamp can hold a large and heavy camera equipped with a long and heavy lens, while the center of gravity of the camera / lens combination is hanging quite far from the pivoting center.
69 KgF*cm may also be expressed as 10 kg (22 lb) load at 6,9 cm distance or even 20 kg (44 lb) load at 3,5 cm.
I should point out here that this small panning clamp outperformed the much larger and heavier Benro PC-0 (45.05 kgF*cm) being closer to the even larger PC-1 (82.15 KgF*cm) load abilities!

Using the Clamp...
Directly Mounted on DB-36TR Traveler ball head


Sunwayfoto DDH-02 on Sunwayfoto DB-36TR ball head
With a diameter of 5,2 cm and a weight of only 74 gr, DDH-02 is ideal for even a small foot print ball head like the Sunwayfoto DB-36TR Traveler Ball Head pictured above on the Triopo GT-3228X8C Traveler Tripod.
Sunwayfoto DDH-02 between Triopo GT-3228X8C folded legs - side
The circular design fits perfectly within the reverse folded legs without any need of tilting the clamp to fit as with DB-36TR's original clamp.
Sunwayfoto DDH-02 between Triopo GT-3228X8C folded legs - front
Looking from a different angle, we can see that the legs close completely without even touching the clamp's perimeter.
SIngle-row panorama setup on Sunwayfoto DDH-02
DDH-02 dimensions and weight are the same or even better than a common clamp. Therefore, it can be left permanently on a ball head and whenever needed can play the role of a panoramic rotator for shooting single row panoramas like in the setup above.

Directly Mounted on XB-44 Low Profile ball head
Sunwayfoto offers for sale a combination of XB-44 Low Profile Ball Head with the DDH-02 panning clamp pre-fit as a bundle under the XB-44DDH code name. As I had discussed in the DDH-02 preview the clamp complements very nicely the low profile nature of the ball head adding only a couple of milimeters to the overall height.

Sunwayfoto DDH-02 on Sunwayfoto XB-44 LP ball head
The DDH-02 Panning Clamp is attached on the XB-44 ball head, via an M6 stainless steel screw. So even if it is purchased as an upgrade for the XB-44 QR clamp, it is very easy to exchange clamps.
Sunwayfoto DDH-02 on Sunwayfoto XB-44 LP ball head - tilted
As discussed before, DDH-02's circular shape seems to be the answer to the limitations imposed by the original XB-44 quick release clamp's corners hitting against the ball head panning base and/or the oversized Friction/Lock knob, as I had noted in my XB-44 ball head review. DDH-02 can be tilted fully and rotated withing one of the XB-44 drop notches without any obstacle.
Sunwayfoto DDH-02 on Sunwayfoto XB-44 LP ball head - tilted lever issue
Due to the low profile of the XB-44 ball head, the panning lock lever, may impose a restriction in tilting the head fully into one of the drop notches, in case the head is mounted on a flat top tripod without a center column or the center column top mounting plate is larger than the head's base.
Sunwayfoto DDH-02 on Sunwayfoto XB-44 LP ball head - as gimbal - back
Having already verified the locking and load bearing abilities of DDH-02, let me propose its use as an alternative Gimbal solution for medium telephoto lenses up to 400 mm.
Sunwayfoto DDH-02 on Sunwayfoto XB-44 LP ball head - as gimbal - front
Pictured above is an alternative Gimbal solution based on Benro's A-298EX articulated center column abilities and Sunwayfoto XB-44 with DDH-02 carrying a Canon EF 100-400 L IS USM. The above combo is a versatile solution for on the spot transformation that can handle even heavier and longer focal length lenses.
However, considering the amount one has to spend for longer focal length lenses like 500, 600, 800 mm then a dedicated Gimbal Head's price won't be an issue.



Mounted via a Clamp Adapter
DDH-02 being the smallest of Sunwayfoto panning clamps is originally designed for direct attachment to their lighter ball heads as the New Sunwayfoto FB Series. Therefore, it lacks a dedicated Arca Mount as the larger DDH-03 or the DDP series of Panoramic Indexing rotators.
Somehow, there is a solution for those that need to use the clamp occasionally or are not able to attach it on their ball head due to thread or design incompatibilities.

Sunwayfoto DDH-02 w/ Hejnar Clamp Adapter plate & 1/4"-20 screw
All is needed is an Adapter Plate like the Hejnar PHOTO Clamp Adapter Plate and an 1/4"-20 flat-head hex screw.
Hejnar Clamp Adapter plate on Sunwayfoto DDH-02 - bottom
Mounting the clamp adapter, then DDH-02 panning clamp is automatically equipped with a bidirectional Arca-Swiss® compatible base plate...
Sunwayfoto DDH-02 on XB-44 ball head clamp via Hejnar Clamp Adapter plate
That can fit on any Arca-Swiss® compatible Quick Release clamp, or ball head equipped with one.

Mounted via MPP-1 as a Vertical Panoramic Rotator
Even before getting this panning clamp in my hands, its compact size and very light weight, prompted me to think how would it perform as a Multi-Row Panorama Head vertical rotator. The results from its panning lock strength test enhanced the idea even more. Next thing to check was the alignment of the panning scale.

Sunwayfoto DDH-02 panning base alignment drawing
DDH-02's panning scale follows the design pattern of most ball heads with a 0-90-0 numbering. Although I would prefer a 0-360 scale numbering for horizontal panning, its not bad at all for vertical panning as nobody will ever use a full scale.
The most crucial point for a vertical panoramic rotator is that the zero (0) mark be correctly aligned with the mounting grooves, plates or screws at the back of the rotator.
As obvious from the green line in the photo above, the 0 mark on the panning scale is in line with the anti-twist groove at the back of the clamp, making a perfect candidate for the realization of my idea.
Sunwayfoto DDH-02 w/ Hejnar G16-80+F60 QR clamp + Screw + bushing + Sunwayfoto MPP-01 + Friction Tool
Pictured above are the components for the assembly of a lightweight yet sturdy vertical panorama bracket.
I found Hejnar PHOTO G16-80 5/8" thick Multi Purpose rail equipped with a 1,5" Quick Release clamp most appropriate for the task, due to its end to end long captive slot. Then Sunwayfoto MPP-01 Mate Plate with a long 1/4"-20 captive screw and a 1/4"-20 to 3/8"-16 conversion bushing in order to mount and align the DDH-02 on the vertical rail and last the useful Sunwayfoto Friction Tool which will help to tighten the bushing on the clamp.
Sunwayfoto DDH-02 installation on Hejnar G16-80 via MMP-01 Mate plate
DDH-02 is prepared by screwing and tightening the bushing from the top. Then the captive screw is passed in the rail slot, the MPP-1 mate plate is aligned both on the clamp grooves and the rail slot. Needless to say that MPP-1 serves also as an anti-twist mechanism.
Sunwayfoto DDH-02 on Hejnar G16-80 as vertical rotator
All we need is to bring them together and screw the 1/4"-20 captive screw tightly. Our lightweight vertical rotator is ready.
Sunwayfoto DDH-02 usage in lightweight pano head
Photo above was shot during my evaluation and testing of DDH-02 last summer. A convenient and lightweight solution for a vertical panoramic rotator indeed. For more details and structural information you may read the upcoming Create a Mini Multi Row (MR) Panorama Head for Mirrorless Cameras article.

Minor issue with panning scale index mark
As I had mentioned in the Sunwayfoto DDH-02 compact Panning Clamp Preview a few months ago, I was a little skeptical about the panning scale index mark positioning.
The index mark positioning is not wrong, as it also marks the middle axis of the clamp, which is perfect for vertical panning. However, when it comes to horizontal panning, the very slim design of DDH-02 puts the mark too close to the top of the clamp so by using a long rail like a nodal rail for example will obscure it.

Sunwayfoto DDH-02 panning index mark detail
When using long rails, the Φ index mark is obscured under the rail, so a little back bending will be necessary  in order to look under the rail for proper positioning in horizontal panning.
Other rotators, even Sunwayfoto's earlier models, have also an index mark just opposite the clamp's screw knob. But in DDH-02 case this would be impossible since the position is occupied by the Lock Lever. In my opinion the only option is to add an index mark somewhere in the front near the Lock Lever where it would be more visible. The position of the extra mark is not critical for horizontal panning, as the 0 point can be changed by using the ball head pan underneath.

Arca-Swiss® Compatibility
Sunwayfoto has a complete range of universal or dedicated camera and lens plates as well as a series of multi purpose rails which cover almost any need, and of course DDH-02 panning quick release clamp is fully compatible with Sunwayfoto's own gear.

On the other hand, in order to check its compatibility with other manufacturers plates and rails, DDH-02 was tested with various camera plates, lens plates and multipurpose long rails of various thicknesses and widths. Plates / Rails tested were from Benro, Kiwi Fotos, Fotoporo, Marumi and Hejnar PHOTO, with very good results in general, but showing a small issue with 38 mm wide and 1/2" or 5/8" (16 mm) thick rails from Hejnar PHOTO and Benro.

For the readers that like numbers, I hereunder quote detailed measurements of the clamp Jaw dimensions, so as they can decide whether this panning clamp is compatible with the dimensions of their plates or rails.

Clamp Jaw dimensions        mm
Jaw Length24.04
Steady Jaw Height04.12
Moving Jaw Height04.10
Min Jaw Lip Opening33.92
Max Jaw Lip Opening37.67
Min Base Opening39.10
Max Base Opening43.97

The yellow figures in the above specs are considered a little low compared with 5 mm which is the middle of the dovetail V cut. All other dimensions fall within the average limits, consisting the clamp compatible with a large number of Arca-Swiss® type plates and rails.

Sunwayfoto DDH-02 jaw dimension detail
In regard of the Benro and Hejnar 5/8" (16 mm) thick rails mentioned above, due to their slightly different design dovetails from Sunwayfoto's, and especially the edge radius, there might be an issue of the jaws clamping marginally on the dovetail edge, which means that care should be taken when tightening the clamp. The rails will be clamped well but this extra care may cause a little frustration to some users.

Nevertheless, the clamp jaws are very strong and due to the very small tolerances there is no play or deformation of the moving jaw as with cheap clamps, so as to fear that a rail may fall off. In order to be on the safe side, before recommending this clamp for full compatibility I conducted a load test.

I clamped a 5/8" thick rail on the DYH-02 in vertical orientation (perpendicular to the floor) and then hang from the rail slot a few sand sacks (which I use as counter-balance or stabilizers for large boom stands) totaling 15 kg (33 lbs). Nothing moved, nothing slipped, rock solid.

Pros
Excellent machining, finishing, fitting and build quality.
Extremely low weight for a panoramic clamp.
Very smooth operation in all aspects.
Exceptionally strong jaw and pan locking for its size.
Excellent value for money ratio.
5 year limited warranty extension upon registration.

Cons
Panoramic scale index mark may be easily obscured under a long nodal rail.
Clamp jaws are a little short for the dovetail edge radius of some 5/8" thick rails from other manufacturers.

Conclusion
Small sizes, besides being cute, have their advantages and disadvantages. Somehow this very compact panning clamp's advantages outperform by far a couple of disadvantages which are not so serious anyway. Sunwayfoto DDH-02 is a design and machining marvel that can cope better than I expected for its small size.
Fully recommended especially for travelers and hikers since it will not add any more weight, being even lighter than a common clamp.

Note:
The DDH-02 Panning Clamp presented in this article was kindly offered for evaluation and review by Sunwayfoto. Many thanks, especially for the dedication on the serial number.


Disclaimer:
This review and test was run on a single product sample, using the specifically described methods.  Although the findings are good and overcame the expectations for the product, it can not be used as a rule, unless more samples of the same product are tested. Furthermore, similar comparison tests should be run with comparative capabilities products so as to reach a solid conclusion.


I hope you found the article and ideas useful, thank you for viewing.
All Photos & Photosynths: © 2012 S.C.Vlachos

Price & Availability:
Current price for the DDH-02 is US$ 99.00 (+Shipping where applicable) and is available from Amazon.com
Update July 2013
DDH-02 Panning Clamp has been replaced by the New Improved Sunwayfoto DDH-02i Panning Clamp.

Referenced Articles:
Sunwayfoto DDH-02 compact Panning Clamp Preview
Sunwayfoto MPP-01 Mate Plate Adapter Review
Sunwayfoto DB-36TRLR Traveler Ball Head Review
Sunwayfoto XB-44 Low Profile Ball Head Review
A useful Friction Tool by Sunwayfoto
Triopo GT-3228X8C Traveler Tripod Review
Hejnar PHOTO Clamp Adapter Plate Review
Hejnar PHOTO G15-80, G16-80 and G15-60 Multi Purpose Rails

Relevant Articles:
Sunwayfoto DDH-03 Panning Clamp Review
New Sunwayfoto FB Series Lightweight Ball Heads
Create a Mini MR Panorama Head for Mirrorless Cameras

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