February 19, 2014

Hejnar Photo ND800 Modular L Bracket for Nikon D800 Review

Nikon D800 w/ Hejnar ND800 Modular L Bracket
by Jan Kyster
How did I end up here?
Some time ago I was complaining to Sotiris about some details of the L-bracket I used on my Nikon D800 and aired the idea of replacing it.

He suggested, I should have a look at Hejnar PHOTO's bracket.
Sotiris also suggested to share my experience and make a short review of the bracket, so here we are...

Not a professional review in any way, but merely my impressions as the end-user of this product.

Not a very good photographer either, so please excuse the (lack of) quality of images...
(SCV's note: Besides modesty being a virtue, nonetheless I have seen some awesome work from Jan.)

Packaging & Contents

USPS padded envelope w/ L bracket
This lovely coloured - and bulky! - envelope was delivered by the mailman last month.
Hejnar ND800 Modular L Bracket packaging
Further protected in a bubbleplast envelope was a little, clear plastic bag.
Hejnar ND800 Modular L Bracket and hex tools
The ND800 L Bracket itself and no less than three Allen hex keys... One for the 1/4"-20 mounting screw, one for the vertical side mounting screw and one for the M3 safety stop screw.

The L Bracket

Manufacturer Specification:
Model:ND800
Length:11.18 cm (4.40")
Height:7.77 cm (3,06")
Weight:113 gr ( 4 oz)
Tapped Holes:2 x 1/4"-20
Safety Stop Screws:1 x M3
Color:Black hard coat anodized
Material:6061-T6 Aluminium C.N.C. machined
Made in :USA

Hejnar ND800 Modular L Bracket backside
The Hejnar ND800 Modular L bracket back side...
Hejnar ND800 Modular L Bracket side view
Vertical Side view...
Hejnar ND800 Modular L Bracket front view
Front view...
Hejnar ND800 Modular L Bracket end view
Base plate End view...
The ND800 L bracket is made from 6061-T6 grade aluminum (according to Hejnar PHOTO website), and is anodized with a hard, black coating.
I have previous experience with some rails, a nodal slide and a tiny clamp, all from Hejnar as well, and the coating on these items has been extremely resistant to scratches and marks.

For my previous camera, a Nikon D300s, I used a RRS L-bracket. The coating on RRS was also very good. A couple of years with heavy use have only shown a few, light scratches.
The coating of Hejnar products is in same class as RRS, at least.

But where RRS is like dark brownish, the Hejnar is deep black.
And the coating is certainly classes above the coating used on the Markins L-bracket, see further down for notes on this...

Initial impression is a very well worked bracket with great care to details, definitely worth some close-up shots!
Hejnar ND800 Modular L Bracket base plate end detail
The end of the bracket base plate, a nice detail forming a loop for attaching a hand strap.
Hejnar ND800 Modular L Bracket vertical plate mounting screw detail
The Vertical Side is attached with only one screw and can be easily removed.
Hejnar ND800 Modular L Bracket vertical plate mounting detail

Hejnar ND800 Modular L Bracket base plate bottom details
One safety stop screw and two threaded sockets for mounting the camera directly on a pole or pod without having to remove the bracket.
Hejnar ND800 Modular L Bracket bottom view
Full bottom view.
Hejnar ND800 Modular L Bracket components
Here the bracket has been broken down into individual parts

Mounting the L Bracket on the Camera

Hejnar ND800 MLB attached on Nikon D800 back-view
When using L-brackets, I always mount them by aligning the side of camera to the inside of bracket, like above.
Hejnar ND800 MLB base plate aligned on Nikon D800 bottom
There is a bit of play when mounting the base plate, so I use the LCD cover to align the bracket, when tightening it.
Hejnar ND800 MLB on Nikon D800 side back view
And here's the result... One detail, I really like, is the absence of text and logos on the bracket.

Mounting on an Arca Compatible Clamp
Some close-ups of setup clamped in the Benro PC-1 Panorama Clamp (Reviewed) which is permanently mounted on my ball head.

Nikon D800 w/ Hejnar ND800 MLB clamped left-side/front view

Nikon D800 w/ Hejnar ND800 MLB clamped right-side/back view

Nikon D800 w/ Hejnar ND800 MLB clamped right-side/front view

Nikon D800 w/ Hejnar ND800 MLB clamped left-side/back view

Nikon D800 w/ Hejnar ND800 MLB clamped right-side view



Using the L Bracket
To open the connectors cover, the bracket will have to be slid out. The cover can't be opened without this little procedure.
This is no problem to me, as I never download images through the USB 3 port and don't shoot tethered either.

And even if I was to shoot tethered with the camera in vertical position (portrait orientation), all brackets are of course needed to be slid off from the camera side anyway.

Nikon D800 w/ Hejnar ND800 MLB slid off / connector door open front
Front view with L bracket slid away from camera side and connectors door opened.
Nikon D800 w/ Hejnar ND800 MLB slid off / connector door open back
Here I have attached an external microphone for video recording.

Angled pin jack adapter
If I was to use the setup in vertical position with this big plug, I would probably just get an angled pin jack adapter similar to the one pictured on the right.

However, I would like to point out, that the used plug above is extra-ordinary large, so a "normal" plug should not need this adapter solution.

Since on the D800 the remote release cable is connected to a 10-pin socket on the front of the camera. It doesn't interfere with the bracket in any way.

Nikon D800 w/ Hejnar ND800 MLB and Remote Release connected
Nikon D800 is pictured above with YongNuo wireless remote release connected on front socket and with L bracket in normal position.

For tethering I would use the USB 3 socket below the microphone and for monitoring use, there are sockets for a headphone and a HDMI output.

The plug size of these connectors are smaller than my big, fat microphone plug and their cables are also much thinner, so it is no problem to twist their cables clear of the bracket.

Nikon D800 w/ Hejnar ND800 MLB slid off / all remote cables connected / front side view hor.
Nikon D800 with Hejnar ND800 MLB slid off and all remote cables connected (USB, HDMI, Mic., Headphones) view in horizontal (landscape) position, front side view.
Nikon D800 w/ Hejnar ND800 MLB slid off / all remote cables connected / back side view hor.
As above, all cables showing in back side view.
Nikon D800 w/ Hejnar ND800 MLB slid off / all remote cables connected / front side view ver.
In vertical (portrait) position all cables can still be accommodated and the L bracket can be clamped without interference.
Nikon D800 w/ Hejnar ND800 MLB slid off / all remote cables connected / back side view ver.
Which is more obvious in the backside view.
Nikon D800 w/ Hejnar ND800 MLB slid off / all remote cables connected / back side view ver. closup
A closeup shot shows more detail of the cable crowd.

Some Issues with the Lens Center Marks
One advantage of using L-brackets is, that if you carefully frame a shot in horizontal (landscape) and then switch to vertical (portrait) view, you should have the center of your frame in the same spot without re-framing.
Therefore, the lens center marks on an L bracket are very helpful for quick positioning of the camera at either orientation.

I’ve made some very precise measurements related to the lens mount of the D800, in other words, exact to the centerlines of the sensor and have found the following.
The vertical center I measured as being very close to 49 mm (~ 48.7 mm)... above the base and the horizontal center I measured to be directly in the middle of the tripod socket mounting screw.

The above numbers will help calculate for bracket’s center marks offset errors. All measurements were done with triple check, both with and without brackets mounted.

Hejnar ND800 MLB attached on Nikon D800 base plate center mark detail
When mounting the bracket vertical plate flush to camera side, the Φ center mark is offset a bit to the right. The center of the sensor is approximately between the "k" and the "o" in the Nikon logo. According to my measurement, the center mark offset error is +2 mm to the right.
Of course you can shift the base plate slightly to the left so that the Φ Mark is aligned with the base socket screw, but I prefer that the vertical plate stays flush with the camera.
I have done a number of tests to see, how this may affect panorama stitching, and I can not find any focal length, where this offset has any impact.
Way more critical is to have the focal plane position in correct distance to rotating point...
Hejnar ND800 MLB attached on Nikon D800 vertical plate center mark detail
Somehow, in the vertical (portrait) position, the center mark offset error is some -7.5 mm below the vertical center...
But again, as above, I simply can not get this to show up as errors in stitched panorama shots! Much to my surprise, btw.!

Even with these "offset errors", the difference between a vertical and horizontal frame is really negligible.

Hejnar ND800 MLB slid off Nikon D800 side / center mark detail
Something else I would like to have though, is a second lens center Φ mark on the base plate for when the plate is slid away in order to use the side connectors.
Some notes on the Markins LN-800 bracket.
As mentioned at the start of this little review, this Hejnar PHOTO L-bracket is to replace the Markins L-bracket, I've been using until now.

Looking at the dovetail grooves, you will find that - for some unknown reasons - Markins has decided not to let the groove run all the way of the bracket.
This means, you can only insert it from one end - or open the clamp fully up. This may or may not be possible with a lever-operated clamp, but my clamp is a screw type, so I only loosen the clamp enough to slide the bracket with ease, which is half a twist or so of the screw.

The main problem, with only being able to mount the plate from one side, is the 10-pin socket in front of camera. When I plug in the remote control in this, it often catches the side of the clamp. If I could mount bracket from the other side of clamp, the remote cable would just glide over the top of clamp...

Markins LN-800 base dovetail groove detail
The stopped dovetail groove on the base plate...
Markins LN-800 vertical dovetail groove detail
Same detail can be found on the vertical side of the bracket...
Other things to notice here are the scratches...
Camera has just arrived, so this bracket has not seen very much use, but is already fairly marked.
The coating is so soft, that just scraping it against the clamp will leave a mark. The thin vertical line in the above photo is the result of an one-time-only contact...

Markins LN-800 end view
Scratches on end of the Markins bracket
Markins LN-800 vertical side top
Same issue on top of the vertical side plate

Markins LN-800 vs. Hejnar ND800 Compared Side by Side

Markins LN-800 vs. Hejnar ND800 back sides view
On the left is the Markins LN-800 L bracket and on the right is the Hejnar ND800 modular L bracket. In back sides view.
(If you click to enlarge and have a closer look, you will notice, how I have darkened the text and logo on the Markins.)
Markins LN-800 vs. Hejnar ND800 vertical sides view
The above vertical sides view photo shows the main reason, for me wanting another L bracket than the Markins.
Using the Markins bracket, you can surely open the connector cover without sliding the bracket, but the price for this is, that the horizontal and vertical dovetail grooves are not aligned.
This means that switching from horizontal to vertical shooting, the non parallax (nodal) point is pushed 12 mm forwards. And this has a major impact on stitching critical shots!
You must remember to correct the nodal slide by these 12 mm, every time you switch orientation, otherwise ghosting or "double-images" may occur.
Markins LN-800 vs. Hejnar ND800 front sides view
Markins LN-800 (left) and Hejnar ND800 (right) front sides.
Markins LN-800 vs. Hejnar ND800 base end sides view
Markins LN-800 (left) and Hejnar ND800 (right) base plate End sides.

Pros
The bracket is exceptionally well made with great workmanship.
First class, scratch-resisting and a flawless, beautiful coating.
Plus points for the modular principle!

Cons
Some issues with the alignment of the lens centering marks.
The existence of only one safety screw may be an issue for some users.

Conclusion
I had kinda hoped, as a panorama shooter, that the off-centered marks would lead to some critical remarks. But as stated above, I have simply failed to find it having any impact on shots or stitching.
Of course, as a pure principle, it would be the correct thing to have these center marks representing true center lines of sensor, as much as I would like a second center mark on the horizontal plate when the plate is slid to the left.
Much more important to me are the aligned vertical and horizontal dovetail grooves. With this bracket I can quickly shift position without having to remember to adjust the nodal slide.
The lack of being able to open the connector cover without sliding the bracket may be an issue for some, but as mentioned, it's a non-issue for me, as I always use a card-reader for downloading photos.
And should I shoot tethered, I would have to slide the bracket anyway.
This Hejnar PHOTO L-bracket is now "glued" on my camera and will be so for the rest of it's life with me.
Can only give it a "Highly Recommended".

Jan Kyster, Esbjerg, January 2014.

*******
This review was written and kindly contributed to the site by one of the first readers and long time friend by now, Mr. Jan Kyster from Denmark.
Jan, apart from being an enthusiast photographer and devoted Nikon lover, :-) has a long professional experience in metal alloy formation and finishing processes, a fact that makes his opinion valuable. Jan has also written a very thorough review of the Benro C3770T Combination Carbon Fiber Tripod some time ago and is also a regular contributor in many forums.

I hope you found the article and ideas useful, thank you for viewing.
All Photos: ©2014 Jan Kyster

Price and Availability:
Current price for the ND800 L Bracket is US$ 90.00 (+Shipping where applicable) and is available from the Hejnar Photo online Store.
Check the Recommended Sellers page for a valid Hejnar Photo discount coupon.

Referenced Articles:
New Modular Hejnar PHOTO Universal Camera L Bracket
Benro C3770T Combination Carbon Fiber Tripod Review
Benro PC-1 Panorama Clamp Review

Relevant Articles:
New Hejnar PHOTO Dedicated L bracket for Nikon D7100 DSLR
New Modular L Bracket for Fuji X-E1 from Hejnar PHOTO

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