September 18, 2012

New Sunwayfoto DDH-03 Panning Clamp Preview

Sunwayfoto DDH-03 Panning Clamp + AM-02 Arca mount plate

The new Sunwayfoto line of low profile and light weight panning clamps, was recently enhanced by the introduction of DDH-03 Panning Clamp. The DDH-03 follows the design pattern of the DDH-02 compact Panning Clamp which I presented last June and is currently under an evaluation test.
DDH-03 is designed to fit Sunwayfoto's larger ball head models like the DB-44, DB-52 and the newer XB-52 Low Profile.

DDH-03 actually replaces the existing DDH-01 thus complementing the new lightweight Panoramic Clamp line towards the upper end. The clamp has reached the stores this week.

The Clamp

DDH-03 Panning Base with integral Clamp is manufactured by a high precision CNC machining process according to the military standards, from solid blocks of aircraft-grade aluminum. Both its clamp and AM-02 dovetail base plate are Arca Swiss® compatible, therefore making it compatible with most of the well known rail and quick release clamp brands.

Manufacturer Specification:
Model:DDH-03 Panning Clamp
Top Base Diameter:58 mm
Pan Base Diameter57 mm
Height::26 mm
Bottom mounting thread:3/8"-16 UNC
Weight:126 gr
Max Load capacity:20 kg
Bottom Plate:AM-02 (57 mm)

The stainless steel rotator-core and the high contrast bubble level are dominant when looking from above. The rotator core is counter sank in order to accept a flat head screw for attachment on a ball head, while the bubble level is embedded in one of the safety stop relief grooves. The clamp screw knob and the panning lock lever are short and close to the clamp minimizing the total width.
There are 2cm long decimal scales on both jaws, the first half cm closer to the center is marked in 1mm increments at either side of the 0 (center) point, followed by a mark at 2,5mm distance and then a numbered 10 mark at each end.
As with DDH-02 the jaws' length could have been longer has been decreased as much as possible. I suppose the reason is to lower the weight a few grams more. Nevertheless, the top plate is quite longer than the jaws, which will adequately support and balance a camera plate or a nodal rail.

Sunwayfoto DDH-03 Panning Clamp top view
Following the DDH-02 example, Sunwayfoto engineers made a great effort to minimize size and weight in designing the DDH-03 panning clamp. The size is very compact compared to similar products from competition and the weight of 126gr is unbelievably low, almost half the weigh of its DDH-01 predecessor.

The screw knob and the panning lock lever have CNC machined grooves and lack any rubber coating according to the Sunwayforo standard by now.
The choice of a lever for locking the panning base, is far better than a small knob, since derived from my short experience with the DDH-02 under evaluation, I can certify that it permits the application of more force to the locking screw, with less effort from the user.
Two Φ Index pointers for the panning scale are found at opposite sides bellow the relief grooves. Their positioning marks also the longitudinal middle axis between the clamp jaws for proper camera/lens alignment. Although this is the proper positioning for the marks, I still keep a reservation about the visibility of the marks when clamping a camera or a nodal slide rail on top. I guess this is a small sacrifice for the very slim side of the clamp.

Sunwayfoto DDH-03 Panning Clamp side-top view
There are two deep safety stop screw relief grooves, one at each side, permitting a motion at either side into the clamp, for better camera/lens plate alignment. Any possible excess material has been carved away from the clamp's top surface in order to lower the weight even more.

Sunwayfoto DDH-03 Panning Clamp bottom view w/ AM-01
The bottom view reveals the AM-02 Arca Mount base plate which is attached by means of two 1/4"-20 flat-head screws.

The AM-02 facilitates instant mounting/dismounting on or off a ball head or any gear equipped with an Arca Swiss® quick release clamp. Most efficient for circumstantial use.

Sunwayfoto DDH-03 Panning Clamp bottom view w/ AM-01 removed
The removal of the AM-02 Arca Mount, reveals the very slim panning base and shows that any excess material has been carved off in order to minimize weight as much as possible.

There are quite visible laser engraved markings every 2.5o and numbers every 15o. The numbering this time is continuous from 0-360o which is more efficient.
The center hole has a 3/8"-16 thread and the usual alignment/ant-twist grooves on the sides for attachment directly on a ball head stem with compatible islands (bosses).

Comparison with DDH-02 Panning Clamp

Sunwayfoto DDH-02 and DDH-03 Panning Clamps comparison - top
DDH-02 on the left and DDH-03 on the right standing side by side. They are identical except for body and knob size and of course load capacity.
Sunwayfoto DDH-02 and DDH-03 Panning Clamps comparison - bottom
However, the bottom view besides the effort to remove any excess material is completely different. DDH-03 has four 1/4-20" tapped holes for mounting the AM-02 Arca Mount in 90 degree positions.

Combined with XB-52 Low Profile Ball head

Sunwayfoto DDH-03 on XB-52 Ball head

The slim DDH-03 seems to fit well on top of the Sunwayfoto XB-52 Low Profile Ball Head.
With the DDH-03 clamp the total height of the ball head is increased just by 1 mm to 92 mm instead of the 91 mm with the standard screw knob quick release clamp.

This raise in height is very minimal in order to affect the geometry of the ball head whatsoever.

There is also a slight increase in weight by 21gr totaling now 706 gr with DDH-03 instead of 685 gr.
The ball head can be purchased with DDH-03 panning clamp pre-fit as model XB-52DDH3 or later upgraded by purchasing the DDH-03 separately.

Sunwayfoto DDH-03 on XB-52 Ball head mounting screw detail
The DDH-02 Panning Clamp is attached on the XB-52 ball head, by the use of an M6 stainless steel screw. So even if it is purchased as an upgrade for the XB-52 QR clamp, it is very easy to exchange clamps according to the task in hand.
Sunwayfoto DDH-03 on XB-52 Ball head back view
As I have also mentioned for the XB-44 ball head, due to the low profile of the XB-52 ball head DDH-03's panning lock lever may impose a restriction in tilting the clamp fully into one of the drop notches. This only in case the head is mounted on a flat top tripod without a center column or the center column top plate is larger than the head's base.
Sunwayfoto DDH-03 on XB-52 Ball tilted
On the other hand DDH-03's circular shape seems to be the answer to some limitations imposed by the size of the original XB-52 quick release clamp. DDH-03 can be tilted fully and rotated withing one of the XB-52 drop notches without any obstacle.

Another great example of design and machining indeed, which is actually patent pending and seems to win over competition, in strength, compactness and weight.
The DDH-03 release, gives me some interesting ideas for a lightweight panoramic head, combined with the smaller DDH-02. But more on that as soon as I have one for a hands on test / review. Stay tuned.

Update: May 2013
Full Sunwayfoto DDH-03 Panning Clamp Review and implementation ideas.

I hope you found the article useful, thank you for viewing.
All Photos used by permission © 2012

Price & Availability:
The current retail price for DDH-03 with AM-02 Arca Mount is US$ 122.00, while it can also be purchased as DDH-03N without the AM-02 Arca Mount for US$ 112.00

Update July 2013:
DDH-03 Panning Clamp has been replaced by the New Improved Sunwayfoto DDH-03i Panning Clamp.

Update Jun 2017
After the known US patent infringement issues Sunwayfoto DDH clamps are only available outside US from eBay and from 

Relevant Articles:

New Sunwayfoto DDH-02 compact Panning Clamp

Sunwayfoto DDH-02 Panning Clamp Review

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