May 5, 2013

Sunwayfoto DDH-03 Panning Clamp Review

Sunwayfoto DDH-03 Panning Clamp in box overview
Quite a while after the publication of Sunwayfoto DDH-03 Panning Clamp Preview, I received a complementary copy together with its companion DDY-58 Discal Quick Release Clamp from Sunwayfoto headquarters for a hands on test and evaluation.

DDH-03 is designed to operate either independently as a horizontal or vertical panoramic rotator or to fit Sunwayfoto's larger ball head models like XB-52 Low Profile.
It actually replaced the former DDH-01 complementing the new lightweight Panoramic Clamp line towards the upper end.

Since I have already described thoroughly all specifications, dimensions and features in the Prevew article, I shall engage more in the testing and evaluation results as well as the functionality of this little but strong clamp with some implementation ideas.

The Clamp

Sunwayfoto DDH-03 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.
Sunwayfoto DDH-03 Panning Clamp in box layout
All parts are nested in pre-cut foam sockets that protect them during transport, while an extra layer of foam bellow (thicker) and above (thinner) are there for even better protection from scratches.
Sunwayfoto DDH-03 Panning Clamp box contents
DDH-03 is accompanied by both an 1/4"-20 and an M6 flat-head hex screws for mounting on a ball head, two smaller 1/4"-20 flat head screws for mounting the AM-02 Arca Mount plate and a 4mm Allen hex key which suits all screws. 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.
Should I remind, 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-03 Panning Clamp front / top view
All dimensions and specifications as described extensively in the DDH-03 Preview,  were verified to be in par. Although DDH-03 is larger than the DDH-02, it is still a lot smaller than other panoramic rotators.
First impression besides the small size is the usual Sunwayfoto quality in machining, finishing and fitting of the parts. Everything operates smoothly and fluidly due to the thick silicone-grease applied inside and the very small tolerances.
The control knobs are small but quite capable for their task.
Sunwayfoto DDH-03 Panning Clamp back / bottom view
The screw knob tightens the clamp jaws firmly while 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.

Comparison with other Panoramic Rotators
Same as with the DDH-02, speaking about compactness is not enough unless you put DDH-03 among other panoramic rotators. So I made this comparison photo in order for the readers to comprehend better the size of DDH-03.

DDH-03 sits in the middle of top row above its sibling DDH-02. On their left Benro PC-0 and PC-1 Panorama Clamps and on their right Sunwayfoto DDP-64MX and DDP-64SX Panoramic Indexing Rotators.

Panning Lock Strength Assessment
Having had unexpectedly good results putting under stress the DDH-02, I passed also DDH-03 under the same stressful tests. However, I was a little more strict in my measurements since DDH-03 is supposed to be bigger and stronger.

Sunwayfoto DDH-03 PC w/ rail + sandbag - 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-03 panning clamp was attached on top of the Sunwyafoto XB-44 Low Profile Ball Head, mounted on the Triopo GX-1328 Carbon Fiber Classic Tripod as shown above. Then a 10" long rail was clamped between the DDH-03 jaws, this rail 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 started losing  its inert status.
Sunwayfoto DDH-03 PC Digital protractor - closeup
This time the test was monitored by an electronic protractor / inclinometer. At the moment the inclinometer started to show a minor deviation from zero degrees then the maximum distance was reached. It was quite a delicate task but it was worthwhile. The photo above shows a deviation of 4 hundredths of a degree in a rightmost slope.
Sunwayfoto DDH-03 PC w/ rail + sandbag - closeup
A weight of approx 5,5 Kg (12.1 lb) hanging at an offset position of 13 cm is translated to a Torque of ~71.50 KgF*cm. As I had mentioned in the DDH-02 review, 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.
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.
71.5 KgF*cm may also be expressed as 10 kg (22 lb) load at 7,15 cm distance or even 20 kg (44 lb) load at 3,57 cm. In plain words this means that a camera+lens load with a weight of 10 kg with its center of gravity hanging out at 7 cm from the pivoting point will be handled easily.
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...
Mounted Directly on XB-44 Low Profile ball head
Sunwayfoto actually intends the DDH-03 for use with the beefier XB-52 Low Profile Ball Head with which it also sold as a bundle under the XB-52DDH code name. However, the clamp complements very nicely the low profile nature of the XB-44 ball head adding only a few millimeters to the overall height.

Sunwayfoto DDH-03 PC on XB-44 LP ball head
The DDH-03 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 install afterwards.
Sunwayfoto DDH-03 PC on XB-44 LP ball head - tilted
As it was also discussed in the DDY-58 QR Clamp Review, which has exactly the same diameter, DDH-03's circular shape seems to be an 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. DDH-03 can be tilted fully and rotated withing one of the XB-44 drop notches without any obstacle.
Sunwayfoto DDH-03 PC on XB-44 LP ball head - tilted lever issue
On the other hand, 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. That will happen only in case the head is mounted on a flat top tripod without a center column like a Gitzo Systematic or in case the center column top mounting plate is larger than the head's base.

Mounted via the AM-02 Arca Mount Plate
Unlike DDH-02, the DDH-03 comes with a dedicated Arca-Swiss® compatible mounting plate by default as the larger DDP series of Panoramic Indexing rotators. However, for those that intend to use the DDH-03 mounted on a ball head permanently, it is also sold without the AM-02 plate as model DDH-03N at a lower price.
The AM-02 Arca Mount is a solution for those that need to use the clamp occasionally or are not able to attach the panoramic clamp on their ball head due to thread or design incompatibilities.

Sunwayfoto DDH-03 PC - AM-02 mounting sequence
DDH-03 is equipped with two pairs of 1/4"-20 threaded mounting-holes at the bottom of the panning platform. This enables the attachment of the AM-02 Arca Mount in two axes. The choice should be based in relation to the degree marks on the panning platform that is which degree marks e.g. 0-180 or 90-270 will coincide with the arca mount dovetail axis. It will be more simple to decide when you actually mount the clamp on a head and see what's more convenient in use while maintaining visual contact with the zero (0) mark on the panning scale.
After the desired orientation is chosen, align the AM-02 countersunk holes with the existing 1/4"-20 threaded holes at the bottom of DDH-03 panning platform and use the two included 1/4"-20 short flat-head screws aided by the 4 mm Allen hex key to screw and secure the plate on the clamp.
It is advisable to avoid tightening the first screw fully, until both screws sit in place properly. 
Sunwayfoto DDH-03 PC on XB-44 LP ball head via AM-02
When equipped with the AM-02 plate, DDH-03 can sit in any Arca-Swiss® compatible Quick Release clamp, using the ball head below as a convenient leveling device.

Combined with DDY-58 Discal Quick Release Clamp...
As explained in detail in the Sunwayfoto DDY-58 Discal Quick Release Clamp Review, the perfect match for DDH-03 in order to make a subtend clamp structure is the DDY-58 discal Clamp by design, fitting exactly DDH-03's dimensions and mounting holes.

Sunwayfoto DDH-03 Panning Clamp w/ DDY-58 Discal QR Clamp
They are almost identical, give or take a bubble level and two mounting holes. Just visualize DDY-58 as the top part (without the panning base) of the DDH-03 panning clamp. 
Sunwayfoto DDH-03 PC & DDY-58 QR Clamp mounting sequence
As forementioned, due to the existence of two pairs of 1/4"-20 threaded mounting-holes at the bottom of the panning platform, there is a choice of the most convenient lower-clamp orientation in 90 degree increments. Your choice should be based in relation to the other functional knobs on the panning clamp, as well as in relation to the degree marks on the panning platform.
After the desired orientation is chosen, align the DDY-58 side-holes with the existing 1/4"-20 threaded holes at the bottom of DDH-03 panning platform and use the two included 1/4"-20 short flat-head screws aided by the 4 mm Allen hex key to screw and secure the clamps on each other.
Once again, try to avoid tightening the first screw fully, until both screws sit in place properly.
Sunwayfoto DDH-03 PC & DDY-58 QR assembly
Top side or DDH-03 side view. For more information about the DDY-58 and the combination with DDH-03 you may refer to the Sunwayfoto DDY-58 Discal QR Clamp Review.

...and Used as a Vertical Panoramic Rotator
Besides the use as a horizontal rotator mounted on a ball head, Sunwayfoto promotes DDH-03 as a Multi-Row Panorama Head vertical rotator including it in their Panoramic head bundles. The results from its panning lock strength test assures that it is very capable for the task. However, due to prior experience with badly aligned panoramic bases, next thing to check was exactly the alignment of the panning scale.

Sunwayfoto DDH-03 PC pan base alignment drawing
DDH-03 is the first of Sunwayfoto rotators that sports a laser engraved panning scale with continues numbering from 0-360° ! There are quite visible laser engraved markings every 2.5° and numbers every 15°. Which is more efficient as a panoramic scale instead of the 0-90-0 numbering.
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 it a perfect vertical rotator.
Sunwayfoto DDH-03 PC on DMC-200 vertical rail
The combination of Sunwayfoto DDH-03 Panning Clamp with DDY-58 Discal Clamp forms a versatile vertical panoramic rotator that can move up and down on the dovetail of a vertical rail like the Sunwayfoto DMC-200 pictured above.
More about the DMC-200 in the upcoming Sunwayfoto DMC-200 Multipurpose Rail Review and the extensive Sunwayfoto Pano-3 Panoramic Head Review.

...and Used in a Stereography Rig
Three Dimensional (3D) photography is getting more and more popular between pros and amateur photogrpahers. Expensive and/or bulky rigs were once required to hold one moving or two independently shooting cameras, quite out of reach for the amateur. Sunwayfoto DDH-03 is a quite affordable panoramic clamp, yet lightweight, where combined with the also affordable DDY-58 clamp and a long multipurpose rail, may produce a lightweight stereography rig for everyone interested.

Sunwayfoto DDH-03 PC on Dpg-2416 mp rail
Either using one camera and moving the DDH-03 + DDY-58 combo on the rail, or using two sets of cameras and subtended DDH-03 + DDY-58 clamps for simultaneous shooting, you will end up with a nice, transportable, lightweight stereography rig.
For illustration purposes, the Sunwayfoto DPG-2416 Multipurpose Rail was used in the photo above.

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-03 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-03 PC pan 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 as with DDH-02 case, same with DDH-03 this would be impossible since the position is occupied by the panning 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 (starting) position can be changed by using the ball head pan underneath.

Arca-Swiss® Compatibility
Sunwayfoto DDH-03 PC jaw detail on Sunwayfoto DPG-2416 rail
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-03 panning quick release clamp is fully compatible with Sunwayfoto's own gear.
Looking at the photo on the right, where DDH-03 is illustrated clamping a Sunwayfoto multipurpose rail, I have to admit that it is one of the best contacts between clamp and rail I have seen.
A fact that proves Sunwayfoto's exemplary, tiny tolerance CNC machining.

On the other hand, in order to check its compatibility with other manufacturers plates and rails, DDH-03 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.

Sunwayfoto DDH-03 PC jaw detail on Hejnar Photo G13-80 rail
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.

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.

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.

Panoramic scale index mark may be 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.

Athough DDH-03 is somewhat larger than the DDH-02 is still very compact compared to other brands. Small sizes, have their advantages and disadvantages. With this very compact panning clamp, advantages outperform by far a couple of disadvantages which are not so serious anyway. Sunwayfoto DDH-03 is an excellent design and machining example that can cope better than much larger competitors.
Fully recommended especially for travelers and hikers since it will add very little weight, being light as a common quick release clamp.

The DDH-03 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.

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: © 2013 S.C.Vlachos

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.
Sunwayfoto DDH-03 with AM-02, or Sunwayfoto DDH-03N are available from

Update July 2013:
DDH-03 Panning Clamp has been replaced by the New Improved Sunwayfoto DDH-03i Panning Clamp.
and later models which are available from eBay

Referenced Articles:

Sunwayfoto DDH-03 Panning Clamp Preview

Sunwayfoto XB-44 Low Profile Ball Head Review

Sunwayfoto DDY-58 Discal Quick Release Clamp Review

Triopo GX-1328 Carbon Fiber Classic Tripod Review

Sunwayfoto DMC-200 Multipurpose Rail Review

Relevant Articles:

Sunwayfoto DDH-02 Panning Clamp Review

Create a Mini MR Panorama Head for Mirrorless Cameras

Sunwayfoto Pano-3 Complete Panoramic Head Review

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