June 29, 2013

Manfrotto Q6 Top Lock Quick Release Adaptor Preview

Manfrotto MSQ6 Top Lock QR Adapter w/ MSQ6PL overview

For many years I have been wondering why a pioneering manufacturer like Manfrotto, with great innovations in their account, had chosen to stick in proprietary quick release designs on their ball heads. Although these designs were very advanced at their time, they were not compatible even between them compelling both the users to have a limited choice of accessories and Manfrotto to maintain 3-4 different lines of products.
The continues expansion of the Arca-Swiss® dovetail design between competitors offered a large selection of support gear and accessories with great versatility, putting the once market leader Manfrotto almost in isolation in the ball head segment.
But it's never too late.

Manfrotto designers finally came out with a quite remarkable Arca-Swiss® compatible quick release system the Q6, comprised of an innovative clamp and a camera plate. This Q6 system is offered with the recent line of Magnesium 054, 055, 057, the older Hydrostatic Head, but also as an add-on adaptor.
This adaptor allows you to fit the new Manfrotto Q6 Top Lock quick release system to an existing Manfrotto ball head. According to Manfrotto "The Top Lock system has been developed to offer photographers a fast, easy to use and very secure camera quick release mechanism suitable for heavy pro equipment." A Q6 Arca-compatible plate is supplied with the adaptor, while spare plates can be purchased separately.

The Q6 Top Lock QR Adaptor

Manufacturer Specification:
Attachment (top):1/4" screw
Plate Type:MSQ6PL
Quick Release:Yes
Secondary Safety Sytem:Yes
Bubble Spirit Level no3
Weight:170 gr (0.37 lb)

The camera plate clicks into the clamp from above, and as soon as it engages, it triggers a safety pin that stops the plate and camera from sliding out accidentally. Even before the clamp is locked, the camera is securely supported.

Manfrotto MSQ6 Top Lock QR Adapter w/ MSQ6PL fitted
Unlike former Manfrotto designs the new Q6 system is quite slim and lightweight. The base that bears the clamping mechanism has the usual Manfrotto grainy finish while the plate is smoothly finished. Nevertheless, it is unique and will be easily recognizable.
Manfrotto MSQ6 Top Lock QR Adapter - Bubble levels
The clamp has 3 bubble spirit levels (one for each axis of rotation) to facilitate precise framing and help produce straight images in-camera. The bubble levels are wisely positioned so they are visible either at landscape or portrait orientation  independent of which side will be turned vertically. The bubble level towards the screw knob has a dual function.
Manfrotto MSQ6 Top Lock QR Adapter - top
The Q6 clamp top view reveals the designers attention to detail with the recesses in the frame keeping the bubble levels visible in any angle. However, the most important part is the clamping mechanism, which differs from most other manufacturers' implementations. There is no moving jaw driven by the screw-knob in order to tighten the camera plate in place, but a spring loaded tongue instead.
The tongue retracts automatically when the plate dovetail presses on it and then embraces the dovetail as soon as it falls in. Thus the "Top Lock" in the Q6 system name.
The centrally located detent pin, will not allow the slide in of a plate, but it will also not allow the slip off of a plate even if the screw knob is not tightened.
Manfrotto MSQ6 Top Lock QR Adapter - lock knob
The screw knob acts as a securing mechanism by not allowing the tongue to retract and tightens it on the inserted plate.
In order to lift off the plate from the clamp, the screw-knob has to be loosened first and then the red button on the side be pressed so as the tongue is released.
In my opinion this is a mechanism that can deservingly bear the "Quick Release" label. It only needs to prove its credibility under severe use after time.

The Q6 Quick Release Plate

Manufacturer Specification:
Attachment (top):1/4" screw
Depth/Width:55 mm (2.17")
Height/Thickness:11 mm (0.43")
Length:70 mm (2.76")
Weight:70 gr (0.15 lb)

Manfrotto MSQ6PL Quick Release Plate
MSQ6PL is the code name of the Q6 matching camera attachment quick release plate. It is a simple design made of Aluminium smoothly finished with a shallow recess along the top that acts as an anti-twist mechanism; unlike older Manfrotto plates that used cork or rubber for this purpose. The 1/4"-20 screw is centered without any adjustment slot. The mounting screw is equipped with a flip D-ring for easy hand screwing while it can also be tightened by a coin inserted in the wide slot or finally with the supplied Allen hex key, which applies the necessary torque for maximum stability.
The bottom side reveals a peripheral frame that acts as a safety mechanism in combination with the detent pin on the MSQ6 base. There are hand strap slots on either side of the plate.
According to Manfrotto the plate is compatible with Arca style systems from other manufacturers.
Somehow, with a weight of 70 gr, MSQ6PL cannot be considered light.

Compatible Manfrotto Ball Heads

Manfrotto 055 Magnesium Ball Head w/ MSQ6 Top Lock QR
The new MSQ6 Top Lock QR Adaptor fits all newer Manfrotto Magnesium Ball Head models 054, 055 and 057 without any conversion. One just needs to unscrew the old Quick Release mechanism and screw the MSQ6 with a provided M6 screw. Should I mention here again, that all Manfrotto 054, 055, 057 models are now available with Q6 Quick Release preinstalled.
Manfrotto Hydrostatic Ball Head w/ MSQ6 Top Lock QR
The MSQ6 Top Lock QR Adaptor can also be fitted to the heavy duty Manfrotto Hydrostatic Ball Head via a small adapter disk which should be attached with a small screw on the ball stem. The small disk acts as an anti-twist mechanism matching the grooves at the MSQ6 bottom. All parts for the conversion are included in the package.
Manfrotto Hydrostatic Ball Head is now also available with the Q6 Quick Release preinstalled.
I always admire an innovative product like the Manfrotto MSQ6 Top Lock QR system, mostly in respect of the genius of the designer and the countless hours spent to develop and materialize the idea.
However, before I come in a solid conclusion, I would like to make an Arca-Swiss® compatibility assessment with other plates, rails and clamps from other manufactures. At the moment Manfrotto offers only one QR plate to my knowledge. Therefore it would be useful to know the level of inter-compatibility of the Q6 system with the countless rails and plates already in the market.

Update: Aug 2013
Manfrotto Q6 Top Lock QR Adaptor Compatibility Assessment

I hope you found the article useful, thank you for viewing.
All Photos © Manfrotto.com

Price & Availability:
Price wise the Q6 quick release system is at a very competitive level since the MSQ6 Adaptor sells around US$ 100-112 while a spare plate will cost about US$ 25.
Manfrotto MSQ6 Top Load Adaptor is available from Amazon.com, or from eBay internationally.

Relevant Articles:

Manfrotto 324/327/322 RC2 Arca Compatible Conversion set from Hejnar PHOTO

New & Unique Hejnar PHOTO Arca Compatible QR Clamp for Manfrotto 496 / 498 and 054 Ball

New Arca Compatible Conversion for Manfrotto 400 Geared Head by Hejnar PHOTO


  1. Hi, I just got this head and clamp, and a Kirk L-bracket, which is arca-swiss compatible. It doesn't fit. The wedge parts of the kirk bracket are too big for the little silver latch..

    I'm going to need to make some modifications to the bracket I think

    1. Hi, thanks for sharing your experience.
      The MSQ6 camera plate that comes with the clamp seems to have a thin dovetail edge in comparison to other manufacturers dovetails.
      Since the clamp is not in my hands yet, I haven't made any compatibility assessment in order to come into sound conclusions.
      However, if your L-bracket is wider or thicker than the Manfrotto plate I don't think you can do any modifications.

    2. Some more details regarding compatibility were published in the Manfrotto Q6 Top Lock QR Adaptor Compatibility Assessment article.