August 8, 2013

Desmond DAFB-01 Arca Compatible Flash Bracket Review

Desmond DAFB-01 Flash Bracket on rail w/ camera and speedlite
As I had mentioned in the News post sometime  ago, when it comes to a Desmond product, I ask myself the same question: "How come they manage to offer so good quality with so little money?"

Maybe we are all influenced to believe that good photographic gear has to be expensive and that low priced ones are junk.

Maybe some manufacturers have tremendous overhead costs or simply rectify prices upwards to reflect a higher status. With the exception of a few manufacturers who still maintain production in the US or EU with high production cost the majority have moved production to the Far-East but continue to charge as before.

Desmond DAFB-01 Flash Bracket is CNC machined in one piece, totally out of Aluminium with no plastic parts, except for a rubber grip around the vertical arm.

The design is simple, nothing sophisticated about it, like hinged folding etc. But its sturdiness, very good machining and finishing are equal to a high quality product. It is light and this simplicity is what probably maintains the cost just under US$ 50.00.

The Bracket
Manufacturer Specification:
Total Height:265 mm (10.43")
Total Width inc. Knobs:150 mm (5.90")
Bottom Mounting Hole:1/4"-20
Metal Screw:1/4"-20 to 1/4"-20
Weight:259 gr (9.14 oz)

Desmond DAFB-01 full
Desmond DAFB-01 as fore mentioned is machined as one narrow (~2 cm wide) and long piece and then folded in a "Π" shape to form a flash bracket. There are two quick release clamps at opposite orientation. One larger at the bottom, sized to conform with the width of Arca-Swiss® compatible dovetail and intended for the attachment of the flash bracket; and one quite smaller on the top, intended for the attachment of a flash hot-shoe, or of a remote triggering device.
The vertical arm is partially covered with a rubber grip, which acts both as an anti-slippery device and as a temperature insulator against the bare aluminium.
Desmond DAFB-01 flash clamp and screw
The top quick release clamp is also equipped with a large chromed-metal thumb screw which may facilitate the mounting of heavier equipment or adapters with an 1/4"-20 thread bottom mounting hole.
Desmond DAFB-01 flash clamp top view
The long 1/4"-20 screw passes through a threaded hole in the middle of the clamp and can be removed at will.
This is a plus, if you want to avoid clamping a hot-shoe made of plastic, still existing on many remote triggers or off-shoe cord adapters.
Desmond DAFB-01 base Arca comp clamp detail
The Arca-Swiss® compatible quick release clamp at the bottom, is simple but sturdy with minimal tolerances. This attribute enables it to handle the top load of the flash bracket successfully without any deformation of the moving jaw.
Next to the steady clamp-jaw exists a tapped 1/4"-20 hole which permits the direct mounting of the flash bracket on a tripod or monopod stud. As a second thought, it may also serve as a repository of the large thumb screw when not used with the top clamp above.
Desmond DAFB-01 angle measurement
Searching thoroughly, the only issue I could find with the structure of the bracket were the angles between the vertical and the horizontal parts. Since the bracket is made out of one piece and then as it seems bent in shape, it is very difficult to reach a 90° angle without cracking aluminium. Therefore, both angles are slightly larger than 90°.
Nevertheless, the slight angle issue is rather aesthetic than of any functional significance, unless you were to shoot with a laser beam. :) (I know I get too damn perfectionist sometimes).

Base QR Clamp Arca-Swiss® Compatibility
The DAFB-01 base quick release clamp was tested with various camera plates and lens plates, as well as with multi purpose long rails of various thicknesses and widths. Plates / Rails tested were from Benro, Desmond, Fotoporo, Kiwi Fotos, Marumi and Hejnar PHOTO, showing no issues whatsoever.
For the readers that like numbers, I hereunder quote detailed measurements of the clamp Jaw dimensions, so as they can decide whether this clamp is compatible with the dimensions of their plates or rails.
Desmond DAFB-01 base Arca comp clamp dimensions

Clamp Jaw dimensionsmm
Jaw Length20.30
Steady Jaw Height04.31
Moving Jaw Height04.50
Min Jaw Lip Opening33.77
Max Jaw Lip Opening39.15
Min Base Opening36.76
Max Base Opening43.81

The jaw height figures in the above specs are a little less than 5 mm which is considered the middle of the dovetail V cut. All dimensions fall within the average limits though, consisting the clamp compatible with almost any Arca-Swiss® type plates and rails.

Flash QR Clamp Dimensions

Desmond DAFB-01 flash clamp dimensions
Clamp Jaw dimensionsmm
Jaw Length20.30
Steady Jaw Height03.53
Moving Jaw Height03.55
Min Jaw Lip Opening15.50
Max Jaw Lip Opening19.86
Min Base Opening20.18
Max Base Opening24.06

Both base and flash clamp jaws are quite strong for their size, with very small tolerances so there is no play or deformation of the moving jaw as with some really cheap clamps.

Using the Bracket
Although the role of the Desmond DAFB-01 is somehow predetermined by its shape and orientation of its clamps as a long lens flash bracket, it can be used as a camera attached flash bracket as well but with the existence of a small nodal slide. Placing the flash beam far higher and to the left of the lens axis is an effective means of eliminating red-eye and harsh shadows effects.

On a Camera via a nodal slide

Desmond DAFB-01 on Nodal Rail
The orientation of the base quick release clamp will not permit the bracket to attach on a camera base plate directly, but the use of a small double dovetail nodal slide will. Pictured above is the DAFB-01 attached on the top dovetail of a 10cm long, double dovetail Desmond nodal slide.
Desmond DAFB-01 attachment landscape position
As illustrated in the photos above, Desmond DAFB-01 is attached at the bottom of the camera (bottom right) via the small nodal slide which allows for side or fore-aft adjustment in order to find the most convenient and balanced position for the bracket. Further it can be hand held or mounted on a tripod head using the nodal slide dovetail.
The bracket is quite tall, lifting the Canon 580EX II speedlite (in the example above) quite higher than the camera hot-shoe and to the left of the lens axis. Of course an off-camera shoe cord is needed to connect the camera terminals with the speedlite terminals.
Desmond DAFB-01 attachment portrait position
However, as the DAFB-01 is fixed it can only be re-oriented for portrait (vertical) use if your camera is equipped with an L Bracket. Then the nodal slide may be moved from the bottom plate to the vertical plate of the L bracket (top left photo) and the whole system turned in portrait orientation.
I have to say that this is quite troublesome when you work hand held as re-orienting the flash-bracket would require extra effort, resulting in missed shots during an event for example.
On the other hand, if you work with a tripod things get simpler as the speedlite+flash-bracket+nodal slide complex would remain attached on the tripod and you would only have to re-orient the camera, which is more convenient.

On a Telephoto Lens Plate
Which is actually the DAFB-01 natural environment.
As I had explained in the Create an Economy Telephoto Flash Bracket article, the usual problem when shooting with a long telephoto lens using a flash either for fill-in light or to freeze motion, is a darker spot or shadow at the lower part of the photo caused by the telephoto lens barrel itself, interfering to the light beam emitted by the flash.

Desmond DAFB-01 on DPL-100 lens plate closeup
In this case, in order to mount the DAFB-01 we need a longer than the lens-foot lens plate, with a double dovetail like the Desmond DLP-100 Lens Plate pictured above. The base QR clamp of the flash bracket can then be attached on the top dovetail...
Desmond DAFB-01 on DPL-100 lens plate
... moving the flash beam far higher than the telephoto lens barrel.
Desmond DAFB-01 on lens plate mount on ball head
When the camera + lens are supported by a ball head as illustrated above, the flash bracket can be attached at either side of the lens. The longer lens plate is very convenient not only to hold the flash bracket, but also to balance the system allowing it to be withdrawn further backwards, since the positioning of the flash in front and higher will increase the front load. Another added convenience is that the flash-bracket grip may be used to guide and position the camera + lens combo on the ball head effectively.
Further, as the flash bracket stays on the lens collar foot, there is no problem of re-positioning the flash when re-orienting the camera in portrait position within the lens collar.
Once again, an off-camera shoe cord is needed to connect the camera terminals with the speedlite terminals.
Desmond DAFB-01 on lens plate mount on gimbal head
It is almost the same when using a full featured gimbal head to support a long lens. The only difference is that the flash bracket should be positioned at the opposite side of the gimbal head vertical arm in order to avoid interference.
The flash bracket is attached on the longer lens plate front while the whole system should be withdrawn a little backwards in the cradle clamp in order to compensate for the flash front load.  You should also keep in mind however, that the whole camera + lens + bracket combo should be lowered as well in order to maintain balance, because the system is not only front but also top heavier due to the speedlite position.

Very good machining, finishing and anodizing quality for the price.
Excellent fitting with very small tolerances.
Very smooth operation.
Good quality metal 1/4"-20 to 1/4"-20 thumb screw included.

The vertical arm and horizontal extensions form a wider angle than optimal 90°.
Requires extra nodal rail to fit on a camera.

Although using the DABF-01 with a camera would require the extra cost of a small nodal slide the total would still be lower than comparative solutions.
On the other hand considering the price, I would fully recommend it for use as a telephoto flash-bracket attached on a lens foot, either supported by a ball head or by a more complex gimbal head with a cradle clamp.
As with all Desmond products I have reviewed up to now, the quality offered over the price tag, results in a great value for money ratio.

This review and test was run on a single product sample, using the specifically described methods.  Although the findings are good, 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 and Availability:
Current price for the Desmond DAFB-01 Flash Bracket is US$ 49.77 29.95 !!! and is available from Amazon or from eBay

Referenced Articles:

Meike OC-E3 Off-Camera Shoe Cord for Canon

Desmond DLP-100 / 115 / 150 / 169 Lens Plates Review

Create a Heavy Duty HDR Multi-Row Panorama Head

Relevant Articles:

Create a Versatile O-Shape Macro Flash Bracket

Create an Economy Telephoto Flash Bracket

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