August 5, 2013

Manfrotto Q6 Top Lock QR Adaptor Compatibility Assessment

Manfrotto Q6 Top Lock QR Adaptor overview

In concluding my presentation in the Manfrotto Q6 Top Lock Quick Release Adaptor Preview, I had expressed my admiration to the innovative design, while leaving a door open in regard of the inter-compatibility of the  Q6 quick release system with Arca-Swiss® compatible rails and plates made by other manufacturers.

I was enthusiastic with the idea of Manfrotto® entering the Arca compatible world but also skeptical considering the fact that the Q6 clamp lacks any form of adjustment which would prove disadvantageous.

Given that at the moment there is only one MSQ6 compatible plate offered by Manfrotto, many Manfrotto enthusiasts would be very interested to know if they have more options and accessories to chose from.

Therefore, a compatibility assessment was imperative to verify or prove insubstantial my suspicions.
My suspicion about incompatibility was partially confirmed by one of the readers (thanks Matt) in the Preview article, writing a comment which stated that a Kirk L bracket was not compatible with the Q6 system.
My quest also led in a long discussion about the matter with Chris Hejnar who is an expert both in Arca-Swiss compatible and Manfrotto QR systems.
Let's see the facts one by one.
Common Arca compatible clamps are equipped with a moving jaw which opens to allow a dovetail plate  be slid-in or be dropped from top. A moving jaw may adopt to different dovetail plate widths and thicknesses while a static clamp like the Q6 has very little tolerance in plate widths by design.

Manfrotto Q6 clamp QR plate engaging mechanism detail
As I had explained in the preview, Q6 clamp engaging mechanism is the small retractable metallic tongue which is actually clamping the QR plate while the screw knob functions only as a security mechanism and nothing more.
Manfrotto Q6 clamp red button function
When the screw knob is loosened (turned counter clockwise) then by pressing the red button on the side the metallic tongue is withdrawn in order to release the QR plate.
Manfrotto Q6 clamp metal tongue detail
As we can see from the side the metallic tongue is very small and short.

Manfrotto Q6 QR plate dovetail detail
While the MSQ6 Quick Release plate has dovetail edges with very small radius.
Manfrotto Q6 QR plate dovetail interacting with metal tongue
As we can see in the photo above, when the MSQ6 quick release plate is pushed from top, it interacts with the metallic tongue forcing it to withdraw and then spring back to engage the plate.

Hejnar Photo dovetail plate interacting with metallic tongue
Now let's see what happens with a 3/8" thick by 1.5" wide double dovetail plate from Hejnar Photo which is made according to most US manufacturers' Arca compatibility standards.
First, the Hejnar plate edge radius is larger, a fact that does not permit the plate to interact with Q6 clamp metallic tongue as we can see in the top photo above.
Second, as we can see in the lower photos, the Q6 clamp geometry does not permit a standard height dual dovetail to function properly, since anything clamped on the top dovetail will bump on the clamp surface.
Hejnar Photo dovetail plate failure to engage with metallic tongue
Further, even if we succeed to insert the Hejnar plate into the Q6 clamp, the metallic tongue is not tall enough to engage and secure the plate in place.
I consider the dovetail geometry of the Hejnar Photo plate, which was taken as an example, very close if not identical to the plates geometry of RRS, Wimberley, Kirk, among the well known US manufacturers. Therefore, I may come to the conclusion that Manfrotto has succeeded once again in introducing a proprietary "Arca-compatible" system.
However, there are plates and rails with very small radius at the dovetail edge made by Kiwi Fotos or Sunwayfoto that might fit better the Manfrotto Q6 clamp, which I have to test yet.
On the other hand, the MSQ6 QR plate can be used successfully with almost any screw-knob Arca-Swiss® compatible QR clamp.
For the record, I was also informed by Hejnar Photo that they are prepared to accept orders and produce MSQ6 compatible variations for some of their products.

I hope you found the article useful, thank you for viewing.
All Photos © 2013 Chris Hejnar All rights reserved.

Manfrotto MSQ6 Top Load Adaptor  is available from Amazon, or from eBay internationally.

Referenced Articles:

Manfrotto Q6 Top Lock Quick Release Adaptor Preview


  1. Hello, I would like to buy a Manfrotto ball head 054 with the MSQ6PL...can you tell me if I'm doing a good choise?

    If my english is good enough to understand what you wrote, I can say that I will not need the compatibility with other systems or plates. So, what do you think about?

    1. Hello,
      As former Manfrotto lover :) I find both 054 Ball Head and the MSQ6PL of very good design by themselves but still a little heavy compared to other heads and very proprietary. In my opinion what's the point of a genius design if I have only one QR plate to choose from?
      Proprietary systems make me feel restricted, as I prefer more freedom in my selection of plates and accessories. That's why I had moved on to fully Arca compatible systems the first place.
      Now, if you only need one size plate the 054-MSQ6 is a nice combination.

  2. Sorry, another question: do you think is the Q2 quick release better than the Q6?

    1. The Q2 quick release is an improved version of the older RC2, which holds the PL200 QR plate better but is still static.
      On the other hand, the Q6 concept is equally quick in loading / unloading but more advanced as the Q6 QR plate has a larger contact area (less twisting) and gives the ability for adjustment of the QR plate within the clamp. This proves helpful when the camera tripod socket for example, is in an offset position relative to the lens center axis.

  3. Hello. Anybody tested MSQ6 on a Peak Design capture pro?
    Thanks a lot to everybody,and have a good day.

  4. Hi,
    Thank you for a very informative article. I'll share my observations. I've recently bought a Manfrotto hydrostatic head with the Q6 clamp and plate. My clamp is a little different than the one picured in your article (the two little protruding parts of the 'bed' of the clamp look as if they have been sanded down, which makes the clamp a tiny bit deeper. I looked around for dedicated clamps and came across Sunwayfoto. Got one for my D700. The clamp clicks in and secures perfectly tight. The fit is not as fine as the original plate, however my D700 with Sunwayfoto plate gives LESS flex on the head than my D4 with the Manfrotto plate. So I think Sunwayfoto plates can be reccomended for the top - lock clamps (at least those redesigned ones). My friend has one of those old clamps (same as in your article) on his 054 head, so I'll try to report back the results with the sunwayfoto plate after I try it. Greetings

    1. Hi Tomasz,
      Thank you in return for sharing your observations with the updated Q6 clamp.
      It's very interesting that you found Sunwayfoto plates are compatible with the updated Q6 system.
      Nevertheless, Sunwayfoto PN-D700 dedicated plate conforms to the older Sunwayfoto dovetail design, which is slimmer than the recently adopted RRS compatible type.
      Therefore, in order to be accurate any recommendation should be made only on the older slimmer Sunwayfoto dovetail. I.e. for plates or L plates without the R at the end of the model name released prior to 2016.
      Further, as of 2016 all Sunwayfoto dovetails comply to the RRS dovetail standard (width and radius) ensuring maximum compatibility with the majority of QR clamps, so these have to be excluded too.
      Until of course R type and latest Sunwayfoto plates are proved to be compatible with the Q6 QR system.
      Best Regards,

  5. Good to know that - indeed I found the 'r' line on the Sunwayfoto website, compatible with RRS lever clamps. I didn't know that the dovetail had been redesigned. Thanks for the info.