May 12, 2014

Desmond DAL-02 Universal Modular L Plate Review

Desmond DAL-02 Universal Modular L Plate Overview
Along with the release of a number of Custom Arca-Swiss® compatible Quick Release plates and L Plates for Canon, Nikon and Fujifilm cameras, Desmond Photographic Distributors have enriched their collection with DAL-02 a Universal Modular L Plate this time.

There are two details in the L Plate design that differentiates it from the majority of universal plates. One easily spotted and one not so obvious unless you get tipped off.

The break in the dovetail of the vertical plate strikes you at first site. This a feature, intended to allow for angled cable release plugs to be used without removing the vertical side, is usually found on custom L plates but it is the first time such a break is encountered on a universal plate.
The not so obvious detail lies in the design of the dovetails which are fully Arca-Swiss® compatible, yet even with RRS® lever clamps.

As I have mentioned in another review recently, there are advantages but also disadvantages in choosing a universal L bracket instead of a Custom / Dedicated L bracket which would fit a camera like a glove.
But still, there are a lot of users preferring a Universal solution over a customized one knowing that there are some compromises involved. For many the prices of custom L plates/brackets are prohibitive. For others the spontaneous use of an L bracket or frequent exchange of camera bodies do not justify the expense. There are also cases where simply no custom made L bracket exists for a camera, being it an older or not popular model.
The Desmond DAL-02 in question here, comes a step closer to custom designs with its dovetail break feature,  which  put together with the modular design, the Desmond quality control and low budget pricing make it a considerable candidate.

Packing & Contents

Desmond DAL-02 Box
Although a low budget product, the DAL-02 comes in a recycled carton box with a small sticker bearing the product model and bar-code.
Desmond DAL-02 Box Contents
The L plate is snugly fit into the carton box, wrapped in a thicker and harder than usual nylon zip-lock bag, while in a smaller zip-lock bag exist two Allen hex keys.

The L Plate

Manufacturer Specification:
Base Plate Length:100 mm (3.70")
Total Length:110 mm (4.33")
Internal Vertical Plate Height:69 mm (2.70")
Total Vertical Plate Height:79 mm (3.11")
Width:3.81 cm (1.50")
Thickness:9.5 mm (0.375")
Weight:89 gr ( 3.1 oz)
Tapped Holes:1 x 1/4"-20
Safety Stop Screws:4 x M3
Strap Loop:Yes

Desmond DAL-02 Rear view
The Desmond DAL-02 L Plate follows a two piece design, precision CNC machined from solid Aluminum blocks and is anodized in a matt-black color.
The base plate follows a skeletal design with long longitudinal slots so any excessive material is eliminated. It has a full length dovetail and an elongated slot for the mounting screw in the middle. This enables shifting the L side away from the camera body in order to give access to the camera side connectors for tethered shooting when in portrait orientation (more details further down). There is also one 1/4"-20 threaded hole near the vertical side to enable mounting the base plate directly on a pod equipped with an 1/4"-20 stud. There are no ridges or convex edges, however the four long slots act as an informal but successful anti-twist mechanism.
The open end of the base plate features a strap mounting hole, enabling the attachment of a wrist strap.
Desmond DAL-02 Base plate end view
In this view, the vertical dovetail break is clearly shown. The gap is 15 mm (0.59") wide, a little wider than the ones usually found on Custom L plates. The extra width is directed by the universal role of the L plate, since the positioning of the Remote Release Cord socket differs slightly between camera models. The dovetail stops at 25 mm (~1") above the base plate and starts again at 40 mm (1.57") from the base plate.
Therefore, we can assume that any camera with a Remote Release socket positioned between 25 mm and 40 mm above the camera base is compatible with the DAL-02.
Desmond DAL-02 Vertical plate side view
The vertical side plate sports two M3 safety stop screws, which is not very usual on universal brackets.
Desmond DAL-02 Bottom view
The bottom view of the base plate reveals the hollowed out part as well as the two M3 safety screws at both ends of the plate. The 1/4"-20 captive mounting screw has both a hex socket and a slot to meet different user preferences. A noteworthy detail is that the threads which allow the captive screw to be inserted in the captive slot is positioned in the middle of the slot, in this way permitting the optional use of a D-ring screw which has a larger cap, if the user prefers.
Desmond DAL-02 Base and Vertical plate joint detail
Shown in more detail above is the DAL-02 joint between the vertical and the base plates. The vertical plate is retained on the base plate via two M5 hex-socket cap screws anodized in the same black color. If the user wishes, the L side may be removed, leaving some weight behind or just for free access to the camera side connectors.

The Plate Components

Desmond DAL-02 Components Screws and Tools
Although the DAL-02 comes assembled, the vertical plate may be removed very easily in order to be used as a simple camera base plate. The package includes: the Base Plate, the Side Plate, one 1/4"-20 hex-socket/slotted cap captive style screw 1/4 inch long, two black M5 hex-socket screws and four M3 safety stop screws. As mentioned in the beginning there are also two Allen hex keys, one for the mounting and side attachment screw and one for the safety screws.
As we can see in the lower right photo, two small bosses on the lower corners of the vertical plate, take care of the perfect alignment between the plates, matched by two small holes beside the tapped holes on the base plate.

Mounting the L Plate on a Camera
Considering the dimensions of the base and side plates of the DAL-02, is best suited for medium to large camera bodies which utilize a Remote Release cable with an angled plug which sticks on the camera side like the Canon N3 plug. Therefore, I chose to test and illustrate it mounted on a Canon EOS 7D body which is large and fulfills the requirements. Other similarly sized cameras are the Canon EOS 5D, 5D II, 50D which also have their N3 socket approximately in the same position.
Nevertheless, the L plate may be also compatible with smaller size camera bodies but would probably block access to the battery door at their bottom. This is mostly the reason I give as much detail as possible so the potential user may check the dimensions and the compatibility with his/her camera beforehand.

Desmond DAL-02 mounted on Canon EOS 7D rear view
When Desmond DAL-02 L Plate is mounted on the Canon EOS 7D feels like at home since it fits almost like a custom L plate in all respects. It allows access to all connectors and doors as we shall see next.
Desmond DAL-02 mounted on Canon EOS 7D bottom view details
Despite the absence of any rubber pads, ridges or convex edges the bottom plate grips very well on the camera base due to the four long slots beside the mounting captive slot. It's quite an innovative anti-twist mechanism, I can say. As obvious in the top right photo above, access to the battery door at the camera base is unobstructed.
In the bottom photo we see that the long captive slot enables shifting the plate further away from the camera side thus allowing to clamp the L plate in portrait orientation when USB and/or other long plugs are used. Even in this position the L plate retains its grip on the camera body without having to over-tighten the mounting screw.

Using the L Plate
Further down, we can see how the DAL-02 may be clamped in an Arca-Swiss® compatible quick release clamp, both in landscape (horizontal) and portrait (vertical) orientations. Either mounted flush against the camera side while enabling the use of a Remote Release cable with an angled plug, or shifted away from the camera side in order to have more clearance for an additional mini-USB plug for tethered shooting in portrait orientation.

Desmond DAL-02 on Canon EOS 7D mounted on Ball Head w/ RR cable
Desmond DAL-02 mounted with the side plate flush against the Canon EOS 7D side permits the use of a Remote Release Cable with an angled plug. There is enough clearance for the plug so the L plate may be clamped in landscape orientation but also in portrait orientation. The vertical plate allows also access to the rest of the camera Mic, USB and HDMI ports, without having to remove the vertical side, however due to the extra length of these clamps it can only be clamped in landscape orientation. 
Desmond DAL-02 on Canon EOS 7D mounted on Ball Head w/ RR & USB cables
In the case the user wants to shoot tethered via a USB cable in portrait orientation, the DAL-02 has to be loosened a bit and moved away from the camera side in order to give the appropriate clearance for a straight mini-USB plug.
The DAL-02 is shown above mounted on the Canon EOS 7D with both a Remote cable and a mini-USB cable in landscape and portrait orientation.

Versatile universal design.
Exceptional machining, finishing and anodizing quality for the price.
Excellent strength and torsional behavior.
Safety Stop screws on both plates, total 4.
Full Arca-Swiss® and RRS® lever clamp compatibility.
Excellent value for money.

Absence of lens centering marks on both axes.
Battery access door or connector ports may be blocked on specific cameras.

Both comments in the Cons above, apply de facto to all universal L plates/brackets designs, therefore should be judged accordingly.
The DAL-02 L Plate is a good choice for medium to large sized DSLR cameras, especially Canon EOS models which utilize an angled Remote Release Cable plug; and all equipped with a tripod mounting hole positioned on the same axis with the lens optical axis and centered between the camera base longitudinal edges.
Considering the Desmond quality standards proved constant in time, combined with a very low price tag, I can say that the DAL-02 offers excellent Value for Money!

Note: The DAL-02 Modular L Plate presented in this article was kindly offered by Desmond Photographic Distribution, USA for evaluation and review.

I hope you found the review useful, thank you for viewing.
All Photos & Photosynths: © 2014 S.C.Vlachos

Price & Availability:
Current price for the Desmond DAL-02 L Plate is US$ 41.00 (+Free Shipping in the US) and is available from Amazon or from eBay

Referenced Articles:

New Mini Hinged D-Ring 1/4"-20 Screws from Desmond

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