October 11, 2014

Sunwayfoto Revised 2014 version DDH-03i Panning Clamp Review

Sunwayfoto DDH-03i Panning Clamp overviewOr better, reinstatement of the DDH-03i to what it should have been the first place.

A couple of months ago, an issue about Sunwayfoto DDH-03i Panning Clamp Reduced Torque Capacity was reported to me, which I tested and confirmed in this forementioned article.

Nonetheless, the issue had been reported to Sunwayfoto headquarters, who in turn confirmed it and assured me that they would take care of it the soonest possible.

Indeed, Sunwayfoto engineers redesigned the DDH-03i panning brake and were kind to supply a sample of the latest production revised version, which I received a few days ago.

The Clamp

Sunwayfoto DDH-03i Panning Clamp box
No changes to the usual by now shrink wrapped Sunwayfoto recycled-carton box. A large label shows the enclosed product photo, model, main specification and ASIN barcode. The recently adopted hologram sticker with genuineness code is also there.
Sunwayfoto DDH-03i Panning Clamp box openned
As usual 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 on the lid) are there for even better protection from scratches. This time I also got the fan-fold Operating Instructions Manual.
Sunwayfoto DDH-03i Panning Clamp box contents
Much like its predecessor the DDH-03i is accompanied by one 1/4"-20 and one M6 flat-head hex screws for mounting on a ball head, two short 1/4"-20 flat head screws for mounting the included AM-02 Arca Mount plate and a 4mm Allen hex key which is suitable for all screws.
Sunwayfoto DDH-03i Panning Clamp operating instructions
The Operating Instructions Manual is printed in fair English on one side and Chinese on the other. It concerns the operation of both DDH-02i and DDH-03i panning QR clamps with parts explanation and useful illustrations for the operation. There are also maintenance instructions and Warranty terms. Speaking of warranty, 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.

As I was also informed, Sunwayfoto will keep the same model number and product code of the DDH-03i for the revised 2014 version. Therefore, in order to discriminate between the two, I shall refer to the original as the DDH-03i/2013 version and to the revised version as the DDH-03i/2014 version, hence forward.
Somehow, this will generate a problem for potential buyers, but I hope the distributors / resellers put a mark on the package declaring which is which. It would have been far easier if Sunwayfoto had adopted the very popular "Mark II" term or something like that in the model name. 

Comparison with the DDH-03i/2013 Version
As much the exterior visual comparison between the DDH-03 and DDH-03i, so much the comparison of the DDH-03i/2013 with the just received DDH-03i/2014 shows no detectable difference in the design of the panning lock mechanism.

Sunwayfoto DDH-03i / 2013 left - DDH-03i / 2014 right
Somehow, there are a couple of details that discriminate the older 2013 version on the left, from the newest 2014 version on the right. First, the length of the safety screw relief grooves is by a few millimeters shorter on the new one, while the bubble level is positioned closer to the center hole than before.

But experience with the DDH-03i/2013 showed that, as with many other things, we - or better I - should never be fooled by appearances. Therefore, this time I got into the trouble of finding the special tool required to unscrew the stainless steel ring that holds the clamp and the panning base together. Then after some effort breaking the red thread-lock compound, I opened up both the 2013 and 2014 versions to have a look into their guts.

Openned Sunwayfoto DDH-03i / 2013 left - DDH-03i / 2014 right
The exposure of their interior enhanced my opinion about the Sunwayfoto build quality. Most important however, is that they have nothing in common in the design of their panning lock mechanisms. The DDH-03i/2013 is lying on the left and the DDH-03i/2014 on the right.
Openned Sunwayfoto DDH-03i / 2013 pan lock detail
DDH-03i / 2013 panning brake relied on an open brass ring, which pressed against the center spindle by the pan lock screw was meant to immobilized the panning base like a drum brake. The whole inner surface of the clamp seems soaked in a sticky silicone grease which offers a liquid and smooth movement to the panning base. However, the mechanism proved inadequate to hold heavy loads.
Openned Sunwayfoto DDH-03i / 2014 pan lock detail
On the other hand the revised DDH-03i / 2014 panning break mechanism is a miniature clutch system. The pan lock screw presses against a lever which in turn presses another lever against a metal ring around the central spindle. The combination of the two levers exercises more pressure to the center spindle requiring less effort by the user. Further the contact surface between the lever and the center spindle is much larger, resulting in better immobilization of the panning base.
Less sticky silicone grease is present within this clamp, which must be of higher grade, since the rotation of the panning base requires more effort and is stickier than the previous.
For the record this panning brake clutch is coming from the patented Sunwayfoto XB Series Low Profile Ball heads, therefore a Sunwayfoto first.

Panning Lock Strength Assessment
Here we come to the essence of this review. Which is to verify if any actual improvement came out from re-designing or re-engineering if you will, the DDH-03i / 2014 version.
Sunwayfoto DDH-03i /2013 PC w/ rail + sandbag - closeup
As reported in the Sunwayfoto DDH-03i Panning Clamp Reduced Torque Capacity article, the DDH-03i/2013 panning clamp, managed to lock with a load of 5,5 kg at a distance of only 7,5cm from the center which translates to a Torque of approximately 41,25 KgF*cm. Much less than the original DDH-03.
Sunwayfoto DDH-03i /2014 PC w/ rail + sandbag - closeup
Same as with the previous versions, one of my counter balance weights, weighing about 5,5 Kg (12.1 lb) was used to calculate the torque.  The revised DDH-03i was able to hold the weight at an offset position of 13 cm, which is translated into a Torque of ~71.50 KgF*cm, Certifying that its panning lock ability is pretty much the same as the original DDH-03.
In plain words 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.
I should point out here that this small panning clamp outperformed some much larger and heavier panoramic clamps!

Using the Clamp...
Mounted Directly on a XB Series Low Profile ball head
Sunwayfoto actually offers the DDH-03 bundled with the beefy XB-52 Low Profile Ball Head under the XB-52DDH code name. However, the clamp may also complement very nicely the low profile nature of the XB-44 ball head adding only a few millimeters to the overall height.

Sunwayfoto DDH-03i /2014 Panning Clamp on XB-44 LP Ball Head
The DDH-03i Panning Clamp is easily attached on the Sunwayfoto XB-44 Low Profile Ball Head (Review), via an M6 stainless steel screw provided with both the Panning Clamp and the Ball Head.

Used as a Vertical Panoramic Rotator
Besides the use as a horizontal rotator mounted on a ball head, Sunwayfoto promotes DDH-03i combined with Sunwayfoto DDY-58 Discal Quick Release Clamp (Review) as a vertical rotator with quick up-down relocation for their Multi-Row Panorama Head bundles i.e. Pamo-1 through Pano-3. Therefore, the results from the clamp's panning lock strength is most critical for this task.
The higher the number the heavier camera / lens combination can be used, considering that the offset position of a camera mounted on a nodal slide generates a lot more torque.

Sunwayfoto DDH-03i /2014 Panning Clamp on Sunwayfoto Pano-3 panoramic head
Pictured top left is the Sunwayfoto DDH-03i /2014 panning clamp combined with the DDY-58 Discal QR Clamp attached on the DMC-200 vertical rail with clamp as a vertical rotator. In the lower left photo the vertical rail is in turn shown on the DPG-2416 Multipurpose Rail. Where all together combined with the DDP-64M Panoramic Indexing Rotator with DDY-64 QR Clamp, the DYH-66i Leveling base and the DMP-200 Nodal Slide Rail, form the Sunwayfoto Pano-3 Multi-row Panoramic Head.

For more usage examples please refer to the original Sunwayfoto DDH-03 Panning Clamp Review

Arca-Swiss® Compatibility
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 dimensionsmm
Steady Jaw Length36.47
Moving Jaw Length24.01
Steady Jaw Height04.45
Moving Jaw Height04.05
Min Jaw Lip Opening33.92
Max Jaw Lip Opening38.10
Min Base Opening40.77
Max Base Opening45.42

Although the numbers are a little better than the original DDH-03 ones, the yellow figures in the above specs are still considered a little low, especially the moving jaw height, compared with 5 mm which is the middle of the dovetail V cut. Anyway all other dimensions fall within the average limits, consisting the clamp compatible with a large number of Arca-Swiss® type plates and rails.

Further, we shall see a comparison similar to the one I presented with the original DDH-03 in order to certify this compatibility.

Sunwayfoto DDH-03i PC jaw detail on Sunwayfoto DMP-200 rail
It is well known by now that Sunwayfoto has a broad range of universal or dedicated camera and lens plates as well as a series of multipurpose rails which cover almost any need. Of course DDH-03i panning quick release clamp is fully compatible with Sunwayfoto's own gear. Looking at the photo on the right, where DDH-03i is illustrated clamping the Sunwayfoto DMP-200 nodal slide rail, I can see one of the best contacts between clamp and rail ever, as evidence of Sunwayfoto's exemplary, tiny tolerance CNC machining.

On the other hand, in order to check its compatibility with other manufacturers plates and rails, I tested DDH-03i with various camera plates, lens plates and multipurpose long rails of various thicknesses and widths. Plates and Rails tested were from Benro, Desmond, Fotoporo, Hejnar PHOTO, Marumi and Kiwi Fotos, 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 Benro, Desmond and Hejnar PHOTO which are also RRS compatible.

Sunwayfoto DDH-03i PC jaw detail on Hejnar Photo G20-10 rail
In regard of the 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 and a little better than with the original DDH-03 but this extra care may cause a little frustration to some users.

Nevertheless, the clamp jaws are very strong and due to the stainless steel rods which act as guides for the QR clamp moving jaw and the very small tolerances there is no play or deformation of the moving jaw as with cheap clamps, so as to fear for a rail may fall off.

Excellent machining, finishing, fitting and build quality in par with Sunwayfoto standards.
Extremely low weight for a panoramic clamp.
Very smooth operation in all aspects.
Very 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 still a little short for the dovetail edge radius of some 5/8" thick rails from other manufacturers.

Some of the Pros and Cons are the same as the ones found in the original Sunwayfoto DDH-03 Panning Clamp Review since the overall concept and nature of the clamp remains the same with only a few design differences. Nevertheless, with this 2014 revision the design differences are actually for the better.
The advantages of this very compact panning clamp, outperform by far a couple of disadvantages which are not so serious anyway. Sunwayfoto DDH-03i (2014 version) is an excellent design and machining example that can cope better than much larger competitors.
This latest revised 2014 version allows me to withdraw my reservations about its predecessor panning lock abilities and once again fully recommend it. It's especially suitable for travelers and hikers since it will add very little weight, being as light as a common quick release clamp.

The Redesigned and  Revised DDH-03i Panning Clamp presented in this article was kindly offered for evaluation and review by Sunwayfoto. Many thanks.

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 information useful, thank you for viewing.
All Photos © 2013-14 S.C.Vlachos

Price & Availability:
Price will remain at US$ 99.00 for the actually improved DDH-03i.
Since according to Sunwayfoto there will be no change in the product coding I assume that both DDH-03i and DDH-03Ni (without AM-02 plate) panning clamp listings on Amazon.com will also serve for the updated versions.
Nevertheless, I shall monitor and update as soon as I receive information that revised units have reached the stores.

Update Jun 2017
After the known patent infringement issues Sunwayfoto DDH clamps are only available outside US from eBay;and from Amazon.de 

Referenced Articles:

Sunwayfoto DDH-03 Panning Clamp Preview

Sunwayfoto DDH-03 Panning Clamp Review

Sunwayfoto XB-44 Low Profile Ball Head Review

Sunwayfoto DDY-58 Discal Quick Release Clamp Review

Triopo GX-1328 Carbon Fiber Classic Tripod Review

Relevant Articles:

New Improved Sunwayfoto DDH-02i & DDH-03i Panning Clamps Preview

Sunwayfoto DDH-03i Panning Clamp Reduced Torque Capacity


  1. Good Update but now I am totally confused by SunwayFoto.

    I tried sourcing the 2014 version of the 03i but was informed by Sunwayfoto that it had been superseded by the DDH-05. OK I thought, but on checking the images available for the DDH-05 it appears it has reverted to some "old" 03 characteristics. It again has a flat Clamp channel without the bevelled entry/exit edges and has a "tongue" guide for the moving jhaw as opposed to the 3 X Pins that were implemented on the 03i as an improvement.

    Not sure what all this means in terms of panning lock torque , but that is the most important question I have , and now it remains again unanswered....at least for the DDH-05. I am intending to use the panning clamp primarily in the vertical orientation so the torque is important

    Any assistance appreciated

    1. Unfortunately, we are on the same boat regarding the effectiveness and/or the reasoning behind the changes on DDH-05.
      However, I'm expecting a review sample hopefully soon, upon receipt of which I'll be able to give some substantiated answers, especially for the panning lock torque.

    2. Thanks SV

      I look forward to your findings!...in the meantime if I can find a 2014 version of the DDH-03i that I can be 100% sure of, I'll buy it. The problem for me however , and Sunwayfoto , is that the descriptions and photos on vendors sites for the DDH-03i model(s) are identical regardless of the "versions"...................

    3. As I had mentioned in the article, the lack of discrimination marks between the "versions" causes much confusion. The only way to know which DDH-03i is which, is to contact the vendor directly. Avoiding confusion and frustration may be one of the reasons behind the release of the DDH-05....

  2. Your point on an apparently shallower jaw height and its impact in creating less clamping contact surface on the Sunwayfoto clamp V others might be worth rechecking .

    I have Kirk and Acratech clamps and a Sunwayfoto nodal slider with integrated clamp, so was able to check using some manual Vernier calipers.

    On checking the from the TOP surface of the movable jaws to the bottom surface of the plate channel I found the Kirk to be ~4.26 mm, the Acratech ~4.50 mm , and the Sunwayfoto ~4.05 which agrees with your point.

    However the top edge bevel on the Sunway clamp slopes backwards and is much finer than the straight bevels of the Kirk and Acratech clamps. The Kirk has an edge depth of ~0.7mm and the Acratech ~1.0mm whilst the Sunway has and edge of ~.0.5-0.6mm

    To get the actual jaw "gap" height I then deducted the edge distance from the original measurements to get ;

    KIRK 3.56mm
    Acratech 3.5 mm
    Sunway 3.45-3.55mm

    I understand my measurements were done manually and may well be a little out but the differences in effective jaw height are not that much or have I missed something ?

    Just as important as jaw height are the size of the edge bevels on the various plates available AND the bevels on the jaw edges. The finer the bevel the greater the contact area for any given clamp.

    1. You are correct in your measurements, somehow there is a conformity between different manufacturer clamp jaw heights and plate dovetail edge radius (meaning how fine is the radius of the cutting tool around the edge).
      The finer the dovetail (bevel) edge the shorter clamp jaw height required to clamp it perfectly as the original Sunwayfoto dovetail width is 39mm with very fine bevel edges. .
      The recent Sunway "R" version plates which are RRS compatible are different.
      The example of RRS, Wimberley, Hejnar, Kirk plates featuring an 1" (38,1mm) wide dovetail with more blunt bevel edges, requires higher clamp jaws.
      In order to make it more clear for the readers, I'll try to make some drawings and put this info in an article about "Arca_Swiss compatibility assessment" describing how different manufacturers realize this compatibility.

  3. Thanks SV and you are right again!!

  4. Thank you too AJS for your thoughtful comments and contribution.

  5. SV,

    Received a 250 mm rail today from a site called armorport dot com as well as a 64 mm round clamp. Basically the site is the shopfront for a factory in Shenzen that makes "Fittest" and maybe "Desmond" clamps and rails etc.

    Anyway, the rail is well finished but the dovetail edge is one of the biggest I have seen and the Jaw depth of the clamp is 5.05 mm. Together they are fine but when the rail is teamed with a sunwayfoto clamp , I understood your comments even more.

    Don't get me wrong the Sunway clamp still works fine with the rail but compared to the Kirk clamp the surface contact area of the jaws is much less, but a little more than the Acratech which surprised me. The "Fittest" 64 mm clamp , when teamed with the "Fittest" rail or the Sunwayfoto rail had the greatest contact area of all however.

    I have ordered the FVR-200 vertical rail from the same site because of this clamping characteristic and the quality of the 250mm rail received today, as part of my project to build a "budget pano head" for under $450 including shipping (excluding levelling base)
    So far , based primarily on on your recommendations and ideas , I am on target using a dedicated Sunwayfoto L Plate (PCL-5Diii), 200 mm nodal rail (DMP-200R), and Panning Clamp (DDH-03i ordered), and Armorport.com 250mm base rail (FP-250) and 64mm clamp (FSC-64).

    I will ultilise an existing Feisol PB 70 as the panning base, and an existing Acratech levelling base

    A bit of a "mongrel" I admit....but it will do the job I think!.

    1. Judging from your description, you'll end up with a nice and stable pano rig, since clamps plates and rails are teaming up perfectly.
      The Sunwayfoto PCL-5Diii will be clamped by DMP-200R further clamped by DDH-03i.
      The Fittest FVR-200 will clamp on the FP-250 which in turn will be clamped by the FSC-64 disc clamp.

      Therefore, I don't see any mismatch whatsoever. Well done!

    2. SV you are almost completely correct in your description of the match ups!

      I am planning to try the FVR-200 as the horizontal rail clamped by the FSC-64 with the FP-250 clamped in the vertical position.

      Why?....because I can attach the DDH-03i directly to the FP-250 in a secure anti twist manner without it being attached back to back to another clamp using a MPP-01 mini mate plate, and still have the ability to easily vary the height of the nodal slide panning clamp. ( ie reduce the # of required clamps X 1 without losing functionality).

      How?......The DDH-03i is attached to the FP-250 with a 14/20 UNC countersunk socket screw with anti twist provided by way of 2 X M3 stop screws ( 4 supplied with DMP-200R)) fitted into the FP-250 rail. The rail conveniently has four M3 holes surrounding the centre 1/4-20 UNC centre hole @ 90 degree intervals ,on the end opposite its bubble level. The heads of these screws then fit snugly into the indent "cross" on DDH-03i's base, providing a very secure non-twisting attachment.

      Note: I did have to file approx. 0.25mm of the height of the M3 screws in order to have the ddh-03i sitting perfectly flat on the rail however, but this was easily done. (Interestingly the same "cross" indent on the base of the FSC-65 accommodated the M3 screws without the need for filing)

    3. Fitting a clamp back to back on the DDH-03i for use as a vertical rotator is the Sunwayfoto way in order make it easier for it to slide up-down on the vertical rail. Quite versatile but with increased weight, bulk and cost as trade offs.

      However, as long as there are 4 x 1/4"-20 threaded holes at the bottom/back of DDH-03i (intended for mounting either the Arca mount plate or the DDY-58 clamp) I would either use one center 1/4"-20 countershunk socket screw and a short 1/4"-20 cap captive screw in one of the 4 holes through the captive slot of the vertical rail, or two short 1/4"-20 cap captive screw through the captive slot.

      Anyway, your method of attachment is also well calculated!
      Somehow, in the site you mentioned, the FP-250 does not seem to have the hole arrangement you describe but the FP-200 does. I guess they are the same then.

    4. You are right about the "photos" of the FP-200 having the holes and the FP-250 "photos" showing no such holes. I was surprised when the FP-250 arrived with the holes in place but quite happy in the end that they were there :-)

      I suspect, like many of the newer Chinese sites, the product photos need updating. I have since found various sellers on Aliexpress dot com that show the FP-250 with the holes in place.

    5. SV,

      Your methods of attaching the DDH-03i to the rail are absolutely available and valid. Indeed I tried both but preferred my other option for a couple of reasons;

      a) There is absolutely no play or twist at all using the m3 screws
      b) I am using the FP-250 as the vertical rail, with height adjustment provided by an FVR-200 in the horizontal. (ie the whole rail slides vertically in the FVR's clamp).
      c) The m3 screw method allows me to quickly swap out the DDH-03i for a simple FC-50s clamp attached in the same manner, when the panning clamp is not needed.

      In fact a any clamp with a "+ " or single slot " -" indent in its base can be attached this way.

    6. Link to FP-250 photos showing cross shaped M3 screw holes


  6. According to my latest information from Sunwayfoto, further to the DDH-05 they are also releasing a DDH-02i replacement the DDH-06.
    As stated in their email, both new panning clamps revert to the older design long- tongue moving jaw in order to widen the jaw increasing the contact area, though the major point of these releases is, that now only 2/3 of a turn is required to unlock/lock the screw knob clamp.
    This is a major improvement, since unlocking/locking has become as fast as a lever release.

    More in the upcoming DDH-05 hands-on review.

  7. Thanks for the update SV.

    FYI , I managed to get hold of a 2014 version DDH-03i and can verify it holds 5 kgs cantilevered 150mm, and easily handles a 5Diii with EF 70-200 F2.8 IS II .

    Interesting changes on the DDH-05/06, but I am not sure the 2/3 turn improvement is really that necessary or desirable.....but to some others it may be! I'm also not sure why the "long-tongue" design is required in order to widen the jaw ? Surely that could be achieved with the 3 pin setup?

  8. SV,

    As mentioned I recently acquired a 2014 version DDH-03i panning clamp.

    I have only now noticed that either the index scale marks OR the alignment markers are OUT.
    When I place one of the alignment markers on 0 degrees and lock the panning down , the opposite marker aligns to ~181-181.5 degrees. Not a big deal in itself but it does tell me that at least 1 and maybe 2 of the index marks are not aligned exactly with the "cross" indent on the base or the plate mounting holes on the base.
    Checking by eye only it appears that one of the alignment marks is out because if I use one ( call it mark A) and align it to 0 the opposing marker is out by ~1-1.5 degrees but the centres of the Clamp knob and Pan Lock knob appear centred at 270 and 90 . Using Mark B on 0, the apposite mark is out by ~1-1.5 degrees AND so are the centres of both knobs.

    Whilst this is not an insurmountable problem , Sunwayfoto should address this in subsequent models. to overcame any issue I have simply coloured the "misaligned " Marker with a Red marker pen to distinguish it from the other.

    I would be interested to learn if this "issue" is isolated to my copy or common to the model?

    1. Thanks for pointing this out. I shall report the issue to Sunwayfoto so they improve their QC.

      Indeed the Φ mark on the bubble level side of the 2014 version of DDH-03i is offset by ~1,5° to the left in reference to the one on the opposite side which seems properly aligned and centered between the jaws.
      However, this will only cause a problem if the panning clamp is used vertically.

    2. "However, this will only cause a problem if the panning clamp is used vertically.".....which is exactly how I intend to use it unfortunately.

      I think the "workaround" is to simply use ONLY the properly aligned marker OR if that is too problematic in real life use , take a Dremel or an awl and etch a small spot to the right of the "misaligned " marker in the correct position?

      I have opted for the second option, after dismantling the base form the clamp, so as not to cause any damage to the index scale in the event of a slip with the Dremel/Awl.
      It worked fine and I now have a 0.30 mm spot in the correct alignment on the bubble level side , with the original misaligned Φ mark coloured red to its left ~1.5 degrees.
      All Good!

    3. I know, so I mentioned. :)
      "Fortunately" or "Unfortunately" not everyone is keen on handling tools, therefore the mark misplacement has to be added to the Cons of the 2014 DDH-03i.
      Since anyway DDH-03i is replaced by DDH-05 will have to verify the latter is correctly engraved.

    4. SV,

      I agree , but sometimes I just can't pass up the opportunity to tinker !!
      I should have perhaps just sent it back BUT in all other respects it works perfectly, and I know it does from physical tests.............. and besides I got it for a very good price and who knows the DDH-05 might have the same issue or others :-).......

      Again thank you so much for your assistance and "ideas".