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Outdoorsmans Goes Arca

Outdoorsmans Goes Arca

It’s been a topic of conversation for years – in the mountains, on social media and online forums, and in the back rooms of Outdoorsmans HQ.

Why isn’t every tripod adapter system based on the Arca-Swiss dovetail?

Well, for the most part, they are. Although we have produced Outdoorsmans plates for decades now and we love them to death, the longstanding king of tripod adaptability has yet to show any signs of going away. When we look at our suppliers, the industry as a whole, and even our competition, we are not blind to the ever-increasing prominence of the Arca-Swiss dovetail design.

From a beginning in the film and photography industries to a dramatic takeover of the PRS world and a slow bleed into the hunting market, the Arca-Swiss bevel has firmly supplanted nearly every other style of tripod adapter. We have held on to the belief that our proprietary design is in every way as functional, and in some cases, more practical. However, when the first Outdoorsmans plate was created, Arca-Swiss was not a household name in the hunting/shooting market.

But wait… What is Arca-Swiss, anyway?

We’re glad you asked. Arca-Swiss is a company based out of Stuttgart, Switzerland that began as a camera repair business. It quickly became one of the first to create its own professional camera equipment, tripod heads, and other adapter solutions. The company's history is very interesting, but for this article, we are more concerned with its most well-known achievement, the invention of a stepless sliding tripod mount system.

Arca Swiss Dovetail Design
The mount uses a simple male dovetail fitted to the camera. The tripod size has a matching female dovetail that acts as a clamp. There is quite a bit of range on the female clamp, so the tolerances of the male part are not too critical.

The Arca-Swiss Bevel

The genius of the design is in the way the plates and jaws are cut to work together. The colloquial “Arca” or “Arca-Swiss” that we commonly use in the hunting and shooting world refers to a tripod head with a certain size and angle of cut that accepts a plate with a certain size and angle of cut.

This design has been replicated, mass-produced, and shouted from the tops of mountains in the most rugged of backcountry sniper competitions. Although it seems simple, the “stepless sliding” function of these plates allows for quick adjustments, quick releasing, and simple, smooth connection with a variety of tripods and accessories. The phrase, “industry standard” describes this design more and more every day.

If you look at the graphic above, the last sentence in the description is one of the most critical for us as we consider a change to our entire line of tripods and accessories.

“There is quite a bit of range on the female clamp, so the tolerances of the male part are not too critical.” 

 

What does this mean for us? It means that any Arca-Swiss head or clamp system can accept nearly any Arca-Swiss plate. A good example of this universality comes from our web developer, Douglas. Douglas is both a hunter and a photographer, so he likes to run the Capture Clip from Peak Design to carry his camera on the shoulder strap of his pack. The Capture Clip uses a tiny Arca Swiss plate to accomplish this.

Peak Design Capture Clip

A common issue for Douglas (and others) has always been mounting the camera to an Outdoorsmans tripod head while in the field. Since the Outdoorsmans heads (barring the Fluid Head) use our proprietary dovetail, this means switching plates. However, we noticed that this plate, tiny as it is, actually works with the Fluid Head (with the available Arca Combo Jaws) among others, such as the Sirui VA-5.

By now, you can hopefully see where we’re headed with this.

The Future

Considering the prominence of the Arca-Swiss system, its vast functionality implications, and its seemingly endless increase in popularity, Outdoorsmans is set to do something we do even more rarely than putting our products on sale. We’re going to change.

Whether due to pride, confidence, or stubbornness, we may be some of the last to jump aboard the Arca train. However, we are jumping in head first, noses plugged, hoping to drown out the cries for a simpler, more common, more straightforward adapter platform. Outdoorsmans is going Arca… With a twist.

If you’ve ever purchased a Fluid Head from us, visited the page, or bumped into someone using one on the mountain, you may have noticed an optional extra that we offer. The Outdoorsmans/Arca combo jaws have become the most popular option for nearly every one of our customers and employees who has the pleasure of using a Fluid Head. This unique upgrade allows the use of both Outdoorsmans plates and Arca plates, even simultaneously!

That’s what you can expect from all Outdoorsmans tripod heads in the very near future. In the next few months, we will begin to roll out the Gen II versions of all of our tripod heads and many of their accompanying accessories. These Gen II models will all incorporate the “combo” idea, accepting either style of plate. This has not been a simple switch. It has taken some re-design and serious effort, but we believe it is by far the best move for both ourselves and our customers moving forward.

What does it look like in practice?

Time will tell, but here’s an example that Ryan (read: everyone) is particularly excited about:
“This means I can run a Swarovski spotting scope on a Micro Pan Head or Pistol Grip without any plates, and I can swap to my Binocular Adapter without changing anything.”

We think that’s pretty damned special.

Our goal is to provide every hunter, shooter, and photographer with the simplest, most effective tools for the job at hand, and this is a huge leap in the right direction on that front.

In the meantime, according to the schedule for delivery of Gen II heads, Gen I tripod heads will be discounted in order to make room. If you have ever wanted a Pan Head, Micro Pan Head, or Pistol Grip and have been (or are willing to be) baptized into the Outdoorsmans Dovetail system, there has never been a better time.

Look for the launch of the Gen II series of Tripod Heads in the coming months, beginning with the Pan Head.

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