Handling & Performance
The M-Plate is the foundation piece of a Universal tripod Plate system, developed by San Francisco based company Custom SLR. It's a quick-release tripod plate with connection points for optional attachments such as hand grips, flash brackets, video accessories and the C-Loop strap system.
Custom SLR M-Plate Features
The M-Plate is a universal quick-release plate made of aluminium and anodized to provide a black finish. What makes this different to usual quick-release plates is its compatible with both the Manfrotto RC2 and Arca Swiss systems. It also has a connection point to add other accessories as they become available. Currently there's a hand strap attachment, but plans are in progress to develop a flash bracket and a hand grip.
The M-Plate has a five 1/4in tripod screw holes arrange around the center locking post so if it's not compatible with your own tripod quick-release system you can attach the tripod's plate to the base of this M-Plate.
There's also a point to screw in Custom SLR's C-Loop so your strap from BlackRapid, SunSniper, Spider Holster or Cotton Carrier can be attached and left on when the plate is mounted on a tripod.
The surface has a cork pad to grip the camera base.
It's attached to the camera using a supplied Allen key (hex key) locking bolt into the camera's tripod thread.
Custom SLR M-Plate Handling & Performance
The plate looks good and feels solid. Having to attach it to the camera using an Allen key is a little inconvenient as it means you need to carry the tool around with you should you decide to take the plate off at any time on your journey.
It has a slot for the main tripod threaded bolt to position the plate so it fits balanced on the camera base and the C-Loop point is centered when used with a strap. It works better when longer lenses are used. I tried it with a Pentax K20D and 80-320mm zoom and the balance was good, but with a Nikon D300 and 50mm f/1.4 the position was pulling the body so the lens was pointing upwards and became slightly less comfortable to carry.
The plate can obstruct the camera's battery compartment and definitely does on The K20D when the M-Plate hand strap attachment is added. This makes the Allen key release an even bigger issue as you are likely to need to change battery if you take a lot of photos on your trip out. It's also big and clumsy on a compact system cameras such as the Olympus Pen.
The anodized paint is also not that well applied, as I soon started to see marks with aluminium showing through and that's before I went out doors to test. I'd only attached the plate to my tripod twice to get a feel for the fitting and compatibility. It won't take long for this to look really well scuffed.
The M-Plate provides a good support on the base of the camera, especially when you sit the camera down on a flat surface. It supports the lens and provides a solidly stable platform. The base of the camera is also protected on wet or rough surfaces.
Now to compatibility. The spec is a bit misleading as although it's RC2 compatible, it's not exclusively. It won't fit on the 804RC2 for example. It needs the RC2 to have clearance at the sides, like on the 322RC2 otherwise it won't fit.
The position of the plate means the camera hangs comfortably by your side when used with the C-Loop, and can be brought to eye level without getting tangled.
The Custom SLR M-Plate provides a solid platform for the camera and prevents less bulky lenses tipping the body down. The C-Loop mounting point might get in the way of a chunky lens though!
Value For Money
Providing the range of modular features the M-Plate is quite unique, but at £60 (plus extra for strap connections) this plate is expensive. You could buy a couple of plates with fixed position tripod straps from Hejnar
for about £10 less. But most of us just need one plate, so £25 is all you'd need to spend. Even less expensive is Manfrotto's own RC2 plate
for just £12, but you lose the camera strap and accessory option. A Carry Speed C-2 Mounting Plate
will resolve that.
Custom SLR M-Plate Verdict
One of this plate's key selling points is that it's compatible with several tripod systems. But do people have more than one tripod system? And, if so, what are the chances it will work with both? And when will you be out with both at the same time where you'd need to switch? It would have been better if Custom SLR had produced two versions and then they would have been able to create a Manfrotto version that works with all RC2 systems. Also the fact you can't remove quickly will be frustrating to many users. At £60 it's expensive too, especially as you need other items to tap into its benefits.
Custom SLR M-Plate Pros
Balances well on cameras with a longer lens
Offers base protection
Custom SLR M-Plate Cons
Doesn't fit all RC2 tripods
Allen key fixing is inconvenient
Too bulky for compact system cameras
|HANDLING & PERFORMANCE
|VALUE FOR MONEY