Third Party Rigs and Stands

Vertical Copy Stands - Just few Samples

Why are vertical setups so popular? 

Well, gravity plays a big role here—it helps keep the light source, film holder, and camera perfectly aligned, and still allows for easy repositioning of these elements. The setup also tends to be more space-efficient since we often run into more horizontal space constraints than vertical. Plus, there’s an inherent simplicity to it—after all, many photographers have a long history with copy stands, and it's common to find either these or repurposed enlargers in our basements.

A frequent issue with many copy stand heads is that they have two significant flaws.

 Firstly, they typically use a simple screw mount, which can cause the camera to rotate around the screw, compromising stability. Secondly, the fixed mounting point on the head does not guarantee that the camera's lens optical axis is set perfectly perpendicular to the stand’s base.

The problem of columns tilting forward is often exacerbated by the weight of the camera and lens, possibly compounded by a flash trigger or an extra micro-focusing rail. Only a very heavy stand can adequately withstand this leveraged force.

From a purely mechanical standpoint, these setups are inherently unbalanced. The weight of the camera and lens, when multiplied by the length of the arm to which they are mounted, exerts a considerable moment that can even slightly bend a rigid column. It turns out that only columns made from multi-layered t-slot aluminum extrusion or cast iron can reliably withstand such forces. We're actually talking about a tilt of just 2-3 degrees, but even this small angle is too much for achieving sharp, edge-to-edge capture.

If you lack these heavy, custom-made columns, your best alternative is to use an adjustable mount. This allows for slight adjustments once the camera is attached to the stand, ensuring the lens's optical axis can be aligned perpendicular to the film's plane.

In my humble opinion...

... the ideal mounting solution should incorporate an Arca-Swiss QR interface to prevent rotation and dampen vibrations. Additionally, the head should allow fine adjustments to both pitch and yaw to ensure precise camera alignment.

I also use and highly recommend placing your camera in a camera-specific CNC cage, or at the very least, an L-bracket. This setup allows the camera body to sit comfortably within a supporting cage, largely removing any stress on the camera’s screw mount. A typical cage is also shaped to be compatible with an Arca-Swiss mount, ensuring a strong, reliable, and wiggle-free connection.

Before we dive into the specifics of various stands, let’s talk about some general features you might want to consider when building your own rig. While I won’t be reviewing products from Negative Supply or VALOI here due to lack of personal experience, I would love to hear from anyone who uses them regularly about their effectiveness.

Now, let’s go through a few popular copy stands and columns that can help you build a quality setup:

LPL Copy Stand Column CSC-10

The LPL Copy Stand Column is a practical and versatile tool, perfect for professional photographers and enthusiasts who need a reliable setup for copying photographs, documents, and flat art.

 It's sturdy enough to support APS-C and full-frame digital cameras with 70-90 mm macro lenses. Equipped with two powerful grips, this stand can be securely attached to almost any desk with minimal effort. These grips provide a firm hold and are well damped to prevent vibrations. The stand can be easily fixed to a desk, and it does not require much space behind it. It can be fixed to the side of an office desk facing the wall with clamp screws conveniently located above the desk. 

The central column, made from aluminum alloy, stands 21.7 inches tall and offers a variable working height from 5.3 to 19.8 inches, equipped with scaled index marks for repeatable setups and adjustments. The head mechanism is well-crafted and enables fine focusing without the need for a micro-focusing rail. The head is operated via a single knob, simplifying the adjustment process. This knob not only locks but also releases the head efficiently, supporting camera systems weighing up to 7.7 pounds. 

However, once the weight of the camera and lens reaches the upper allowed limit, the head knob may not have enough power to move the camera up and down, requiring the photographer to assist the movement with a free hand. Additionally, the head comes with a screw mount which I recommend supplementing with a simple screw knob clamp with an Arca-Swiss interface. Once the screw mount is tightened once, you will be able to easily attach and detach the camera (in a cage or L-bracket). 

The LPL Copy Stand Column models are available through various retailers, including B&H, eBay, and Amazon. The column isn't exactly cheap—the best strategy is to set up a search on eBay and snap the column for around $150 from a seller in Japan with free shipping; otherwise, the stand now goes for about $200. 

In any case, you should plan to use some camera angle adjustment, as the chances that your camera will be oriented absolutely correctly are very slim. Using thin shims under film holders may be another inexpensive option.

Kaiser Repro Kid Copy Stand

The Kaiser Repro Kid is a compact stand designed for small and lightweight cameras up to 2.2 lbs. It features a non-reflective 15 x 12.5-inch baseboard, a 23-inch calibrated column, and a height-adjustable camera arm with a 1/4"-20 camera screw.

 This stand is straightforward to assemble and comes with a base. However, its head is a weak point, prone to unwanted rotations. 

You generally need to tighten the mount very securely to prevent this issue. Honestly, the retail price of around $250 is at least twice what I'd recommend paying.

Manfrotto 131TC Table Mount Geared Column with Clamp

The Manfrotto 131TC Table Mount Geared Column with Clamp is a highly versatile and robust tool designed to meet the needs of photographers looking for precise and steady camera positioning. 

Standing at 26 inches tall, this geared column features 1.5-inch jaws that can securely clamp onto various surfaces such as tables, ladders, or shelves. This flexibility makes it an excellent choice for setting up in unconventional locations or tight spaces. 

The column's gearing mechanism allows for precise vertical adjustments, ensuring that the camera can be positioned exactly as needed—you may bypass using a micro focusing rail. 

A strong and reliable grip characterizes the Manfrotto 131TC, with the camera attaching to an arm that connects to the top of the riser. However, a notable limitation is the column's height, which requires it to be mounted high enough above the floor to avoid contact with the floor at its lowest position. This could pose a challenge in environments with limited vertical space. 

Despite this, its robust build and precision adjustments make it an invaluable tool for detailed photographic work. The build quality is very good, and the column can handle relatively heavy cameras and lenses.

Shown here is a setup comprised of the Manfrotto 131TC Table Mount Geared Column, a Neewer support bracket, and a Leofoto G2 geared head. An important feature of the 131TC is the presence of three set screws at the top of the riser, which help secure the bracket and prevent it from rotating around the screw mount.

"Your Copy-Stand"


Description from web site: 

This Super Heavy Duty Macro Copy Stand is perfect for precision macro product photography and for copying artwork with digital DSLR or cell phone cameras.

The vertical column is offset to ensure your camera is on center when attached to the camera mount.

The included Arca mount also can adjusted left or right to get the perfect camera set up.

The horizontal camera arm also includes ExoSlide (TM) movement and includes a thumb screw that can be tightened once you have your camera set to the right spot.

The vertical column is made with 30/30 extruded aluminum (Exo-Slide

bearings are in contact with all 4 sides ensuring smooth gliding).

The horizontal camera arm is 20/20 extruded aluminum.

A super heavy duty flange and stainless steel screws connect the vertical column to the gray base.

Includes one Arca type quick release camera mounting plate with a built in level

Includes one snap-to-point pivoting cell phone mount

Copy Stand base is a gray laminate over particle board.

Four rubber feet keep the base from sliding.