Simple inexpensive tabletop camera support

David M. Delaney
August 20, 2008
Revised September 15, 2008 to add chock reference

This design has been replaced by a much better one. See Better simple inexpensive tabletop camera support.

side-view.gifWhen I started doing table-top photography,  vertical, or nearly vertical, shots required putting my tripod on the tabletop and  mounting the camera on the bottom of the riser column..  I used the tripod this way for a couple of years, but always found it inconvenient.  It was sometimes almost impossible to get the feet of the tripod out of the shot. The tripod occupied space on the tabletop, and was always at risk of being knocked over. The feet surrounded the subject and were always in the way.  

I had been looking for a commercial camera support system that would work well for me on the tabletop when I thought of building the one shown here.  It works extremely well, and you won't beat the price.  It allows virtually any camera attitude in the space anywhere above my small  table from nearly zero inches to about twenty inches (500 mm)..

To replicate my camera support system, get a thirty inch piece of square aluminum tubing, 1-1/4 inch (32 mm) on a side, wall thickness 1/8 inch (3 mm)  with rounded edges, drill a 1/4 inch hole through one end of the tubing, bolt a ballhead to it via the hole, and clamp the tube in a portable vise that clamps to the edge of the table.  That's all there is to it.  The system holds a small point-and-shoot camera with a cheap ballhead very rigidly, but is strong and rigid enough for a significantly heavier camera-ballhead combination . See the Sony H50 with the Manfrotto 486RC2 pictured below. (This is the combination I now do most of my tabletop photography with.)

small-camera-small-ballhead.gifI bought the tubing at a Metals Supermarket store.  The vise  is a Lee Valley Tools In-Line Vise that I've had kicking around the house for 10 years.  (They still sell it. See  I also bought some 1/4-20 threaded rod and a wing-nut from their Jig Fixtures department.  I cut the threaded rod to length with a hacksaw and dressed the cut end with a file.  I washed the tubing with detergent to remove grunge from the store,  and dressed it well with a flat file and a rat-tail file file to remove rough edges. 

Note added September 15, 2008: Experience has shown that the vise must be tightened inconveniently hard.  Also there is a risk of the beam (and camera!) falling when the vise is loosened to adjust the beam angle.  These problems were solved by adding a chock to support the beam in the vise. With the chock in use, the beam cannot fall, and the vise needs to be tightened only sufficiently to eliminate wiggling of the beam.  See Adding a chock to the camera support system

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