Tethering with the Surface Pro: An Evolution of Clamping Choices!

Some of the clamping options used while tethering with the Surface Pro through the generations.

Some of the clamping options used while tethering with the Surface Pro through the generations. ©2015 Ken Doo Photography

Over a year I ago, I first wrote a blog article concluding that the Microsoft’s Surface Pro with touch screen interface and USB3 capability was a game changer for those tethering with Phase One IQ series and Leaf Credo medium format digital backs. Now with the Surface Pro 3 and soon to be released Surface Pro 4, that still remains true today. The power of a laptop in a tablet form, the Surface Pro using a full version of Phase One’s Capture One Pro to view full resolution RAW files far surpasses anything offered by viewing via WiFi or puny JPEG files. Even for DSLRs, tethering with a Surface Pro offers great tethering functionality for those who seek a portable tethering option.  Originally I used and recommended the Arkon Clamp to hold the SP2, which can be seen at the rear of the above photo. Since that time, the search for the perfect clamp has ensued, all offering improvements over the first generation Arkon Clamp, but also with known limitations or compromises. The Wolf Clamp (pictured in the above photo on the left) added a pano rail with end clamp and RRS FAS clamp to hold the tripod head and camera. While the Wolf Clamp added increased capability, it is also very stout and bulky making it extremely difficult to pack into a camera bag. It is not inexpensive either. The Pig Clamp (pictured above, right) with its flat stature is perfect for hiking, but its light weight also meant not being as stout as the others. The Pig Clamp also uses the same pano rail and FAS clamp as the Wolf Clamp. The Pig Clamp is inexpensive, and I still have a few available on the shelf.  While some choose simply to handhold the Surface Pro, others have opted for a tripod stone bag, such as Vanguard’s tripod stone bag.  But I wanted something better.  So my search continued, resulting in what I feel is the best possible clamping solution(s) for tethering with the Surface Pro on location.  Don Libby of Iron Creek Photography and I call this the Capture Location Integrated Tethering System. There are actually three versions, but as you will see below, I greatly favor one over the others.

Capture Location Integrated Tethering Systems for the Surface Pro.

Capture Location Integrated Tethering Systems for the Surface Pro. Version 1 on the left; Version 2 on the right. Not shown here is Version 3—see below.

There are three variations of this latest generation clamping system, with two using the same RRS MPR-CL II pano rail (or similar), RRS FAS clamp, an Arca Swiss compatible plate, and all using a Giottos Professional Mini-Ball head, as pictured above. Using the RRS Duo Package rail may give slightly more vertical adjustment.  Stay tuned here to the blog as I may be updating the shopping list to include other recommended rails that may give slightly more vertical adjustment, attaching the ballhead directly to a 200mm multi-purpose rail as opposed to used a permanent quick release attachment point.  My preferred system is the magnetic CLIT Clamp on the shown above on the left, but quickly I am liking the last magnetic CLIT Clamp tripod variation best. It also uses a small metal cheeseplate, metal mounting plates, rare earth magnets, and a Urban Armor Gear (UAG) protective case for the Surface Pro.  Don’t worry—a shopping list of all the necessary items is at the bottom of this blog article.  The CLIT Clamp version 1, as illustrated above, thin metal mounting plates (with 3M self adhesive) are adhered to the metal cheeseplate. The metal plates give more surface area for the adhesive to grab onto.  You will need to cut a metal plate into two pieces using metal sheers or heavy duty scissors. Use a hammer to gently tap the cut edges flat and smooth before using the self-adhesive to apply the plates to the cheeseplate.  Two Nite Ize rare earth magnets are then glued onto the cheeseplate using the included 3M VHB tape. (note: don’t skimp on the magnets—get the ones from Nite Ize). A thin metal mounting plate is then fastened with the adhesive onto the back of the UAG case, at the top of the leg, making sure to leave just enough space so that the leg can fully extend without obstruction. There will be a slight overhang by the metal plate on the leg, but it will not interfere with use of the leg of closing the leg into the UAG case.  Make sure to use rubbing alcohol or lens wipes to clean all surfaces before applying adhesives.  You must use the UAG case. I tried to use the Surface Pro with the metal plates directly on the back of the Surface Pro with only limited success. The strength of the magnets will interfere with some functions of C1Pro (such as the loupe) on parts of the touch screen directly opposite the magnets. For those wishing additional magnetic shielding, a thin piece of MuMetal or any sheet will further increase magnetic shielding permeation and saturation levels. In my testing, the UAG case is more than sufficient and works beautifully.

 

UAG case with thin metal plate attached to the leg. The leg remains full functional and the metal plate is barely noticeable.

UAG case with thin metal plate attached to the leg. The leg remains fully functional and the metal plate is barely noticeable. Can be used on all CLITS Clamp versions, but is required on versions 1 and 3.

Magnetic Capture Location Integrated Tethering System shown alone and with Surface Pro attached.

Magnetic Capture Location Integrated Tethering System (Ver 1) shown alone and with Surface Pro attached. Cambo technical camera on Arca Swiss Cube, attached to RRS FAS clamp and MPR CLII rail. Giottos mini ballhead is attached with a AS quick release plate.

The rare earth magnet CLITS Clamp is stable and easy to use. It is fast and easily adjustable. And it packs well. I believe that this latest Surface Pro clamping system, versions 1, 2, and 3, offers the best in both capability, ease of use, and portability.  As you can see in the video below, the use of the rare earth magnets makes attaching the Surface Pro an easy and fast proposition.  

For those not wishing to use a UAG case, the CLITS Clamp version 2 can be adapted using the same pano rail, FAS clamp, and Giottos Professional Mini-ballhead with Desmond top clamp with lever quick release.  Using 3M VHB tape, a quick release plate is attached to the back of the Surface Pro, taking care not to obstruct use of the leg hinge.  Alternatively, a quick release plate could also be attached to the UAG case using 3M VHB tape.  Apply rubbing alcohol or a lens wipe to clean the area prior to applying the adhesive tape and quick release plate to the Surface Pro. A small Desmond lever quick release is then attached to the Giottos Professional Mini-ballhead.  The Desmond top clamp comes with a 3/8″ bushing reducer, which you should apply blue loctite before installing. The 3M VHB tape adhesive is very strong. If you need to remove the adhesive, apply rubbing alcohol with a cotton swab to loosen the bond and use either fishing line or dental floss to cut through the adhesive. Apply more rubbing alcohol to rub off the remaining adhesive.

Generic AS Compatible plate on the back of a Surface Pro for illustration.

Generic AS Compatible plate on the back of a Surface Pro for illustration of the CLITS Clamp version 2. Using a KPS Slim Plate provides a much lower profile. Attachment of a quick release plate on the UAG case is a preferred option too.

Using the KPS Slim Plate (SU7) would provide a much lower profile than a AS compatible plate

Using the KPS Slim Plate (SU7) would provide about a 50% lower profile than a AS compatible plate

For those who wish to have the absolute best, lowest profile solution for this version 2 of the CLITS Clamp, I highly recommend instead using the KPS Slim Plate system (SU7) and a either a compatible KPS top clamp on the Giottos Professional Mini-ballhead or a KPS mini ballhead. This is a more expensive quick release plate solution, but it is also has a much lower profile. The KPS Slim Plate is approximately 50% thinner than a standard AS plate.  See, www.legioaerium.com  The KPS ballhead also has a much higher rated capacity. KPS has agreed to send me their mini-ballhead to compare. For those seeking to use KPS Slim Plate compatible components, I advise contacting the US KPS distributor directly for best pricing and to order the correct parts.

CLITS Clamp version 3 features magnetic mounting but on the tripod leg

CLITS Clamp Version 3 features magnetic mounting but on the tripod leg. This version does not use the RRS FAS clamp or pano rail, yet still has good adjustment capabilities using the Giottos mini ball head. The compact CLITS Clamp Version 3 is my preferred clamp version.

The last version, the CLITS Clamp version 3, was put together after brainstorming with fellow professional photographer Paul Caldwell. This last clamp version is quickly becoming my favorite. This final version uses a Manfrotto Nano clamp. This small clamp has both 1/4″ and 3/8″ receiving screw holes. A one-inch headless 1/4″ bolt is screwed into the Nano clamp. The Giottos mini ballhead is then attached to the bolt. For a more capable mini ballhead, opt for the RRS BH-25PF instead. I actually recommend this RRS BH-25PF ballhead option instead. The same cheeseplate with the magnets in Version 1 is then attached to the ballhead.  This version allows attachment directly onto the tripod leg. In the photo above, the Nano clamp is able to attach to a RRS TVC 3 series tripod leg. Be careful not to over tighten and damage the tripod leg. A small strip of gaffers tape can be used if desired to protect the tripod leg.

Small, light, fast and easy to use. This version of the CLITS Clamp attaches to the tripod leg and is easily packed for on location tethering with the Surface Pro.

Small, light, fast and easy to use. This version of the CLITS Clamp attaches to the tripod leg and is easily packed for on location tethering with the Surface Pro.

This version of the CLITS Clamp is small, yet allows abundant movement of the Surface Pro tablet. The Surface Pro can be easily held or placed onto the clamp. Version 3 of the clamp is barely five inches in length and well under a pound in weight, making it easy to take along in a backpack pocket. I recommend storing the magnetic surface of the clamp away from the Surface Pro or other sensitive electronics.  What is great about the CLITS Clamp system is that it is modular and integrated, using many of the same parts, allowing users to easily modify the clamp from one version to the other.  Version 3 is my preferred tethering clamp and I will probably upgrade my Giottos ballhead with the RRS BH-25PF ballhead in the near future.

For further tips on tethering with the Surface Pro, there are a couple of threads on the forums at www.GetDPI.com and www.Luminous-Landscape.com. Or, feel free to drop me a note at my boutique portrait studio in Carmel or visit my fine art printing site, Carmel Fine Art Printing & Reproduction.  You can see my landscape work at www.houseoflandscapes.com  Ken Doo

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Capture Landscape Integrated Tethering System (magnetic clamp)

  1. RRS MPR-CL II (or similar), RRS Duo Package or Sunwayfoto pano rail; or Neewer 200mm multipurpose rail –the last option still requires a RRS FAS clamp or similar and the Giottos ball head attaches directly to the bar without quick release; no end clamp knob means more vertical adjustment for folks like Graham Welland who demand it.
  2. RRS FAS clamp
  3. Generic AS compatible quick release
  4. Giottos Professional Mini-ballhead
  5. Smallrig cheeseplate
  6. (2) Nite Ize rare earth magnets (for tablets)
  7. (2-4) Metal plates
  8. UAG case for Surface Pro 2 or Surface Pro 3

Capture Landscape Integrated Tethering System (QR plate)

Same RRS (or similar) pano rail components noted above and:

  1. Giottos Professional Mini-ballhead
  2. (2) generic quick release plate
  3. Desmond lever release top clamp
  4. 3M VHB tape

KPS Slim Plate low profile system:

  1. KPS SU7 slim plate
  2. 3M VHB tape
  3. KPS lever release top clamp
  4. KPS mini/compact ballhead with slim plate lever release
  5. generic AS release plate (for bottom of KPS ballhead)

Capture Landscape Integrated Tethering System (Tripod)

  1. Giottos Professional Mini Ball head
  2. Smallrig cheeseplate
  3. one inch long headless 1/4″ threaded bolt
  4. (2) Nite Ize rare earth magnets (for tablets)
  5. (2-4) metal plates
  6. Manfrotto Nano Clamp

For those wishing to use a higher capacity mini-ballhead, I suggest the RRS BH-25PF ballhead.   ken

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9 Responses to “Tethering with the Surface Pro: An Evolution of Clamping Choices!”

  1. Are you using all medium format these days? I switched over to Fuji mirrorless 🙂

    • Hi Jay, I’ve always preferred to use medium format digital over anything else (before it was medium format film!). I still use a Canon DSLR where needed, but otherwise medium format digital is hard to beat for my work—and I just simply love working with medium format cameras. Love that Sony A7r full spectrum though. Hope you’re doing great! ken

  2. […] No further updates will be made to this article; updates will be in “new” blog articles on tethering with the Surface Pro.  The latest clamping options are discussed here:  Tethering With the Surface Pro: Evolving Clamp Choices […]

  3. I just installed the new and much improved tethering system using a Giottos Professional Mini-ballhead, QR plates and the Desmond lever release top clamp. This system reduces the overall bulk by at least 50% and closed to 75% from the older “Wolf Clamp” I had been using. Next up will be the Manfrotto Nano Clamp which should be here tomorrow giving me the best of both. Don

  4. Version three with the Nano clamp—-total bliss! That version is my favorite!

  5. This solution looks excellent !

    However one question: Where can you get the SHORT Right Angle USB 3 Cables please for going between the IQ and the Surface 3 ?

    Been searching Amazon, and they are all too long

  6. I use a simpler Tabstabilizer which is a perfect tight and secure fit for SP3 can be seen http://www.getdpi.com/forum/sony/55002-power-pack-my-sony-a7xx-cameras.html?highlight=power+pack
    As shown is on a separate tripod but can be mounted with a vise grip like your. It’s multi-purpose and can be used with tablet or smartphone.

    • Thanks for sharing. The “Tabstabilizer” or istabilizer probably would work, but is very similar in approach to the first generation Arkon clamp or the second generation Wolf Clamp, both of which are much bulkier solutions to securing the Surface Pro while tethering on location. The magnetic CLITS Clamp is small, light, easy and extremely fast to use. There is no fiddling or adjustment of tensioner arms to secure the Surface Pro; you simply place the Surface Pro on the clamp and the magnets grab hold securely as the Surface Pro nears the clamp surface. It doesn’t get easier than that!

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