This article was originally posted on Photofocus.
About four years ago, while on a short trip to Moab, I can clearly remember an incident that nearly cost me my camera (and lens, for that matter). I was placing my tripod with camera attached to it into the back of my car, and just as I was about to set it down the camera detached from the tripod head! I was holding the cable release at the time and that (miraculously) kept it from crashing to the concrete below without being unplugged. It was at that moment I knew that I needed a better tripod head system, and as I started to photograph landscapes more and more (with a tripod) then I wanted something I could trust.
Eventually I found my way to the L-Bracket system for cameras. An L-Bracket is an L-shaped mount that is fitted to each specific camera model, and mounts securely to the camera. There are also specific types of tripod heads to use with this system that lock the camera in to the tripod very well. The reason it is L-shaped is so that you can easily photograph both horizontally or vertically without having to tilt your tripod head completely sideways.
The reason I am such a fan of this system is because I know that my camera is securely attached to the tripod. I can hold my tripod over my shoulder while walking on trails without worrying if the camera would fall off the mount. I can also very quickly switch between vertical and horizontal without straining my tripod, which makes it much easier to work with. It is also very easy to get to the battery compartment, which is great if you are set up for your shot and need to quickly change out your battery.
I would definitely recommend this setup (L-Bracket and tripod head) for anyone who uses a tripod on a regular basis. The “disadvantage” of this type of gear is that the L-Bracket is semi-permanently attached to the camera; you can remove it, but it takes an Allen wrench to get it off, and it is made to stay attached to the camera. I also use my camera off-tripod as well, and for me it does not get in the way, but it does add some noticeable bulk.
BTW, I use the Really Right Stuff system for my camera L-Brackets and tripod equipment and love the quality of their products. There are also other affordable alternatives out there as well.