The Photoclam Multiflex is a nearly identical copy of the well regarded Arca Cube, and I do mean copy in the purest sense of the word. This hasn’t simply been inspired by the Arca Cube, the parts could be interchangeable.
As is often the case with a copy, Photoclam has made a couple of improvements in handling over
|Stiffness About Vertical Axis||1393 +/- 56 Nm/rad|
|Stiffness About Radial Axis||1267 +/- 17 Nm/rad|
|Weight||2.244 lbs (1.018 kgs)|
|Manufacturer weight rating||25 lbs (11.34kgs)|
|Maximum Height||4.2 in (10.7 cm)|
|Base Diameter||3.0 in (7.6 cm)|
|Ball Diameter||N/A mm|
|Quick Release||Arca Clamp|
The stiffness of the Multiflex is in line with the stiffness I have seen from other geared heads. Geared heads by their nature tend not to be particularly stiff, and the Photoclam is no exception. The requirement for motion in the parts of the head is at odds with the need to lock down fully as ball heads do. This very slight mechanical slop tends to create a lot of damping, but this is really just a side effect and not necessarily something that we want in a head. As this head is primarily meant for studio use, the stiffness isn’t so much of an issue. Neither wind nor telephoto lenses are commonplace when shooting indoors.
Only the pitch and tilt axes of the Multiflex are geared. There are two available yaw adjustments, one at the base, where the head attaches to the tripod and one just beneath the quick release clamp. Neither of these are geared, and are adjustable in the traditional way, with the loosening of a knob. I find the lack of a geared yaw mechanism unfortunate. It would be easy to implement and very useful in quickly achieving precise framing. Normally at this point in a review I would raise questions about what the designers were thinking, but in this case, we know. They were just copying Arca Swiss, whose original geared cube also has no geared panning. Note that there is a modern version of the Arca Cube that does have a geared panning function. Despite the lack of gearing, the yaw adjustment mechanisms both work exceptionally well. They are very damped, which creates a feeling of smoothness.
The gearing on the photoclam is precise and smooth. It is trivial to make minute adjustments. While no gearing system is truly free from backlash, it was unnoticeable during operation. The backlash that did exist was in the square joint that holds the oversize adjustment knob on.
The Multiflex is designed for a full range of motion. That is, you should be able to point the camera in any direction, in either landscape or portrait orientation. Such movement is necessary to get the camera into portrait orientation when not using an L-bracket to mount the camera. Incidentally, it is the same motion that allows the camera to be pointed either straight up or straight down. This all sounds great, but I have mixed feelings given the method that it is achieved. Each gearing axis allows for 30 degrees of movement in either direction. Then, there is a hinging mechanism on the base that tilts the entire head 60 degrees to one side. It works well, but it comes off as an afterthought in the design. It doesn’t integrate well with the motions of the rest of the head and ads another knob to a head that is already filled with them. I wish that there was a version of the head that excluded the 60 degree tilt mechanism. It is rare for most of us to tilt the camera more than 30 degrees up or down, an L bracket is much more convenient for portrait orientation, and the overall design could be much cleaner and lighter. However, if you do need a full range head, the 60 degree tilt mechanism is how it has to be done.
The Multiflex has an open design that makes the entry of water, dirt, and sand easy and expected if using it outdoors. Neither is the Multiflex easily disassembled for cleaning. For these reasons I don’t recommend using the Multiflex in all but mild field conditions. It is not designed to reliably suffer the abuse that we often subject support equipment to outdoors.
The Multiflex is a great option for those in search of a geared studio head. The gearing is smooth and precise, and the handling is fast and unobtrusive. The Multiflex certainly isn’t a budget option though, and despite being a knock off still runs north of $1200 USD. It isn’t that much cheaper than the genuine article. Availablity of the Multiflex is spotty, no doubt due to intellectual property issues. Ebay is often the best for purchasing, usually direct from Asia.