Hidden Gems: The Magic Arm Works Like Magic

Today’s Post by Barry Staver

Well, not like the magician who pulls rabbits out of the hat or pulls an egg out from behind a kids’s ear. Certainly not like sawing the gorgeous assistant in half, but photographically speaking, it’s appropriately named.

The Manfrotto Magic Arm has been around for many decades being used in more ways than can be counted. It’s sold in several configurations with either a locking knob or a locking lever. My current model features the locking lever, which I don’t care for. Much prefer the locking knob as it’s easier to adjust.

This device does take a bit of practice to use  because it locks and unlocks from the center via the knob or lever. Both ends of the arm are freed up with this one maneuver. Hint: whatever is attached to the end is at the mercy of gravity unless you’ve got a grip on it. This is the reason I prefer the knob over the lever.

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Paired with a Manfrotto Super Clamp, I’m ready for any grip challenge on shoots. Here’s a list of the ways I’ve put it to use.

1. Mount a camera on it. Here’s another  advantage of mirrorless cameras. They’re smaller and lighter weight than the dSLR’s, giving me complete confidence in clamping them for remote shooting. In fact I attach the camera directly to the end of the Magic Arm, with no need for a tripod head. The Super Clamp can be tightened to many objects for these remote camera setups. I’ve attached it to fences, two-by-four studs, even hand-held it when I needed to extend the camera just a few inches further out. I’ve clamped it to the upper leg of a tripod that already had one camera attached, giving me a two-camera side-by-side set-up without having to buy one of those dual heads.

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2. Mount a flash or other light to it. The rig is lightweight enough to be hand-held if you want to get your speedlite or small LED off camera. I can’t fully extend a boom pole in my studio with a hair light attached. Besides, if it’s a portrait of one person, no need for a long reach. I clamp the Magic Arm to a lightstand, attach the LED to it. Quick and easy.

3. I’ve also attached boom microphones to the Arm, clamping it to a lightstand or table edge.

4. Reflectors, gobos, any number of other photographic tools can be secured in place with these. What are you clamping to your Magic Arm?