One of the most versatile pieces of equipment I own is the Bogen Articulated Arm. I use it for holding flashes, sometimes for supporting a camera, and often for holding a prop or securing a hummingbird feeder at one of our Arizona or Costa Rica hummingbird sets. I've used these arms for years, yet I'm surprised, each year, when I showcase the equipment needed for our hummingbird setups how few people know about them.
I was first introduced to these Bogen arms at the start of my photo career over 25 years ago. I had purchased a beefier model that's still available, the Bogen Magic Arm (model 2930) from a local camera store, drove home, opened the box, and found that I was missing the vital piece of equipment necessary to use it -- the Bogen Super Clamp that attaches to the other end! I drove back, bought the second piece, and was in business.
Since then the Bogen Magic Arm has been improved with a similar model, the Bogen Variable Friction Arm (model 2929) that uses a knurled knob that, by rotating, gradually tightens the joints and locks the Arm into place. With the original model, the Magic Arm, a single lever accomplishes this, but the transition from loose to locked is rather abrupt, and without care the angle and position of the Arm may move while locking. This doesn't happen with the Variable Friction Arm, so for my money it's worth the slightly higher expense.
All three models are called 'Arms' because they function quite similarly to our human arm in terms of movement. On one end is a detachable Camera platform with a 1/4 - 20 screw thread. On the other end is a bare stud, onto which one normally mounts the Super Clamp. The end with the camera platform functions like a wrist -- think of the platform as the hand; the other end is the shoulder joint - the super clamp being the shoulder, and the juncture in the middle is the elbow of both arms. Just as your hand and arm can twist and bend in an almost infinite number of directions, so too can all three of these Bogen Arms, which makes placement of flashes or accessories very, very flexible.
While I've just described all three Arms, my recommendation for newcomers is the least expensive of the three, the Articulated Arm. In this model, there are three different controlling levers for controlling the movement of the wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints. While that may seem cumbersome compared to the one locking lever of the Magic Arm, or the variable friction knob of the Variable Friction Magic Arm, and it is a bit slower to use, those disadvantages are offset by the control you have. With either of the other two, you must have the Arm's position set exactly where you want it when you lock it into place. If an adjustment needs to be done, the lock must be loosened and the fine-tuning done, at the risk of the other joints going out of place.
With the Articulated Arm, if I need to raise the flash a bit all I need do is loosen one joint -- perhaps the elbow, perhaps the wrist -- and move the flash into place. After doing so, I might find I'm still 'off' by a bit, and I might loosen another joint, maybe the shoulder this time, and do my fine-tuning. While this takes longer than doing the adjustment by loosening an Arm with just one knob, I think you can see that this also allows very precise and methodical adjustment changes.
The Articulated Arm is the least expensive of the three Arms and, as I said, perhaps the one to start with if you're thinking of doing a flash setup for macro or hummingbird photography. Most of our Arizona Hummingbird flash setups use the Articulated Arm, and I also use these for supporting the tube feeder used as bait. Accordingly, each hummer set uses at least 5 Articulated Arms.
If you find that you need the stronger, and heavier, Magic Arm I can assure you that your Articulated Arm won't be neglected. You'll still use it for holding props, or a flash, or a feeder, while the stronger Magic Arms (I'd recommend the Variable Friction model) support your heavy flashes. By the way, I'm talking about heavy flashes here -- studio model types. The Articulated Arm will easily support any hotshoe-style flash -- Canon, Nikon, Vivitar -- that you'd normally use for hummingbird work.
Do I love these things? You bet! For years, and virtually since I started in photography, I've owned about six, and those carried me through the beginning of my wildlife photography career. Those Arms still work -- they are beat up, sticky with tape from attaching props like sticks or branches, but they work. Now, as we conduct our hummingbird shoots where we have at least six or seven sets going, and often more for remote projects or off-location, portable shoots we do for kangaroo rats, owls, or whatever, well I now carry over 30 Arms of various types, and about 40 Super Clamps to mount them to.
Why more Super Clamps? Sometimes I replace the detachable camera platform (where I mount the flashes) with another Super Clamp so that I have one on either end. One attaches to whatever support I'm using -- a chair, light pole, tripod leg, etc., and the other clamps onto a prop I wish to support -- perhaps a branch or a background panel. If you own several Arms, chances are you'll want to get an extra Super Clamp or two.
Good camera stores should have all of these Bogen products in stock, as will the various catalog stores. I order mine from my favorite store, Allen's Camera (215 - 547-2841), whose prices match and usually beat NY catalog super stores, and the service is always first class.
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