Above - the Arca-Swiss system is modular and has a seemingly never-ending list of possible configurations. My gimbal/panorama setup shown above is designed to allow for support of heavy lenses while giving me the ability to shoot with precision (being able to make exact movements by measuring each position change by the millimeter).
When looking at the best mounting system for your DSLR camera needs the first question you should ask yourself is if you are going to be shooting photos or video the most.
The equipment used for both disciplines is at times vastly different but in regards to the DSLR phenomenon is it really?
Let's first talk about ARRI - or Arriflex - made by Arnold & Richter of Munich, Germany.
The ARRI - motion picture styled rig is robust, heavy, functional, and very expensive. It provides the dual rail (15mm on a 60mm center or 19mm on a 100mm center) support system that almost EVERY motion picture/video accessory is designed to use.
The heart of ARRI's support system is a robust quick-release plate system called a "Dovetail". Two plates are milled to lock into each other while allowing the top plate to slide back and forth. The bottom plate is attached to your mount (some sort of camera support such as a tripod, gimbal, geared head, or dolly). It has special grooves in it that prevent the top plate from sliding off either end - so your camera and lenses won't find themselves on the ground broken should someone forget to lock the top plate down.
It's a very strong, utilitarian system that's been around since the 1970s.
Let's look at the stats for a standard 12 inch ARRI bottom base-plate -
Arri Baseplate Model # 338359 K4.54362
Dovetail Specs - 1.5 lbs (0.7kg) - 12" x 3.8" x 0.6" (30.48cm x 9.65cm x 1.52cm)
Weight Capacity 120lbs (54.4kg)
What makes this system completely inappropriate for most DSLR owners is the cost and weight. The ARRI system was designed to handle heavy 100 lb film motion picture cameras.
Now let's look at the Arca-Swiss Dovetail - Baseplate system. Oddly, the Arca-Swiss system is set up completely opposite of the ARRI. With the ARRI system the baseplate with dovetail is fixed to your tripod and it doesn't move.
With the Arca-Swiss system the tripod is equipped with the clamp and the camera is typically mounted to the dovetail.
Let's look at the same specs for a 12 inch Arca-Swiss dovetail plate as we did above with the ARRI model -
300 Quick Release Plate #802282
Dovetail Specs - 6 oz ( 0.17kg) - 11.8" x 1.3" x 0.6" (30cm x 3.2cm x 1.6cm)
Weight Capacity 35lbs (15.9kg)
As you can see this system is much lighter and much less expensive. What's also notable is that the Arca-Swiss system has multiple safety mechanisms to prevent your equipment dropping out of the clamp(s) just as the ARRI system does.
Another very useful feature is that Arca-Swiss dovetails and clamps all are clearly marked in millimeters so you can make note of the angle degree of tilt, placement on the rail (left-to-right), height of the rail, etc... This is VERY useful when/if you have to do pick-up shots or shoot plates (backgrounds for green screen shots). Being able to exactly match angles, etc... saves an enormous amount of time and energy.
The Arca-Swiss system is highly configurable and because it uses a standard -
32mm wide with a 45° dovetail on the top and bottom of the plate (allowing for mounting clamp accessories to both sides of the dovetail plate at the same time) - it is a very forgiving and flexible platform.
Besides being highly configurable the Arca-Swiss system is also very strong/robust. This panorama mount could easily handle an additional camera body on the mounted 200 f/2.8 lens to the right (above).
Lastly there are numerous accessories (designed for still photography) that are available for Arca-Swiss clamps - or come with clamps built into their design. Many top tripod manufacturers include options for Arca-Swiss compatible heads; which utilize Arca-Swiss clamps.
Sunwayfoto in China and Really Right Stuff in the USA are two manufacturers who use the Arca-Swiss dovetail and clamp standards in their own products. And so far I've found all three companies products to be 100% interchangeable and compatible.
Of course the ideal solution would be to take the best that both systems have to offer and create a single plateform that uses both Arca-Swiss and 15mm ARRI - rail components.
This is where my quest to build the perfect DSLR rig has brought me - using both Arca-Swiss clamps and 15mm railblocks (manufactured by CoolLCD in China), I've built that hybrid Arca-Swiss and ARRI system.