Few pieces of gear are as versatile and useful as the Manfrotto Magic Arm. It’s rated to hold objects up to 6.61lbs (3Kg) in about any position you can think of. I bought my first Magic Arm in 2008 and I’m still finding new ways to use it. Most pieces of gear have some sort of a flaw, but as of yet I haven’t found any negatives to the Variable Friction version of the Magic Arm. Even a couple months ago I was still finding new features I didn’t know existed on this device.
I’m sure I haven’t discovered everything about this yet but I’ll share what I’ve learned so far.
There are two versions of Magic Arm. One uses a lever to lock all the joints in place, and another that uses a twist knob to lock everything. If there is any possibility of moving the magic arm in the future pay the extra $12 and get the twist knob or “Variable Friction Magic Arm” version. ($12 difference as of June 6 2013).
From this point on VF will stand for “Variable Friction Magic Arm”
I stared with the lever version and when locked does work equal to the VF. However the problem with the lever is in locking. The lever has to be flipped 180 degrees to tighten everything. Moving the lever takes a good deal of effort and when the lever locks, the final position of the Magic Arm moves somewhat. To avoid this problem get the VF instead. It may take an extra couple of seconds to tighten but the decreased frustration makes the extra $12 easily worth the price difference.
If you are going to buy some of these make sure you get some “Super Clamps” aka “Mafer Clamps”. These will allow you to clamp the Magic arm on objects about 2″ thick, like a pipe or edge of a desk.
I also recommend getting a camera platform attachment so a camera can be easily mounted on the arm.
My final recommendation would be to pick up a Kessler Flat Mount Adapter. This will allow you to attach a tripod head or a quick release plate to the magic arm. Note in the above picture to the far right there are two sizes. Kessler originally made a smaller diameter version for some reason. I believe the smaller version has been discontinued but even if you can pick it up for free I would stay away from it. The diameter is so small that you often have to use a pair of pliers to remove it from things because you can’t get enough leverage with your hands. The newer larger version has fixed this problem.