I recently put the Impact Flex Arm Super Clamp Kit through my rigorous testing process, which involves using it in a variety of photography situations, coming up with ways to put it to work getting the shots I want, and generally abusing the *bleep* out of it to see how it stands up to wear and tear. While it’s not what I think of as the usual gear for nature photographers, I found it useful for a number of my photo pursuits both indoors and out in my backyard photo studio/nature sanctuary.
What is It?
Think of it as that third arm we all wish we had. One thing photographers do extremely well is collect stuff, because, “I need this thing to take a picture of that thing”. But, since our bodies come equipped with just the two arms, we quickly run out of ways to hold all our stuff. Then we need more stuff to hold our other stuff to take pictures of the original thing. I know, I’m a true wordsmith.
The Impact Flex Arm Super Clamp Kit falls into the category of a “cool thing to hold all kinds of stuff”. The kit consists of a heavy-duty clamp and a detachable, flexible gooseneck arm that enables you to mount a variety of gear to places where you need that third arm.
The centerpiece of this kit is the Impact Super Clamp, with a respectable load capacity of 33 lbs. The jaws are designed so they can be locked onto tubes or pipes, or you can use the included wedge insert to clamp onto flat surfaces. You can mount various gear to the clamp using either the built-in socket which works with ⅝” accessories, or by using the holes threaded for either ¼-20 or M5 screws. These are common screw sizes found on flashes, cameras, and tripod heads, all of which can be directly mounted to the Super Clamp.
Probably my favorite feature is the ratcheting handle, which makes it much easier to mount this clamp in tight quarters. You rotate the handle to tighten or loosen the jaws, but if you pull the handle out about a quarter of an inch, it disengages it so it can twist freely. This way, if something is blocking the handle from being turned, you just pull it out, and twist it to where you have room to start tightening again.
Quick Tip: One thing to be careful of is over-tightening the clamp on hollow tubes like tripod legs. I like being able to attach it to the leg for some setups, but you could easily crush your tripod’s leg if you clamp it down too tight!
The Flex Arm is a gooseneck extension arm, which you can use with the Super Clamp, mounting into it ⅝” socket. While the arm cannot support nearly the weight that the clamp alone can, it provides much greater flexibility in placing equipment, especially in hard to reach places.
Compared with other arms, goosenecks generally are much less expensive and are easier to adjust. But, they can be difficult to bend and keep in a precise position, and cannot support as much weight as other arm types like articulating arms. A common issue with many gooseneck arms is, the longer they are, the more prone to sagging they are when any weight is on the end of it. To offset the sagging issue, some manufacturers try to make the arm stiffer, but this can result in a backlash as the metal in the arm tries to straighten back to its original shape.
Out of the box, this Flex Arm is a heavy and stiff arm for its type. It’s big, at just over 21 inches long, giving you much versatility in its positioning. And the stiffness means once you position it, it stays put. It has shown no sagging or backlash in my months of use, when staying within its 1.1 lbs capacity. If you exceed the recommended weight capacity (which I am not recommending), you will want to put a bend in it (hypothetically speaking, but still not recommending), pushing some of the weight back over the arm (I mean, that’s what I might do, if I were to hypothetically exceed the weight, which you shouldn’t do, and I don’t recommend). This will limit sagging from heavier flashes and accessories.
DO NOT try to use the arm to hold a DSLR. I confess I carefully tried just for grins, and a DSLR is way beyond the arm’s capacity even with a bend!
Do I Really Need This?
As I do with all my gear reviews, to answer the question, “Do I really need this?”, I’ll break it down into a few more questions:
- Does it fit the type of photography I like to do? While it’s not always the best fit for my nature photography adventures, it is a handy addition to any studio or other indoor uses. I also find it useful as a backyard macro photography assistant, to hold reflectors, diffusers, flashes, or lights.
- Does it do something unique to help me get the shots I want in a better way? While it’s nice to have the luxury of a photo assistant, when one isn’t available, this is a good option to hold extra lights, flashes, or other grip items in place. I particularly like that you can easily mount it to flat or round surfaces, up to 2 ¾ inches in depth/diameter.
- Can I take it to the places I like to go? The clamp and arm are heavy to give sturdy support, but that also makes them somewhat bulky for me to throw in my backpack and trek with into the wilderness. For indoor photo projects and shooting macro around the house I really like this kit, it provides an extra hand to hold things for various setups.
- Will it survive me? Yes, it’s built like a tank and machined well. Goosenecks can suffer from durability issues, after repeated uses the metal spiral may loosen, causing sagging. So, just when you get everything placed right, the arm droops down. The more weight you are trying to support, the more the droop. But, this is often caused by misuse by the photographer, trying to put things on it that are far too heavy for its design. After two months of use, I haven’t seen any sag occur when staying within the manufacturer’s stated weight capacity of 1.1 lbs. A good sign for it being durable.
- Will it replace something I already use and do a better job? Yes, it is designed with photographers in mind, and better than some of my DIY clamp contraptions from the local hardware store. It’s able to accept a variety of common photography screw thread sizes and adapters to hold LED lights, flashes, tripod heads, small cameras, and more.
- What would I change?
- My biggest complaint would be that there is no retaining pin or other mechanisms to prevent you from unscrewing the handle bolt all the way out of the nut in the clamp. The first thing I did, as I suspect many of you would, also, was open the clamp up all the way to see how wide it could go. This resulted in the handle bolt coming out of the nut, and my having to spend a few moments putting the thing back together. On a hectic shoot, I could easily see this happening by accident. It’s an easy DIY fix, but it’s a detail I would like to see the manufacturer address.
- Again, this is another easy DIY fix, but, the wedge insert for clamping onto flat surfaces falls out of the clamp easily when not in use. This makes it easy to lose or misplace.
- Will it help me get the shots I want? Yes, especially for light painting, still life, and macro photos. As an example, light painting involves a fairly choreographed play of light on a subject over a long exposure. Using this kit, I can have one of the many lights I use during the exposure already pointed exactly on the spot I will need it when creating the image.
I like this kit, it’s built well, and offers many versatile support options. It’s also inexpensive, great for a photographer on a budget or someone setting up a new studio.
Here’s a list of the gear used in the photos shared in this article.
- Impact Flex Arm Super Clamp Kit
- Canon 5D Mark III
- Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens
- Tamron SP 180mm f/3.5 Di Macro Lens
- Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD
- Gitzo GT3543LS Systematic Carbon Fiber Tripod (Long)
- Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ball Head with Full-Size Lever-Release Clamp
- Phottix Mitros+ TTL Transceiver Flash
- ExpoImaging Rogue FlashBender 2 Softbox Kit