In Review: K-Tek Norbert
Simple yet effective, this accessory mounting solution is a winner.
By Jay Holben
Sometimes a product comes along that is just so simple, yet effective, that you have to just laugh and admire. The Frisbee, for instance or the Hulahoop? (You know, for kids?) When that product is a tool that can simplify your life in DSLR production, then you have to jump for joy!
When I first saw the K-Tek Norbert (named after president Brenda Parker’s father) I thought it was just another accessory mount ring – a dime a dozen – but Norbert’s simplicity and versatility sets it apart from the competition.
K-Tek is best known for their booms and sound accessories, but Parker attests that they’ve been “much more than just sound accessories for a long time, people just don’t seem to know it!”
The Norbert is a camera accessory mounting system specifically designed for the increasingly popular DSLRs. It’s a rectangular-shaped piece of machined aluminum that is ringed with 23 cold shoe mounts (ISO 518:2006 standard), one every inch around the top and sides of the ring. In addition, every inch around the ring are threaded holes, alternating 1/4-20 and 3/8-16, for attaching all variety of accessories. The base of Norbert features a quick-release plate and, in the bottom rail, another 6 3/8-16 and 15 1/4-20 threaded holes.
Three 1/4-20 holes are centered in the base of the ring to allow for mounting to an external tripod plate.
The kit I received had several accessories packaged in with it including a dual handle kit and offset base plate.
Staring with handheld, the handles are fitted with 3/8-20 threads to attach to any of the 16 threaded holes on the ring, allowing for a number of configurations. The handles are 6 1/4" long, covered in comfortable (and gripable) foam rubber. There are no built-in lock-nuts on the handles, so you do have to crank down on them a bit to keep them from loosening as you’re working. This was a problem I faced when I first started trying handheld with a Canon EOS 7D, the handles would start to come loose. Giving them an extra 1/4 turn past what I would normally tighten seemed to do the job and keep them in place. I would be a bit hesitant that this extra cranking would wear on the handles over time, but I saw no signs of fatigue or wear in my testing.
My dual-handle accessory pack also came with two 4” offsets to position the handles away from the frame. These are really handy when you’re using longer lenses (and the offset baseplate) and then have an odd center of gravity to the rig. The two offsets do have nylon lock-washers on them, but they also have grooved teeth, which seem to coincide with the two 1/4"-20 additional threaded holes in the base of Norbert with their own ring of teeth. With the offsets in action, these really do require the teeth to lock in securely and not loosen when in operation. This means you’ve got to remove the lock-washers when you’re using the offsets in the bottom of the rig, but then add them back on whenever you want to mount the offsets into any non-toothed slot – for use with any other accessory, I presume. These little buggers are gonna get lost/worn/broken very quickly. Also, when you remove the nylon lock-washers, there’s nothing holding the lock-down screw into the offset, so that just falls out – and, again, is easily lost. I’d imagine there is a more elegant solution to this issue.
I have some issue with the quick-release base plate on Norbert, too. The “release” position is in the center and there is no positive "click" or notch or indicator. It’s a little bit clumsy. “Secured” is both forward and back, which is odd, but something you can get used to quickly.
Aside from those issues, Norbert offers an incredible versatility of mounting options for all kinds of industry standard accessories. Monitors, lights, microphones – pretty much anything you can image, if you want to mount it around your DSLR, Norbert is going to be there for you. It’s lightweight and large enough to allow for plenty of space around the camera, yet small enough to not become a major liability to the economical size of DSLRs. Of course you could use any variety of small digital cameras with Norbert. It’s clearance between baseplate release and top frame is just over 6”.
PROS: Lightweight, versatile, simple to use.
CONS: No positive locking of any accessories, some unrefined components.
LINE: Definitely one of the stronger accessory mounting systems available.