I would like to describe the setup that I use to photograph “from above”; for instance, if I want to shoot books opened on a table, and I want the camera sensor to be parallel to the table, I won’t use a tripod but rather the following Mafrotto gear.
In this example I am photographing an old telephone on a green paper sheet. Basically the setup consists of two Manfrotto Autopoles that hold a telescopic extension bar horizontally, which in turn supports the camera. A few extra bits are necessary to hold the parts together.
Screwed directly into the tripod mount of the camera is a spigot. This can be locked into a Super Clamp which is clamped onto the horizontal bar.
One end of the bar, which includes a black plastic block where another spigot can be inserted, is fixed to one Autopole by means of another Super Clamp. The small chrome lever is included in the extension bar and is used to lock the spigot onto the black block.
The other end of the extension bar is simply resting on a hook (in this way, one degree of freedom is left mobile to adjust for the bar’s length), locked into a third Super Clamp, clamped onto a second Autopole.
Of course, it helps if the camera is light – in my example I used a Fujifilm X-T1. Here is the final result: