Tripod Collar Blues
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
by Bjørn Rørslett 

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My final modification project involved the AF 70-180 mm f/4.5-5.6 Micro-Nikkor lens. This is a Micro I have refrained, repeatedly, from purchasing solely because of its inadequate tripod mount. I even rated it not that highly in my Lens Survey due to the variable and often disappointing results I obtained in my testing procedure, using the lens attached to an F5 camera. The setup was very shaky atop any tripod I deployed it on and getting less than perfectly sharp images was no big surprise.

Eventually I yielded and bought the 70-180 Micro as a supplement for my mountain hiking trips, in which high versatility was important. Then I had to face the inevitable challenge of how to transform this shaking and unstable contraption into a useful device. Together with my inventive friend, Are Hodne, I spent hours discussing and rejecting alternatives for improvement. In the end, we achieved a very simple and very effective solution to the problem.

AF 70-180 mm f/4.5-5.6 ED Micro-Nikkor

Versatility and High Performance
(If Modified)

© Bjørn Rørslett/N

The AF 70-180 mm f/4.5-5.6 ED Micro-Nikkor has a pitiful tripod collar with a far too small leg protruding under it. To complete the misery, the foot is cantilevered almost if were it designed for making the mount perfectly vibration-prone. The inadequate tripod mount prevents the lens from showing its superb optical quality.

In the picture exhibited above, the lens is already modified, but there is hardly any visible indication of the alterations. However, people familiar with the 70-180 Micro may notice the improved and enlarged locking screw for the tripod collar.

Steel Inserts Save the Day

The real solution for the 70-180 Micro is simplicity itself. Two bolts of stainless steel, 25 mm long, were sunk through the Arca-type mounting plate below and into the foot of the tripod collar (indicated by arrows on the picture above). The bolts extend the whole length of the foot to give it vastly improved stability and rigidity. Do not use overly long bolts because you won't have them chafing into the lens barrel itself.

You have to tap drill the mounting holes very precisely because the structure is quite thin and there is little or no room for misjudgement here. After cutting threads in these holes, the bolts are screwed into position and secured by Loctite. A solid brass screw passing through the Arca plate and going into the ordinary hole of the mount gives a 3-point support and completes the task.

With the appropriate equipment you can carry out the modification in 30 minutes, but do wait with that cup of coffee until after the job is done.

The modified 70-180 Micro-Nikkor behaves quite civilised on a tripod now, and at last can show off its optical capability. I would not designate it perfect even modified, but you should find this improvement well worth the small effort to implement it.

Tripod Collar Blues

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Last Update 1 October, 2002