Really Right Stuff LC-A12 Collar Review (Nikon 70-200 f/4)

rrsf4collar-2One of my few complaints about Nikon’s new 70-200 f/4 was the lack of an integrated foot for mounting on a tripod. A lens of this length and weight is going to have best stability when mounted on a foot, and while Nikon is probably assuming most of these lenses will be in walk-around mode mounted to a D600 or D800, I really wanted a collar.

There are three main options: Nikon RT-1 ($170), Kirk ($160) and the Really Right Stuff LC-A12 ($195).  I rejected the Nikon collar because it doesn’t have the Arca-Swiss dovetail on the base.  Kirk does, of course, but the foot has to be removed with screws and has less flexibility than the RRS.  It has a lens support on the end I feel is unnecessary.  So I ordered the RRS LC-A12 package.

After a bit of a wait, I finally got it.  After having a chance to play with it a bit, here are my thoughts:     (you can also see my video review here on YouTube):

Features

  • Removable Foot Design:  Excellent for minimizing space consumed in your bag
  • Rotation Markings:  On the top and both sides (though Nikon doesn’t make good use of them – detailed below)
  • Dual-Dovetail:  The foot allows use of the very slick (but pricey) flash bracket (better explained in the video)
  • Hole in Collar Mount:  Allows mounting to a tripod or strap if you don’t have the foot
  • Slip-stop:  Helps ensure your lens doesn’t slide off your ball head when you loosen the clamp.  Handy.

Handling

Handling is very good, as you’d expect from RRS though surprisingly I did have a couple of concerns.

The Good

  • Removable foot:  Allows you to save space and weight in your bag when you don’t need the foot.  I toss the foot in a side pocket if I think I’ll need it.  Otherwise, the collar stays attached without the foot.
  • Dual Dove-tail:  Enables you to use RRS’s very cool (if pricey) line of flash brackets.  If you don’t have an RRS foot, you’ll have to attach a heavy bar on the bottom of your L-bracket, which is heavy and complicates switching between tripod and hand-held.  The spacing on the ring to the lens is less optimal, too…
  • Easy to remove:  True of both the foot and the collar itself.

The Not-so-good

  • Knob:  The big silver knob used to adjust tension is…well, big.  I really wish it could be smaller.   Mine also squeaks a bit when tightened (I’ll be calling RRS about that as their manual specifically says not to lubricate the parts)
  • Rotation:  Not as smooth as my 80-200 f/2.8 (which had an integrated, non-removable  collar).  It feels a little dry.  I’m not sure if that is the lens or the collar.
  • 90° Markings:  The RRS collar has great markings.  Unfortunately the Nikon lens only has one, so when you go to portrait mode you have to look a the side of the lens.  My 80-200 had markings that allowed me to look at the top of the lens to match up.

Build

What do you expect of RRS?  The thing is extremely solid and has all the hallmarks or RRS design. Entirely made in the USA, it matches colors of the lens perfectly.  Other than the squeaky knob, I’ve got no complaints or worries here at all.

Value

Value is subjective.  You can save $30-$40 with the Kirk or Nikon collar setups, and I have no doubts about their quality.  The extra money gets you a more flexible setup, and the removable foot in particular is a big plus for me.  Yes, you can find far, far less expensive ones on eBay, but remember the value of the lens and camera that depend on the collar to avoid a nasty fall.  A poor place to economize.  I’ve also heard reports that there is a little slop in some of those cheapie collars, which defeats the purpose.

Photos

LC-A12 Collar and LCF-10 Foot.

LC-A12 Collar and LCF-10 Foot.

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The single alignment dot offered by the f4

The single alignment dot offered by the f4

Front View

Front View

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LC-A12 foot with an RRS flash bracket mounted. Very cool.

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A mounting hole is available for tripods or straps even if the foot isn’t connected.

Summary

I’m a fan of RRS.  I can’t say I find the “dry” rotation or the squeaky knob were expected, but I still think this collar/foot combination is worth having.  I wish they didn’t cost as much as they do, but for $30 more than the Nikon offering, I think RRS is an easy choice.  If I didn’t care about the removable foot, I’d still but the Kirk over the Nikon collar.

What do you think?  Anyone have the Nikon, Kirk or one of the knock-offs?  Please comment with any experiences or thoughts.  Thanks for stopping by!

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Black Rapid / Arca-Swiss Solution: Mr. Blurrycam Edition

I get enough questions about my setup that I thought a video might help:

Black Rapid and Arca Solution – Enthusiast Photographer from Lee @ Enthusiast Photographer on Vimeo.

The full write-up can be found here.  I’ve carried this setup literally all over the world, and it has performed flawlessly.  If you’ve got a Black Rapid Strap and an Arca-Swiss-based tripod head/plate system, I think you’ll like this rig a LOT.  I think it even acts as a quick-release system for Black Rapid users who don’t have Arca-Swiss, too…

Apologies for the poor camera-work – I’ll try to improve on that in the future!

Here are some updated photos (though still camera-phone pix):
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Black Rapid + Arca Solution

Thanks for visiting Enthusiast Photographer! This is the most popular post on the blog, but feel free to check out other posts, follow the blog, “Like” Enthusiast Photographer on Facebook or follow on Twitter if you’d like to join me on my photography journey or just want to read something different once in a while.

If you’re here, you’re looking to solve a problem, so on to the information!

A phone-cam picture of Arca bliss…

Here is a quick look at a really convenient solution to using a Black Rapid with an Arca-based tripod plate system without having to constantly un-screw the plates and the strap fastener.  It think it is also a good solution as a “quick-release” for the Black Rapid system even if you don’t use tripods!  I’m a huge fan of my tripod, my Arca-Swiss system ball head and my Really Right Stuff L-bracket.  If you read my post “When Gadgets Collide”, I felt like my two favorite photography accessories were fighting each other – my tripod and my strap.  I’ve put a video walk-through on my Vimeo Channel, but have a quick read of this article too.  The video link is at the bottom of this page.

I saw a couple ideas on photography forums that I merged into this solution. The components are simple: the Black Rapid “FastenR” nub is attached to a Kirk QRC-1 1″ screw-type quick release clamp with the Op/Tech Uni-Loop (Op/Tech part number 1301062 – B&H part number OPSCUNL) as a safety tether.  I also got a small tube of Loctite Blue from the hardware store.

Setup is easy.  I put a little Loctite on the threads of the FastenR (which makes it very unlikely it will ever un-screw by accident), slightly moistened the rubber gasket and screwed it directly into the Kirk clamp.  The Optech strap loops to the strap hole in the L-bracket on one end and the D-ring of the Black Rapid strap.

The Kirk clamp mounts to my RRS L-bracket (or foot plate on my 80-200 f/2.8) with a few quick twists, so it is quick to put on or take off. It feels very tight and very secure – I don’t see this thing backing out.

Just in case it does (or, more likely, I do something stupid), the Op/Tech strap is a safety tether. This makes it very secure, and proof against one of the more likely failure scenarios of the strap:  the swiveling hook/carbiner wearing/coming loose or failing to tighen the carbiner nut enough resulting in a fall. Unlikely, but I tend to live in a world of realized implausible disasters ;).

Mounting and un-mounting is easily faster than if I was screwing in the Black Rapid fastener nub (FastenR) – I’d estimate three seconds or less for the tether and the clamp, The safety tether is very inconspicuous on the L-bracket even when I’m not using my RS-7.

I also like the idea of always attaching the safety tether first.  It is a good defense against me dropping the camera while attaching the strap – something I worried about a bit with the original setup. Here’s a view detached:

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Now I’m excited that my two favorite photo gadgets are working together (my Arca plate and my BR strap). The setup even works fine when I’m using the massive 80-200 and connecting the strap to the foot-plate.  All told it cost a little less than $50, but that seems a reasonable price for harmony while improving usability and safety!

I did a video walk-through that can be found here.

**UPDATE**  I’ve wrapped a bit of gaffers tape around the carbiner since I never need to remove it from the “rig” and I’ve heard stories of the carbiner opening and dropping cameras.  I have a safety tether, and I think most of those stories are the fault of the user, not the hardware, but why not take that risk out of the equation?

After spending four hard weeks traveling recently, most with this strap seeing action all day every day, I’m very pleased with all aspects of this setup.  The clamp has shown absolutely no signs of loosening during use, the safety tether has never gotten in my way and the Loctite has the FastenR securely fixed.  It carries well and is super-convenient – I love it!
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(You also might want to read my more recent post “Don’t Fear the FUD” regarding Black Rapid Straps and the concerns on the tripod mount.  If you enjoyed this post, feel free to follow this blog, “like” Enthusiast Photographer on Facebook, or follow Enthus_Photo on Twitter – I’d be thrilled :))
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Other Notes
As an aside, I’d note that there are certainly less expensive clamps on places like eBay, but I felt like the clamp was a poor place to economize.  The Kirk clamp is very solidly built and shows no signs of backing out, etc.  I’ve got a couple of Sunwayfoto clamps and they are very nice – I wouldn’t have any reservations about them either. I’d get the smallest screw-type clamp you can get from a reputable company – go a little larger if you carry bigger camera/lens combinations.

Recently I noticed RRS released a “nubless” version of their clamp, which I’m sure is awesome (though their photo of the setup has the knob pointed where your chin would be… :)).  RRS makes great stuff (I own several of their products, including my L-bracket in this rig) –  You can save at least $20 with Kirk or Sunwayfoto clamps, though my buddy loves his version of this rig using the RRS clamp.

Readers: What do you think?  Does this make you more comfortable with a Black Rapid strap?