I just received my new RRS collar and Arca-Swiss (RRS) foot. Replacing the Nikon collar/foot with the RRS parts makes a huge difference in tripod stability. They also fit well on my Bushawk shooting brace.
The price is a little steep...but hey, its only money.
I pre-ordered mine on May 6th and it arrived today. To echo what has already been said, the RRS collar replacement is a substantial improvement over the stock collar. But it also takes up more room in the camera bag when the foot is attached. I'll be transporting mine with the foot removed and mount the foot when it's needed. The nice thing is the same foot that works on the 70-200 works on this collar too, so I was able to save a few bucks by ordering the collar without the foot.
Since the lens is far lighter than a 500 f/4, it should not take as much strength to provide the same level of stability. However, the RRS guys did not skimp. Their collar is built as well as the heads they make...with precision and quality.
I always felt like I needed a little more stability when I had my 200-400mm mounted on my Bushawk. I do not feel the same with the 80-400mm mounted on it with the RRS collar. Of course, the whole thing now feels like a toy compared with what it felt like with the 200-400mm mounted...and my shoulders/back love it.
I believe you are correct in that statement. I had the original 80-400 lens, I purchased the RRS collar and foot for that lens and yes it was is an improvement over the supplied collar from Nikon but it certainly wasn't what I would call rock solid. It still allowed some flex and would certainly benefit from a "two point" or front cradle set up (what ever you like to call it) like Kirk has to offer. Don't get me wrong, I like RRS's gear, but in this case I think Kirk's approach is the way to go.
I now own the new version of this lens. I took a standard RRS lens foot and fabricated a front cradle out of 1/8th inch aluminum plate that I secured to the RRS foot. It works very well. Though it still helps to employ the "LLT" when shooting on a tripod. If I can get to it, I'll post a picture of my handy work.
"Things are'nt always quite as cherry, as they first seem"
Here's what I came up with to remedy the flimsy lens collar and provide better support when using a tripod or monopod. The design of the lens doesn't leave a whole lot of options as to where the support cradle can be placed.
I used a RRS L97L lens foot which I already had. I drilled and tapped two holes to accept 2.5mm button head allen screws into the end of the foot that has the anti-twist lip. I fashioned the cradle by sketching out the dimensions on paper first, then transferring the sketch onto a 1/8th inch thick piece of aluminum. I cut the piece of aluminum with a hack saw and table top jig saw. After some sanding I was able to get the proper fit for the circumference of the lens. I drilled two holes towards the bottom of the cradle for the screws to go through and into the end of the lens foot. After some more fitting and final sanding I put a thin strip of green adhesive backed felt on the cradle where the lens comes into contact with the cradle. The lens rotates smoothly to the vertical position and I don't have to worry about it getting scratched or marked up.
I used thin two sided tape between the RRS foot and the original Nikon foot to help keep it from accidently twisting. Once the allen screw is tightened snug the tape holds well. The RRS foot was a little longer than needed, after a few weeks of shooting I took the foot off and shortened the back and of it around a quarter inch or so. In doing that it leaves more room for my fingers between the rear of the foot and the bottom of the camera grip. That was another thing I didn't like about the RRS lens collar and foot. If you were using a pro camera body or battery grip, there's was no room to get your fingers around the bottom of the grip when shooting vertically.
It's not too bulky and I've gotten used to the feel of having the plate there. This works extremely well, and cost me next to nothing to fabricate, except for a few hours of time.
The first two images show the weight/balance of the lens on a D800e with the RRS collar and Arca-Swiss foot. Without a clamp as a restraint, the camera/lens balance on the foot with the lens at 80mm as well as 400mm. This tells me the center of mass of the camera/lens combination is within the boundary of the foot which means it is a stable platform. The quality of the craftmanship and the strength of the materials means this combination will be be rock solid when clamped down on a good tripod/head combination.
Another plus to the many already mentioned is how easy it is to remove the foot. That removes an uncomfortable protrusion and makes the lens almost cylindrical. Much better fit in my TT Holster & Sling bag Nice job RRS.
I just picked up my new AF-S VRII 80-400mm a few days ago. So far I have been very pleased the the quality of images however I was not impressed the smoothness of the zoom helicoid and the lens collar feels cheap and flimsy. I expected something more substantial for an almost $3000 lens. I will be purchasing the RRS collar for sure!