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Brian's Photo Blog — Article 272
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A German Tripod Collar for Panasonic 100-300 Lens
Tuesday 13 August 2013   —   Category: Equipment
Back at the beginning of July I came across this video on the 4/3 Rumors Web site:
 
 
Video courtesy of Rob Knight at RobKnightPhotography.com
I was very intrigued and excited about the tripod collar which was demonstrated in this video. Seeing that the Panasonic 100-​300​mm lens is part of my lens kit, it seemed like this collar would make a good, functional addition — with the extra side benefit of looking great too!

Heading over to the Web site of Rösch Feinmechanik, I found the page for the tripod collar — all in German! There are no ordering instructions there, but I found a forum post on Digital Photography Review which pointed me in the right direction.

To order, I simply e-mailed the company saying that I wanted to purchase their “Stativklemme für Panasonic 100-300.” I included my mailing address, and asked if it was currently in stock. Because I had e-mailed them on a Saturday, I didn’t hear back from them until Monday — but that was still pretty quick. You have to remember that Germany is nine hours ahead of Oregon, so 8:00 AM here is 5:00 PM there. As a result there is usually a one-day response-time lag.

Fortunately my miserable German skills were not put to the test because they were able to communicate quite well in English. Attached to their order confirmation was an invoice for €74, broken down as follows: Collar, €61; Registered mail shipping, €9.50; PayPal fee, €3.50. So I immediately logged in to PayPal and sent the the €74, which, when converted to dollars, came to $97.46. Of course, if you were to place an order, that dollar amount would be somewhat different due to the fluctuating exchange rate.

On Wednesday I received another e-mail from them with a strange-looking tracking number in this format: RK123456789DE. At first I thought it was a Deutsche Post tracking number, and I couldn’t figure out how to do tracking on their Web site. So I e-mailed Rösch Feinmechanik, asking how I was supposed to use the tracking number. The next day I got a reply saying to simply use the U.S. Postal Service Web site. So I did, and it tracked my package perfectly!

The tripod collar arrived safe and sound, exactly seven days after they shipped it from Germany, and exactly ten days after I had ordered it on a weekend. Three of those days were just to get through customs in New York. Not bad at all! And I even got some beautiful German stamps on the box!

This well-designed and well-manufactured product is almost a piece of fine art — which correlates very nicely with their company name: Feinmechanik (precision engineering in English) — and it really lives up to the German reputation for excellence. The collar’s 85 grams (3 oz) adds only 16% to the Panasonic 100-​300​mm’s 520g (18.3 oz) weight, so it’s still a pretty lightweight package.

As you can see from the photo to the right, the foot of the collar has two standard 1/4-​inch threaded holes into which you can screw any standard camera plate. But what is really exciting is that the entire collar foot is an arca-style plate, so you can mount it directly on an arca-style clamp without the use of an additional camera plate. Very nice!

Earlier this year I purchased a number of Really Right Stuff camera-support goodies, all of which use the arca-style mounting system. In my last article I documented how I converted a Manfrotto head to an arca-style clamp — as you can see in the following two photos below. Therefore I’m quite pleased that Rösch made the extra effort to make the collar foot an arca-style plate.

Before we take a look at the functionality of this collar, let’s first examine what it’s like using the Panasonic 100-​300​mm lens without the collar. As you can see from this image, it’s normally the camera which supports the lens and bears all the weight. This makes the camera / lens combination very front-heavy, especially when the focal length is zoomed all the way to 300mm, as seen here.

This Panasonic 100-​300​mm has a 35mm-equivalent focal length of 200-​600​mm. The only lens for a full-frame camera with the same focal length is an old Nikon 200-​600​mm lens which weighed 2.3kg (5.1 lbs) and was 15 inches long! Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds version is two-thirds shorter at only 5 inches, and a real lightweight, tipping the scales at a mere 520g (18.3 oz) — only 23% the weight the Nikon lens.

Even with the lens cap, lens hood and a high-quality brass UV filter, the Panasonic weighs only 600g. But that’s still 150g more than my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera weighs. Therefore, when they are together on a tripod, it’s very unbalanced, which can lead to instability and the possibility of vibration-induced fuzziness in the photos taken with this setup.

Enter the custom German-made Rösch tripod collar for the Panasonic 100-​300​mm lens! Drum roll, please! Ta-da! Be sure to slip the collar onto the lens before you attach the lens to the camera, because you cannot put the collar on or remove it with the lens on the camera.

A simple but solid knob tightens the collar into place. There is even a cutout for the image stabilization switch on the lens. But I don’t really care about that — I always leave it turned off because the E-M5 body features a superior 5-axis image stabilization. But for those who use Panasonic cameras, none of which have in-body stabilization (except for the new GX7), having access to this switch is very important.

As with stock tripod collars from the other lens manufacturers, you can loosen the knob and rotate the camera / lens combo within the collar into portrait orientation, while the collar remains firmly clamped to the tripod. Rösch thoughtfully put a second cutout for the image stabilization switch, so that it is still accessible.

A Manfrotto joystick head with no plate in the additional
arca-style clamp. (Photo 1 of 4 — click for next photo)
 
When using the collar, the camera / lens combo is better balanced, closer to its center of gravity. Under some con­di­tions, this should result in clearer, sharper photographs. I have not yet had to opportunity to use this setup in the field, but once I have I will be sure to report my findings in a future article.

To the right is a series of four photos which you can click on to shuffle through. With the tripod remaining stationary, you can see the empty head clamp, the collar mounted on the clamp by itself, and the camera / lens combo mounted on the tripod both with and without the collar. It’s an interesting way of seeing how all the various parts of the system work together.

I’ll close with this last photo, showing the Panasonic 100-​300​mm lens and the Rösch collar together without a camera or tripod. They make a cute couple, and with the reversed lens hood attached, the shape somehow reminds me of a guinea pig — maybe a robot guinea pig! That’s what I get for watching too much G-Force!

Anyway, I think it would have been nice if Panasonic had included a collar like this with the lens. But thanks to Rösch Feinmechanik picking up the ball that Panasonic dropped and crafting an excellent little accessory, those who want one can have one — for a price! You’ll have to determine for yourself whether or not it’s worth the money.
UPDATE — 23 April 2014: If you found this article interesting, be sure to check out the related article:
Of Battery Grips and Lens Tripod Collars.
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 272
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Reader Comments
On November 22, 2013, Don Jones Jr wrote:
Nice review and great pictures of the collar. Based on your review I will order one. Thanks.
On December 1, 2013, Roger Little wrote:
Your video provided a lot of useful insights that, as a novice photographer, might have eluded me for a long time. Thank you very much. IĆ¢??ve had mixed results with this lens, sometimes quite pleased and other times quite embarrassed, then, finally, accepting, while hoping that Panasonic would come up with a tele-converter or simply a better quality lens. When the subject is relatively close, I get good results when hand held even at the long end, provided there is adequate light. But birds are rarely close. The collar and a heavier tripod make sense. One way or another, one must pay to get more.
On March 18, 2014, Hector wrote:
Hi Brian. Do you know if the collar interferes with the optional battery grip on the GH3/GH4? I read in another post that one can not use the battery grip when using a lens collar made by the same guys for the Lumix 35-100mm f/2.8. I just ordered a GH4 with the battery grip. The GH3 & GH4 use the same battery grip. I want to order the collar for the 100-300mm, but I don't really want to have to remove the grip when using the collar.

Here is the link to that post: http://davidferrone.wordpress.com/2013/12/05/tripod-collars-for-panasonic-lumix-lenses/
On April 23, 2014, Brian wrote:
In response to Hector's comments and questions, see my article: Of Battery Grips and Lens Tripod Collars
On December 20, 2014, ellicle wrote:
Nice post, thanks for the details.

I have been using legacy 300mm and 200mm FD lenses for a bit and considered the 100-300 as it came out. Normally I don't need AF but the OIS is a boo. In video hand held.

The lack of a tripod mount had put me off, but this now seems much more attractive. I especially like that they have machined out the switch access point.

:-)
On August 11, 2015, Emily Cockrell wrote:
Thank you for your evaluation of this item. I'm going on a trip to Africa and I've just purchased the Panasonic 100-300 for my Panasonic gf2 camera. I'm very much a rookie photographer although I'm always taking snapshots of events, people, and objects of beauty.
I use a Sony RX100 and often take better pictures than my friends with grander cameras. Sometimes, an artistic eye is better than a fancy camera. Plus, the RX100 is always handy in my purse or pocket. The best camera is always the one you have with you, right?
Well, using the 100-300 lens will be a new experience and I hope I can do it justice.
I'm hoping I can do well with the lens support on a monopod as I'm thinking that most of my long distance snapshots will be from a vehicle.
Wish I could be a little bird on your shoulder for a lesson or two!
On December 30, 2016, Dale Keith wrote:
A very good review! I am amazed that a local camera group have not purchased a bunch of these and resell them in the US.
Thank you
 
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 272
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