View Full Version : FYI: Camera support for heavy lenses

Eric Woodbury
22-Nov-2006, 11:24
Several times I have referenced a lens/camera support that I use for the Nikkor telephotos -- 600mm and 800mm. It works very well and I thought maybe someone else would get some use from this idea. The pictures are below.

The camera I use is a Deardorff 57. This little support is made from common aluminum that you could find at the hardware store. It is pop-rivetted together. The slot is such that it slides between the camera and the tripod head. The little wooden block on the end is just the right height to support the front of the Deardorff. It is not attached to the camera except by gravity. As the Deardorff focuses in the rear, the front support can be minimal and need not move. I suppose if you didn't have a rear focus, you could make a longer support in the front with a slippery surface on which the front standard might rest. The support weighs 200 gr.

Denis Pleic
22-Nov-2006, 11:39
Thanks for the info, Eric... Might come handy one day, and I always appreciate DIY solutions :)


Donald Qualls
22-Nov-2006, 20:29
Nice work, Eric -- looks well made, as well as well thought out. That one definitely goes into the bag of tricks for another day... :)

Michael Kadillak
23-Nov-2006, 12:38
I have a 42" Red Dot Artar that I have been relegated to a second tripod to support it as the lens weights about 6#. To be able to use one of these devices would be great but it would probably be to long and subject to deflection. I would have to get out my Strengths of Materials Engineering book to evaluate the situation and college was a loooong time ago.


23-Nov-2006, 12:51
Your suspicions are correct, Michael. This solution is not for all lenses and is surely limited by its own construction. The second tripod is a much better support as it impedes the torque of the camera + lens on one support point only.

Eric Woodbury
23-Nov-2006, 14:18
GPS if the center of gravity of camera/lens is above the center of the tripod, there is no net torque.

Michael, as the I-beams under the aluminum top get taller, their stiffness goes up by the square (I think). I.e., make the beams a litte bigger for a lot more stiffness. I don't know how you camera is configured to know if you can achieve the above condition of zero torque, but some cameras allow sliding the tripod mounting position backwards/forwards.

23-Nov-2006, 14:32
Eric, you forget that for these focal lengths the wind gives the torque - that's why I say that 2 points are the solution. You can have a perfectly balanced system still turning on 1 point with ease.

23-Nov-2006, 15:20
GPS if the center of gravity of camera/lens is above the center of the tripod, there is no net torque.

In fact, you don't even want to have a perfectly balanced system in this way! In that way you would have a system prone to the vibrations with the smallest torque effort! If you have just one point of tripod mounting you would have much better stability with a slightly eccentric tripod mounting.

Kerry L. Thalmann
23-Nov-2006, 15:39
As a compromise to carrying a second tripod, I often use a trekking pole that is designed to be used as a lightweight monopod for the point-n-shoot crowd (comes with a built-in 1/4-20 stud). I started using trekking poles for hiking several years ago anyway, so why not have one serve double duty. This lets me use a reasonably light tripod (Gitzo 1325) and ballhead (ARCA-SWISS B1), but still get more stability than a single massive tripod and head weighing several times as much. Since I use an ARCA-SWISS camera, I use a second short (10cm) extension bracket to attach the trekking/monopod to the front area of the rail just under the lens.

Here's a photo of this set-up with my 4x5 ARCA-SWISS and an 800mm Nikkor T-ED:


I also use this set-up with my 7x17 Franken-ARCA with long and/or heavy lenses.

For even more stability, I wrap an elastic bungee cord around the rail between the tripod and monopod, pull it tight and stand on the other end. This loading of the system adds stability without carrying more weight or bulk (I use these bungee cords to strap stuff to my pack, so I already have a couple with me).

Of course, a two tripod set-up is even more stable, and the second tripod doesn't have to be big and massive. When close to the car, if necessary, I will use my lightweight Gitzo 1227 backpacking tripod instead of the trekking/monopod to support the front of the rig.


23-Nov-2006, 15:48
A lovely system! In fact, I often wondered why there isn't anything like a "bi-pod" on the market. Leaned against your body (as a monopod should also be) it would in many cases replace a tripod for longer exposures. Must yet have a tripod that I would like to mutilate to a bipod...

Lee Hamiel
23-Nov-2006, 16:46
Another option is the Bogen/Manfrotto long lens support.


Jason Greenberg Motamedi
23-Nov-2006, 16:50
I use the Bogen 3252 Long Lens Support for this purpose, and find it an easy out-of-the-box solution to this problem, even with a 12lb lens.


Lee Hamiel
23-Nov-2006, 16:53
I posted too quickly before adding that one would need to reverse the setup to support the distal end of the arrangement as opposed to the proximal end as shown.

Also - a threaded tripod plate or a support block would need to be affixed to the extended rail as well.

Could also add an Arca-Swiss Q/R plate.

Eric Woodbury
23-Nov-2006, 21:14
GPS, you're right about the wind. That's when I head inside or get out the 72mm.

Kerry, nice rig.

24-Nov-2006, 02:20
GPS, you're right about the wind. That's when I head inside or get out the 72mm. ...

A good solution too, Eric. Especially when everything moving in wind (treas, leaves, bushes, flags) is blurred with these focal lengths. Only mountains without vegetation hold still. Not even the Moon (full) is still enough for 800mm for less than 1/15s...

Kerry L. Thalmann
24-Nov-2006, 11:56
A lovely system! In fact, I often wondered why there isn't anything like a "bi-pod" on the market. Leaned against your body (as a monopod should also be) it would in many cases replace a tripod for longer exposures. Must yet have a tripod that I would like to mutilate to a bipod...

I've wondered that, too. Bipods are very common for rifles. I've thought about either adapting one made for a rifle, or better yet fabricating a small adapter that would let me use both my trekking poles to form a bipod to support the front end of my Franken-ARCA when using long lenses. The monopod helps eliminate up and down motion, but does very little to prevent side-to-side motion. The tightly pulled bungee cord I mentioned above helps, but a bipod would be even better.


24-Nov-2006, 12:29
Maybe you could make it the other way round - I heard that there are some monopods that are made to serve as walking poles too. They could be easier to provide with your adapter. It is a good thought. I have plans for a tripod that saves about 40% of weight, with acceptable drawbacks. Just not time and means to make a prototype...

Struan Gray
24-Nov-2006, 14:33
When I have needed more support in the field I use two Leki hiking poles lashed to my monorail, either with their own wrist loops or with one of those lengths of velcro with the hooks on one side and the fluffy bit on the other. I put the tripod at the lens end of the rail as this makes it easier to adjust the pointing: I lift the hiking poles and swoop the rear end of the rail around, plonking the poles down again when I'm about right and fine tuning with movements.

Björn Rorslett (the Nikon Norwegian) has a custom bipod made from Sachtler leg components. You can see it here:


The hiking poles work well enough with my current lenses (the longest I use regularly is a 420). But a bipod made of Gitzo 1 legs with a small ballhead and an adapter bushing to screw into the end of my monorail is on my to-do list.

24-Nov-2006, 15:02
I've never understood why Rorslett uses such an overkill for his camera. Once you use 2 tripods (even if the second is just a bipod) you don't need anything close to a 2.4kg tripod! Quite the contrary - both tripods can then be of a smaller class - they complete each other and help each other to be stronger. 6 legs (or 5) is not the same like 2 x 3legs - it's much more!

Struan Gray
24-Nov-2006, 15:16
I agree. In my case the hiking poles are only providing damping and rigidity, not support. That's why I don't worry too much about making a firm connection to the rail. Were I using longer lenses and more rail I suspect a simple lashing would not be sufficient.

But it's Björn's money.

Eric Woodbury
24-Nov-2006, 18:01

that is all you get with the moon and a 800mm? 1/15? Never done those numbers.

24-Nov-2006, 22:51
1/60s for f16 at 100ASA for the full Moon (or 1/15s at 25 ASA) indeed. Longer than that and the Moon is blurred (with 800mm focal lenght).