While shooting in the city I have often found myself unable to use a full-sized tripod, either due to building security not allowing it or because there was not enough room to deploy it without disturbing others.
Since I’m mostly shooting low light or long exposures, no tripod is also not an option. The solution came to me in the form of the Joby GorillaPod Zoom which, coupled with the light Sirui C-10 ball head, has proven to be a real enabler for this type of situations. Mounted around a railing or placed flat on a table, this setup could easily accomodate long exposures using my Sony a7iii camera with L-bracket and a light lens, like the Voigtlander 21mm f/3.5 Color Skopar or even the vintage Zeiss C/Y 35-70mm f/3.4, often paired with a square filter holder and 1-2 filters.
As a security note, please be mindful about the safety of others and of your gear and always ensure that your camera and tripod are properly fastened and secured around your neck or wrist whenever using this type of setups.
However, when using a slighly heavier lens like the Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS, the camera’s center of gravity shifted too much and the head was not able to keep it steadily in place without slowly drifting downwards (which made me lose a few long exposure photo opportunities along the way). On the one end, the appeal of using a zoom lens for better compositions was too good to pass, but on the other, the new lens was not quite useable on my setup.
That’s when I remembered that larger zoom or tele-lenses come out of the box with a proper solution to this issue, in the form of tripod collars. Smaller zooms don’t, since 99% of the time there is no need for it. Except in my case…
Googling for general-purpose lens collars compatible with Sony lenses, I came across the Novoflex ASTAT-NEX collar. Not a cheap solution (at the time of writing the cost is between 90-110 €, depending on location and seller), this collar is well designed and is build out of aircraft grade aluminum, making it very light and robust in the same time. The product quality is at the level expected from a serious brand like Novoflex.
The collar comes with an Arca-Swiss compatible quick release (QR) plate. On Novoflex heads, the plate will also take advantage of the quick and secure mount capabilities of the Q=System. In addition, the 1/4” and 3/8” threaded holes make it adaptable to virtually any 3rd party QR plate or tripod head out there.
The collar is designed to work directly with Sony E-mount lenses, by clamping around the lens mount, or with Novoflex’s range of NEX adapters. To achieve this, the collar is delivered with 2 plastic inserts, which fit either the lens or the adapter. The inserts are soft enough not to damage the lens finish, but strong enough to keep it strongly in place once the colar is fastened. In my case I use the Sony E-mount insert which has a diameter of 61.75mm as per the official specifications.
Clamping the collar on my Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS lens, I noticed two important aspects:
- I needed to keep the blue fastening knob on the left hand side in order not to interfere with the camera grip and the lens release button.
- I needed the QR plate to point towards the lens such that it overlaps with the center of gravity of the lens-camera combo.
Luckily Novoflex already thought of this aspect. With the aid of an Allen key, one can easily unscrew the plate from the collar and reverse its orientation, such that the plate and the fastening knob are positioned as desired in respect to the camera.
With the aid of the Novoflex ASTAT-NEX collar, my GorillaPod-based setup became stable again, enabling long exposures with the Sony a7iii and the Sony Zeiss 4/16-35 lens. As a bonus when using this approach, I discovered that the camera L-bracket becomes redundant. It is easier to just slighly loosen the collar, rotate the camera into portrait or landscape mode and then tighten it back again, rather than removing it from the tripod head to change its orientation. As a result, I could shave off 150g from my setup by removing the L-bracket when I knew that the ASTAT-NEX collar was needed.
In summary, here is what I like so far about the Novoflex ASTAT-NEX collar:
- excellent build quality
- lightweight and customizable
- Arca-Swiss compatible QR plate
- fits well to small to medium size Sony FE zoom lenses
- overlaps with the center of gravity of the camera-lens combo
- easy to adjust camera between landscape and portrait mode
And since there’s no perfect solution, I also noticed the following drawbacks:
- changing lenses is more difficult as you need to take the camera off the tripod and move the collar between lenses
- after prolonged use, the plastic inserts may leave small marks on the lens mount, especially if you change camera orientation a lot
- with lenses like the Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G, there is not much room left to operate the tightening knob of the collar, which may be an issue for people with bigger hands.
To conclude, I recommend the Novoflex ASTAT-NEX collar for use with Sony FE zooms like 4/16-35 ZA or even the 4/24-105 G, especially when relying on mini tripods or clamps to stabilize your setup. While it works well with full-sized tripods too, there you can take the advantage of using a camera L-bracket to be able to quickly change lenses in the field.
Thank you for reading my post, I hope you found it useful! I’ll be happy to hear from you so feel free to drop me a line in the comments section if you have any remarks or questions.
Disclaimer: I am not in any way associated with Novoflex or the other brands mentioned in this post. I do make use of several of their products, which I have chosen and purchased myself based on my needs and field experience.