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SportsShooter.com: Member Message Board

Ideas on lubricating tripod collar for EF 500mm F4 IS?
Christian del Rosario, Photographer
San Jose | CA | USA | Posted: 3:19 PM on 12.22.07
->> Hi Guys,

Been finding it harder to rotate my lens when mounted on a tripod or monopod lately. Was thinking it can use some teflon-type of lubricant to get things moving smoothly again.

Would anyone have any recommendations for a "safe" lubricant to use?

I saw an older thread discussing similar on a 400mm 2.8 which documents disassembly. I'm hoping there's a way to do this without any disassembly, such as dropping in some lubricant ant the edges of the tripod ring and allowing capillary action to draw it inside.

But of course, these are guesses. Would appreciate any advice from folks who have been here before.

BTW - lens is out of warranty, and I'm not a member of CPS which is why I'm exploring the DIY route.

Thank you.
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Brian Cripe, Photographer, Assistant
East Lansing | MI | USA | Posted: 4:11 PM on 12.22.07
->> Your best bet is going to be disassembly, I think. I originated the thread on 400 2.8 IS collar disassembly. It's not as scary as it seems - the "guts" of the lens are sealed from the collar assembly. The binding is not just a lack of lubricant, but also a build-up of gunk (dust, metal bits, etc). You need to clean this out to get the best possible performance. Make sure you use a dry film-type lubricant. Good luck!
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Christian del Rosario, Photographer
San Jose | CA | USA | Posted: 4:38 PM on 12.22.07
->> Thank you for the feedback Brian. Will have a look again at your prior thread to see how this works.

Any ideas on the dry lubricant? Would this be a general purpose dry lubricant for metal-on-metal contact?
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Alex Menendez, Photographer
Orlando | FL | USA | Posted: 8:14 PM on 12.22.07
->> Christian,
I locked up my 400 shooting the Jags/Bills game 2 weeks ago. The collar just simply froze in an odd position, I could not use it on a monopod to finish shooting the game. I went handheld but it was a bear with all of the other gear I had with me....
Brian saved my ass by posting his technique on this site! (THANKS MAN) I called Canon and they suggested replacing the whole collar for $570.00.
I called Boca-Bearings and replaced the parts myself. 30 minutes later and $55.00 was the only cost.
The lenses are very heavy and the weight is not centered so eventually all of the collars will fail over time, it starts by getting sticky, then eventually very very hard to rotate.
It works like a champ now, I can't remember the exact bearings I bought but search Brians post again to get the specifics -and order them today, you will need 6 to complete the job and a pair of jewelers screwdrivers as to not strip the bolts.
Good luck

Alex
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Christian del Rosario, Photographer
San Jose | CA | USA | Posted: 11:55 PM on 12.22.07
->> Cool, thanks for the info Alex. Will look into the bearings as well. Sounds like this is not an uncommon problem, so I feel a bit relieved.
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Duane Burleson, Photographer
Sterling Heights | MI | USA | Posted: 1:45 AM on 12.23.07
->> I'm quite certain your 500/4 does not have bearings. I removed the collar on my Canon 500/4 and it is just a friction rotation (metal on metal) lubricated with, what appears to be, graphite. A bunch of it was all compressed together in chunks and was binding when trying to rotate it. I cleaned it all out, gathering all of the "graphite" material that I could. I then ground as much as I could into a powder, sprinkled it on the collar and reassembled.

Duane
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Christian del Rosario, Photographer
San Jose | CA | USA | Posted: 3:09 AM on 12.23.07
->> Duane, did you utilize the same disassembly as discussed in Brian's thread, and did your efforts work?

Will give this a try myself when I get back in town.
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Brian Cripe, Photographer, Assistant
East Lansing | MI | USA | Posted: 7:59 AM on 12.23.07
->> If it's a metal on metal contact (the newer 400 IS have that in addition to the bearings) it may not be graphite that you're looking at, but little particles of ground-off metal from the collar/lens body. Rather than spread those back into the lens, a dry-film lubricant would probably be more beneficial.
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Duane Burleson, Photographer
Sterling Heights | MI | USA | Posted: 8:08 PM on 12.23.07
->> I don't know what a "dry-film lubricant" is. But I am possitive it was not metal particles. Looked like and felt like graphite. The disassembly was to remove the 6 or 8 screws , remove the filter and slide that ring off (I seem to remember you have to unscrew that ring a few turns). Then the tripod collar slides off. Don't forget about the pesky metal ball that detents for vertacle and horizontal.

Duane
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Christian del Rosario, Photographer
San Jose | CA | USA | Posted: 5:41 AM on 12.24.07
->> Just wanted to double-check.

By disassembling the lens to this particular degree, is this non-intrusive to the internal lens assembly? Wanted to confirm if there's any chance of mis-aligning anything, or introducing dust to the optics.
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Chuck Steenburgh, Photographer
Lexington | VA | USA | Posted: 6:44 PM on 12.24.07
->> I was contemplating just this question for my 120-300/f2.8 collar (which is easily removable, something the Canon's, apparently, is not).

When I was in the Army we used "Molly B" (molybdenum) to lubricate certain tools and equipment. It seems ideally suited for metal-on-metal lubrication, as it is dry and adheres well to metal. Anyone know anything about using this on photographic equipment?

http://www.sentrysolutions.com/BP2000.shtml
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Ron Scheffler, Photographer
Hamilton (Toronto area) | Ontario | Canada | Posted: 7:56 PM on 12.24.07
->> Alex wrote: "The lenses are very heavy and the weight is not centered so eventually all of the collars will fail over time, it starts by getting sticky, then eventually very very hard to rotate. "

The reason it gets sticky is that the screws holding the bearings in place over time work themselves loose and push up against the inside of the collar. With enough force, you will break a screw and the bearing it holds in place unleashing all sorts of little bits inside the collar gumming it up even more.

My suggestion is to keep an eye on the screws through regular inspections and careful attention to how smoothly the tripod collar rotates. As soon as you detect any resistance, you should check for a loose screw. The fix is simple: unscrew the nameplate on the collar and check the screws inside. Be sure to always carry a suitable philips screw driver with your equipment. I've even gone so far as to permanently remove the name plate and cover the holes/opening with electrical tape. While it was suggested I should not do this, it already saved me once when the lens started jamming during a football game. It was a quick process to peel back the tape, find the loose screw and cover it all up again. Imagine trying to remove the plate with its tiny screws during a game! Another suggestion is loctite to keep the screws secured.

Duane: I haven't looked at a newer 500 or 600, but my 600 manufactured in 2002 has the same type of friction rotation collar. In Brian's previous post someone mentioned that their 400 IS also has this and was manufactured in 2003 or 2004 (I'd have to refer back to that post to be sure). So it appears that at some point Canon changed the design of the tripod collars from friction to ball bearing. This may have only applied to the 400 IS but it would be interesting for anyone out there with a recent 500 or 600 to confirm this.

BTW, the collar on my 600 is quite difficult to rotate compared to the 400 (which has the bearing design).
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Brian Cripe, Photographer, Assistant
East Lansing | MI | USA | Posted: 8:34 PM on 12.24.07
->> There are several phases of Canon's development of tripod collars in their long L glass. The first was apparently a friction collar with a plastic insert. The next generation included bearings, but kept the plastic inserts. The final generation (as far as I've seen) is with bearings and no plastic insert in the metal contact areas. So you'll need to take apart the lens to see exactly what you have.

Ron's logic is a possible explanation, but not the most likely. There isn't much room for those screws to work themselves loose - in my 400 2.8 IS (a 2004 lens date number) the screws were all very tight, but the bearings had still broken apart, so the screw loosening is obviously not a culprit.

And most of the lenses have the collar isolated from the internal parts of the lens, so you don't need to worry about contaminating or throwing off alignment. Good luck.
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Ron Scheffler, Photographer
Hamilton (Toronto area) | Ontario | Canada | Posted: 5:38 PM on 12.25.07
->> That's right, there isn't much room for the screws holding the bearings to work loose, and I doubt that they will entirely come out, but they can push up against the inside of the collar creating a lot of resistance. Then, as you force the collar around, eventually a loose screw and the access hole under the nameplate line up, allowing the screw and bearing to lift up even higher out of the channel. Once this happens, the collar is locked unless you apply a lot of force and cause something else to break.

I stand by my opinion that if you have a lens with the bearing style collar and feel any abnormal rotational resistance to immediately inspect the screws and bearings. Chances are one or more of the screws will be loose and tightening them will resolve the issue on the spot. One loose screw is exactly what caused the collar of my 400 IS to begin to lock two weeks ago during a game. I was able to fix it on the spot. Brian obviously did not have the same experience and perhaps the bearings used in the collar are not resilient enough to endure several years of use (considering that his lens is from 2004). Therefore there may be at least two issues: 1) Bearing failure over time causing debris to lock the collar and 2) loosening of screws that hold the bearings, resulting in a jam inside the collar.

Note that I had the collar on the 400 IS replaced just over one year ago because it was severely jammed (before I knew about this easy fix). So, only a year later the new collar already has issues. This time it seems to be one screw in particular that works itself loose (sounds similar to the recurring issues I've had with the 70-200 2.8 collar design).
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Thread Title: Ideas on lubricating tripod collar for EF 500mm F4 IS?
Thread Started By: Christian del Rosario
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