This question keeps coming up. Let’s deal with it quickly.
All cameras of any real utility have a tripod mount. If yours does not, this doesn’t mean it’s junk, only that this article will not be relevant for you. If your camera takes interchangeable lenses, that’s when this article really matters.
When mounting your camera lens combination to your tripod, monopod, Platypod, or whatever, the general guide is to use the tripod mount built into the base plate of your camera. This is a standard fitting, using a ¼-20 thread, the same as used by all makers of mounting devices. If your camera is really large or really heavy, the fitting might be ⅜-16 but you’d already know that.
Sometimes lenses come with, or have as options, what are called tripod mount rings. These rings typically encircle the lens barrel and can be rotated as they will have a foot attached to them. If your lens has a foot, this is where you should be attaching your tripod or other support device, not the camera body. If the ring / foot is an option, I recommend getting it and using it even though it incurs extra cost.
The purpose of a tripod mount ring on a lens is to reduce the strain on the lens mount. Even in pro bodies with a magnesium core and steel mounting rings, the weight of a large and heavy lens places a strain on the mount. You do not want to pull the mount out of alignment because a repair for this is going to be brutally expensive. It ran about $700 on a former student’s Nikon D4s.
These feet are not limited to big fast lenses like a 300mm f/2.8 Both Nikon and Canon offer them as part of the build on their 70-200 f/2.8 zooms and you should be using them instead of the body fitting with these lenses.
If you are using long glass with your kit on a gimbal head, you will also find it much easier to set neutral balance on the gimbal when using the tripod foot on the lens.
Most manufacturers deliver their lens feet with a flat bottom and a ¼-20 thread. Many folks, myself included, find this inconvenient. Since most decent tripod heads today come with the capability to use Arca Swiss style plates, or in the case of Manfrotto, have their own proprietary plate design, it is in your interest to purchase a plate for your lens foot. This makes mounting and unmounting the unwieldy combination faster and easier, and a long foot plate gives you more placement options. Since I am a Really Right Stuff user, I have RRS plates for all my lenses that come equipped with a lens foot. In the long term, the investment pays off and certainly has for me.
Another advantage of a lens foot plate is that you can get clamps that will mount to your strap that have an Arca Swiss style dovetail clamp built in. You don’t want to be using the strap on your camera body to carry the body and a large heavy lens and mounting a strap directly to the lens may not be supported. The really big Canon and Nikon glass have strap lugs built on and come with straps, but some smaller lenses do not. When I am carrying a camera with a lens with a foot. I put an RRS clamp on a Black Rapid strap and use the clamp to lock into the dovetail on the lens foot plate. If you do this yourself, be sure to use some blue Loctite on the Black Rapid ¼-20 screw as I have found them to loosen on their own without some kind of thread sealant. Blue Loctite holds well but can be undone with some force and without requiring heat or fluid to dissolve it.
Using a lens foot properly will reduce wear and tear on your camera lens mount and on the lens’ mount itself. Changing behaviour is a small price to pay to save potentially thousands of dollars in repair costs.
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I'm Ross Chevalier, thanks for reading, watching and listening and until next time, peace.