When it comes to shooting video typical photo-centric camera bodies are just not the most comfortable or steady when held like a stills camera. This is why you typically see cameras on shoulder mounts, chest harnesses, gyroscopes, etc… I find anytime I shoot handheld I have a tendency to not keep my horizon level when I need to if I have one hand on the grip and one hand on the lens. There are all kinds of solutions out there. I decided to look into something that would fit my needs.
- I wanted something I could adapt and adjust depending on the kind of video I was shooting.
- I wanted something that could comfortably hold a monitor and audio
- I didn’t need stabilization, in camera plus software stabilization is plenty for most of my uses
- It needed to be compatible with my RRS camera plates and be easy enough to mount and dismount during photoshoots where video is a side-objective.
- It needed to be relatively affordable since my main work is stills and…well I just didn’t feel like spending a ton of money on this.
I was browsing their products and priced out a setup for the E-M1 cage. I would have needed the E-M1 cage, two handles, two nato rails, and a few other pieces. Price was climbing a bit too far for me and I would have to remove my L-Bracket every time I wanted to use the cage. And then I would have to put the bracket back on when I was done. Doing this in a shoot just wasn’t going to happen. I also didn’t have as much room on top of the camera for mounting an iphone holder, monitor, sound recorder or wireless receiver. I needed more flexibility really.
I ended up going with one of their generic setups. I used Cage 1584 and added the two wooden handles. I added two cold shoes up top, and I added an arca-swiss plate to the base. Price was a third of my previous total and I can pop my camera in and out as is. I can also fit other cameras into this as well. Here is a shot of the pieces.
The build quality is surprisingly nice. All the locks can be adjusted and rotated to be out of the way without changing their tightness. All the screws and tools that were needed were included. I use one cold shoe for a monitor on a small ballhead. The other cold shoe moves around depending what I am attaching to it.
Notice in the above picture, the Arca base plate is attached to the actual base plate. Then I have my RRS L-bracket on camera. This adds substantial height to the camera but it still fits perfectly. This means other cameras or even a smaller dslr will actually fit in this cage. You just have to be mindful of width though. The top plate has a sliding piece that goes in the camera hotshoe and tightens down a little. Be mindful when screwing those as I found if you over tighten it lifts the camera from the arca plate. If I was on the base plate directly that wouldn’t happen most likely.
The base plate on the bottom, the arca plate, and the top plate are all adjustable and can be moved forward or back in the setup to ensure a proper balance and fit. Takes a little playing around with to see what works best. It comes down to how you like the weight to be balanced. I do like the fact that the whole unit can sit flat on a surface without tipping.
One quick note, the way I have my camera placed means my battery door can’t open. It hits the very edge of the base. All I need to do is unlock the arca lock and slide the camera over little to the right. I swap batteries and slide the camera back and relock. The camera doesn’t even have to come out. I can live that with. I still leave my strap connectors on my camera but using a strap with this rig will not work. If you NEED to have a strap, I would find a way to put the connectors on the top plate somewhere. And then potentially use the screw in caps available for the vertical rods. This will ensure the top plate won’t get pulled off by accident if you do have a strap.
Overall the rig is pretty compact. The wooden handles gave a much more sure grip and comfortable way to hold the camera. It is much easier for me to move the camera around and stay steady and level with two hands balanced like this.
Here is a view with a 7″ monitor attached. This is just a viewing monitor, not a recording monitor so it is much lighter than an Atomos for instance. I use right angle HDMI connectors and it makes it much more comfortable and less likely that my left hand will interfere with the connections. On the same note, you can see here I attached an audio cable for example. I use a right-angle cable. I also carry a couple right angle audio adapters around. These let me keep the audio connections away from my left hand too. I get these from amazon.
It might look tight, but I have plenty of space for my hand on the left side.
Overall I have been quite impressed with this rig in use. It serves my needs well. It fit all my criteria and still stays small and compact. It is also incredibly light weight. I know there are all kinds of options out there. SmallRig also has options to attach a rod system to this as well as all kinds of NATO accessories. For my needs this was just perfect.
You can check out a quick video I put together shooting some handheld footage with this. All clips were strictly handheld with IBIS. Color was via internal Vintage III art filter. Nothing else was done.
My only concerns are long term sturdiness and how the locks hold up from repeated use. So far so good. It would be nice if the handles were slightly wider out too. Then again, they do make larger cages if that is necessary. I would also love to see what I can do about putting a good lens foot or similar arca plate on the bottom so I can quickly attach the whole rig to a tripod. This rig is also really a lot more convenient with a lightweight monitor. The rear screen can not articulate outwards due to hitting the handles even if you aren’t using the cable connections. I generally leave my camera settings on the rear screen and send a clean video feed to the external monitor. I like working on a large monitor anyways. If you shoot via the rear screen, keep this limitation in mind. This is where something like the E-M1 that has a centered screen comes in handy. I always preferred that. The articulating screen has not once given me any benefit in video. I’ll update this in the future if I find anything that really impedes use or makes usability much better in some way.