A great handheld rig is not easy to find. You need to take in account your shooting style, cameras you shoot on and the budget you have for a rig. Like most instances in life, you get what you pay for. You can spend close to nothing on Ebay and get a simple hand held rig that can get you camera out of your hands and onto your shoulder. But will these rigs be comfortable even after shooting for 8 hours or even 10? Will they be easy to set up, durable and effective? Most likely the answer is no. Well I found a rig that I consider the ultimate handheld rig.
What sparked the need for such a robust rig that could last all day was two specific projects. The one was a passion project that was put together by our Art Director, Chris. He brought on Anthony to be our lighting director, Chad to be our gaffer and myself to be the cinematographer. We were shooting for 10 hours in order to get all of the shots we needed. It was going to be shot on the FS700 and Chris wanted it to all be handheld other than a few slider shots. This mean I’d have a camera on my shoulder for at least 8 hours, if we ran on time. I knew I needed something that would be comfortable all day while also being durable. The following week I was in West Virginia shooting for two full days and again, it was all FS700 handheld. A cheap rig wouldn’t suffice. I didn’t want to waste energy on an uncomfortable rig nor did I want to waste time fixing the rig when it breaks during the shoot. ikan just got the rights to Tilta rigs and they looked great. After talking with them for a few days I decided it would be the perfect rig for the shoots I had. I was right.
After talking with Ryan about the projects and my needs, here’s what we decided on:
- Sony FS700 Rig – This is the brains of the operation. The camera is mounted with 3 screws which keeps the camera from shifting. I really dig this feature. Along with the base mount, you get a cage with endless threaded holes and extremely sturdy top handle. This alone is amazing for shooting on a tripod and gives you a ton of options for rigging monitors, batteries and audio components.
- Universal Handgrips – Handles shouldn’t be something you go cheap on. If these aren’t comfortable after a few hours then the rest of the rig doesn’t matter too much. The Tilta grips are great and even though I was sweating from shooting in 100 degree heat, my hands didn’t slip nearly as bad as I thought. The entire unit is very solid and there is no wiggle room. I could easily lift the rig off my shoulder with only grabbing the handles. This is pretty awesome when you don’t have an AC (assistant camera) helping you. The quick release design is awesome when you have other components mounted on the same rails. Makes for quicker adjustments. I also really liked how there were 3 different joints to get the perfect fit.
- Offset Shoulder Pad – The shoulder pad is good. Nothing amazing, but it is very well made and comfortable. I did a little customizing to get the pad under the camera more which I will go into more detail later.
- 15mm Counterweight – Great design and can work with a number of rigs out there. I did not use it because I am not a huge fan of counterweights. Some people swear by them, but I am not one of them. I did like how you had the option to add one or two depending on your preference.
- Follow Focus with Hard Stops – This is my favorite follow focus. I haven’t used every follow focus out there on every type of lens, but for the many I have used this one is by far my favorite. It is heavy (which I like) and has such a smooth throw. The quick release makes it easy to take on and off to change setups. The two hard stops came in handy when I had to rack between two subjects or objects. Not having an AC nor being able to see the marking disk made it easy to land focus when needed. Along with those features you can easily change the gear from either side to be sure you can use with all types of lenses.
I couldn’t wait to open all this gear, mount the FS700 and start shooting. What I didn’t realize is that it takes a little time to build. There’s no instructions and takes a little time and patience to get going. Now, it isn’t rocket science, but make sure you give yourself time to put it all together and tweak it to your needs. The rig fit the camera like a glove and made for a rigid, wiggle free, comfortable rig. Exactly what I was hoping for.
When completely built with everything above, minus the counterweights, the rig weighs about 10lbs with out the camera. Now this sounds like a lot. When on your shoulder and balanced, it feels like 3 lbs. The quality and durability is well worth the weight factor in my opinion.
This rig paired with the FS700 causes one problem, seeing your footage. The camera has the LCD in the back which makes it tough to rig. If you have a EVF (electronic viewfinder) or small monitor you are in luck. I used my 5” monitor and it worked perfectly. The various mounting holes made it easy to put the monitor exactly where I wanted it.
The top handle was a great feature that I am not always used to due to shooting a lot with DSLR. The large size makes it easy to grab and comfortable to shoot with. It even offers the option to slide up and down to hit the center of gravity. Along with that, there is a hot shoe attachment that gives the same mounting options as the stock handle. While we are talking about the top of the rig, let’s not forget the top rails. I used these exclusively for the follow focus. It kept it off the rails that the handles mount to which means when I change lenses, I don’t have to compromise my handle position. The follow focus is amazing and has a very smooth throw. The hard stops are also a great addition.
As we go down the side of the rig, there is a curved cheese plate on both sides. Not only does this offer mounting options, but it reinforces the rig by mounting the to the top plate and base plate. The baseplate is well designed and well thought out. You have a small and long dovetail that gives you more flexibility when mounting on tripods and allows you to hit a perfect balance. The 15mm rods easily slide through and you even have a Rossette on each side for even more rigging options.
Like I mentioned earlier the shoulder pad is solid and gets the job done. Nothing amazing about it, although it was comfortable all day for multiple days in a row. I actually flipped it around and moved the pad to get it under the camera. This allowed for a more compact rig and no need for counterweights.
Although this complete package is on the pricier side, it is worth the investment. If you shoot for a hobby and just want to make home videos, this would be over kill. If you are shooting all day, multiple days a month or even week, then you will want to consider the Tilta line. You will notice a huge improvement in your handheld shots as well as being more comfortable for longer periods of time. Be sure to check out ikancorp.com for more information on these rigs and to place an order.