Putting my little camera in a cage. Caged 4K? Cagey?

Most readers yawn when I start talking about stuff related to video but it's getting to be a bigger and bigger slice of my business so I'm forging onward. Today's blog is about a product I recently acquired that makes handling my a6300 more fun. The a6300 (Sony, APS-C) has great guts and a mediocre external camera/human interface. The body is too small, too short and lacks much space for adding the kinds of stuff that makes video easier. I wanted to make use of the fabulous 4K files from the camera but I favor a "snapshot" aesthetic for some work and that seems to be at odds with the small camera design. For instance, if you put a shotgun microphone in the hotshoe of the camera it pokes you in the middle of your forehead when you use the EVF. 

I also find a handle, centered over the lens axis, to be a big plus when holding the camera below waist level. Something I find myself doing more and more when making videos for a client who manufactures legs prosthetics and joints. I just wanted a small "cage" that would add surface areas of cheese plate onto which I could hand accessories, without interfering with the overall operation of the camera. 

Enter a company called, "SmallRig," which makes cages for various popular cameras. The base price of this (well made) rig is under $50. The handle adds about $25. My primary want was for a place to hang a microphone without interfering with the EVF. My second desire was for a nice handle. For about $75 I had both of those covered. I've also purchased an additional accessory shoe to I can attach a bigger, external monitor; if the spirit moves me. 

The whole rig still keeps the basic profile of the system nice and small. All the controls as well as the battery/memory card compartment are fully usable without having to remove the cage from the camera. A bonus is that even in regular still photography shooting the extra "bulk" makes the camera easier for me to hold.

If the a6300 only had a headphone jack I would be more or less euphoric to use it, and the 18-105mm G lens, as an all around, run-and-gun system. But even without the headphone jack the camera is endlessly useful for anything that doesn't require sound. I am currently building a little rig to use it on a moving dolly for some "walking" shots for the above mentioned client. Shooting in 4K and editing on a 1080p timeline makes for pretty much perfect video files for this kind of work. 

For interview work I am current considering one of two Sony dedicated video cameras: the PXW-x70 or the PXW-x150. If you have experiences with either of them I'd love to hear about it in the comments. If you already shoot video you are well aware of the convenience of on-board XLR connections, built-in ND filters and the (possibly) superior 10 bit, 4:2:2 codec. I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

You can buy a Smallrig cage for your a6300-6000-6500 here: http://amzn.to/2gU1iNi

clean access to the EVF.

Lots of surface area for additional mounts.
High coolness factor.

Access to all ports.
Access to battery and card.


Michael Matthews said...

Looks like a great, well thought out rig. I'm surprised to find it's machined aluminum -- looks like molded plastic. I was equally surprised to find the quality of an Oben L-bracket and grip extender I recently bought for the EM5 II appears to be very good. Nicely machined metal. Low price, high quality.
In one of your earlier posts did I see that you're also.sometimes using a shoulder mount for video? If so, what brand, what do you think of it, and does it have a support arm extending down to the hip or belt?

Anonymous said...

Make yourself a skateboard dolly. Using either two or four trucks. All you need is a board of the right size for your application, and the trucks and wheels (available in various sizes). For very low work use a ballhead. For more height use a small tripod.

Get Ben an Sbyke, for dynamic moving shots https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGQ3lnKT7Ws A friend made this video and shot their catalog stills. They built a prototype with a 26" wheel, which would have been even better for camera mounting.

Gato said...

Write all you want about video. My own video experiments are on hold -- wasn't seeing much client interest and it was eating too much time for a hobby -- but I'm still interested. I continue to become more and more retired, so maybe in the coming year I'll find time to pick it up again.

Kirk Tuck said...

Hi M.M. The rig is really great. I'm loving it. As to the shoulder mount - I am using an Ikan (cheap, plastic) shoulder mount that hangs over the shoulder and, in front, presses against my rib cage. But it actually works. I've picked up a couple of version from Amazon, I'll try to find a link. Yep, they still make it. Here's a link: https://www.amazon.com/Ikan-ELE-15R24-15mm-Rods-24-inch/dp/B0084ZYDYM/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&qid=1481164114&sr=8-20&keywords=Ikan+video+shoulder+mount&linkCode=ll1&tag=thev0c1-20&linkId=8338572eb73ee22544693c8b60de4f31

Fred said...

Hi Kirk,
I love the video stuff. I have been waiting since you mentioned the other day about looking at video cameras. I don't know anything about these two but they look interesting. Right now I need to put my money into a new much more powerful computer for video editing before I think about new cameras.
That cage looks very cool. It looks like if you are not careful that you could hang much more stuff off it than you need! Along that vein, if you attached the appropriate audio recorder to the cage would that give you a headphone jack? It would certainly add bulk to the rig.

Kirk Tuck said...

Hi Fred. Thanks! I'll keep after it. You are right, I could hang a digital audio recorder on the bottom of the rig, run the microphone through that and have an headphone out for monitoring. I have done that earlier this year for parts of the PEC video but I really wish I could do it all in camera and save having to sync up the audio in post production. I keep forgetting that I have a Zoom H4N recorder that would work perfectly for his. Thanks for the reminder.

And, yeah! you know me too well. I'll soon have the rig covered with accessory shoes filled with ..... more stuff. I'm too transparent.

John Camp said...

This is a serious, sincere question -- why not a dedicated video camera, instead of a kind of jury-rigged stills camera?

Kirk Tuck said...

Hi John, Here's a serious answer: Why can't we have both? My sometimes partner in video owns a nice, Sony FS7. Not the top of the line but it uses the same sensor as several Sony's that are pricier. It's a great camera. It mostly great because of the image quality but it's much, much bigger and heavier than the stills camera, still requires stuff hanging off it and cost $10,000. We use it if we need ultimate quality.

But having to use a dedicated video camera like that, or the F55 which another close friend owns is like expecting a street photographer to shoot in 4x5. The small, a6300 is light enough to carry in one hand. The 4K video is very, very, very good. The EVF is most useful. Toss a microphone on it (which you would have to do with the bigger cameras too!) and you still have a wonderful little package to shoot with.

Consider the RX10iii. You don't need to hang anything but a microphone on that camera and you are ready to shoot stuff that's more than good enough for most productions, in 4K, with an incredibly useful zoom lens that also happens to be very, very good. You also get really good image stabilization.

Here's another one. The A7rii is a great 4K performer. With the right lens you combine the in camera stabilization with lens stabilization. Put it on a tripod and use a $150 Beachtek mixer and you've got a great interview camera that handles low light really well and, if you use the full sensor for 4K you get a look you can't quite duplicate with the $10,000 and up cameras. But wait, there's more, right after you shoot that cool interview you can switch a few things around in the menu and shoot some 42 megapixels still images with the same lens and maybe even the same lighting set up. Magic. Can't do that with an f55...

But yeah, we're in the process of buying a dedicated camera like the PXW x70 or x150. Just for those times when we want the 10bit 4:2:2 codec right in the camera, along with that variable speed power zoom control and par focal lens. Funny, most of the guys I know shooting FS5's and FS7's are using cine primes when a big selling point is par focal zooms. Go figure.

We can also turn your question around and ask why those guys who dropped $10K+ are adding external monitors, external sound mixers, rails, focus knobs and matte boxes to their rigs. Essentially, whether you are playing with still oriented cameras or full on video cameras you'll end up adding something to them. My expenditures are tiny by comparison and actually (in the case of the cage) add to the overall handling even when shooting stills.. Plus, I like the handle.

Mister Ian said...

Awesome. Finally, some cages and goodies that are not so overpriced! Will any of the cages fit my RX10 II? Then I can hang the audio recorder and shotgun microphone on it together on a tripod and have no wobbles.