The entire “DSLR for video” revolution is responsible for the rise of entire new segment of camera “hardware” market around the world. It’s a good thing! I remember the time when I started using my brand new Canon 5D MKII for video. I was so excited and so frustrated at the same time. Excited, we all know why but (one of my) frustrations as a camera operator was a lack of options on how to customize a piece of photographic gear to be (enjoyably) used as video gear. It took years for market for this kind of accessories to “mature” properly and gives us smart, quality and affordable options.
Fast forward to mid 2016: after trying many pieces of camera hardware over the years to customize my video camera kits (good, bad, expensive, cheap, American, Indian, Chinese made,…) I was at the point of completing my newly acquired Sony FS-7 camera package to my own requirements, applying all the knowledge and experience i accumulated over years with using various “packages”, rented or my own. I needed a source that can be my “Lego kit basket” and provide all components that I envisioned for my FS-7 rig. Oh, and do it on budget! I was not willing to pay premium (over rated) prices for milled pieces of aluminum only because they were “made in USA” (“made in Canada”), had “life time warranty”, recommended by your favorite “VIDEO PRO” blogger and all that jazz… But, build quality was paramount. After going over endless listings on eBay (my usual starting point for “new searches”), one brand started showing up more and more: smallRig. Strange name but smart bits and pieces. At that time I could not get any online feedback on their products. I decided to risk it and get few parts. After getting the first “batch” I was sure I found what I was looking for. Quality and finish is top notch. I decided to order more. With in few weeks I completed my entire set and more. Following images illustrate what I did with Sony FS-7 using 95% smallRig products…
After using my smallRig set up on Sony FS-7 kit with great success over the last 8 months, time has come to customize my new “B-camera”. Fujifilm X-T2. This is a mirror-less APS-C size sensor type of camera, with very capable video performance. It replaced my (probably last ever DSLR body) Nikon D800. I went with smallRig again. First, because of the satisfaction I had so far with their parts second, because (at this moment) they are the only dedicated cage option for this particular camera. And smallRig has 2 version of the cage for X-T2. I opted for bigger one that accommodates optional power booster that is permanently attached to my camera body when I shoot stills with it, and especially useful if you require maximum performance (for stills or video) of this puny digital camera.
FIT & FINISH
As all other machined pieces from smallRig, this one is no different. All pieces fit perfect. No bending or flexing. All treads are 100% accurate. All “cheese pate” patterns are precise. Black finish is great and durable. It does not chip. It is not shinny. All screws included with the set are precise. They all screw with ease and don’t strip. Cage fits “snugly” over the camera/booster combo. Some might be bothered by it, not me. I just take my time when installing the cage and once in place, fact that the tolerance is so tight makes the package more as one unit. More about fit in next part…
Smart. Cage design and “volume” is minimal in bulk but not functionality. X-T2 is a small size camera. smallRig cage for it is small as well. Great! Once mounted, it does not increase size and “appearance” that much. Of course, it is up to the operator to elaborate on final look and lay out of the final rig. I belong to a school of thought that any camera rig must be mobile. That hardware once mobile must be usable in various positions and angles, versatile the same way any vintage film based or broadcast video (ENG) camera was. I can’t stand seeing online photos of various other camera rigs that look like alien bots or some mythical creatures with rods and bars and modules and microphones and cables sticking out all over, not able to be placed on the ground due to poor lay out, that are obviously so heavy and cumbersome that require body builder type of operator, etc… Cage by smallRig for X-T2 does all I needed it to do. Most importantly, keeps the volume of the kit to a minimal. Sure, you can extend it. I love using 15mm rods on my video cameras at all times. That is the most “bulk” I am willing to permanently add to the core set up. I love using follow focus on my Nikon glass. I love using Genus matte box on all my lenses. For this, 15mm rods are essentials. X-T2 cage fits properly in to smallRIg system of accessories. For that reason, bottom plate with 15mm rods mount was added.
Side wall elements of the X-T2 cage feature multiple mounting options for various “cheese plate standard” elements form smallRig catalogue or any other popular brand. I went minimal again, just adding Arri Rosette style mounting point for my DIU hand grip ball. The same balls are mounted on another smallRig Arri rosette style connector piece on the bottom of 15mm rods.
On the top element of X-T2 cage, I decided to go with “Nato style” multi handle. Another excellent and universal piece by smallRig. This pice is no different in quality and design than any other “brand name” product. Solid and good.
Yes, there is but. No, it is not a “deal breaker”. My only critique for this set up is following: I can not line up my Genus matte box to go over the mounted lens in to the perfect circle. Matte Box opening just sits a bit off centre, and not high enough. There is just not enough of “play” to move all elements and centre the matte box opening perfectly. This is due to the fact that once camera booster is mounted on the bottom of the camera body, and body/booster are mounted with in the cage, it raises lens axis too high from the standard lens/15mm rods distance as other (video) cameras on the market. I tried correcting the issue with additional 15mm rods riser/adapter and have the mounting rods for matte box closer to the lens axis (another smallRigg “Lego piece”) but it was not enough. It needs few extra mm. Oh, well. It is fine when using OEM Fujifilm lenses (smaller in diameter). Lens “pokes out” a bit higher with in matte box opening. The issue is with “fatty” Nikon zooms. Still usable but not perfect. For that critical use, I just switch to using OEM lens hood instead of matte box.
Another glitch is the optional HDMI plug lock. Once attached to the side of the cage it is in a way of opening the battery door on the booster and/or opening rubber gasket cover on the phone jack (AC power outlet). I understand smallRig is aware of this issue and the updated bracket is in the works.
Last nuance is the right side of the cage. It is a bit to close to the SD cards door. Door is not possible to be opened all the way and get the free access to both SD slots. It gets tight, but inserting and pulling out cards IS POSSIBLE.
If you need to “kit out” your X-T2 for video work, I highly recommend this smallRig product (and all other parts I used to complete my set). As I mentioned before, smallRig bits have proven as good and trusty accessories in my (broadcast, documentary & corporate) work so far. With fit & finish and quality, stand next to any other “brand name” accessory on the market. You can order all of the line directly from smallRig or look for particular parts form numerous vendors on eBay (if the web site is out of stock).