It's no doubt that at some point in a cinematographers career, they’ll need a camera cage. Eventually you’ll need to mount more on your camera than just a shotgun mic or an external monitor. Do a simple Google search and you’ll instantly be bombarded with a multitude of cage options. Some will be outrageously expensive, others will seem way too cheap. Today, I’ll be reviewing one of the most budget friendly options: SmallRig. Will you be getting a good quality cage? Or is it another cheaply made Chinese cage that will more than likely become a paper weight after a couple shoots? Let’s dive in.
First things first. This wasn’t the cheapest build on the market. All in all, this set up ran me around $380. There are some other cages out there that can top out around $200 for the same build although they tend to have some sketchy origins and hit or miss quality control. If you do go with the base kit SmallRig, you’ll be spending only $159.90, but say goodbuy to the side handle, monitor mount and rail system.
For this build, I have:
- Arri Rosette Side Grip
- 15mm Rail Block
- DSLR Monitor Holder with NATO Clamp
- NATO Safety Rail
- 15mm Rail base plate
- Two 18inch Carbon Fiber Rails
Right off the bat I could tell that SmallRig wastes no time their build quality. The metal is sturdy and machined and not welded. The mounting screw points are all the exact size and fit well. I was pleasantly surprised at the sheer quality of this cage. One thing that was pretty annoying was that there were no instructions whatsoever to assemble the rig. It seems pretty straight forward after you figure it out once, but man, I probably spent close to an hour putting it together for the first time.
Feature Length or Falling Short?
Once thing that I love about SmallRig is their NATO Rails. These rails allow for extremely quick and easy mounting of handles and monitor mounts without having to mess around with screws or bolts. For the monitor mount, it simply screws into the tripod screw of the monitor and then slides on the NATO rail of the cage and is locked in place with that red lever. The NATO rails even have safety pins at both ends to ensure if the locking lever ever gets knocked open, the monitor doesn’t slide right off. This feature has already saved my ass once, so it’s a great feature my SmallRig.
The optional wooden side handle follows the cage closely in terms of build quality and function. The wood feels sturdy and forms to the hand extremely well. It is attached by an Arri Rosette bolt on mount which allows you to twist the handle with 360 degrees of freedom for whatever shooting style you need. Seriously, if you buy this cage, get the side handle. You won’t regret it.
Overall, this is a solid cage. SmallRig has created an affordable and robust tool for filmmakers that need more mounting points and versatility with their kits. The rails allow you to mount and support longer cine lenses as well a follow focus system. The easily moveable NATO rails allow for you to assemble the handles to what ever best fits your shooting scenario whilst the safety pins ensure your monitor or cage won’t go flying on a strenuous or high intensity shot. When shooting with the cage, you forget you’re using a mirrorless camera and instead feel like you’re shooting on a proper cinema camera. But be warned, shooting with no cage will never be the same after you use this! The included HDMI clamp is also very nice although I am unable to use it because of its awkward positioning and inability to accept most thick HDMI cables. This is exceptionally annoying considering I go through HDMI cables often do to tugging which ruins the cable. The weight is also a plus, having more weight means less micro jitters when shooting handheld and will give your footage a more “premium” look due to the heavier movement that mimics most RED/Arri camera systems.
Final Rating: 5/5
- Supreme build quality
- NATO safety pins can and will save your gear
- Easily customizable
- Not too heavy, not too light
- Not easily assembled for the first time
- HDMI clamp leaves much to be desired
Bottom line, you will certainly enjoy this cage. The minor pitfalls will seem insignifigant when you feel like you’re holding a top of the line camera cage on your shoots.
Check out the cage from SmallRig's website here: 2096 Cage