We recently got the chance to do a review on a couple of pieces of gear from SmallRig, the camera cage for the Panasonic GH3/GH4, baseplate with rail support, 12″ carbon fiber rods, and a pair of SmallRig handles. Here are our thoughts on this equipment. Be sure to check out more filmmaking articles, and for those of you who are cast and crew, sign up to get your free FilmLocal account!
SmallRig Camera Cage (GH4) + Rail System
I am going to be writing this review based on a cinematographer’s perspective. Over the past couple weeks, I’ve used this gear on short film projects (as best as I was able in our current global climate) and other small productions now that the regulations have loosened a bit. I’ll do my best to avoid mentioning the difficulties of a film production in the wake of COVID-19 as this is a review on a piece of gear, but I will tell you that it has not been easy.
You may have noticed that many videographers have their cameras mounted in cages, this opens up the possibility to mount multiple accessories to and around the camera itself, all in one unit. This includes, but is not limited to, a monitor, MDR, transmitter, etc. These can be interchanged depending on your scenario and preference, but for the sake of this review, I kept the top handle and handheld setup constant throughout. Additionally, having a cage also gives your camera protection from any bumps or scratches when shooting out in the field. Sort of like an exoskeleton for a camera.
The downside, however, is that your camera can become quite cluttered with cables/wires. This can also cause you to lose access to certain buttons as well. However, with proper practice and finessing, you should be able to organize your camera into a sleek and effective build.
Let’s get down to specifics, for these shoots I was shooting with a GH4. SmallRig offers pretty much every style of cage you could ask for. I, however, settled on this specific cage because I had never used it before. A very lightweight at 0.750 pounds, this cage completely covers the whole body of the Panasonic GH4 and continues to give you full access to all buttons. Simply slide into the threaded 1/4-20 screw on the bottom and you’re good to go. You’ll also notice that this cage covers almost every inch with 1/4-20 and 3/8th screw holes. Using this cage, you’re then able to add a baseplate with rail support, a couple of carbon fibre rods, and two handle grips. Now you have yourself a functioning handheld setup!
When I go out shooting by myself or with a group of people I always like to be prepared. I don’t want to be digging through bags looking for little cables and extra stuff that is just time-consuming and takes away from my shooting time. My first experience heading into the field with this SmallRig cage was amazing. There’s nothing worse than finally getting out there and realizing that you forgot something or something isn’t correct with your build. I don’t have to worry about that with this cage. I am able to mount my monitor and external mic in under a minute and the camera never looked better. Simply throw it in the bag fully built, and it’s ready to go first thing on the day.
You’ll notice right away how much more stable your build is overall with the handheld rig installed properly. I even noticed some of my shots were much more stable and level when taking them to post.
Most DSLR cameras these days (including Panasonic) require micro HDMI or very small micro USB ports. These ports, although small, can be the worst for reliability when dealing with natural environments. When running my external monitor on the camera, it requires two separate small cables that can easily be ripped out or broken if tugged slightly by one thing or another. The included HDMI clamp is a lifesaver, not only does it protect your cables when in a run and gun handheld setup, but I always make sure I have it on when using a Ronin or any other stabilizer when cable management is critical.
Overall, after using this cage in the field a handful of times, it’s easy to say that I will not be going back, or switching to another brand for cages at all. SmallRig has nailed it on this one. One thing that they offer which I really love and respect being a filmmaker, is the fact that they are constantly innovating and improving past and present accessories to make them better for you in the field. Industry professionals to rookies are able to achieve its full potential without any prior knowledge. If you are looking for a cage or any accessory for your DSLR look no further. I would highly recommend SmallRig to any other cinematographer or videographer out there!
Have you ever used SmallRig in the past? Let us know below! Also, remember we have plenty more articles to check out and we happen to be one of the best resources for filmmakers out there! Create your account today, you won’t be disappointed.