So, after two years of owning my Canon C300, I finally bought a shoulder rig that I'm happy with. It's not for lack of trying. I shoot mostly one-man-band and small crew shoots, so as much as I covet the top-of-the-line Elements Mantis handheld rig, I had to be realistic - do I need a sliding dovetail and 2 or 3 separate camera plates?
No. I need something that's simple, configurable, and cheap without being a piece of garbage.
What a piece of garbage. Even though it was machined aluminum and I LOVE rosettes in camera rigs, the rig itself felt disposable. I definitely wasn't going to be renting this out.
The worst thing about Tilta shoulder rigs - the thing that nobody tells you - is that at least half of the machined holes on the rig - the holes that look like standard 1/4-20 holes are actually a different size: metric 6, or M6 for short. Which means that there are far fewer mountable points on this rig than advertised.
Seriously, I've seen this rig sold on a lot of websites and not a one mentions that a lot of the machined holes are M6.
So I returned it and spent the next year researching other rigs.
My buddy Sean Anderson had the Tilta V-Lock shoulderpad and built a simple rig around that with Redrock Micro 15mm Handles and a Jag35 counterweight that I'd lent him on the back.
I liked the idea of having a V-Lock shoulder pad for popping on and off the tripod quickly, but there was no way I was buying another Tilta rig(in all fairness I think their Israeli arm is pretty good for the price). Also, it was a lot less pieces than your traditional cinema-style set-up. I shoot mostly interviews and b-roll, so simpler and quicker is always better.
Recently, I worked as B Camera on a shoot in which we got to throw a coffee machine through a three-story window and met an English cameraman named Steven Trinder, who was shooting with his own C300.
What follows is a piece-by-piece description of the rig that he was using, which is also the rig that I ended up purchasing. All prices are from B&H Photo.
Lanparte VMS-01 Shoulder Support - $304.00
A simple, stout V-Lock shoulder support and baseplate. Has rods on both sides so that you can hang a counterweight or battery of the back if you want. Has a manfrotto style quick-release plate on top that mounts to the bottom of the C300, which is a fine way to mount the camera to the baseplate and also allows for the camera to slide backward or forward in the quick-release for balancing purposes.
It's also got a bubble level on the top of the baseplate which is kind of neat I think.
Shape Quick Handle with Rod Block - $342.32
Rock-solid. Built-in rosettes. Just press the spring-loaded red button on either side of the handles and you can easily set the position of the handles.
I don't exactly love the rubber material that covers the grips - it feels like it could wear away after repeated use - but on the whole these grips are fantastic.
Comparable and better top handles for the C300 cost $300 and up. The factory top handle that comes with the camera is terrible, so it's advisable to upgrade.
This one is metal, cost-effective, has top rods, and a nifty sideways-rod tie-down on which to mount your factory monitor for handheld work. This can be accomplished with a 6-inch 15mm rod and our next accessory...
Movcam 15mm Rod to Cold-Shoe Bracket - $56.00
Kind of pricey at 56 bucks, but this little doo-dad lets you, with the help of the Genustech Top Handle, extend the factory clamshell monitor 4-6 extra inches in front of your face. The added distance makes all the difference when operating this set-up handheld, which is actually, obviously the whole point of this post.
So there you have it, a solid handheld rig for $842.32. Compare that to the Stinger or the Mantis or the Zacuto Rigs. Hell, even the Tilta is more.
This is a cheaper, better, more solid rig.
So - you're welcome, I guess.
Thanks to DP and Lighting Cameraman Steven Trinder who initially conceived of this rig. I met Steven on a recent shoot and he was kind enough to give me a rundown of the rig, piece-by-piece. I liked it so much, I ended up purchasing it, piece-by-piece.