The D300s Support Rig is finished, finally

So after many online orders, a few mistakes and one fraudulent use of my credit card by a ner-do-well later my support rig for my Nikon D300s is finished.

I’ve put together a short video running through the new gear and how it is configured. It is rendering as we speak (couldn’t help putting some Magic Bullet on it) I will add it here as soon as it is done but in the meantime.

PAS_3179

And now for the detailed breakdown, some of this will be a slight re-hash of earlier posts but with my perspective on some of the parts I have had for a while now.

The Base: ProAim RAILS system

So I took a punt on these, they were cheap, and by cheap I mean the entire bundle of Rails, quick release plate, Matte Box and Follow Focus, costs a little less than just a single Follow Focus from Redrock or a Matte Box set from Arri etc.

railsBut I have to say I am very happy with them, the rails work a treat, the mount is very stable, and comes with all the extra bits that sometimes you have to order separately, for example, after I got the Hoodman and the Shoulder Mount riser, I discovered that I really wanted to raise my camera a bit from the rails, luckily the ProAim kit comes with a set of shims, and it was a simple matter of undoing a couple of hex screws with the supplied allen keys and adding the desired amount of shims to raise the camera to exactly where I wanted it. The Mate box is pretty good, I’m not in love with the filter holders and will probably at some stage replace it with a Red Rock Mattebox that swings out (making lens changes MUCH easier. But they work and do the trick.

s-mat-13

The follow focus is pretty good, it is by no means perfect, there is no way of adjusting tension as you can with the better ones, although I did find that I could sort of fake tension adjustment by adjusting how tight the gears were mounted to the ring on the lens.

PAS_3185

Interestingly I think the main takeaway here is that normal still camera lenses are just not designed for smooth moving focus changes like film lenses, so no matter how great the follow focus unit you are still hampered by the still camera lenses. The quick release plate that comes with the kit is the same form factor as the Manfrotto 501 plate, of which I have several, so I can take the camera off the rails kit and move it to another tripod without having to change baseplates. All in all I am very happy with the kit, and the best part is as time goes by I can upgrade individual pieces as I desire.

Shoulder Mount:

I knew that this is where I was going to have to spend money, experience has taught me that where the camera meets the body you do not want to scrimp. As such I ordered the Redrock Micro  – Micro Shoulder Mount 35mm upgrade kit which consists of the shoulder piece, the front handle bar with a long and a short bar and two handles.

microSM_v2_35mm_bundle_lg

To that I also added a Micromount which allows you to mount things like an LCD or a small light such as a lightpanel by way of a standard spigot.

microMountAnd finally I ordered a Hoodman Loupe kit for video DSLR’s. I looked long and hard at the Zacuto, but honestly my credit card was starting to fall apart from overuse and at the time they were back-ordered. So I figured I would give the Hoodman a go and then maybe in the future upgrade to the Zacuto. So how is the Hoodman? Well it is a BIG step up from having no eyepiece, it definitely makes focusing easier. The mount system they have come up with, which is effectively two large rubber bands is a bit laughable, I am in the process of hand making a hard mount system that will allow me to slide the Hoodman on and off the camera easily but not move when it is attached, once again Redrock make a after market mount, but honestly $55 for a small piece of pressed aluminum, I think I can handle that myself 🙂

PAS_3182

It was at this stage that I realized a flaw in my plan, the Hoodman attached and the shoulder mount attached to the rails, I realized that funnily enough mu shoulder is not exactly in line with my eye and so I could either have a really comfortable should mount and have the Hoodman not near my eye, or I could pop my eye on the Hoodman and the should rig was no longer where it needed to be. So out came the scarred and frying credit card again and after a lot of staring at the rig I decided that to offset the shoulder mount I would need two microLink 4 risers with two 4 inch rails. I figured I would need two of these and I though that with effectively the entire weight of the whole rig on one riser, it would end up twisting. I ended up getting two 4 inch graphite rods from Redrock as the price difference with aluminum was marginal. When the parts came however, I first put the system together with both risers but the carbon fiber rods were so stiff I figured I would take a punt and see if a single riser would work. The takeaway story here is, you now where you here people say carbon fiber is REALLY strong, REALLY lightweight and REALLY stiff? They’re not kidding. With the entire rigs weight effectively resting on these two small rods, there is ZERO flexing or movement. I love these carbon fiber rods so much, as soon as I can I will probably upgrade the rails on my system to all carbon fiber, as I now feel VERY confident that they will work perfectly and save a bit of weight as well.

PAS_3190

So basically I now had a rig that I could rest comfortably on my shoulder, focus easily and see what I am shooting even in bright sunlight. The only problem is it was not the lightest kit in the world, and a month of shooting the Olympics with the Panasonic HVX 202 definitely showed me that even what you think is a light camera gets VERY heaving day after day. About the same time a friend who actually owns a 202 had popped in to work with his kit, a while back he had ordered a support kit for his camera from a company in Israel called DV Tec. Basically it is a spring mounted rod and shoulder mount system.

dvrigpro5100k

After playing with it for a while I decided that the whole rig was kind of pointless for me, seeing as the rails and the shoulder mount kit would be duplicated a fair amount. But the spring loaded pole would be a perfect addition, so I ordered just the pole and with the addition of a support belt (which as an added bonus helps when throwing all the Pelican cases around on shoots) and I have a nice little support system that takes the majority of the weight of the camera but doesn’t cut down any of the flexibility. All I had to do to add the pole into the system was I had a small rail mounting block I had ordered from Cinevate, I just mounted a small spring the same size as on my friends rig into the centre hole. this is then mounted on the rails after the Matte Box, the pole then slots into this, providing easier movement as well as being very quick to attach and de-attach if you suddenly don’t want the rig on.

PAS_3200

And that’s about it. My next plan is to mount a battery on a plate from the shoulder mount. This will not only power a small LCD that I have to mount on the microLink, but it will also add a counterbalance to the front heavy nature of the rig and also give me a place to mount a radio mic. That being said, there is always something to alter change or upgrade. But for the meantime I am happy, now for the track dolly I have been meaning to build……….

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2 Responses to “The D300s Support Rig is finished, finally”

  1. What a FANTASTIC site. I was looking for info for a pole mount for my D300s. Your site was first on Google – search term “pole mount rig d300s”. I am looking for this for real estate applications but you have shown me some fantastic ideas. Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge and experience.

    John

    • evanbutson Says:

      Hi John, I am glad you found this helpful, I have actually shut down this blog and moved it all to my website, http://www.tdepost.com/blog I have since updated the post you liked with the second version of the rig etc and will soon be updating it again with some new gear. So hope you find it useful.

      Cheers
      Evan

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