By Dan Chung
Having got my Canon C300 I’ve decided to take a look at the rig options available for it. There are a multitude already on the market; some highly customised for the C300, others more generic. As per usual I will be focusing on news and documentary use only.
Some of the major manufacturers had their hands on the camera before or shortly after it was announced and have had time to develop and manufacture their rig solutions to coincide with the camera actually shipping. This was smart of Canon as it means that users have multiple options to get the camera into a production ready setup without having to wait months for the manufacturers to catch up. One major benefit of the C300 compared to other large sensor camcorders is that it is quite lightweight and can possibly be used on the owner’s existing 15mm rod based DSLR rigs with little modification – quite a few of the options below don’t need you to start again from scratch if you have a setup already.
Redrockmicro had one of the first dedicated cage setups for the C300 and it was used extensively by Vincent Laforet and the other filmmakers who shot the promo films for Canon. The Ultracage Blue wraps neatly around the C300 giving it some protection and multiple mounting points for accessories. 15mm rods can be added top and bottom with option for a handle on the top. The baseplate form-fits the camera neatly and when assembled the basic cage does look very much like it is integral to the camera itself.
Most of the Ultracage setups you see pictured online are in a cinema-style configuration but what is potentially more interesting to readers of this blog are the lighter weight handheld rigs Redrock offer. The $972 UltraEvent handheld is compact and similar in operation to the older Event for DSLRs. Redrock also offer just the $550 base cage which might be useful if you already own a DSLR rig and just want to add the C300 to it neatly.
Zacuto have also come up with a whole range of C300 rigs and accessories. Taking a slightly different approach to Redrockmicro they are offering rigs based around two different baseplates for different applications.
They are offering smaller rigs based on their popular Gorilla line of handheld supports. The entry model is the $510 C300 Target shooter which is designed for simple run and gun. There is also the $975 C300 Striker which is still small but has a handle. If you already own a Gorilla rig then you can adapt it using their new $150 baseplate for the C300.
Again, owners of other manufacturers’ rigs may find this baseplate is all they need to get up and running with the C300. One nice feature is the rod port on the side of the plate, which allows you to add a rod sideways out from the base – great for monitors and EVFs.The only thing to note about the Gorilla C300 baseplate is that it does not work with a regular rod-supported mattebox, only height adjustable ones (but given that the C300 has built in ND, this is not really a problem for me).
They then have larger rigs based around their Studio baseplate. The Stinger is a pretty conventional full shoulder rig which is very versatile. The baseplate has a design that places the rods next to the base of the camera to ensure the correct rod spacing for matteboxes etc. One of the nicest things about this setup is that Zacuto have announced an accessory that will move the C300 handgrip off the side of the camera and down to replace one of the rig handles. This will allow you to control the camera start/stop and aperture without taking your hands away from the grip. They have also talked about a remote focus device that will allow you to focus the lens from the other handle – something I would like to see.
The other neat thing they are offering is a wing-style top plate and handle arrangement which looks very versatile. You can see it in the video below.
The last rig they offer looks great at first sight. The Recoil is a rig that balances the C300 on your shoulder and relies on an external EVF for viewing the image. This setup is great for balance but I have my doubts about how well it would work in practice for me. The main issue with the C300 used this way is that the ISO and white balance adjustment is then behind your head and can’t easily be changed without taking the camera off the shoulder. That may be fine for some shoots but would not be great in a news environment.
Genus have a new C300 baseplate on the way too. It appears to be of a more conventional design than the Zacuto or Redrockmicro plates. As with the Zacuto it places 15mm rods close to the camera body for proper mattebox clearance, but the plate is less form fitted – there is a sizable gap between the camera and the tripod base. Whilst this is not too much of an issue for studio applications, it does mean that any run and gun configuration based on this plate will be slightly bulkier.
German company Denz also has a C300 custom €520 baseplate for 15mm rods along similar lines to the Zacuto one, but with the addition of left and right serrated rosettes which allow the attachment of handles and other accessories directly to the baseplate. Using Denz’s own handles and a shoulder pad this should form a very compact rig.
They also offer what they call a substructure which works with the baseplate to form a cage (not unlike the Redrockmicro one) with mount options for rod clamps and handles, price is TBA, but given the price of the other products on their webstore, don’t expect this one to be cheap.
Letus have added a C300 cage to their Hurlbut Master Cinema Series collection. The modular system which we previously covered is fantastically well engineered generally but heavy and designed for more cinema-style shooting. It would be interesting to see how the C300 handles on the rigs if used for documentary work instead. You can see it in the video from Wideopencamera below.
Ikan have been promoting their Elements line of rigs for use with the C300.The rig is a fair attempt at turning the C300 into a ENG style configuration and their pricing is reasonably keen. However, there is no specific C300 baseplate and their regular baseplate comes in the kit instead. I assume the height of the rods does not allow for non-height-adjustable matteboxes.
Shape systems have adapted their existing line of rigs to work on the C300. There does seem to be a lot of metal in their rig and I would be interested to see how easy and heavy the C300 is to use when configured on a Composite rig.
Very different to other offerings is the Canoflex system designed specifically for the C300. It takes its design inspiration from the Super16mm cameras of yesteryear. It is essentially a metal plate with a handle battery plate, power and HDSDI video distribution. Rails can be added along with grips and a shoulder pad. It is clearly designed to work with an external EVF and not Canon’s inbuilt one. Price is TBA (edit – Wideopencamera has Filmtools giving the price at between $5000 and $5,500 US).
So what am I currently using on my C300 ? Actually, I’m not really using a rails-based rig at all. What I do have is a modified inexpensive bracket originally designed for a Sony EX1 camcorder from a small company called WestsideAV that allows me to fit a radio mic and monitor arm to the side of the camera.
I’ve added their shoulder brace designed for the Canon XF105, which has a small bag at the end which you fill with batteries to act as a counterweight. The whole setup adds practically no weight and not much bulk to the camera. The brace is detachable allowing the camera to be stowed in a bag easily with the bracket still on. The downside to this setup is that there is no easy way to add a follow focus, mattebox or support for a long lens. WestsideAV are working on a dedicated solution for the C300 but it is not yet finalised.
I will have to get a 15mm rods-based solution for the C300 in addition to my WestsideAV bracket. Hopefully I will get a chance to check out all the rigs above at NAB 2012 before making a decision.
(disclosure – Dslrnewssshooter.com is an affiliate of Zacuto)