I am a traditionally trained cinematographer
and started my career on 16mm and 35mm motion picture film so whenever I had to use videocameras - and that was quite often at the beginning of my professional life - I longed for that cinematic shallow depth of field. When the Red One came along in 2007 at was a bit easier and cheaper to get a cinematic looking image, but budgets went down and for lots of productions even the Red was too expensive, so the revolution started, when the Canon 5DMKII and later the 7D hit the market. Sure there was a brief time before that, where 35mm adapters were used to get “cine” look on small chipped cameras, but that was cumbersome and the image quality was questionable at best.
I was early to embrace large-sensor videography. Finally one of the biggest shortcomings of digital videocameras - the large depth of field due to the small sensor size - was resolved at a price point that even small productions could afford.
It turned out that I never owned a camera before that made me more money in relation to it's cost than the Canon 7D.
With the democratization of cinematic-looking video, a tidal wave of accessories manufacturers emerged and offered a myriad of gadgets to make the awkwardly shaped VDSLR cameras more production-ready, ergonomic and generally better to handle.
Baseplates, Rod-Systems, Audio-Interfaces, Monitors, Handgrips, Matteboxes, Follow-Focus units and tons of other accessories are now available to turn every DSLR into a monstrous contraption that looks like something out of an Alien-movie.
My rig did not look as bad as that, but… close.
A rather recent addition
to DSLR and small-cine-cameras specific accessories are so-called CAGES. Cages - as the name suggests - are cage-like structures that are attached to- and wrap around the camera-body like an exo-skeleton. These cages serve 2 purposes: Firstly they add a layer of protection to the camera and secondly they provide rigid attachment-points for camera accessories.
The cool thing about those cages is that they snuggle around the camera and can make the rig more durable, easier to carry and operate and provide better and more solid mounting-points for acessories than a gazillion of noga-arms and 15mm rod clamps.
The downside to cages is that most of them are designed for a specific camera. In today's market a camera-model will not get much older than 3 years before being obsolete. So accessories that can be used on the next camera are a much better investment, than those who are tailored to a certain camera body.
I own a Canon C300 and have shot a feature film partly with that camera in 2012. I did not use a cage, but after wrapping I did some research and stumbled upon some cage offerings from different manufacturers. That's where the Chrosziel "Cage Project" comes in. I learned that Chrosziel was looking for ideas and feedback concerning their very own cage design.
Canon C300 and Atomos Samurai on Chrosziel cage and rod support. The rest are Vocas parts.
is a german camera accessory company that has been around as long as I have been - 1973 - and I think a Chrosziel mattebox was the first third-party camera accessory I have ever laid my hands on, when I started in the business in 1995 and I have owned quite a few of their products over the years.
I asked them for a cage unit to test and the folks were nice enough to provide me with a preproduction-model configured for my C300 for a few weeks. I did take it out on two jobs. Both were not the ideal proving-ground for a cage, because they were mere talking-head shoots. The C300 is a camera that is pretty self contained and for day-to-day camerawork does not require a cage, but I had to do with what was at hand.
is machined from high-grade aluminum and is very precisely manufactured. The color-coded spacers come in different sizes and make it possible to adjust height and width of the cage to fit any small cinema camera or DSLR now and in the future. The cage itself is very robust even though I thought it did not look like that on the photos in the internet. I have no clue what will be in the box, if you buy the cage, when its released. I presume it’ll be a set with all you need to use it. Keep an eye on www.chrosziel.com for infos on that.
Color-coded spacers make it easy to adjust the cage’s width and height.
The camera is mounted to the very nice Chrosziel lightweight support baseplate, that also sports 15mm rods that can extend front and back to support a follow-focus, matte-box, handgrips, shoulder pad and other 15mm accessories.
The Chrosziel Lighweight-Support Baseplate.
The cage itself is mounted underneath the Baseplate. Here I ran into two problems: The way the cage is mounted to the baseplate is a little fiddly and the screws are tricky to place and tighten. Not very nice when you are on set and in a hurry to convert the camera from cage-mode to nakend-body-mode. The tripod-plate is then mounted to screwholes that are part of the cage. These holes are quite a way to the back of the center of gravity of my C300 rig, which meant that I had to use almost all the way my tripod-head would let me slide the camera to the back in order to balance it correctly on the head.
Two screws to mount the cage to the baseplate are a bit fiddly to get in.
Holes for tripod plate are very far to the back of the center of gravity. At least on the C300.
All the components of the cage - including the heavy-duty handle have lots of 1/4” and 3/8” screwholes to mount every possible accessory you can think of securely to the cage. The Handgrip itself has a 15mm hole down its length that can be used to put in a 15mm rod to extend the grip and/or mount stuff to.
Even the handgrip has lots of 3/8” and 1/4” threads and a 15mm hole down the length of it.
All the components of the cage - including the heavy-duty handle have LOTS of 1/4” and 3/8” screwholes to mount every possible accessory you can think of securely to the cage. The Handgrip itself has a 15mm hole down it’s length that can be used to put in a 15mm rod to extend the grip and/or mount stuff to. The myriad of attachment-points even allow you to mount the camera underslung on a crane or remote head securely.
Chrosziel also sent me one of their newly developed cold shoe-mounts that can be attached to various points on the cage. These are extremely useful, as most of the accessories I use have a cold shoe for fixation. So if I order the cage I hope a handful of those are included. They get attached with twin screws to prevent them from twisting. The shoes are seriously heavy-duty and I would trust them to hold even the heaviest LED light or external recorder.
Heavy duty cold shoe mount. Note the little screws that prevent the mounted accessory from slipping out the back of the shoe.
Via a 15mm rod bracket, additional pairs of 15mm rods can be attached on both sides or on top of the cage for mounting stuff or to extend the rods back to a second cage to build an even more rugged double-cage. I have not tried this because I only had one cage element at my disposal.
15mm Rod braced added to the left side of the cage...
…and on top between cage and Handgrip
Like I mentioned earlier I shot a feature using the Canon C300. There was a lot of handheld work there, so there were mattebox, remote follow-focus, batteries, shoulder pad, counter-weights, atmo-microphone a monitor and the Atomos Samurai attached to the rig. It naturally was very heavy. Although we tried to always grab the camera by the rails or handgrips, inevitably we sometimes handled it with the standard canon-handgrip screwed to the camera. That meant the whole weight of the rig not only to hang from the camera’s tripod screws, but also apply a lot of force to the camera-body itself, which definitely is not a good idea.
With a cage like the Chrosziel cage the camera-body itself does not support any weight, so the cage/handgrip combination not only puts a layer of protection around the camera, but also takes a lot of mechanical strain off the camera body.
C300’s handle removed. Weight does not hang from the camera anymore.
Overall I have been very impressed with the Chrosziel Cage. Build-quality is excellent and the ability to adapt the cage to any future camera makes it very interesting for me. If something like the handheld-centric feature of 2012 comes up I’ll definitely pick up one of those Cages. If the price of the kit is reasonable I will even get myself one of those as soon as they are released.
A little disclaimer at the end of this review: I am in no way affiliated with Chrosziel and I don’t get paid for this review. The cage is a work in progress and details might change in the final released product.
For more information and pricing go to www.chrosziel.com. To watch my filmed review go here.
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