I though I would share a few pictures of how I like to configure my Sony PXW-FS7.
I mainly use the FS7 for run and gun type shooting, so portability and ease of use is very important.
So here is the overall package:
One of the key parts to the whole rig is the Vocas base plate. Vocas offer a couple of different base plate options. The one I have is shaped to follow the contour of the base of the camera so keeps the center of gravity as low as possible. It’s also compatible with a standard VCT quick release tripod plate so a great way to get the camera on and off a tripod really quickly. The shoulder pad slides forwards and back so you can adjust the balance point a bit, but the shape of the FS7 does tend to mean that the rig will be a bit front heavy (unless you add rear rods and a battery as I do). Attached to the left side of the base plate are a couple of Vocas lightweight arm sections and a beautiful wooden hand grip. I can’t recommend the Vocas hand grips enough, when you are out shooting all day a comfy hand grip makes a big difference.
A really weak area of the Sony FS7 is the viewfinder attachment. Fortunately Vocas have a solution for that.
The Vocas FS7 viewfinder arm can be attached to the existing Sony 15mm rod that the original viewfinder arm attaches to, or it can be attached to a supplementary 15mm rod attached to the Vocas top cheese plate (you’ll see that in a picture further down the page). The great thing about this Vocas VF arm is that you can slide the viewfinder fore and aft or move it up and down without the viewfinder drooping as it does with the original mount. This helps maintain a level horizon on the viewfinder screen which is really important when shooting handheld. A droopy viewfinder can easily lead to shots that are tilted over as it is very easy to miss that the horizon in the viewfinder isn’t level.
On the right side of my FS7 you can see that I have a Shape hand grip arm. Vocas make a very similar one if you want to keep everything one brand, but I got given this shape arm to test while I was in Canada. It has a big red quick adjust button that allows you to alter the angle of the arm as well as a single thumb screw to alter the length. This is so much nicer than the standard Sony arm. In addition the combination of the wider Vocas base plate and Shape arm means that the remote handgrip arm now no longer fouls the tripod head in the same way that the standard Sony one does. The microphone mount is one from Alphatron that attaches to a 15mm rod and the microphone is a Sony stereo microphone (from one of my F3 cameras). The tripod shown in these pictures is a Miller Compass 15 head on a set of their really incredible “Solo” carbon fiber legs. This is a very light weight system, great for travelling, yet still stable and robust. The legs can extend to well above head hight and collapse down to just a few inches above the ground.
On the top of the camera you can see my trusty Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q monitor/ProRes recorder as well as an Alphatron Tristar 4 LED light.
While the Tristar 4 doesn’t look all that different from many of the other LED lights on the market it is quite a remarkable little light. For a start the quality of the light output really is quite exceptional. When tested by Alan Roberts it scored 86 on the TLC Index. TLCI index measures the spectral performance of a light in a way that determines how it will perform for video and television applications. This takes into account things like green shifts and other color issues common with LED and fluorescent lights that CRI does not measure very well. A score of 86 is very good, especially for a compact light at this price point. It’s called a TriStar because each of the LED’s actually has 3 emitters which helps provide a very uniform yet high power light output.
Another great thing about the Tristar 4 is it’s build quality. This light is built to last. It’s is very tough and can be dropped on a concrete floor or bashed into a door frame while walking through it with the camera on your shoulder without breaking. The Tristar 4 has variable intensity and color balance and can be powered from standard Sony NP-F type batteries. The light comes with a D-Tap cable and a ball head for camera mounting. I choose to power it from a D-Tap outlet on my PAG battery system.
I love the PAGLINK battery system! I have them mounted on a V-Mount plate attached to a pair of 15mm rails on the rear of the camera. This helps balance the camera on my shoulder much better. If you are using the FS7 extension unit then the PAGLink batteries will go directly on to this. I’ll be writing more about these innovative batteries soon, but the key feature is the ability to stack several batteries together to produce a higher capacity pack or to charge several batteries at once with a single charger. Each battery has a sticker indicating that it complies with current regulations for hand carrying Li-Ion batts on aircraft and a copy of the test certificate is included with each pack. If you need to power accessories such as the Tristar 4 video light or the Convergent Design Odyssey then you can clip on the PAGLink Powerhub which can be configured with up to 4 D-Tap or Hirose connectors. It can also charge your phone via a USB socket on the bottom.
For lenses I am typically using either a Commlite EF adapter or Metabones Speedbooster EF adapter. I have a large selection of EF Mount lenses from Sigma, Tamron and Samyang.
As most of these lenses are quite small I don’t need a giant matte box. So to keep the weight down I use a Vocas MB215 matte box. This has a single rotating tray for up to 4×6 filters plus a clever holder for a 4×4 filter in the front of the hood. One thing I really like is the 16×9 shaped aperture at the front of the Matte Box. This really helps reduce flare in the lens without having a big flag or barn doors which often get in the way when shooting run and gun. You can attach the matte box directly to the lens as a clip-on, but I prefer to mount it on rails. The rails at the front of the camera help protect the lens from bumps and knocks when putting it down on the ground.
The final part to show you is the Vocas top cheese plate. If you look at the front of the cheese plate you will also see the additional mounting place for an alternate viewfinder attachment rod. The nice thing about this cheese plate is that you can install it without removing the handle, so you retain the cameras GPS and hotshoe functions. There are plenty of mounting points for accessories with both 1/4″ and 3/8″ threaded holes. The underside of the cheese plate is mostly hollow so it adds very little weight.
So there you have it. A quick run down of what my PXW-FS7 like to wear when it’s going out on a date.
Don’t forget I still have one place left for my wild weather workshop in June. Click here for details.