My PXW-FS7. Add-ons and configuration.

XDCAM-sliding-system-v2 My PXW-FS7. Add-ons and configuration.

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:

DSC03793-1024x683 My PXW-FS7. Add-ons and configuration.
My typical PXW-FS7 configuration.

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.

DSC03803-1024x683 My PXW-FS7. Add-ons and configuration.
Vocas viewfinder arm for the PXW-FS7

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.

DSC03801-1024x683 My PXW-FS7. Add-ons and configuration.
The right side of my PXW-FS7

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.

DSC03809-1024x683 My PXW-FS7. Add-ons and configuration.
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.

DSC03804-1024x683 My PXW-FS7. Add-ons and configuration.
PAG PAGLINK 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.

DSC03806-1024x683 My PXW-FS7. Add-ons and configuration.
Vocas MB215 Matte box.

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.

DSC03814-1024x683 My PXW-FS7. Add-ons and configuration.
Vocas top cheese plate for the FS7

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.

14 thoughts on “My PXW-FS7. Add-ons and configuration.”

  1. Great rig. I will definitely look into the Vocas stuff, particularly the EVF mount.
    I have to be honest with you and say this would count as my studio/cinema rig, rather than ‘run & gun’. We obviously have different ideas of “small”. 🙂
    My run & gun rig fits into a small backpack, and on a BENRO Aero 4 tripod!

    Love your blog!

  2. I use it as a monitor or as a raw recorder when I have the XDCA-FS7 extension unit. Most of the time it’s just as a monitor. The latest firmware allows you to add LUT’s on the Odyssey which gets around the issues with not having LUT’s in some modes on the FS7. The focus and exposure tools on the Odyssey are also fantastic.

  3. Hey Alister,

    Thanks for sharing your valuable knowledge. Your site has helped me tremendously. I’m curious if you’ve considered reviewing the raw recorder? There seems to be no information online that talks about the image quality gained from the $5K investment. This could be as simple as sharing two frames (xavc frame & raw frame)? Along with your thoughts, I’d really appreciate that article 🙂

    1. Yes, I’d like to do it, but I can only devote so much time to the website etc and there just isn’t enough time in the day to do everything. I do still need to work to make a living, I don’t make anything here.

  4. Nice rundown on some basic accessories. I’ve saved it for future reference.
    Just took the plunge on an FS7 purchase. ETA this Thursday. Can hardly wait!

  5. Hi Alister,

    Thanks so much for all the information you provide. I noticed on your FS7 rig you have your portable light in the “Hot Shoe” of the camera. I was worried to do that in case I shorted out something in the shoe. Did you need to do anything special or cover the contacts?

    Also we received our metabones speed booster ultra this weekend. Tried it out with a couple of Canon lenses and it worked great, but when I replaced the Speed Booster with my kit lens, I had lost all my electronics to the lens. No zoom, no iris, no focus. Frantically called a friend who also has an FS7 and he had had the same problem. He directed me to look at the pins in the lens mount and sure enough pin 4 was depressed and didn’ spring out. I used a small pin point to get it out, but now I’m hesitant to put the Metabones back on. Have you run into anything like this?

    My friend eventually had to send his camera to Sony because the pin eventually refused to pop out and even his Metabones adapter wouldn’t work.


    1. Some of the metabones adapters really mash down on those pins. There are many thousands of people out there using them though and while not unique, stories of needing to replace the pins are unusual.

  6. First off thanks for all the time and work you put in to posting all this information and the time you take to reply to us all.
    I have an FS7 with the XDCA unit. I’ve been having issues when shooting to prores. I find the images very noisy and not nearly as good as the XAVC-I files. Have you heard others mention this or experienced this yourself?
    I find the prores footage unusable as it’s just very noisy and blocky. I perfer to shoot XAVC-I but I get requests for prores and would like to be able to deliver that out of the camera. Any info or suggestions would be great.
    I shoot to Slog-c.cine – with no luts applied in camera – in Cine EI mode.

    1. The problem is that the 12 bit linear that comes out of the camera is a little low on bits. Normally for 14 linear stops you need 16 bits, so Sony are using some data rounding to fit 14 stops into 12 bits and this means than noise will be coarse. The normal way around this with raw would be to deliberately over expose so that you can grade down in post. You can do the same with log, but it isn’t quite as effective due to the added compression in the raw to prores conversion. You want to shoot around +1.5 stops over exposed.

  7. Alister, thanks for this informative post. One question- do you know what the DC input voltage tolerance is for the FS7? The specs in the manual just say “12 Volts”, but even the internal batteries are usually 16 volts when measured with a multimeter. Since you are using the PAG batteries plugged into the DC input, I’m assuming you are pushing 16 volts into the camera, so I guess that’s okay.
    Are the PAG batteries seated on a mount with a DC out pigtail made by PAG ? Or is it some other brand of battery adapter?
    Thank you Alister!

    1. The camera will take up to about 17v. The V-Mount plate I have is one that I made myself using an IDX battery mount.

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