Our new Thursday Rendez-Vous, a little video here and there, where we will talk gear, photography & video tools. You all know how hard it can be to film handheld with a DSLR or mirrorless camera. If you use these cameras occasionally for videos you will need a solution up to a certain point to stabilize your shots and make your filming experience easier and more enjoyable….And this is when the act recoil Rig by Zacuto comes in.
I did some tests last year trying to figure out the tools I wanted to work with for some of my video work. I was also looking for a simple solution to film my BTS videos and light setup for my small video productions. Personally, once I am past the web search for information, I have to quickly jump into the testing part because this is the only way for me to make a decision. To stabilize my footage I used the Ronin S for some time and I decided to sell it recently. I wanted to experiment with more handheld and shoulder shots for less robotic, less clean camera movements. And this is without increasing the downsides of shooting with cameras that suffer from rolling-shutter. You want to add a bit of weight to those lighter setups, for more stable shots. You want a rig that is modular, and if possible scalable, robust, and easy to assemble.
And that is when I stumbled upon the brand ZACUTO. There are numerous options out there, at different price points. I had cheap rigs in the past in my hands, but they didn’t feel safe. With all the expensive gear you put on your shoulder, your rig better be solid.
I chose the universal cage because by ZACUTO because I didn’t want to be trapped in a system and I wanted to be able to adapt and use any DSLR/ mirrorless camera. It ships in different parts that are really easy to assemble, and although the cage isn’t fully closed something I was a bit concerned about initially, it easily handles the weight. If you only use a particular camera, they offer custom cages for some of the most popular brands out right now, so have a look at their website.
The ACT recoil rig but with the ATOMOS Ninja V on top!
I wanted a system like that because I knew early on I would add a follow focus later. I received the Z drive late, so I didn’t fully test it yet. But here it is!
This is compatible with most brands out there so you can play Dr. Frankenstein and build your ideal monster rig. You may have seen my latest behind-the-scenes videos or the one I made for Fujifilm. My partner used it, for almost all the handheld shots.
The best thing about it is the different ways you can hold it. The whole thing keeps it tight and compact for me, perfect for run & gun.
Now, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. There is no perfect rig out there. So if I had to complain, there is one thing that could have made this rig nearly perfect, at least for me. The price places it above a lot of its competitors and is something you have to consider. Based on the experience I have with it so far, it is worth the $1,450.00 but there is one thing I haven’t talked about that could have changed everything… it’s the additional viewfinder.
They say it is free, that it comes with the kit, and that's awesome! We tried to use it, with different systems, different cameras. And without sharing our feelings on this EVF we all ended up not using it. I preferred shooting with an external monitor like the Atomos Ninja V. And the reason for that is that it is missing all the essential features that would have made it THE strong feature of this rig. No histogram, no vectorscopes, focus peaking is only available in black and white, and you can’t import LUTs just to name a few things. So unless you only use it to compose your shots, you will rapidly replace it with a more advanced tool. I understand that they advertise it as “free” so one may think that we shouldn’t expect much from it. But you can eventually buy it for $499.00 separately, and at this price, we could have hoped for a more advanced product. I am sure that a lot of you would save up for a good external monitor or even consider the more professional viewfinders they offer.
So it all comes down to personal preferences, the way you work, your preferred methods. It totally works for me, and I see myself using it in the future for small productions, whenever I am using these small cameras, and my partner has also adopted it to film our BTS Videos. In this industry, and especially for independent artists and creators where every cent counts, I believe this EVF could have made a difference. You get what you pay for, but just Imagine, a better EVF almost at the level of their high-end ones, shipped with this rig but at the same price. I know I am dreaming, but this would have made the Zacuto ACT recoil rig a no-brainer for a lot of us. What about you, have you got some suggestions? What rig do you use on your projects?