April 21, 2015 at 2:08AM

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Well built Shoulder Rig

Howdy! So, I always see these posts and articles on cheap, diy shoulder rigs. Well, I don't want something cheap. I want a rig that'll last 5 years and beyond. I've been doing some research and scanning the internet but seem to come up short on finding quality information on good shoulder rigs. Yes, someone's going to scream wooden camera, I get it, but I don't want to spend 2k. I'd say my budget is a $1,000. I like the idea of building it out piece by piece so later on I can add, subtract, etc, instead of buying a whole new rig. So what companies out there make quality parts that are industry standard? Smallrig? Walimex? Shoot35? or is there product crap? Am I totally out of luck and need to choose to spend the two grand on wooden camera for quality or go with a descent rig like redrock?

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Items like rods, handles, shoulder-pads, you can buy on eBay for cheap and get pretty good quality. I suggest that two areas where you don't cheap out are the baseplate and the follow-focus. For the former, I've been quite happy with my Manfrotto Sympla Variable Plate (do they still offer those? Not at B&H); it's sturdy and adjustable. A cheap follow-focus will have too much play in the gears to give an accurate, repeatable change in focus.

Two brands I won't buy again are Lanparte (Chinese company, I believe) and Filmcity (Indian company). The former seems to have quality-control issues; sometimes an item will slide on the rods, and sometimes the dimensions are off so that, if I force it on, the rods are no longer parallel and other items bind up. The latter company is erratic in what they offer; you might get something good, or you might get something made of cheap plastic that snaps off the first time you use it.

Of course, YMMV. I'd love to hear what others recommend -- for and against.

June 11, 2015 at 1:42AM

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Minor Mogul
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Good luck on your quest! I have built SO many shoulder rigs and from so many different approaches that I've lost track :)

Overall, the most important thing I learnt was that it's very hard to judge how well a rig design will suit your style until you build it and use it so if you're thinking of spending a grand, then I strongly advise borrowing rigs from friends or trying components in stores to get a feel for what your style needs. I have wasted so much money on kit I used once because I didn't know it wouldn't suit me!

Anyway, I am a fan of Smallrig stuff and it forms the basis of my rigs (when I'm not on sticks) - yes it's cheap but the machining is surprisingly good and they have a huge range of different components for designing your own rigs. Some of their older stuff is a bit variable but newer designs are very flexible and well made. Jag35 are also OK for the price but they don't have a huge variation. Zacuto of course are very good, and I have used and loved their shoulder pads but it's very expensive. You can find some deals on used Zacuto stuff on ebay.

Movcam and Tilta also make very nice stuff but not always flexible across multiple cameras and their prices have risen with their popularity.

As for Lanparte, they're variable. Rod-based clamps etc have all been crap in my experience but their flexible locking handles have a good reputation.

The first thing you should get, though, is some kind of cage for the camera (assuming it doesn't already come with in-built mounting points, rod mounts and handle). It doesn't have to be fancy or even custom-made but a good cage should form the foundation of any future rigging (even if you end up going tripod-only) so is probably the first thing to decide on as it will determine how the rest of the rig fits together.

Hope this helps!

June 11, 2015 at 6:15PM

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One note: manufacturers use one of two methods to secure the bracket to the rods. The first has a hole and thumbscrew for each rod; these are good. The other has a hole for each rod with a slit between them, and a single central thumbscrew that contracts the slit to secure the bracket. These are very, very bad. When you tighten them, they also pull the rods inward slightly, so the rods are no longer the proper 60 mm apart and everything you put on them binds up.

June 12, 2015 at 3:48PM

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Minor Mogul
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