January 17, 2016 at 10:19PM, Edited January 17, 11:17PM


balancing a rig to work with short and long lenses

Hey, everyone. I'm putting together my first dslr rig to be used on my shoulder and a tripod with minimal attaching/detaching of parts (the usual story). I'm running into a brick wall with balancing it all. Most base plates on the rigs that I've seen (the part that attaches the whole rig to a tripod) are directly under the camera/cage. How, then, do setups like these manage to work with both short primes and long zooms without getting horribly unbalanced (or do they)? Wouldn't the camera have to move back to line up a long lens with the follow focus? Do you just have to re-balance everything whenever you switch? There's probably more or less to this then I'm seeing, but I haven't found much conversation on it.


This is indeed a big problem. A camera can hold a certain amount of lens weight without over-torquing the lens mount, and simple base plates are fine for anchoring such cameras to support (tripod or shoulder). When the comfortable lens weight limit is exceeded (a clue is that the lens has a threaded tripod support acceptor), you either need to shift your support point to the lens (floating the camera freely if the camera itself is light enough) or you have to support both the camera and the lens (usually anchoring both to a dovetail plate that spans the distance between the camera support and the lens support).

The problem with using the balance point of the lens is that it's designed to work with an unrigged camera. A rigged camera is heavier, and may cause it either to exceed the expected torque on the lens mount and/or it may cause the camera+lens center of gravity to exceed the counter-balance of your tripod (or shoulder rig). Moreover, when you use the lens balance point, the camera is shifted back by the amount of the lens behind the lens balance point, which may prove awkward/impossible for shoulder mounting.

Stick with a light lens and a light camera and you can go far with a simple baseplate. This is a reason why something like a GH4 with a m43 lens is such a brilliant solution. And why putting heavy FF35 glass on either a FF35 DSLR or worse, a SpeedBooster and a BMPCC is such a challenge for switching between shoulder and tripod.

January 18, 2016 at 9:50AM


I Have to do that when i'm Shooting BMPCC or canon with my 70-200mm have to float the camera and make the lens the stabilization point.

Wentworth Kelly

January 19, 2016 at 12:01PM

So, you're saying keep the lenses/camera light so that the weight/center of gravity doesn't change too much when swapping the lenses around? Sounds like a plan. I'm assuming, then, that there's isn't always an efficient way to go from a short prime to a long zoom (as an extreme example) and than you just have to move the stuff on your rails around to get everything to fit/balance?

January 18, 2016 at 10:20AM, Edited January 18, 10:22AM

Adam Hocutt
total, utter noob

Mostly correct. If you can fly the camera off the back of the lens, then you can pop the camera+short lens off your tripod, remove the short lens, put the camera body (with unused base plate attached) to the long zoom, and pop the long zoom onto your tripod. Note that I said tripod because everything changes if you are trying to balance big things on your shoulder rig. In that case, you pretty much have to build the rig to work.

Michael Tiemann

January 18, 2016 at 11:21AM

Okay, makes sens. Thanks! You've been extremely helpful with this.

Adam Hocutt

January 18, 2016 at 11:39AM

sense* :)

Adam Hocutt

January 18, 2016 at 11:40AM

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October 31, 2017 at 6:22AM

Andrew Jackman
IT Professional

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