Rig accessory company SmallRig have a bundle of products specifically for the Sony FS5 at a very affordable price. Read on for my impressions of their SmallRig FS5 Kit.
SmallRig is a company based in China that specialises in producing individual pieces to build camera rigs. Rods, clamps, adapters, grips… They have just about anything you may need for just about any type of camera.
My first experience with SmallRig was just over a year ago, when building a shoulder rig for my Panasonic GH4. I knew I didn’t want to buy one of the many pre-made DSLR/M shoulder rigs available in the market, both because I had various parts already lying around and because I knew I had some very precise requirements. Ready-made products offered either too little functionality, or exceeded what I was looking in terms of features, size, weight and price.
After designing my ideal rig, I went to the SmallRig website and was pleasantly surprised to find exactly the parts I needed. Building the perfect rig for my needs went exactly as planned and came in at a very affordable price. I worked with the rig regularly for about a year, until I upgraded from the GH4 to a Sony FS5. Needless to say, I was curious to see what SmallRig would design for it.
One of the nice things about SmallRig is that they are open to co-designing products with their costumers, with free samples for contributors whose ideas that make it to the final product. One such product was the FS5 Baseplate, part of their SmallRig FS5 Accessory Kit 1861. SmallRig were kind enough to send us said Kit for review.
The SmallRig FS5 Kit
The SmallRig FS5 Kit comes with 4 accessories that try to solve some of the minor shortcomings of the Sony FS5. It is available from the SmallRig website for $186 and includes the following:
The SmallRig FS5 Kit includes two of these plates, which are actually two of the same product: being symmetrical, you can install them on either side of the handle.
They use the 1/4” mounting threads at the top of the camera to provide you with a solid array of both 1/4” and 3/8” mounting options which run along the side, back and front of the plates to accommodate accessories at different angles. Although the FS5 has plenty of mounting points on the body, I found that trying to attach a magic arm to the top was a bit fiddly, as the screw collided with the side of the handle. This could also be true for any accessory that has a wide mounting base, leaving you only with the hot shoe as a mounting point, or whatever other solution you may have, such as rods. The SmallRig 1796 Top Plate conveniently shifts the mounting holes out a little bit, while staying within the footprint of the camera’s width and providing a solid connection to the body via 2 screws on each side.
They are also light enough that you will barely feel the extra weight at all, and you can of course use either one or both sides as needed. One quick note: in order to mount the plate on the grip side of the camera, you first must remove the clamp for the LCD cable, as well as the sensor marker peg. The top plate has small screw holes so you can easily reposition them there instead, as in the image above.
Nothing too revolutionary here, just a spare curly LANC cable for the FS5 handle with some decent length to it (up to 110cm), which is perfect for mounting the grip to a tripod arm or perhaps a gimbal. In case you hadn’t noticed, the short LANC cable on the FS5’s grip is not hardwired, but attaches via 2.5mm plug at both the camera and the grip end. Here, the LANC port is hidden behind a small plastic cover, which could potentially break if you accidentally pulled the cable too hard. Along with the LANC cable, SmallRig provides a replacement cover made of metal for extra security.
This small accessory is essentially a mini 15mm rod that pivots around a 1/4” inch screw, allowing you to move the FS5’s LCD screen in almost every direction when attached to the handle. The SmallRig version serves as a replacement to the one included with the camera, and is made of solid aluminium instead of plastic like the Sony. The little rod is also slightly longer than the original, allowing you to move the LCD screen away from the camera body a bit more if needed.
Since 90% of my work is News Gathering, I like to carry my FS5 in a backpack ready to go at a moments notice. In order to not have to remove the LCD and thus reduce setup time, I position the clamp at an angle that allows me to tuck the LCD between the handle and the lens, making it compact enough to allow me to quickly put it in my bag in one go.
However, after seeing many reports online of the little plastic part just snapping in half, I was worried of the strain this was putting on the small plastic rod. With the SmallRig solution, I am confident I can continue using this method without worrying that it might break and leave me with a hanging LCD screen.
This baseplate was co-designed by SmallRig and one of their customers specifically for the FS5, and was the piece I was looking forward to trying the most. It certainly has a solid feel to it, with some nice weight without being too heavy (390g). It features grooves for a pair of 15mm rods and a ratcheting clamp at the back. The front of the baseplate offers a few 1/4″ mounting points, as well as a full-sized ARRI rosette at each side, not the smaller version that SmallRig has implemented on some of their other products.
The rosettes were the feature that interested me the most. I currently use a Lanparte Extension Arm, a very convenient accessory that allows you to reposition the control grip FS7-style, while maintaining the rotation feature of the FS5 grip. However, in order to use it, I need to rig up the camera with rods and a rod clamp with rosettes which of course adds bulk and weight.
As you can see below, the baseplate works beautifully with this setup, even causing less tension on the LANC Cable, which helps avoid an accidental disconnect. This also leaves more room for a follow focus, lens support, or other accessories on the rods themselves should the need arise.
Looking at the bottom of the baseplate, there are two included screws to attach it to the camera or quick release base and prevent twisting. However, when attaching a tripod plate to the bottom of the baseplate, I noticed that even though you have a couple of mounting points to choose from, they are all bunched close together at the back. This meant that no matter how I positioned my tripod plate, it was always too far back to keep the camera from tilting forward when set down on a flat surface. And even if not using a tripod plate at all, the rounded edges at the front of the baseplate meant the accidental front tilt was very frequent anyway.
All in all, I think the SmallRig FS5 kit is a great starting point for building an FS5 rig. For not too much money, you can upgrade a couple of the camera’s physical shortcomings (such as those plastic parts) and increase functionality without adding too much bulk and weight at all. I do feel like the baseplate could perhaps be refined a bit more, maybe with an additional row of mounting points at the front. It’s worth noting that more FS5-related products are now available for preorder, such as a lateral cheese plate for the grip side of the body, so they are certainly still listening to ideas.
What do you think of the SmallRig FS5 Kit? Are there any other products in the market that you think offer more, or at a lower price? Let us know in the comments below!