Italian movie production hardware maker LockCircle produces the Robot Skin GH5 cinematic system, perhaps the ultimate answer to high-end, ultra-light, handheld hybrid movie camera caging and rigging aimed at users working in feature film and television series productions.
Substantially composed of deep anodized CNC-machined billet aircraft grade aluminium with selected grade 5 titanium parts, integrated into the IMS Professional and Positive-Lock lens mounting systems for PL-Mount, Panavision, Leica-R, Canon EF and Nikon optics, with provision for Camera Assistant focal plane measuring, available in Noir Black, Blumix or Purple Rain for design-conscious Camera Operators and Directors of Photography, and a myriad of accessory options.
Designed by cinematographers for cinematographers, LockCircle’s Robot Skin GH5 has clearly been created to impress and to perform in the most demanding conditions.
Its attention to detail is astounding, the design effort apparently aided and abetted by Sydney-based Director of Photography/Producer Clinton Harn ACS, and clearly aimed at those whose needs and budgets ensure that only the best will do.
I came across LockCircle’s Robot Skin GH5 while comparing and contrasting GH5 camera cages I have seen and tried in real life with the many available online, and no others came close to it in terms of design, functionality and manufacturing quality.
LockCircle’s International Resellers page, alas, does not list any Australian importers or retailers but the Robot Skin GH5 may eventually appear at B&H Photo in which case I will add links to the affiliate links list at the base of this page.
For those of us for whom LockCircle’s cage might be financial and mission overkill, it may be wise to compare these three Robot Skin GH5 bundles to other manufacturers’ versions.
So far the other GH5 cages that have impressed are those made by Movcam, Seercam and SmallRig, with 8Sinn’s GH5 cage showing promise that may be fulfilled if the Polish company issues a revision that allows access to the GH5’s remote port.
Clicking on these affiliate links helps us continue our work for ‘Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success’.
Note: 8Sinn and SmallRig products are not retailed at B&H Photo Video with which we have an affiliate relationship, but we use and recommend the following camera cages for the Panasonic Lumix GH5. LockCircle products are retailed by B&H but the Robot Skin GH5 has yet to appear there. When it does, we will add those links below.
“… SmallRig Cage 2049 is designed specifically for Panasonic Lumix GH5.
1. It does not block any access to the SD card slot, battery compartment, and all camera controls.
2. At the bottom are an abundance of multiple 1/4’’ and 3/8’’ threaded holes for Manfrotto and Vinten QR plates or Quick Release Baseplate Kit 2035.
3. The cage is good for thermal dissipation of camera and prevents it from twisting.
4. It could attach Panasonic Lumix GH5 DMW-XLR1 Helmet Kit 2017 on the top for handheld shooting and protection of XLR….”
Help support ‘Untitled’
Clicking on these affiliate links helps us continue our work for ‘Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success’.
Note: SmallRig products are not retailed at B&H Photo Video with which we have an affiliate relationship, but we use and recommend the following camera cages for the Panasonic Lumix GH5.
“Most people are familiar with Peak Design, a company that makes camera bags, packs, and straps. I have been a major fan of the company’s straps for quite some time and have mentioned them on a number of our Toy Shop episodes. Peak Design has, in my opinion, invented one of the best camera strap lines on the market…
… Since using the Peak Design system, I have never been happier with the use of straps. Peak Design offers a variety of straps of varying widths as well as a wrist cuff strap. As soon as I get a new camera or even a review loaner, I insert the Anchor Links. Then, depending on the weight of the camera or how I’ll be using the strap, I decide on which strap to use….”
I have yet to see the new Peak Design Cuff and Leash appear at a camera store, here so please read this commentary bearing that in mind.
The only local camera store that carried the Peak Design brand has now closed and the remaining camera store in our local area has a very limited selection of stock of any brand; Peak Design is not one of those brands.
Like Kevin Raber of Luminous Landscape, as soon as I buy a new camera or receive a review loaner, I attach Anchor Links then a Peak Design Clutch and Peak Design Cuff and never remove them unless a loaner must be returned.
As a result, every single camera in my collection wears its Anchor Links, Clutch and Cuff on a permanent basis, the latter two only coming off when I need to place the camera inside a cage that requires their removal in order to fit.
Camera cages with built-in strap attachment points have only started appearing in the last year, via brands like 8Sinn (latest version not yet on their website), Movcam and SmallRig. I have been looking for an optimum solution for attaching Anchor Straps to other cages, L-Brackets and hand grips but the best so far, Peak Design’s Pro Drive Screw, has its annoyances and limitations.
I have tried many different brands and types of camera straps over the years, made by camera manufacturers and third parties, and none of them has been ideal. Some have failed spectacularly and others have proven to be a real pain to use.
One of the brands that came closest to ideal until I discovered the Peak Design brand through the late Michael Reichmann of Luminous Landscape was Dsptch, and I still have some of their products stored away should I ever need them again.
After buying the Peak Design Capture Pro camera clip, quickly followed by the company’s Clutch, Cuff and Leash camera straps, then trying out Peak Design’s Slide and Slide Lite sling straps for reviews, I have not looked back.
Capture Pro is my most-used Arca-Swiss conversion solution for traditional stills and movie tripod quick release camera plates, until I invest in an Arca-Swiss clamp for each of my current stills and video tripods and monopods.
Slide and Slide Lite live in storage until I need to cover events and documentary subjects demanding a two-camera, two-lens in-depth approach where both cameras must be easily available at all times. Even then, Clutch and Cuff remain in permanent residence on every camera.
Leash, my first Peak Design sling strap, is reserved as a safety strap during urban and bush treks when I am carrying one camera in the hand but run the risk of dropping it in risky terrain.
I am not sure if and when I will have the chance of my first look at the new Cuff and Leash, so must rely on articles by trusted reviewers like Kevin Raber.
I have a couple of cameras at the top of my wishlist, the coming Fujifilm X-E3 mostly for documentary and portrait stills photography and as a backup to my X-Pro2, and the Panasonic DC-GH5 mostly for documentary moviemaking.
I am currently undecided as to whether I will attach the new Cuff and old Clutch to them both, or start searching for old versions of Cuff at online retailers as old Cuff has served me well over the years.
I have a couple of concerns about new Cuff and new Leash. Foremost is the leather component of Peak Design’s Ash colourway, introduced in the company’s Everyday camera bags range.
Now that the effects of climate change and global warming are well set-in here in Sydney, the risk of mould has become a constant concern. When mould attacks leather and certain plastics, its spores set up permanent residence inside and can never be removed.
With a sudden change in the weather, mould’s fruiting bodies can appear on the surface of the leather or plastic then start spreading onto other products inside and nearby.
The idea of susceptible leather and plastics transferring mould infection to cameras, lenses and other expensive objects fills me with horror.
I have asked Peak Design staffers to confirm whether the Ash colourway’s light tan leather trim and the Charcoal colourway’s black Hypalon synthetic are resistant to mould or not, but have not heard back about that yet.
There are other concerns with leather, whether mould-resistant or not. Leather production is part of the global industrialization of agriculture and is inherently cruel as well as environmentally irresponsible. I will not be buying any more leather products or products containing leather, so no Ash colourway Peak Design products for me.
Another concern is the idea of metal parts in close contact with fragile camera parts whether when on the move or at rest. Old Clutch and old Cuff have all-plastic hardware that has not shown signs of mould so far and neither have they rubbed my cameras and lenses up the wrong way.
Slide, Slide Lite and Leash go into their own little fabric bags, other small bags or camera bag internal pockets until needed then go back there or into safe storage when at home.
For now, new Cuff and new Leash’s aluminium hardware is an unknown quantity.
My appeal to stop using leather in camera bags and accessories
I am calling on all makers of camera bags and accessories to stop using leather.
The reasons are clear and well-justified – the extreme cruelty of industrial agriculture, its environmental irresponsibility and the ever-growing problem of mould infection resulting from climate change and global warming.
There is no intrinsic need for leather even in products like shoes and boots. Camera bags and accessories makers like Cosyspeed are leading the way in showing that leather simply is not necessary.
Australian recording studio and video production mic company Røde Microphones announced the imminent release of its new self-powered on-camera directional mic the VideoMic Pro+ on July 25 and yesterday a review sample arrived on our doorstep, and what a microphone it is with a list of hardware and software improvements advancing well beyond its immediate predecessor the VideoMic Pro. Røde’s VideoMic Pro+ aka VMP+ is likely to quickly become the go-to top-end video hotshoe-mounted production shotgun microphone.
I took the VideoMic Pro+ out for a quick spin attached to my Panasonic Lumix GX8, a wonderful stills camera and a sadly underestimated 4K UHD video camera now somewhat eclipsed by the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5.
I threw a third-party TRS 3.5mm-to-2.5mm adapter sourced from the local Jaycar store into my bag as the GX8, like many smaller hybrid mirrorless cameras made today, is equipped with a 2.5mm audio jack in order to save space.
I can’t help but wonder if there might be a better solution than adding a non-professional adapter into the audio equation, and whether Røde might be persuaded to make their own 3.5mm-to-2.5mm TRS patch cables in order to eliminate this one particular weakest link.
I often experience problems caused by these third-party 3.5mm-to-2.5mm adapters and have yet to find a more professional alternative. I like Røde’s red coiled cables for their quality, convenience and visibility.
I congratulate Røde Microphones for listening to its users and acting on that by replacing permanently attached cables with detachable cables on its newer products including the VideoMic Pro+, and hope that this is now the standard.
Røde Microphones VideoMic Pro+
My partner and I are both enduring one of the worst influenza seasons ever despite having been vaccinated so avoided street crowds and headed off for a coffee at the local high street, set up camera and microphone and pointed the rig in the general direction of our fellow caffeine addicts lined up at the front of the café.
Our test was quick and dirty to say the least as we want to spend time doing a more in-depth one over the coming days, but the results were impressive.
The first new feature
First feature put to the test was the new hinged battery door.
The VideoMic Pro’s battery door often presented a challenge to new users until time and practice taught them how to push it on and off without frustration and battery popping out onto the floor.
The VideoMic Pro+ is a much easier to use proposition and it takes little time to get the hang of two finger on the latches to release its hinged battery door.
Instead of relying on the locally hard-to-find rectangular 9v Lithium batteries required by the VMP and SVMX, the VMP+ allows the choice of two rechargeable AA batteries or Røde’s own LB-1 Lithium-Ion rechargeable.
If using third party AA-size lithium batteries, make sure that the current rating of the batteries will deliver the same or better than the Røde proprietary battery which is rated at 1600mAh (at 3.8 volts).
Røde’s VideoMic Pro+ product page implies that the VMP+ can also be powered by the detachable Micro USB cable so we will give that option a go soon. Meanwhile we chose the LB-1 lithium battery.
The second standout feature we encountered is the VMP+’s automatic on-off power function. We plugged the detachable 3.5mm TRS cable into the VMP+ and then the GX8’s audio jack, switched the camera on and the VMP+ immediately powered up.
Then we powered the GX8 down and watched the VMP+ do the same. Yay! Great way to help save on battery power especially if toting just the one LB-1 battery about with you.
I wonder though if Røde will be making spare LB-1 batteries available in future? I always feel safer carrying at least one spare even if the batteries have well-earned reputations for longevity.
An easier interface
The next standout feature was the ease-of-use of the VideoMic Pro+’s electronic interface via push buttons instead of the VideoMic Pro’s sliders. I have always found sliders less sure than buttons in other devices and often wondered if I had inadvertently slid off-setting when in the field with the VMP.
The VMP+’s buttons makes that less of a concern, especially its power-on/off button which needs a slightly sustained push to to be activated. That is good, thoughtful design.
Also thoughtful and effective is the circular layout of the VMP+’s buttons and indicator LEDs. Although they are similar in functionality to those on the Røde Stereo VideoMic X, the latter’s controls are in a vertical straight line and have always felt just a little counterintuitive in use given their contradiction to the SVMX’s circular design.
My fingers leapt easily over the VideoMic Pro+’s button and LED arrangement and it was a doddle changing the settings while watching the GX8 audio indicators change in response.
The safety channel
Another new feature I am really looking forward to putting into practice soon is the VMP+’s Safety Channel, activated by pushing the Output Gain Control button and Power Button at the same time, lower right and upper middle.
The Safety Channel lowers the output of the dual-mono signal’s right channel by 10dB to account for sudden audio spikes and reduce the likelihood of fatal audio clipping. If the left channel is compromised then the right channel will most likely be okay.
The other major new hardware feature in the Røde VideoMic Pro+ is its optimized windshield, now larger and more rounded than the one in the VideoMic Pro. My BFF was very interested in that aspect of the VMP+ as she spent some time working on similar features for a US-based audio hardware and software corporation.
The curvy bits
Making windshields curvier apparently helps persuade wind to better deflect around the microphone’s sensitive bits with the benefit of less noise. My wording, not hers! Cue animation of wind represented by arrows approaching windshield and sliding off.
Røde Microphones has had an agreement with famous UK audio accessories makers Rycote in place for some time now whereby Røde manufactures its own Rycote Lyre shockmounts and is permitted to integrate them into its microphone designs.
I have been a Rycote customer for some years having observed various Rycote products in heavy use by audio professionals onset so it is pleasing that the Røde team seems to see Rycote in a similar light.
The folks at Røde Microphones tell me that a new DeadCat optional windshield accessory specially tailored to the VideoMic Pro+ is being made and will be available soon. The DeadCat windshield for the VideoMic Pro is unsuitable for use with the VMP+.
Forget adapters, get a Beachtek 3.5mm-to-2.5mm coiled cable
I finally located a suitable 3.5mm-to-2.5mm cable and (almost) hit the jackpot with it being short, coiled, with gold-plated contacts and, an unexpected bonus, a different look to the 2.5mm end’s plastic moulding for fast and easy identification.
It appears that Beachtek came up with this cable back in the Lumix GH1 days when Panasonic’s flagship DSLM had a 2.5mm audio minijack. Given it is likely that fewer cameras will be equipped with such jacks in future, I thought it best to get exercise my Rule of Three, two for location and one for the studio in case either or both are lost or damaged.
Coping with the VideoMic Pro+’s rear extension
Early users of the Røde VideoMic Pro+ have reported problems with the way mic with cable attached juts backwards into one’s face when mounting the VMP+ on the camera’s hotshoe.
I compared the way the VMP+ sits on my GX8’s hotshoe with how it works on my GH4’s hotshoe and can confirm these reports. The VideoMic Pro+ is fine with the rangefinder-style GX8 but the back of the microphone gets in the way when placing one’s eye up close to the DSLR-style GH4’s EVF.
I had a similar problem with the very first Røde microphone I bought, the original VideoMic, now replaced with the current red Rycote Lyre shockmount-equipped VideoMic.
The mic came with its hotshoe mount screw-attached to the centre of its rubber-band shockmount so all I had to do was unscrew the hotshoe mount, move it to the back of the shockmount and problem solved.
The Røde VideoMic Pro+ mounted on a Panasonic Lumix GX8 via a Saramonic passive mixer. Mixers like this are made by Beachtek and rebranded by Kopul. They provide a way of mounting up to three microphones and outputting one stereo or two mono signals to the camera’s audio input jack. They also help get the microphones out of the way a little.
The VideoMic Pro+ cannot be modified in this way but there are other solutions. Camera cages are becoming increasingly popular and some of the latest have one or two off-centre coldshoe mounts built-in. All allow you to screw coldshoes onto any 1/4″/20 threaded that you wish.
Another possible solution is to attach a threaded or coldshoe-equipped handle or rail onto the camera’s hotshoe and place the VMP+ where it works best. The choice is yours, and there is a fair amount of choice in how you do it and where you find your ideal solution.
Adapting 3.5mm minijack microphones to XLR devices
While researching the Røde VideoMic Pro+, I came across a new XLR adaptor on the company’s website, the VXLR+.
The data sheet PDF for the VXLR+ lists these compatible microphones for the VXLR+:
RØDELink Filmmaker Kit
smartLav+ (when used with SC3 adapter)
I have been informed that the VXLR+ will replace the VXLR in due course, when the VXLR will be discontinued. In the meantime the VXLR works fine with all the above microphones except for the VideoMicro, VideoMic GO and smartlav+. These three mics require plug-in power, which the VXLR+ can provide when they are plugged into XLR phantom power devices.
Seercam, continuing the tradition the company set under its former brand name Motion9, has produced a cage with all the often unique and always top-tier design and manufacturing values for which the brand has become respected.
Some of Motion9’s first camera cages were created for groundbreaking, popular cameras like Blackmagic Design’s BMPCC aka Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, and Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-GH4.
Some Motion9 Camera Cages
The Motion9 website appears to no longer be available but I have located some archive images of the company’s cages for the BMPCC, Panasonic Lumix GH4 and Canon EOS 5D Mark III cameras, from left to right below.
It is no secret that I am a fan of Seercam’s cages due to their design and manufacturing quality, and consider them the default go-to cages whenever acquiring a new camera. That consideration is well supported by their sturdiness and ability to safely support attaching all the third-party accessories upon which moviemakers have come to rely.
While it is true that some other cage makers come up with cheaper, lighter and smaller cages, usually designed in the screw-tapped-ribbon style consisting of a narrow aluminium loop in one piece or screwed-together around the camera, Seercam’s unibody cages offer protection and thoughtful design features rarely seen elsewhere.
Seercam’s Cube 6X for Sony α6500, α6300 and α6000
I will add more and larger photographs here as I receive them.
It is often the little things that make all the difference. In the case of the Cube 6X, that includes Seercam’s customary silver-anodized screw-in righthand finger support, two built-in cold shoes with the option of attaching more as needed, pinky finger support on the base of the cage, and cage-mounted push-button video recording functionality allowing easier and faster access than the sometimes bizarrely positioned video buttons to be found on Sony cameras.
I rarely shoot video without mounting my camera in a cage, the only exception being when I attach a battery grip, and enjoy the extra grip, added protection and counterbalancing of large, heavy zoom lenses that well-designed cages such as Seercam’s afford.
Good grip and balance is even more important in small cameras the size of Sony’s Alpha α6n00 Super 35/APS-C mirrorless range.
First thing the next day, I was pleasantly surprised by a visit from Petra, one of the three young female brush turkeys whom we raised almost from the time they leaped out of their eggs on the mound next door. I grabbed the GH5 plus Seercam cage, hoped that the Griffin Hammond GH5 camera settings file I had installed late the night before would be up to the task, and jumped out the door.
We helped Petra recuperate from attacks by dogs who had stripped her of tail and wing feathers twice over the past six months, and she has grown up into a beautiful, confident young adult who now, it seems, has formed her own little tribe of three young brush turkeys whom she was leading about.
Still frames from my first GH5 video shoot of Petra and her friends
The footage reveals that I will need to reinforce the way we have attached the spare GH4 eye cup to the GH5 as critical focus was missed on several crucial shots due to relying solely on the monitor with focus peaking while shooting in semi-darkness.
I will be trying the GH5 out on some stills photographs next and then will load up Paul Leeming’s Leeming LUT One settings for Cinelike D and V-Log L on the GH5 for further video shoots over the two-week loan period.
I will be editing and grading GH5 footage in DaVinci Resolve Studio 14 and Final Cut Pro X and processing stills in a number of image editors, LUTs and color grading plug-ins, and raw processors. I will be relying on Lesspain Software’s excellent Kyno media management and productivity software throughout.
Snapshots from my second day with the GH5
It usually takes me a few days to start to understand and get the best out of a new camera and even longer to understand a new lens, and the GH5 and its Panasonic Leica 12-60mm kit zoom is no exception. Another factor is that it can take a while for software companies to fully support new cameras and at the moment none of them appears to perfectly support this specific lens and camera combination.
At the moment I am defaulting to Adobe Camera Raw with VSCO presets and Photoshop, but once I know enough about what the GH5 and this lens can do then I will explore how other raw processing and image editing software interprets images from them. So far, though, the images look impressive.
My current Seercam Cube GH5 cage configuration for stills and video
I often go into situations where I may need to shoot stills and video, and so a minimal rig is most useful, allowing me the flexibility to make photographs while holding the camera in vertical/portrait or horizontal/landscape mode, or quickly switch over to video without having to add extra items.
I often use my GH4 and GX8 in minimalist rigging like here, in the GH4’s case in a Motion9/Seercam CubeMix GH4/3 cage and for the GX8 a SmallRig cage. I also like going even more minimal with my GH4 and attach just a battery grip and a microphone.
A GH5 is definitely high on my wishlist, reinforced by my experience so far with the camera, and I will be adding a battery grip, XLR audio adapter and, when Seercam comes out with its special battery pack that mounts in the GH5’s rod riser, will add one of those too.
A number of GH5 users report that the camera rips through batteries especially when shooting 4K 10-bit 4:2:2 video and using stabilization. I have experienced that myself already. I will need to at least double my collection of batteries for the GH5 and look at other power options too.
Some GH5 owners have stated that they have bypassed all other brands of cages for the GH5 and have opted for the minimalist SmallRig cage due to it being one of the first to have strap-mounting holes on the camera right side. It is easy to attach straps to any cage by screwing strap-mounting into your cage’s 1/4-20 tapped holes.
Right now I am using Peak Design Pro Drive Screws as they are the only ones I found in a local camera store but other moviemakers tell me they use other, smaller screws in preference. I am sure that camera accessories makers could come up with much better optional strap-mounting drives.
On another note, I have been using a spare eye cup from my GH4 to temporarily replace the one missing from the review loaner GH5. I have tried gaffer tape, Blue-Tack and UHU Yellow Tack – proper name Sticky Tack or Poster Putty – but found that the UHU Yellow Tack works best, though the eye-cup has fallen off a few times anyway.
The technology world is littered with unique, brilliant inventions that solved a common set of problems perfectly but that were badly marketed, poorly distributed, set at the wrong price point, or failed to find a manufacturer in the first place.
One such product failed by the system was the Fig Rig, invented by movie director Mike Figgis and manufactured in two versions with accessories by Manfrotto.
I wish I had been able to buy a Fig Rig when they were available for too brief a time.
With the Fig Rig now dead, is there anything that can take its place?
I suspect the answer is no, and the video industry is all the poorer for it. Although one could try the plastic pipe DIY option, there are alternatives to the Fig Rig, similar rigs in smaller circular or semi-circular shapes, but neither of the makers of HaloRig nor the Steadywheel have the financial might or global distribution partners of a holding company like Manfrotto’s owner, the Vitec Group plc.
Vitec’s press relations people have not responded to enquiries about the Fig Rig’s fate so we can only speculate and lament the truncated life of a product that had a purity of intention and design, loads of potential, needed to be downsized and updated for modern hybrid cameras, and deserved a marketing effort it that apparently failed to receive.
Manfrotto’s now discontinued Fig Rig video steadying device
The only images of the Fig Rig that I could find on the Web and in a PDF document are low resolution so I have tried to enlarge them a little here.
Mike Figgis made a short video showing off the Fig Rig in action during a walk through the streets of London. The director did his own camerawork.
What I love about the Fig Rig is that it is body-centred, gestural, in the way that my stills cameras are when I am in the middle of the action making documentary photographs and, in order to get the exact framing I want of people near and far, left and right of frame, bend my knees, lean and swivel. I want the same range of movements when shooting documentary video.
Shoulder rigs don’t do it for me though they certainly have their uses, likewise steadicams, stabilizers, gimbals and all their many and various variations.
Of all the images in the gallery above, for me the key is the one at left on the second line down, showing how the Fig Rig allows an operator to pitch, roll and yaw the camera in the same way that an aeroplane does.
And what happened to Manfrotto’s other great white hope, the Lino Apparel Collection?
The Manfrotto Lino Pro range of photographers’ clothing for women and men appears to have suffered the same fate as the Fig Rig. Again, I did not have the pleasure of seeing any of the items in a camera store so have no idea of their design and manufacturing quality and fit but judging by two videos and the tiny photographs below, they look like a brilliant solution to a common problem.
It seems that the Lino Pro range was initially made for only men but a women’s line was added later, according to Manfrotto’s press release at PR Newswire.
I gave up being fashionable long ago; in fact I never have been given photography and moviemaking have played such a large role in my life from teenagerdom onwards. I have pursued style and functionality though, and that has not easy here at any time.
Finding functional, stylish clothing has become less difficult lately with the arrival of UniQlo in Australia, enabling me to wear a basic black layered core all year round by relying on the company’s Airism and Heattech undergarment ranges.
Now all I need is a set of functional, stylish overgarments I can pop on when going out or shooting in my home studio, and that support the special needs of photographers and moviemakers. Manfrotto’s Lino Apparel Collection would have been the bee’s knees had they not been killed off almost as soon as they were born, or so it seems.
Since I wrote this article near the beginning of 2017, a number of camera cages for the Panasonic Lumix GH5 have appeared on the market and I have been able to take a look online at many of them. In the case of one GH5 cage, Seercam’s Cube GH5, I have been kindly sent one and have had the opportunity of taking a closer look than websites permit.
I admit to a degree of well-informed bias. I have a Seercam cage for my GH4 and it has served me and my GH4 well, amply living up to Seercam’s mission of providing the best protection possible. If it were not for that cage, my GH4 might be in pieces due to an accident that occurred shortly after I bought it. The cage took the impact and my GH4 was saved.
Seercam, by the way, is the new international trading brand name for the South Korean camera accessories company Motion9 and so my GH4 cage was branded as a Motion9 product.
If those accessories were still in production, I would snap them up in a second as they solve the single biggest problem I had with the GH4 cage back then, the need to rapidly remove and reattach the CubeMix GH4/3’s three handles when working fast on location.
Quick release accessories, whether attached via dovetail rails, NATO rails or Arri rosettes, are clearly the way to go for speed and efficiency and permit safely carrying your caged camera about in a backpack or shoulder bag then quickly removing it and snapping on handles and other quick release accessories ready for work.
None of my current shoulder bags or backpacks are dedicated video camera bags permitting carriage of fully assembled video rigs, but Peak Design’s 30-litre Everyday Backpack with its flexible internal space has proven to be a good solution for carrying cage-mounted cameras and other oddly-shaped and sized video equipment.
Sometimes though, transporting a fully assembled video rig is beyond the capabilities of even the best and biggest bag. Nick Driftwood’s GH5 rig for anamorphic moviemaking above, also depicted further down this page, is a case in point.
Anamorphic lenses aside, big rigs like Mr Diftwood’s are not uncommon when shooting full-length documentaries, the main purpose for which I bought my GH4 then added Motion9’s CubeMix GH4/3 cage followed by a Panasonic DMW-BGGH3 battery grip for stability and added power in handheld video and stills photography.
Communications with the Seercam team reveal they are working on further GH5 solutions including an international-standard external battery pack, a special longer rod for the Extension Kit for Cube GH5, left and right side handles and an updated quick release rod riser.
With the March 2017 release of Panasonic’s Lumix GH5 Super 16/Micro Four Thirds looming, my attention turns to the many and various accessories needed to make the most of this revolutionary camera. One essential accessory for filmmakers seriously considering the GH5 is a cage, and at least two cage-makers are known to be working on designs at the moment.
I am most familiar with two brands of cage makers – SmallRig and Seercam, formerly Motion9, links below. I currently own one cage made by each and would definitely consider purchasing from both again.
The folks at SmallRig design their new products via a crowdsourcing process, as it were, seeking input and new ideas from users. Seercam is interested in hearing from potential users and I have, accordingly, sent them the photograph of Nick Driftwood’s GH5 anamorphic rig below.
More images of SmallRig’s GH5 cage currently in development
The Seercam folks tell me that they are waiting to test one of the three GH5s currently available in South Korea and will finish their design at the beginning of March. They will be showing it and other products off at NAB in April.
Nick Driftwood’s GH5 rig for anamorphic moviemaking
At the very least a cage must offer protection for the camera within and prevent twisting and damage when accessories are mounted on it.
I am not fond of mounting large or heavy microphones or recorders on hotshoes – I would much prefer to attach them via coldshoes on a cage. If something untoward happens to the coldshoe then it can be replaced. Not so a hotshoe.
I am becoming enamoured of battery grips especially when shooting battery-sucking 10-bit 4:2:2 4K or DCI. I prefer attaching recorders beneath the camera and attaching mics to them via coiled XLR cables.
At present I don’t use a rig like the one in Mr Driftwood’s photograph, but I may well need a rig like that minus the anamorphic lens when shooting a feature-length documentary.
The rest of the time my typical rig will be stripped right down for MOS (without sound) handheld video, or with a recorder beneath camera-plus-battery-grip and a microphone on top of the cage. Plus variations.
If a cage and its accessories can be made to accommodate all the typical scenarios one encounters in the course of a typical working career in stills and video – I often use cages for both applications – then I will be very happy indeed.
Polish video camera accessories maker 8Sinn has released a top handles adapter extension adapter for its GH5 camera cage. The adapter is designed for use with Panasonic’s DMW-XLR1 microphone adapter that sits on the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5’s hotshoe. The DMW-XLR1 adapter enables GH5 users to input audio into their GH5 via XLR-cabled microphones in the same way that camcorders have for some years now.
8Sinn currently makes three different top-mounted handles for its cages and the top handles extension adapter works with all three including the Scorpio, my favourite due to its more enclosing design and versatility as a top or side handle able to be mounted at any angle via its Arri rosette and optional Arri rosette mount and NATO safety rail.
8Sinn’s Top Handles Extension Adapter appears to be the second such adapter designed to accommodate the DMW-XLR1 audio adapter by raising cage handles forward and upwards. Seercam’s Extension Kit for Cube GH5 made for its Cube GH5 camera cage and Classic Plus Handle was the first such device to market so far as I know.
Seercam has released its Cube GH5 cage for the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 camera and it is impressive, a major leap forward from the company’s GH4 predecessor camera cages the CubeMix GH4/3 and CubeMix GH4/3 Pro that were released under the Motion9 brand. Cage designs tend to fall into either of two fundamental types, minimalist or full wraparound, and Seercam’s design is uniquely not only almost fully wraparound but also protective. I’m impressed.
I have been reading online about cages by other makers and it appears the vast majority have chosen the minimalist route with lightweight designs that are, in essence, perforated aluminium straps wrapping around the GH5’s widest dimension.
Seercam, just as it did under its former Motion9 moniker, has followed the path of maximum protection and maximum support, with two cold shoes built into the body of the cage and plenty of threaded mounting holes all over for extra cold-shoes, Arri rosettes, NATO Rails or dovetail rails for any number of accessories as needed.
Seercam’s Cube GH5 cage with two other cages for comparison
I photographed the Cube GH5 along with a Motion9 CubeMix GH4/3 cage and a minimalist-style SmallRig cage made for the Panasonic Lumix GX8. Please refer to the captions for further information.
Why a First Look?
This article is subtitled “First Look” due to the fact that I am waiting for delivery of a GH5 review loaner but did not want to delay sharing my observations and experience of Seercam’s Cube GH5 cage.
I have used and loved the cage’s predecessor for the GH4, the original CubeMix GH4/3, for several years now and it has proven itself time and again in the field, on tripods and most importantly in the hand with or without all sorts accessories attached. I expect the same of Seercam’s Cube GH5.
From the many design advances the Seercam team has built into their GH5 cage, it looks like the experience of using it with a GH5 will be even better. In the absence of an actual GH5, the best I can do right now is share photographs of the Seercam Cube GH5 cage along with Motion9’s CubeMix GH4/3 and a minimalist cage for one of the GH5’s sister cameras, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8.
I have avoided showing the base of the cage as I don’t have the rod riser made to go with it and some questions about how cage and dedicated riser fit together remain for the time being.
Coming soon, a handle raiser/rod holder extension kit
Work-in-progress shots of an extension kit currently being designed by Seercam for their Cube GH5 cage.
The folks at Seercam are working on an extension kit for the Cube GH5 cage to raise the handle up for the GH5’s XLR audio unit and attach a long 15mm rod for mounting side handles, monitors or accessory arms. I hope to receive one in due course.