I had the opportunity to test out the SHAPE FS5 Base Kit on a recent shoot in Durban, South Africa. The kit comprises of the FS5 Base Plate, Top Plate, Remote Extension handle and two sets of 15mm rods.
For me the most interesting part of this kit is the Remote Extension handle. This attaches to the camera using an Arri style rosette screwed into the side of the FS5 with 4 screws. If you want to put the Sony handgrip back on the camera you have to unscrew this rosette again, which is a hassle and a downside to this product. However, the extension handle is nicely built and works well, it has a clickable button to rotate the angle with is a nice feature. On other rig’s I’ve only seen screw knobs here, the push button makes handle adjustments on the fly so simple, so fast. The mechanism to extend the arm was a bit stiff but it was a brand new unit I was testing so I would hope this would get less stiff with use.
Depending on what your use it in conjunction with, the main problem with this ‘Base Kit’ is that the included extension handle really needs to be used in conjunction with a shoulder pad, not part of this specific kit but also available from SHAPE. I didn’t have a shoulder pad on this shoot and the arm is pretty useless without one. Its really designed to be used with an EVF as well.
Part of this ‘base kit’ includes the top plate. It’s actually two top plates one on either side of the existing handle. These are great and I can see myself using them a lot. The top plates come with two rods that attach to them and you can use them to put the sony LCD screen in a greater (lower and further back) range of positions than the Sony designed one but the LCD mount that Sony designed is pretty good. I can see myself using this more on a gimbal to give me more options and to mount a radio mic to the top of the camera.
I don’t use a matte box with my Canon stills lenses that I was using on this shoot, so consequently I didn’t have a use for the actual base plate and rods this time. In future however I can foresee using the rails as a means to support my heavy 70-200mm f2.8 zoom lens that I use this with a Metabones Speedbooster Ultra. Currently I use this lens without any support and it is pretty dodgy just hanging off the front there. There is a metabones speedbooster support that is specially designed by SHAPE to screw into this base plate (and thereby provide support to the speedbooster) but again in this kit (FS5 Base kit) it is not included (although you can buy one separately) so I wasn’t able to test this.
So in conclusion if you want to rig up your FS5 then this is a good solution but you will need to buy the other parts of the package not just the base kit for it to be useful, unless you have other rigs you can adapt to make it work for you. The extension arm is great and the top plates will prove really useful for me. But that said, ultimately, I’m still not convinced that I want to rig up this well designed camera. One of the reasons I bought it was that its great to use straight out of the box. It’s so light that its not really suited to on the shoulder work as it floats around up there. Whereas if used as it comes, up against your chest, with your eye on the viewfinder then its actually very steady. The Sony FS5 is very well designed and partly I bought it to move away from fully rigged cameras for quick run and gun style shooting. So for me, I’m not sure they FS5 actually needs a rig for some types of shooting. If you do want to rig up your camera then the SHAPE kit is good but you’ll need their full range of FS5 stuff to make it work properly.
James Bayliss-Smith is an award winning documentary cameraman and filmmaker who recently spent 5 years living and shooting in China. www.jamesbaylisssmith.com