I have been on the hunt for a good cage to use with my 7D. I know that their are others out there like me that try to do all the research you can on a product before you buy. With limited resources you want to make sure that when you buy something, it’s exactly what you thought it would be and you can use it exactly as you thought you could. Now, I have made that mistake before. I have been victim to the the shiny exterior, the bells and whistles and, of course, the larger price tag. I call it the “It looks awesome and I have to have it” mistake. Now, I’m sure some people can relate to this, but most of the time I try to wait and make an informed decision. I have been searching and research which cage would best fit my needs. With so many to choose from, which one should I get?
For those that don’t know, a cage is used for mounting accessories to your DSLRs. As our love for DSLR filmmaking grows, so does our kit. My kit includes a Zoom H4n recorder, two Sennheiser G3 wireless lavs, monitor, RODE video mic and a Litepanels miniPlus. I’m sure there are a few things that I’m forgetting but you get the idea. I usually operate as a one-man-band, so with all this stuff it can get a little cumbersome trying to find a place to mount them all. This is where the cage comes in handy. The cage allows you to mount all your DSLR accessories around the camera and out of the way. This way everything has a place and you’re not fighting with cables getting in the way of your shot. So, as I continue to use my 7D more and more, I’m sure my kit will grow in the future to include more things that will need to be mounted, hence, my need for a cage.
Now before I go any further I must say that I am not affiliated in any way with the companies that made my short list, nor have I ever used or seen one of these cages in person. All I’m basing my decision on is what I have seen in pictures, video reviews, and how I believe the cage will work best for me. Other people may find that a different cage works best for them so I will do my best to highlight certain characteristics. Also, just because I didn’t pick a cage from a certain company, doesn’t mean that I won’t look to them again in the future for other accessories. All these companies are great in their own way and I would encourage you to check out their sites and make your own decisions. This blog is merely an overview of my decision process.
The first company up is Redrock micro
I have owned gear from Redrock micro in the past and am considering them for my matte box, but that’s another blog from another time. “Redrock micro designs and sells a line of high quality cinema accessories for independent filmmakers, film educators and students, and budget-conscious moviemakers.” I have found Redrock’s gear to be solid and affordable but I was not impressed with their microCage. I wouldn’t classify it as a traditional cage because it does not fully enclose the camera. It only has support from the right side leaving you less mounting options for accessories. Another issue I have with it, and this is the case for several cages, is that it is constructed with support rods and not plates, which again limits your options for mounting. However, for $695 it may work for some people.
I have never owned a Cinevate product but I have been intrigued with their design and ingenuity. Cinevate states that their mission “is to equip filmmakers with the optimal tools to achieve their creative goals.” At first glance I thought this cage looked interesting for $640, but after a little more research I realized how limited it was for mounting options. It does have grips on the sides which allow you to use the cage hand-held, which is nice, but I don’t see myself shooting hand-held with a lot of stuff attached to the camera. I would think with all that load the camera would not be balance properly and result in some shaky footage. Also, with all the hinge points it looks as if it might not be as solid as some of the other cages on the market. If you were to use this cage hand-held I would want it to be rock solid and not have any movement in the hinge points. I’m not say that this cage isn’t solid, I have never used it, I’m just saying that it looks that way.
Zacuto designs, manufactures and assembles in the USA. They are know for their universal, quick release accessories for filmmakers. “Zacuto USA takes cameras and transforms them into whatever you need them to be, for any kind of shooting application.” Anyone that knows me knows that I love Zacuto products, and I own quite a few of their kits. I find them to make the best support rods in the business as well as top notch accessories for DSLRs. At first, when I heard Zacuto was coming out with a DSLR cage, I figured that would be the one I would own. After I saw the finished product I thought it was interesting that it could be used with the DSLR baseplate that I already own, nice plus to be able to add on to the equipment that I already have. Being able to mount the cage to support rods via the DSLR plate is also a major plus. Other features that I like about this cage is that it looks solid, has a quick-release, and allows for easy access to the battery. However, like the Cinevate cage, I didn’t see the advantage of using it handheld, for me, someone else my find this feature extremely helpful. Again, with all the accessories attached I feel the cage would be too awkward and heavy to operate efficiently, and it looks to be of a considerable size. The price is also a bit of a deterrent at $827, but like their other equipment I’m sure it is a solid piece of gear.
Now I know I said I haven’t seen any of these cages in person, but that’s not entirely true, I got to play with the Jag35 DSLR Cage at WEVA this year, and I have to say it’s pretty impressive. The cage comes in 3 different sizes to accommodate the T2i, 5D/7D and the 1D. The nice thing about this cage is that it is light weight and allows access to the battery compartment to allow for quick replacement of the battery. Now the downside to this cage is that it has limited mounting options, only the top of the cage looks to offer mounting capabilities. Both the side supports and bottom plate do not offer places to attach accessories. Also, there appears to be the absence of a quick-release plate and quick connect to support rods. Now, even though this cage does have some limitations, it was the least expensive option at $149.99 for the smaller one and $189.99 for the larger ones. If you’re looking for an inexpensive cage option for the DSLR then this is the cage for you.
Hold the phone! When I first saw this cage, I said I must have it! To be able to power my 7D and all my accessories with my Anton Bauer batteries, are you kidding me, it’s a no brainer right? Well, after I thought about it for a while and have been taking note of how I operate, I had second thoughts. I notice that I move from tripod to handheld to handheld with support rods quite a bit. Now if my camera were mounted in the cage, I can’t quickly remove it without unscrewing the top, removing the camera, replacing the lp-e6 battery, etc. Some people that don’t need to move as quickly might find this cage to be the one for them. So, if I need to move quickly then it doesn’t make sense to pay the extra money for this cage. It’s only for this minor reason why I did not pick this cage, everything else about it looks to be excellent, plenty of mounting options, including the ability to secure it on 15mm support rods. The cage starts at $899 but as shown on their website with battery plate and support rod attachment it’s $1,286.
Now we finally get to the cage that really caught my eye. Jared over at cinema5D.com was the one who brought this cage to my attention. What I like most about this cage is that it is compact, has loads of mounting options, it can be mounted on rails from the top and bottom, plus if I ever decided to use it handheld, you can add hand grips as shown in the picture above. For mounting you can add accessories to the top, bottom, and even the sides, there isn’t a square inch of this cage that can’t be used for mounting accessories. Also, it has a quick release and a port on the bottom for quick access to the battery compartment. I believe that this battery compartment allows for future additions of a power insert to use with my Anton Bauer batteries. I don’t know this for sure, maybe it’s wishful thinking. Overall I think this is a great looking cage and for $699 a good value as well. Now all I need to do is find the money to pay for it.