Zacuto VCT, Z-finder, grip relocator, and helmet combo for C300 at DVinfo.net

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Canon Cinema EOS Camera Systems
For all Canon Cinema EOS models: C700 / C300 Mk. II / C200 / C100 Mk II and EF / PL lenses.


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Old December 2nd, 2014, 12:45 PM   #1
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Zacuto VCT, Z-finder, grip relocator, and helmet combo for C300

I just purchased the Zacuto package for my C300, as I was unsatisfied with the RedRock Micro cage. The RedRock is fine, I just don't like the weight and the height of the C300, with handle installed. It is really too tall with a handle screwed in. Shooting handheld, it is too heavy and very slow to reconfigure if you need to slim the camera for in-car use or other tight spaces. I just didn't like working with it. Oddly, I didn't mind shouldering the camera with my shoulder just resting on bare rods off the back of the RM. I put a brick on the rods for counterweight, sometimes a Lectrosonics SRa receiver, too. It is still front heavy, but I gacked on some zacuto parts for handles. It was ok, but I really liked the new VCT setup from Zacuto, which is the closest thing to a proper shoulder rig I could find.

Strengths of the RedRock setup: solid, good camera "armor", lots of mounting holes.
Weaknesses of the RedRock cage: heavy, too tall

The Zacuto setup is definitely making the camera a frankencamera... lots of parts screwed on, clamped, etc. It is not a "clean" look... but I wouldn't expect that for any cage or add on for this type of camera. I should say, I come from an ENG background and appreciate the ergonomics of a proper handheld camera.

So, I bolted the setup together and Zacuto's thinking is the best yet for the C300, in my opinion. It is very adjustable, which is great. It is solid, too. Weight is low, with a 24-105 lens, LiIon battery, it is less heavy than my HDX900.

The handle I have uses the helmet mount, which is the best and most solid mount I have seen... and also the least expensive piece of the system. The new handle is pretty cool, I like the wood and the mounts. It also helps with the height issue to be able to quickly pull the handle off the top.

The VCT plate and rail system is well thought out. It doesn't raise the camera's overall height profile very much, which is great. The C300 is tall enough already and this is a good compromise to fit a shoulder pad in the setup. I like using the VCT QR plates on my tripods, so this fits perfectly... less screwing on small plates to the base of the camera and very solid. My gripe with the VCT is that the shoulder pad is not very long along the base. You have no adjustability of the pad itself, it doesn't slide back or forward, and I found that even after balancing the camera properly, my body naturally wants to shoulder the camera off the rear of the VCT base (in other words, the metal frame a few inches behind the shoulder pad sits on my shoulder, rather than the padding itself). Again, this is after proper balance of the camera. I think this is because of basic ergonomics of these small cameras... it is just uncomfortable to have the camera body and lens so far behind my face. Also, I had an issue with the V-Finder, relating to this, which I will discuss.

The Z-finder solves the problem of where to put the goofy C300 / C500 LCD monitor... sort of. You mount the LCD unit upside down and facing forward, which allows the proper articulation and placement of the Z-finder in front of your eyes. So, first, it's a little weird to have the buttons facing the wrong way, but not a big problem. Also, the mic holder orients vertically, so now you have to put a 90 degree mic attachment in there. No biggie either. But, the main problem I have with this is that the two cables attaching the LCD unit to the C300 body are too short.

I have the Z-finder and LCD unit pushed as far forward as I can get it, which binds the two cables. They are about two inches too short. What is the solution? Zacuto says to have Canon wire in longer cables, which I have read will cost about $750 and take the unit out of service. That’s a lot for two stupid cables. For now, I am going to live with the cables maxed out and the unit just a little too close to my face. It’s not great and might be the achilles heel of this whole setup. I would go with a Zacuto EVF… but you can’t get overlay of all the camera info into that unit… plus it is one more thing to back onto the camera.

What would be great is if someone made some reasonably priced extension cables… Hello Canon, hello Zacuto? Can you hear me?

The only missing piece for me is possibly the Tornado follow focus getup that Zacuto makes. I haven't used it but it seems like it would work well for handheld. With the C300 mounted so far back on the shoulder, it is really awkward to reach back with your left hand and control focus/zoom. But, my credit card is tapped right now, and I need to make some more money before buying more toys...
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Old December 2nd, 2014, 03:37 PM   #2
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Re: Zacuto VCT, Z-finder, grip relocator, and helmet combo for C300

Scott - thanks for the in depth info.

You might want to check with Zacuto regarding the monitor mount you received. Zacuto has some new bits and pieces which mount the C300 monitor in a similar fashion to how it mounted on the camera, only further forward. This keeps the mic orientation horizontal and the monitor display buttons level to the ground (not upside down).

C300 Z-Finder Recoil: Zacuto Filmmaking Accessories

http://store.zacuto.com/images/produ...z-c300zr-3.jpg

FWIW, I tried the helmet/handle combo on my C300 early this past summer. I ended up returning it. It was rock solid and the handle is beautifully made but it didn't fit how I shoot. I ended up with Wooden Camera's C300 top plate and their Nato Handle Plus. The WC top plate works very well and is also rock solid (despite having only one screw-in point.) I'm very happy with it.

The Zacuto handle definitely grips the monitor really well if one is looking to attached it directly to the handle. The best I've seen. But, for me (and I wasn't looking to kit out a shoulder rig or create a cage), it just bulked things up too much, called to much attention to itself, and created some other issues. I've got some info in a blog post here: Getting a Handle on It .
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Old December 16th, 2014, 11:47 AM   #3
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Re: Zacuto VCT, Z-finder, grip relocator, and helmet combo for C300

Jon, read your review and we are in agreement.

I've also looked into the mounting options you've mentioned... I think there was a piece missing from my shipment of the Z-finder. I am figuring that out with Zacuto right now.

I've been using the setup for a few weeks and I am generally happy with it. I am really happy to lift the camera and not feel the cheesy Canon handle wiggle around! The Zacuto handle is really solid, even with a few extra pounds of gear loaded onto the rails.

Even with all the new rig parts... I still want a camera to start out with proper ergonomics in mind. The new AJA Cion looks promising, so does the Blackmagic URSA. The Sony FS7 also looks promising but a little funky still. I am most skeptical any of these cameras get it right.

Scott
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Old December 16th, 2014, 12:31 PM   #4
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Re: Zacuto VCT, Z-finder, grip relocator, and helmet combo for C300

Yep, it's nice to get rid of the play in Canon's handle - both the Zacuto handle and Wooden Camera's are able to do that well.

Glad to hear the Zacuto helmet/handle is working out.

I'm the same with the other cameras. I have had the FS7 on my shoulder. For longer shoots it seems many are bagging the built-in shoulder pad (too far back) for add'l. rigging.

I've heard that Cion's built-in pad is similar to the FS7's in terms of placement. To me the URSA at over 16 lbs is a different thing altogether.

The C300 works really well for me and how I shoot. I haven't needed a shoulder rig for it.
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Old April 25th, 2015, 02:34 AM   #5
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Re: Zacuto VCT, Z-finder, grip relocator, and helmet combo for C300

I'm updating the original post about the Zacuto setup. Some folks from Zacuto got in touch with me, they read this stuff! Anyways, after some figuring things out, they sent me a mount for the C300 viewfinder, which orients the LCD into the correct position in front of your eye and also keeps the buttons of the assembly in the correct orientation. It also helps keep the two cables from binding too much when the assembly is slid forward.

The zfinder is ok. After using it a while, I think it has two drawbacks. One, it doesn't get out of the way easily for those times you put the camera down low, etc, and want to use just the LCD screen without the loupe. I find myself wanting to flip it up to expose the screen. But, it is solidly locked in place and takes a minute to undo and slide off. Also, it doesn't quite cover the whole screen. I have the loupe adjusted as wide as it will go and I cannot see all corners of the screen at once, as in vignette. Also, if I do pull the whole zfinder off, I am usually stuck with a chunky piece of kit in my hand... where do you put it if there is no PA or AC to hand off to? It doesn't go into a pocket. All that said, when you need a viewfinder eyepiece, though, it works reasonably well. I am curious about the SmallHD viewfinder setup that just came out, I think it is called the Sidefinder. Mini SDI and HDMI... and really good resolution.

I did finally pick up a Tornado follow focus setup. It works reasonably well. The tornado shape is a little weird but I've gotten used to it. It also inspires sexual innuendo jokes... due to it's odd shape. So there's that. The upper portion of the follow focus is solid and interfaces well with my lenses. The nice part about the lower tornado shaped piece is that it has a spring-loaded quick release that pops in and out of the upper unit. You can very quickly lighten your rig by popping the tornado off and just using the upper geared piece.

The first day of shooting with it, the upper unit loosened up and slid off the rail, landing on the ground and breaking suddenly. The gear broke off. Zacuto has to fix that in-house, so off to them it went. All went smoothly, it came back in about five business days. Moral: tighten all those knobs and screws down tight to avoid a broken camera part.

Another thing I use is the older style grip relocator, it has a double rail mount. I don't think Zacuto sells it anymore. That thing... Man, it has two small machine screws that are used to adjust the position of the grip in two configurations. Anyhow, those screws have a nasty habit of loosening halfway through the day. I put locktite on them, but they take a fair amount of tourque from all-day use and they just work free every time. Nothing like being in a scrum and your camera handle starts to come apart!

The VCT system works ok. I am still unable to adjust the camera fore/aft on the base to be in a place where everything feels like a normal camera, but it comes close enough. Here's the thing... it is the best solution out there, in my opinion. It gets the closest to what I need in a camera rig... it is all lightweight, it looks good (save for the knobs all over the place), and it comes with some pretty great customer service from Zacuto. I have to say, they are pretty good at backing their products.

I have used other kits. Redrock micro, the Shape setup, Arri setup. All of those are too chunky and don't quite get placement right. I haven't used the Tilta base, which looks very similar to the Zacuto VCT. All in all, I give the VCT a thumbs-up over the other products out there... and would recommend the setup.

Does anyone have a good option for a camera bag that holds all this stuff built up? I have to break it all down each shoot, or company move, and I would really like to find a run bag that holds the camera built up. It needs to be tall and wide, I guess. I have an older PortaBrace PC3 that I am thinking might be converted to camera bag... but would like to know if anyone has other options... especially options that don't cost $300+.

Last edited by Scott Stoneback; April 25th, 2015 at 11:56 AM.
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