First Impressions of Zacuto Gratical Rig with Canon C300 Mk 2 at DVinfo.net

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Old March 20th, 2016, 02:34 AM   #1
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First Impressions of Zacuto Gratical Rig with Canon C300 Mk 2

I've had the C300 mk 2 Gratical Recoil rig stuck on my camera for a couple of weeks now and have taken it out on several shoots. Overall I'm really pleased with it and working with it together with the New C300 Mk 2 autofocus aids has given me a huge level of confidence that my shots are truly in focus. So my comments must be viewed as those of a satisfied customer who would like to see product improvements.

Having a large HD viewfinder mounted on the left of the camera is extremely useful and the image is as good as the various respected video blog sites such a Phillip Bloom and newshooter.com have reported. So it's now possible for me to work handheld off the shoulder with this new package and also to grab vox pop style interviews in this manner.

And that is liberating. But the baseplate and the rig adds a fair amount of weight and turns the camera into a different beast altogether. Previously with my C300 I'd be able to strip the camera down and reconfigure it in a very short period of time. So for instance if I wanted to do some handheld shots in a car I could remove the handle and place the monitor directly on the camera very easily.

But with the C300 Mk 2 and the Zacuto Mark 2 helmet which supports the handle and Gratical support arms, removing the handle involves getting out your hex spanner set and undoing several hex bolts. This is not an easy task when out on location and away from your vehicle. Admittedly the Zacuto handle is easier to remove than the Canon one but only just. It involves using both a hex spanner and a flat head screwdriver.

In their promotional videos Zacuto knock Canon for the complexity of taking off the handle but theirs is not that much easier really. Both handles are very firmly attached to the camera without the wobble associated with the C300 handle.

Zacuto have designed a very clever pinch device of locking the monitor cold shoe onto the handle, again removing any wobble.

One word of warning is that any essential C300 Mk 2 display items you have set up affect the scopes on the Gratical. So I still find myself turning the WFM button on and off and basically disregard the Zacuto scopes.

So the monitor is great but there are several ergonomic trouble spots with this unit. The Gratical has a theoretically well designed flap that covers the eye piece, its designed to protect the optics from sunlight and one is supposed to push it aside with ones eye / nose as you look into the unit. It can also be folded back but this removes the cushioning effect of the rubber eyepiece. But as with the HDMI cover on the top of the unit these removable rubber protection flaps come off very easily when movie the camera and had to be picked up off the floor. I've now removed them permanently for fear of losing them.

Another design fault is that the Gratical control buttons are exposed on the side of the unit. This is great as they are easy to access but they are also very vulnerable to being touched when moving the camera onto the shoulder or suchlike. This results in having to reset the display. And when the screen freezes turning the unit off and on again.

I'm sure I'll get used to this eventually. However the biggest design fault with this rig is with the grip relocator
design. To set this up correctly you really need the camera to be on the tripod because it requires two hands so reset the position of the grip on the rods at the front of the recoil baseplate. One hand to hold and position the grip and the other to undo the tightening bolt that attaches the bottom part of the assemblage.

So if you are working handheld and want to reposition the grip to get some low angle shots things get very complicated if you don't have your tripod or a convenient low wall nearby to balance the rig on whilst you readjust the handgrip. Trying to readjust this whilst holding the camera can be disastrous and ends up with the natty adjustable bolt holding the bottom rod coming apart with springs and washers flying off. Not ideal when you are filming on a construction site. I now have a broken connector and will need to order a new one from Zacuto.

What's needed is a push button control similar to that designed by Shape for the Sony FS7, whereby with one hand you can quickly reposition the grip.

So to sum up I'm delighted with the image and position of the Zacuto Gratical but frustrated by the ergonomic design faults. I can't help but think that the Zacuto set up is designed less for the user operator and more for a fully crewed set up with assistants with tool sets to assist the camera operator.
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Old March 20th, 2016, 12:52 PM   #2
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Re: First Impressions of Zacuto Gratical Rig with Canon C300 Mk 2

Biggest issue I think: Canon red record light doesn't work on new Gratical firmware update, though it was mentioned as a new feature. Zacuto says they will fix it in some future update. Seems like the most important and basic function you'd want on an external viewfinder, I'd guess.
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Old March 21st, 2016, 04:46 AM   #3
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Re: First Impressions of Zacuto Gratical Rig with Canon C300 Mk 2

There is a standby / record light that works on the Gratical display screen. I've just checked it working with all the displays turned off from the C300 Mk 2.

I've also relocated my display on/off button to the camera body so it's easier to toggle it on and off.
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Old March 24th, 2016, 01:12 AM   #4
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Re: First Impressions of Zacuto Gratical Rig with Canon C300 Mk 2

Another complaint I have is that the Zacuto C300m2/cine zoom rig does not have 15mm bar attachment and does not easily take a 15mm bar adapter. Really a missed item.

Also, I don't think the lens support arm works well enough to hold a heavy cine zoom lens in place, nor is it well thought out with the sliding baseplate. I had to take my setup to Canon after the mount developed flex and play (after one handheld scene). . They were going to fix the EF mount on my camera, but I opted to get the super-overpriced locking EF mount installed for the meager price of $2300.

These cameras should have come with the locking EF mounts. The locking mount ring is super solid.
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Old March 24th, 2016, 11:35 AM   #5
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Re: First Impressions of Zacuto Gratical Rig with Canon C300 Mk 2

Mark, I still am doing something wrong. Turned off displays on camera and still don't see a record light on Gratical!
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Old March 24th, 2016, 04:01 PM   #6
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Re: First Impressions of Zacuto Gratical Rig with Canon C300 Mk 2

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Dobson View Post
I've had the C300 mk 2 Gratical Recoil rig stuck on my camera for a couple of weeks now and have taken it out on several shoots. Overall I'm really pleased with it and working with it together with the New C300 Mk 2 autofocus aids has given me a huge level of confidence that my shots are truly in focus. So my comments must be viewed as those of a satisfied customer who would like to see product improvements.

Having a large HD viewfinder mounted on the left of the camera is extremely useful and the image is as good as the various respected video blog sites such a Phillip Bloom and newshooter.com have reported. So it's now possible for me to work handheld off the shoulder with this new package and also to grab vox pop style interviews in this manner.

And that is liberating. But the baseplate and the rig adds a fair amount of weight and turns the camera into a different beast altogether. Previously with my C300 I'd be able to strip the camera down and reconfigure it in a very short period of time. So for instance if I wanted to do some handheld shots in a car I could remove the handle and place the monitor directly on the camera very easily.

But with the C300 Mk 2 and the Zacuto Mark 2 helmet which supports the handle and Gratical support arms, removing the handle involves getting out your hex spanner set and undoing several hex bolts. This is not an easy task when out on location and away from your vehicle. Admittedly the Zacuto handle is easier to remove than the Canon one but only just. It involves using both a hex spanner and a flat head screwdriver.

In their promotional videos Zacuto knock Canon for the complexity of taking off the handle but theirs is not that much easier really. Both handles are very firmly attached to the camera without the wobble associated with the C300 handle.

Zacuto have designed a very clever pinch device of locking the monitor cold shoe onto the handle, again removing any wobble.

One word of warning is that any essential C300 Mk 2 display items you have set up affect the scopes on the Gratical. So I still find myself turning the WFM button on and off and basically disregard the Zacuto scopes.

So the monitor is great but there are several ergonomic trouble spots with this unit. The Gratical has a theoretically well designed flap that covers the eye piece, its designed to protect the optics from sunlight and one is supposed to push it aside with ones eye / nose as you look into the unit. It can also be folded back but this removes the cushioning effect of the rubber eyepiece. But as with the HDMI cover on the top of the unit these removable rubber protection flaps come off very easily when movie the camera and had to be picked up off the floor. I've now removed them permanently for fear of losing them.

Another design fault is that the Gratical control buttons are exposed on the side of the unit. This is great as they are easy to access but they are also very vulnerable to being touched when moving the camera onto the shoulder or suchlike. This results in having to reset the display. And when the screen freezes turning the unit off and on again.

I'm sure I'll get used to this eventually. However the biggest design fault with this rig is with the grip relocator
design. To set this up correctly you really need the camera to be on the tripod because it requires two hands so reset the position of the grip on the rods at the front of the recoil baseplate. One hand to hold and position the grip and the other to undo the tightening bolt that attaches the bottom part of the assemblage.

So if you are working handheld and want to reposition the grip to get some low angle shots things get very complicated if you don't have your tripod or a convenient low wall nearby to balance the rig on whilst you readjust the handgrip. Trying to readjust this whilst holding the camera can be disastrous and ends up with the natty adjustable bolt holding the bottom rod coming apart with springs and washers flying off. Not ideal when you are filming on a construction site. I now have a broken connector and will need to order a new one from Zacuto.

What's needed is a push button control similar to that designed by Shape for the Sony FS7, whereby with one hand you can quickly reposition the grip.

So to sum up I'm delighted with the image and position of the Zacuto Gratical but frustrated by the ergonomic design faults. I can't help but think that the Zacuto set up is designed less for the user operator and more for a fully crewed set up with assistants with tool sets to assist the camera operator.
Mark,
Thanks for the feedback, we are always looking to improve and listen to all feedback.
I’m not sure about why you would want to remove the Zacuto helmet on the C300. It’s meant as a permanent install. If you flip a lever you can slide our handle off with no tools. You mention that it’s just a bit easier then removing the Canon handle. That’s not the case. The Canon handle is bolted on and in a way that makes you use the short end of the allen key and ratchet a lot. It’s really not removable, extremely tall, won’t fit in a case and not adjustable for balance. Our grip is removable in seconds for going into a case. Plus it can take the Canon AV unit also with lever locking and not using the dreaded cold shoe tie down. So I’m still not sure why you would want to remove the helmet as apposed to flipping the lever and removing the handle with no tools.

About the C300 display, I also don’t know why if you engage the canon display items it would remove our scopes, that’s not the case. Our display has a 4:3 aspect ratio and all of our scopes and display info are in our tech space and not the 16x9 area. That’s what makes the Gratical unique and better. You can have a totally clean image with scopes below the image. Regardless, if you fully gum the 16x9 area up with display info from the camera, it has no effect on our display info area.

I’m a big believer of cables on top but that does lead to potential water getting while raining and that’s why we have the serious rubber covers for the jacks you are not using. As far as the eyecup door. We have found that the Gratical is not really suseptical to sunburn as other units and I think it’s due to our multi lens diopter. We have not had one unit come back with a burn and I know some people do take the eyecup door off of the Gratical. The original Gratical eyecup units had holes in the eyecup when you removed the door, user feedback had us create a new design with the holes being in the door itself. If you need a version like that, let me know by email steve@zacuto.com and I’ll send you one.

BTW, Zacuto products (excluding electronic products) have a lifetime warranty even for user mis-use (not saying you are mis-using anything) so don’t order anything replacement products, contact customer support and they will send you new one if something broke.

You mentioned a trigger for your grip. Check out at NAB, we just might have something exactly like you are talking about.

I agree, it’s not a perfect scenereo. I’m trying to take a very tall boxy camera, an AV unit, a lens that’s too high/heavy and trying to turn it into a Betacam. And all the weight is in front of your shoulder. We spent so much time working on this. here are the inherent problems today. A Betacam (the gold standard) had the shoulder dug into the camera body to get the lens to the right arm height, the lenses were way lighter because they were for 2/3” imagers. They also had a heavy recorder and on board battery to balance the whole camera. It’s never going to be perfect because of many of these reasons, but this is the best we could think of.

Steve Weiss
product designer

Last edited by Steve Weiss; March 24th, 2016 at 04:02 PM. Reason: to insert my name
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Old March 25th, 2016, 01:09 AM   #7
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Re: First Impressions of Zacuto Gratical Rig with Canon C300 Mk 2

Yeah, Mark... not sure why you would want to remove the whole Zacuto handle-helmet assembly. It's meant, the helmet anyway, to live on the camera. It's probably my favorite thing Zacuto has ever built for the C300 cameras. The wood handle is functional and good looking.

The Gratical eyepiece flap is annoying. No doubt about it. Removing it exposes two holes in the eye cup, spilling light across your eye.

The gratical buttons are not intuitive while run and gunning. I've had problems pressing the correct one on the fly and I've bumped them easily by mistake. I also feel like I have trouble seeing the whole screen through the eyepiece, sometimes needing to press my eye in
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Old March 25th, 2016, 03:37 AM   #8
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Re: First Impressions of Zacuto Gratical Rig with Canon C300 Mk 2

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Weiss View Post
Mark,
Thanks for the feedback, we are always looking to improve and listen to all feedback.
Iím not sure about why you would want to remove the Zacuto helmet on the C300. Itís meant as a permanent install. If you flip a lever you can slide our handle off with no tools. You mention that itís just a bit easier then removing the Canon handle. Thatís not the case. The Canon handle is bolted on and in a way that makes you use the short end of the allen key and ratchet a lot. Itís really not removable, extremely tall, wonít fit in a case and not adjustable for balance. Our grip is removable in seconds for going into a case. Plus it can take the Canon AV unit also with lever locking and not using the dreaded cold shoe tie down. So Iím still not sure why you would want to remove the helmet as apposed to flipping the lever and removing the handle with no tools.

About the C300 display, I also donít know why if you engage the canon display items it would remove our scopes, thatís not the case. Our display has a 4:3 aspect ratio and all of our scopes and display info are in our tech space and not the 16x9 area. Thatís what makes the Gratical unique and better. You can have a totally clean image with scopes below the image. Regardless, if you fully gum the 16x9 area up with display info from the camera, it has no effect on our display info area.

Iím a big believer of cables on top but that does lead to potential water getting while raining and thatís why we have the serious rubber covers for the jacks you are not using. As far as the eyecup door. We have found that the Gratical is not really suseptical to sunburn as other units and I think itís due to our multi lens diopter. We have not had one unit come back with a burn and I know some people do take the eyecup door off of the Gratical. The original Gratical eyecup units had holes in the eyecup when you removed the door, user feedback had us create a new design with the holes being in the door itself. If you need a version like that, let me know by email steve@zacuto.com and Iíll send you one.

BTW, Zacuto products (excluding electronic products) have a lifetime warranty even for user mis-use (not saying you are mis-using anything) so donít order anything replacement products, contact customer support and they will send you new one if something broke.

You mentioned a trigger for your grip. Check out at NAB, we just might have something exactly like you are talking about.

I agree, itís not a perfect scenereo. Iím trying to take a very tall boxy camera, an AV unit, a lens thatís too high/heavy and trying to turn it into a Betacam. And all the weight is in front of your shoulder. We spent so much time working on this. here are the inherent problems today. A Betacam (the gold standard) had the shoulder dug into the camera body to get the lens to the right arm height, the lenses were way lighter because they were for 2/3Ē imagers. They also had a heavy recorder and on board battery to balance the whole camera. Itís never going to be perfect because of many of these reasons, but this is the best we could think of.

Steve Weiss
product designer

Hi Steve,

Thank's for taking the time to reply to my post and as I said in my original post I'm really benefitting from using the Gratical with my C300 mk 2. It's certainly the best viewfinder I've ever had on a video camera!

And I fully appreciate the design restraints of of getting these oddly shaped cameras to operate successfully up on the shoulder. I was watching a BBC cameraman the other day with a shoulder mounted ENG camera, not sure which one, and marvelled at the ergonomics of the unit compared to the efforts we have have to put in to work with these large sensor cameras which were developed on the back of the DSLR filming revolution. So having used a Betacam camera many years ago I feel I've gone full circle.

The reason I would want to remove the Zacuto helmet is so that I can mount the Canon monitor unit directly on top of the camera, not on top of the handle. This is ideal when working in tighter situations such as in a vehicle where a lower profile is helpful. One of the advantages of these types of cameras for me is that they can be configured in a number of ways. I looked though the mounting accessories section on the Zacuto Store and could not identify a cold shoe mount with a closed front end to fit on top of the zacuto helmet or your natty sliding bar that's on top of the helmet. So that means removing the helmet to mount the monitor directly on the camera. Incidentally it's easier to remove your helmet than to remove the redesigned Canon handle.

I think you misunderstood my comment about your scopes. What I'm saying is that when you have the Canon display information turned on, the display information is picked up by your scopes. So to get an accurate reading from your scopes you need to have the Canon display information turned off.

Thank's again for your reply.
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