I’m not going to beat around the bush here. I think the Zacuto Zwiss Cage is the best DSLR product I’ve come across in 2011 and Zacuto will have to pry it from my dead hands if they want it back. I could end it there, but a little backstory is due.
During the summer of 2011 I took a 9000 mile motorcycle trip sponsored by JAG35 called The Fieldrunner. The premise of the trip was to photograph North America, from coast-to-coast on a motorcycle. During the trip I also interviewed filmmakers whose work I admired, including Mike Pecci, Jon Stark, David Brookover, and Steve Weiss of Zacuto.
During the trip I really honed in on my favored rig style, that being portable, multi-functional, capable of first-person-shooter style shooting, and quickly convertible from tripod-top to handheld. After the trip I expressed an interest in reviewing a Zacuto product for indieshooter.com and the folks at Zacuto recommended the Zwiss Cage. I had honestly never heard of the Zwiss Cage at that time, but they know what I like and figured it would suit my needs. Wow, were they right!
The Zwiss Cage starts with Zacuto’s smartly designed DSLR Baseplate. The baseplate is completely configurable for different camera form factors, and includes 15mm rod attachments front and rear. Attached to the baseplate is the cage. The cage itself is extremely ergonomic. The verticals are perfectly spaced for comfort and stability, and there is plenty of room on both sides of the camera body to extract SD cards, HDMI and Mic cables and even batteries from my camera without removing the camera from the cage. My camera really wants to just live in the Zwiss Cage full time and unless I’m on a dedicated still photo shoot there is no reason to remove it. That being said, the Zacuto DSLR Baseplate allows for easy removal of the camera with just a quick twist of a knob. A small (and useful) plate stays attached to the bottom of the camera and is unobtrusive for stills shooting. I can convert my camera from full-blown still camera to full-blown video camera in a breath.
The Zwiss Cage plate itself is awesome. It’s a large aluminum cheese plate covered with 1/4-20 and 3/8-16 holes plus 15mm clamps on all four corners. Since the verticals occupy two of the 15mm holes, that leaves two empty clamps for accessories (I know, 2+2, I’m doing big-boy math here folks).
I’ve got mine configured with the included top handle facing forward for low shots, plus my shotgun mic, and my EVF. This setup works brilliantly as a tripod-top camera rig and with one click pops right off for first person shooter action. To add a little stability and get the Steve Weiss approved “4 points of contact”, I’ve added a gunstock. I tend to spend more time on the tripod and only go handheld occasionally, so I shy away from big counterweighted shoulder rigs … so this setup is perfect for me.
The rig is extremely ergonomic. Sometimes, I tend to use the rear monitor of the camera (much to my detriment), but with the Zwiss Cage I find myself using my Zacuto EVF all of the time and my shooting is better for it. I really like the size and shape of the Zwiss Cage when compared to other rigs as well. Rigs are notoriously hard to pack in your luggage without disassembly, but the Zwiss is camera-bag friendly and a good traveling companion.
My complete setup with this rig was the Zacuto Zwiss Cage, a Nikon D7000, a D|Matte & D|Focus, a Que Audio Mini Shotgun, and finally the Zacuto EVF. This is a rockin’ setup and it’s really inspired me to shoot a ton of projects lately. And the best thing … the price. The Zwiss is very affordable at just a tick over a thousand buck-a-roos. Get one today, buy it here, you wont regret it.
Now if you’ll please excuse me I need to draft a letter to Santa Clause, because Zwiss is what I want for Christmas.