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Nano-rigs - hand-held camera rigs that do it all and fit in your pocket

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There are lots of tiny cameras that can deliver professional or semi-professional images, but they still stop short of being an all-in-one solution that offers acceptable image quality, stabilisation, and audio quality.  For this we still need a rig of some kind.

This thread is about creating hand-held rigs that deliver:

  • Good to very good image quality
  • Sufficient stabilisation for hand-holding (movement is fine, but it can't be too jittery) 
  • Good to very good sound quality that is directional (or at least separates the subject from the background)
  • Fits in a pocket
  • Minimal time to start recording (have little to no setup time)

I'm building a rig around my new Sony X3000, but this thread could easily apply to anyone using a GoPro, DJI Osmo Action, or RX0, would also extend to point-and-shoot cameras, and even the smallest mirrorless cameras if the lens they choose is small enough (lots of pancake lenses would be borderline pocketable).

These might be an A-cam rig for vloggers, travel film-makers, backpackers, minimalists, or (like me) a B-cam setup for use in conjunction with a larger more complicated rig.

We've touched on these topics before, @Don Kotlos shared this great (borderline pocketable) example:

IMG_20161106_130534.jpg

 I mucked around with my GF3 (which lacks the required audio quality, or image quality):

1345397818_GF314mmf2.5manfrotto-3.jpg.206066bb3e7672ec12d0f37c63347ef5.jpg

and people are out there taking tiny cameras and making rigs that are 10x the size of the camera:

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I'm still waiting for items to arrive, but I'm starting with the X3000, Rode Videomicro, an ebay microphone windsock which will help with wind noise but will also be a shock-mount, but have more bits on order, so updates to follow.

IMG_3792.thumb.jpg.fe2c86885b67b9dfde5a477f29514f69.jpg

Who else here is pushing the limits of quality vs size?

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EOSHD Pro Color for Sony cameras EOSHD Pro LOG for Sony CamerasEOSHD C-LOG and Film Profiles for All Canon DSLRs

I'll come back with more detail when I've got a bit more time but the one that ticks all the boxes is the Sony A6500.

APS-C, IBIS, Log, EVF, Mic input and the rangefinder style makes it more compact than the SLR styling and therefore pocketable.

Lens wise, the cheap Sigma primes for it are tiny and way better than they have a right to be.

The fast native and M mount Voigtlanders and 7Artisans are also very compact.

Its not a well loved camera (I say that as an owner of one as well!) but it does a hell of a lot in a small package.

If you can get the stabilisation to come from your lenses then I'd have the OG Blackmagic Pocket in there as well but its tricky getting a fast one with OS.

In terms of utility for a pure travel camera then I'd have to say that after using it for the past week in that role, the Osmo Pocket is a standout product.

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My XT30 with 18-55 packs a big punch in a really small package. The in camera audio is pretty nice as well. Probably would be my go to for traveling light. 

That said an A6300(or any of that line) with a Sony 16-50 is much more pocketable. The 18-55 blows the Sony 16-50 away but its at least twice as long and heavy.

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24 minutes ago, heart0less said:

The fact that XT-30 didn't get more attention is beyond my understanding. 

I feel like if they included 4k60p it would have sold a hell of a lot more. I for sure would have bought one to replace my walk about camera. I'm still kind of hoping it'll be in a firmware update, in the same way 4K was in an update for the XPro 2.

10 hours ago, BTM_Pix said:

In terms of utility for a pure travel camera then I'd have to say that after using it for the past week in that role, the Osmo Pocket is a standout product.

I'm loving mine too, and it's so easy to pass to someone with no prior experience of cameras without overwhelming them even a little bit. The only downfall for me is the price of the audio input jack. I'm refusing to buy one for now, hoping someone will make a 3rd party version that works. Of course, DJI couldn't care less about my protest and the only person it's affecting is myself... So not sure how much longer I'm willing to fight.

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8 hours ago, Adam Kuźniar said:

Honestly the best pocket rig is a GX80 with a pancake lens. Easily fits in the pocket, has IBIS so the footage is perfectly smooth, shoots great 4k video.

That is a great setup. Only thing that might push me towards Sony is the better lowlight and AF. That said I like the Panasonic image better though Sony kills it in Dynamic range. 

10 hours ago, heart0less said:

The fact that XT-30 didn't get more attention is beyond my understanding. 

It's a great body. 

Yeah its the best you can get in that price bracket IMHO. The only thing they should have also done was give it that flip up screen like the A6400. The sony auto focus is amazing though to me the benefits of Fuji out weigh it. 

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X-T30 with 18-55mm F2.8-4 would get my vote. Stabilisation works well. Image is perfect. Size is small. Feature packed. Not mega expensive. Nothing else gets close for the size and price.

8 hours ago, Adam Kuźniar said:

Honestly the best pocket rig is a GX80 with a pancake lens. Easily fits in the pocket, has IBIS so the footage is perfectly smooth, shoots great 4k video.

Olympus E-M10 III is newer and does it all even better!

That would get my vote as well as the X-T30 although the Fuji is more advanced and feature packed, with larger sensor and much better AF and slow-mo 120fps

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As an A6500 owner and primarily handheld, fun & gun type shooter, I have been very happy with my setup. I don’t vlog but the only native lens I own is the Sony 35mm1.8. It gets the job done! I have nervous hands in general but the ibis does help. When I hold the camera up to my eye, that third point of contact really helps and at times gives the appearance of a locked off shot.

Still debating if the small rig cage/wooden grip wouldn’t help a bit in handheld work but for now I’ve only shot handheld or using a small mini tripod.

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36 minutes ago, Dustin said:

As an A6500 owner and primarily handheld, fun & gun type shooter, I have been very happy with my setup. I don’t vlog but the only native lens I own is the Sony 35mm1.8. It gets the job done! I have nervous hands in general but the ibis does help. When I hold the camera up to my eye, that third point of contact really helps and at times gives the appearance of a locked off shot.

Still debating if the small rig cage/wooden grip wouldn’t help a bit in handheld work but for now I’ve only shot handheld or using a small mini tripod.

I wonder if "Downgrading" to the new A6400 would be a worthwhile move on your part?

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53 minutes ago, webrunner5 said:

I wonder if "Downgrading" to the new A6400 would be a worthwhile move on your part?

I mean the flip up screen would be cool and I’ve tried it out, but I see no need to for my needs at the moment. I do want to eventually kit it out with a monitor on the hot shoe but not a necessity for a hobbiest filmmaker by any means. 

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17 hours ago, Andrew Reid said:

X-T30 with 18-55mm F2.8-4 would get my vote. Stabilisation works well. Image is perfect. Size is small. Feature packed. Not mega expensive. Nothing else gets close for the size and price.

If Fuji had implemented IBIS in the XT3 / XT30, probably would sell all my m43 gear and jumped to them. Have to see how the OIS in their lenses works in handheld, though. What was your impressions?

But for me the dealbreaker in the Xt30 was the 10/15 minutes movie limit. I don't shoot interviews or documentary, but like to record live concerts, and some songs lasts more than 10 minutes (was an issue when the LX100 was my first 4k camera). 30 or even 20 minutes would be perfect - hope that when the XT-3 / XT-30 sales slows down Fuji could unlock it with a firmware update.

17 hours ago, Andrew Reid said:

Olympus E-M10 III is newer and does it all even better!

That would get my vote as well as the X-T30 although the Fuji is more advanced and feature packed, with larger sensor and much better AF and slow-mo 120fps

Have both the GX85 and the E-M10 III, still have to make a comparison. But for stills, the E-M10 III is fucking amazing, best jpg colors that I've ever seeing in a m43 camera (and VERY different from most of the other Olympuses, there is something different there). No crop in 4k is great in the E-m10 III too, and the EVF is VERY good, could get critical focus only with enlarged view, no peaking needed.
But the GX85 with the Cinelike-D unlocked (eternal thanks to @BTM_Pix) with Leeming Lut applied have very good colors.
The XT-30 EVF is even smaller than the GX85 one, is that correct?

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One of the ways I want to use my X3000 is for time lapses, things like sunrises and sunsets, but also busy locations with crowds, and things like family dinners while on holiday.

Doing a bit of research around supports got me these ideas..

Manfrotto Pocket series

pocket_color_grey.jpg

I've got the larger model and use it even on my GH5:

IMG_3563.thumb.jpg.f49a62534ce0664a1d51563f84c9e46d.jpg

The smaller one looks intriguing for nano setups, but for the X3000 it's oriented in the wrong direction, so you wouldn't be able to angle it up or down that much without turning it 90 degrees to the camera, at which point I'm not sure how balanced it would be.

There's also the Job Micro series

joby-micro.jpg?w=640

 

However, I'm wondering if there's a DIY opportunity based upon something like the Platypod:

Platypod-1.jpg

or the pocket tripod:

Not too sure which way I'll go, but I want something that I can angle the camera up or down for compositions, and probably a little bit sideways to level it out.

 

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My finger grip for the X3000 arrived yesterday, it is a very interesting and well designed accessory.

IMG_3804.thumb.jpg.329150692a45440ed8b83f936adb2d4d.jpg

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The unfortunate aspect of it is that it completely obscures the rear door, prohibiting the use of an external microphone.  I've examined it with the intent to drill a hole in order to get a 3.5mm mic jack through the rig and into the camera, but it doesn't look like that is too feasible.

I will do some testing with the built-in mics and see what I think.  My uses for this camera are mostly without dialogue so ambient (non-directional) audio is probably fine.

I think this rig might be one of the most interesting from a "nano-rig" perspective, and it might also be why there are hardly any third-party rigs for this thing - it covers the tiny rig category and if you are fine with larger rigs then the 1/4-20 mount provides you with all the options you would need.

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