If you’ve ever shot handheld with a DSLR, you already know that without some kind of support, a shaky shot is all you can hope for. That creates the need to stabilize in post, and depending on what kind of shake you need to remove, can cost valuable time. A shoulder stabilizing system like the WonderRig Elite should be on your radar when filling your video creating tool box. The need for a steady shot, a quality follow focus and a matte box has made DSLR rigs one of the hottest tools, and there are dozens on the market. The cost of the WonderRig Elite is paramount when judging it. At $330, its not a costly gamble if you need a DSLR rig. Let’s face it, it’s not thousands of dollars, it doesn’t take hours to assemble and it’s not made of flimsy plastic. However, you get what you pay for.
What You Get for the Money
First, out of the box, the WonderRig Elite feels and looks to be a quality built product. It comes with a shoulder support stabilizer, reversible follow focus, 15mm rod system, matte box and shoulder accessory support pad. There are many different rigs in the market and have a wide range of build materials like plastic, carbon fiber and/or metal. For the most part, the WonderRig is constructed of metal. The fasteners, rails and grips are all metal. The matte box and barndoors are hard plastic. The follow focus is stout and can be mounted on the right or left side, fits most lenses and allows for a range of whips, speed cranks and remote focus accessories.
The feel, build and design quality of the WonderRig Elite all rate quite differently.
The rig is easily assembled and has many places for adjustment. It’s simple to mount the camera to the base plate with its set screw, allowing for quick release, and has a slide adjustment for lens length. It has an additional 1/4-inch-20 mounting thread on the bottom of the mount for the ability to mount the system to a tripod, allowing seamless transfer from handheld to studio shooting.
Feel It … Touch It … Use It …
The feel, build and design quality of the WonderRig Elite all rate quite differently. We used a Canon EOS 7D for testing, mounted with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 and Canon EF 50mm f/1.2.
Starting with the build quality, if you compare it to other rigs at the same cost, the competition’s products tend to be mostly made of non-metal parts. From rails to the fasteners; strong, reliable materials are a must, to truly be able to own and use a rig for years to come. Although the WonderRig feels like it should be bullet proof, the grips easily slip from the adjusted placement, even when completely tightened. This became very apparent when testing the rig on a handheld shot. While shooting a person talking about a product, we needed to pan from the product in his hand up to his face, the grips slipped, and didn’t allow for confident shooting. Instead a light touch was needed to be able to complete the shot as desired. This was very frustrating and made the shot more difficult than if shot handheld with just the DSLR. The shot didn’t end up being all that steady as well. However, once this limitation was experienced, a simple change to how hard the grips were held and the amount of leverage applied, made the shot possible. This is where the build quality, meaning the materials, deviated from the overall feeling of the rig.
The follow focus was the next to test. Taken out in to a local park, the follow focus made foreground to background rack focusing easy. Changing the focal point from a close flower to a passing vehicle was very simple, and when used with the marking ring made successful rack focus a routine process. Unlike the grips, the follow focus’s design made easy setup with a slew of different lenses. Being reverse-mountable makes it compatible if you’re a lefty. Mount it on the right or left side of the camera depending on what feels right for you. The lens gear belt was easy to apply, and took no effort to line up with the gears of the follow focus. By far, the follow focus is the greatest part of the WonderRig Elite.
The matte box and barndoors are the largest plastic part on the WonderRig. Blocking out unwanted lens flares can be the difference between a shot worth charging for, and one that you give away. The ability to block out the sun when experiencing those lens flares is very valuable. Out in the field, the barndoors were easily adjusted and blocked out most lens flares. Some light is still available to get in to the matte box, however, much like the rest of the rig, is great for the cost.
It’s time for judgment
Fotodiox created a good value with the WonderRig Elite. The build materials, user options and easy setup make it a good competitor in the marketplace. Although we might not rate it tough enough for daily pro use, it has a good price point. Its competition is vast and ranges from a few hundred dollars all the way up to thousands of dollars, but at $330, its well worth adding to your shooting tool kit.
Fotodiox WonderRig Elite
Weight: 5lb. 3oz. (2.3kg)
Rail System: 15mm
Mount Plate: 1/4” -20 mount
Follow Focus: Reversible w/accessory port & marking disk
- Great price
- Metal construction
- Quality follow focus
- Grips slip under any strain
- Shoulder mount not for everybody
Chris Monlux is the Creative Services Manager at a local NBC and CBS affiliate.