Many modern camera rigs suffer from frustrating balance issues that can cause cameramen to fall over into bushes. Rigs that force you to mount the bulk of the weight in front of or behind the shoulders can very quickly become fatiguing. But instead of solving the problem of balance by adding massive counterweights, Zacuto has done things properly.
Enter the Next Generation Recoil Rig, a versatile product from Zacuto designed with balance from the outset. It is designed to sit on your shoulder, ENG style, and has an adjustable base plate which slides forwards and backwards depending on your setup. If you're running a RED Epic with Canon's nifty fifty, you'll want to shift the plate forwards to compensate for the lighter glass. If you decide to switch to Canon's 400mm, simply slide it back using Zacuto's very convenient quick lock mechanism. This clever method of balancing weight on the shoulders by manipulating center of gravity really does make a huge difference on long shoots while also getting rid of the frustration of constantly having to rebalance a rig when swapping glass.
The package includes a VCT Universal Baseplate, QR Riser, Zgrip Zwivel, Zacuto Halfcage and Recoil Handle for a solid side and top grip. The VCT Universal Baseplate's built-in shoulder pad is a huge improvement over the previous generation. It's so comfortable in fact that you can use it as a pillow on set while the talent is rehearsing (not an advertised feature). They've also considered comfort with their wooden cage grips which will keep your hands from freezing, and make you look like Vincent Laforet.
The optional Tornado follow focus system, while slightly turnip-ish in design, is incredibly easy to use and feels great in the hand while also providing another point of contact for extra stability. Also included is Zacuto's v-wedge tripod connector for easy transitions to your sticks, 6.5-inch iris rods and several rows of 1/4-20-inch threads along the sides for accessories. The Halfcage itself, which will fit any camera system you throw in it, comes with a three-inch Z-rail for mounting on the side of the VCT Universal Baseplate, a 1/4-20-inch screw and 15mm rod accessory attachment ports. Fastened on top of the cage via a quick release ratcheting lever is another wooden top grip that can accept two cold-shoe accessories and has a quick release 15mm rod port for an Axis Mini or articulating arm.
While the Zacuto Recoil Rig impresses with its balancing capabilities and accessories, there are a few items to note. Firstly, you will need an external viewfinder to use this rig properly, given that most attached cameras will sit too far back for you to utilize the internal viewfinder. Secondly, when we setup this camera for our 5D MK2, we noticed that the HDMI cord we needed to run picture out to our Zacuto viewfinder inconveniently stuck out of the camera and into the side of our necks. While this is nothing a 90-degree HDMI adapter can't resolve, we do wish that more attention had been paid to cable management. We were constantly fighting to keep our cord from swinging in front of our lenses, and even Zacuto has noticed that with wider lenses, the EVF will show up in the sides of the shot unless it's moved further toward the camera operator.
You can rest assured that all of these bit and pieces that make up the Recoil Rig meet Zacuto's notable reliability and durability standards. The Z-Lock pinch locks, which hold everything together, are easy to manipulate and impossible to pull apart when they are engaged. In the time we had to test this system, nothing came close to breaking loose or falling off, and we even felt confident enough to test our loaded rig by holding it by the articulating Zgrip Zwivel handgrip. Everything about this rig gave us the impression that it would withstand the crucible of frequent run-and-gun filmmaking.
And that's a very good thing, because the barebones Zacuto Indie Recoil Rig, without an EVF or follow focus unit, weighs in at just over 1,500 bucks, making it a purchase you won't want to make twice. After shelling out for Zacuto's recommended accessories that make this rig a practical, everyday shooter, you'll be in the ballpark of four grand. That's a lot, especially considering this is roughly half the cost of the Sony PXW-FS7 camera system which comes with a handgrip and EVF in the box.
The Recoil Rig, then, may be financially intimidating for beginner or intermediate level filmmakers who are looking for an inexpensive way to jettison their old, crusty gear, but it's an obvious contender for those who plan on making significant investments in their camera setup — for example, those who have bought a camera like the FS7 but find themselves needing a quick and easy way to work with external batteries, recorders, follow focus units, monitors and the like. For these folks, the Zacuto Recoil Rig would be the perfect weapon in their storytelling arsenal.
Material: Anodized metal and wood
Load Capacity: As much as the cameraman can handle
Attachment: V-wedge tripod connector and 1/4-20-inch mounts
Counter Balance System: Sliding shoulder mount
- Balance system
- Works with most cameras
- High Quality Construction
- Cost of recommended accessories
- Time to configure
Cameron Farboud is a documentary, wedding and narrative filmmaker and photographer from Chico, CA.