SYMPLA Shoulder Mounted Rig

Upon opening the box on the Manfrotto SYMPLA Shoulder Mounted Rig, the first word out of your mouth will likely be “whoa.” It’s pretty, and very well packaged. However, you’ll need to get over your urge to just close the box right back up to fully enjoy it. There are tons of parts in the box, and it’s a little bit daunting. The documentation is a fairly thick booklet, and again, intimidating. If you can just push past the psychology though, it is very easy to put together.

What is a modular shoulder rig?

When DSLRs first hit the market for shooting video, the biggest complaint was that you had to hold them as if you were shooting photos — not video. Several rail systems hit the market, from the high-end RedRock systems to the economy IndiSystem rigs, not to mention the hundreds of cheap systems on Amazon. These systems let you customize your camera rig to work and fit like some of the bigger HD camcorders and ENG cameras. From shoulder pads with back-weights to act as ballast for the camera weight, to quick release plates for nice fluid tripods, right down to viewfinders and even handles on top, the rig feels as if you can carry it like a bigger camera.

The problem though is always weight, and this system is no exception.

The Bad

It’s heavy! The version we tested was 8.82 lbs fully assembled, not including camera and lens. This means that by the time you mount your camera, follow focus and lens, you’re looking at well north of 15 lbs. So much for one of the major advantages of shooting with DSLR — lightweight and quick to relocate.

In reality, it was even heavier than the cameras and lenses we used. We tested this with a C100, 5D mk iii and 7D mk i. The overall weight brought this author back to his first days working at a TV station using a Betacam SP camera that we dubbed “the Beast.” 

The remote control also met with mixed reactions and results. Although we saw these results across all of our cameras to one degree or another, on the 7D especially we noticed stepping on zoom and focus. The zoom and focus just weren’t as smooth as we’ve come to expect from such controls on bigger cameras. Also, the ergonomics of the remote itself left a bit to be desired. The remote is roughly the size of an iPhone charger plug, and the button/knob locations were a bit awkward for us. With three shooters testing the rig, the remote was the number one complaint. None of the three shooters could find a comfortable place to mount the remote where it didn’t interfere in one way or another. We’d just stick with a follow focus and follow zoom as the remote just seems a bit gimmicky. 

Manfrotto Sympla shoulder pad with counterweight
Manfrotto Sympla offset for camera positioning

It’s expensive! At the cost of a 7D, you’ll find yourself asking if it’s really worth it. Rigs like these are certainly a prerequisite for modular cameras, like a RED, where you need to mount a ton of gear along with the camera, and there it’s worth the cash to keep your investment safe. If, on the other hand, you’re mounting a DSLR, you may wonder if you really need all the structure, weight and expense. 

The Good

Ok, so it’s expensive for a reason. This thing is really strong and built like a brick house. It’s fairly obvious that it could support all kinds of equipment that would weigh well north of what a DSLR weighs. We’d seriously consider this rig for bigger cameras. 

It’s also well-constructed. The shoulder pad is very comfortable, and the ways you can configure this rig are all but infinite. The handles are coated with a textured rubber that is sure to make even the sweatiest hands stick, and the fact that they are mounted using ball joints ensures you’ll never get wrist cramps caused by uncomfortable positions.

Manfrotto Sympla shoulder pad with counterweight
Manfrotto Sympla shoulder pad with counterweight

It’s manfrotto! So yes, it’s compatible with all your favorite Manfrotto tripods and mounting plates. The version we tested even came with two separate mounting plate types (one for DSLRs, and one for traditional cameras).

Everything adjusts quickly without the need to break out hex wrenches or screwdrivers. 

Everything adjusts quickly without the need to break out hex wrenches or screwdrivers. Everything is on quick release knobs, so you can assemble/disassemble the whole rig in less than 5 minutes.  Also, everything is adjustable on the fly. So, if you find yourself a bit uncomfortable, you can readjust the rig in just seconds — not minutes.

Conclusion

Would we recommend the SYMPLA 2.0? Yes and No. In our opinion, it’s an excellent rig, but a bit on the heavy duty side for DSLRs. This, of course is a personal preference. The remote is pretty much disposable, so that is one accessory we’d skip in favor of using follow focus and zoom. After all, follow focus is one major reason to invest in rails in the first place!

All of this in mind, Manfrotto is one of the best names in the business for camera mounting. The rig does offer considerable stability, options and comfort, when ignoring the remote, that any camera operator would be happy to have. Just as with any purchase, when considering your options, choose carefully and wisely. Just because something is expensive doesn’t mean it’s good. The rig itself? Worth every penny. But the remote is something you should probably consider just skipping over.

In the end, it’s about personal preference. In that regard, you won’t be disappointed in the SYMPLA 2.0 rig. With so many points of adjustment, all easily and quickly set, we can’t imagine any preference that wouldn’t like this rig. If you’re willing to spend the cash, it’s definitely something that should be on your wish list. 

Manfrotto
www.manfrotto.us

$925

TECH SPECS:

Weight: 8.82 lbs
Rail Material: Aluminum
Adjustments: Quick release knob style
Ballast type: Iron weights/adjustable leverage
Remote control: Canon-compatible electronic remote (cabled)
 

Strengths

• Very strong
• Plenty of adjustments
• Comfortable
• Very stable

Weaknesses

• Remote is “steppy”
• Remote is rather “clunky”
• A bit heavy

 

Ty Audronis is a shooter, drone pilot and workflow specialist.  

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Susan is the Art Director at Videomaker and YouTuber Magazines.

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