I Tried the New ACT Recoil DSLR Camera Rig from Zacuto
Zacuto has just released a new DSLR camera rig targeted at mirrorless and DSLR size cameras, so let’s have a look at it.
I’ve been using Zacuto’s gear for quite a few years now. Full disclosure, I am a brand ambassador for them, but not to worry, I am still going to be totally open about my opinions on this rig. It’s like how you’re even more honest with your family!
The type of rigs I’ve been using up until now from Zacuto have been designed for larger cameras. You could use them with smaller cameras, but they tended to be a little bigger and heavier than one would prefer for the smaller camera and so negate the reason for using a smaller camera.
Since this is designed for DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, it would be a really good for photographers looking to get into video. One of the main reasons you would use this DSLR camera rig would be to easily get the camera on your shoulder. This is really helpful because it allows you to hold the camera much steadier when not on a tripod.
Let’s see how the new ACT Recoil rigs adapt the things that Zacuto does really well with their larger rigs into a smaller, more compact design.
ACT Recoil DSLR Camera Rig
I loved playing with LEGO as a kid and so this rig already appeals to me as it’s got some great bits that allow you to mix and match depending on the needs of your shoot or even just one shot on set.
To begin with, the rig is designed to work with Arca-Swiss mounts, which is what you find on most stills camera and lighter video camera tripods.
The mirrorless and DSLR camera rig configuration comes with six items: the ACT baseplate, a camera-specific cage, the Tactical Handle, Right Trigger Grip, Axis Micro, and the ACT EVF Pro.
I won’t get into the Zacuto cages here except to say they have one for just about every current popular camera and a universal cage as well that will fit just about any camera in this class. Let’s focus now on the five new products released for the ACT line.
I really like the ACT Baseplate. It looks and feels like a more modern version of its bigger brother, the VCT Pro Baseplate. It allows you to add rods at the back, for things like counterweights or batteries, and rods at the front to attach just about everything else from grips, arms, follow focuses, matte boxes… you get the idea.
Just as with the VCT version, you can adjust the height of the rods at the front depending on what you need for your lens configuration.
Some things are missing from the ACT that the VCT version has, such as the rosette attachment on the side and the three 1/4 20” holes on the right side, but you’re not really going to need either of those with this smaller setup.
The ACT Baseplate has the same super comfy gel pack in the shoulder pad as the VCT model. Trust me, once you use that gel pack, you’ll never want to put another shoulder rig on your shoulder again. They will all feel hard and pointy in comparison.
The red camera plate that you use to slot your camera in is smaller than the VCT version, but that’s a good thing as it’s exactly what you want for a smaller camera. You still have the ability to adjust its position very easily. The plate itself is an Arca-Swiss plate. This is cool for if you needed to mount your camera on your tripod without the baseplate, you can just slide the camera out of the baseplate and mount it to your tripod with the baseplate. A very well thought out solution.
The last thing I want to talk about with the Baseplate is the overall look. I know this is subjective, but I think it’s as cool as anything. It’s like they’ve taken the VCT plate, then added wings and fluro lights but, you know, *not literally*. The edges are a bit more rounded and, overall, I think it makes it look pretty darn sexy.
Right Trigger Grip
The Right Trigger Grip has got the same, easy-to-use, quick-release button that other Zacuto models have. The main difference I can see is that this one is slightly angled to the right. This angle makes a lot of sense. Since you’re going to be using this with smaller setups, you’re going to want to get your hand a bit further out from your body when shoulder-mounting to make things more comfortable. I would have actually preferred a bit more of an angle or some way to adjust the angle, but this is a good start.
Of course, as with their other quick-release handles, the quick release allows you to quickly adjust the vertical angle of the handle, so if you want to put your rig down flat on the ground, it’s super quick and easy to do.
The Tactical Handle has got some really cool features that I either hope Zacuto brings to their Recoil Handle or I might just not send this one back!
You can adjust the angle of the handle, so you can use it as a top handle or as a side handle, which is cool. The thing that I am really excited about though is all the mounting points that are on the handle.
You’ve got a rod connection and cold shoe at the back to attach monitors or other things and there are five ¼ 20 and two 3/8 16 connections on the top. I really, really hope they bring those to their larger top handles. I often need to hook my camera up to my EasyRig and this would make it a lot easier. EDITORS NOTE: The Tactical Handle will likely be replacing the bigger grips!
Axis Micro (and Axis Curve)
The Axis Micro is a rod-based section that allows you to easily mount your EVF to your rig. You simply slot it into the Tactical Handle and attach the EVF to it. It’s easy and gives you a lot of movement in terms of where you can position your EVF.
The Axis Curve (not included in the rig) is an interesting solution for mounting an EVF to your rig when you’re not using a cage and the Tactical Handle. It’s part of the Basic and Cageless rigs and mounts to the front rods coming from the ACT Baseplate.
It’s angled so that you can get your handle sort of around it to get to your lens. This mostly works, but, of course, you need to have your camera a bit further forward on baseplate than I usually have it. If I had my camera where it normally sits, then the Curve still gets in my way. I think it’s a very clever design to try and get around this challenge but I think it’s not quite there yet. I would have like to have seen an even bigger “bend” but I appreciate that, from an engineering point of view, it may not be possible because of needing to adjust for the strength of the unit.
When it comes to being able to adjust where your EVF sits, the Axis is fantastic. It’s super easy to move your EVF back, forward, up, down and change the angle to your eye.
ACT EVF Pro
The ACT EVF Pro is definitely one of the stars of this DSLR camera rig. The full specs are available here but let’s get into how it performs. I have been a bit spoilt as I’ve been using Zacuto’s fantastic Gratical EVF for a few years, but considering that the ACT EVF Pro is about a quarter of the price of the Gratical I use, the performance and features you get are pretty amazing.
Particularly if you’re shooting from your shoulder, you’re going to need an EVF, and this one gives you some great features to boot. It’s got guides, easy-to-use controls and focus peaking. I particularly like that three of the four buttons can be used as “quick keys” when shooting. So the menu button is the menu button, but the +, - and back buttons can be configured to give you quick access to features. For example, I’ve got mine set to safe markers, focus-assist and flip image.
The way that the rigs have been priced, you basically get the EVF thrown in for free - if you where buying all the bits separately it would cost much more. So it's totally worth looking at getting the rig as an entire package.
I think Zacuto has done a great job of creating a really good solution for people looking to rig up their smaller cameras. It’s got that amazing Zacuto build quality and also is well thought out to make it easy to use and very customizable depending on the needs of any particular shoot. Definitely worth adding to your next shoot.
Check out all the new ACT Recoil mirrorless and DSLR camera rigs here.