Zacuto Panasonic S5 Cage and Recoil Rig Review
I’m Nick Driftwood a filmmaker and videographer based in Brighton, United Kingdom, and I shoot narrative drama, adverts, music videos and documentaries so I’m always on the lookout for decent camera accessories to accompany my cameras. I shoot on mainly Panasonic Lumix cameras because I just love their color science and being a Panasonic Lumix Ambassador I’ve enjoyed developments from the mirrorless GH range to Super35 with the EVA-1 and now full frame with the S Series. Cameras change but the rigging doesn't always keep up. Thankfully, Zacuto is always on the cutting edge of design and solutions for my rigging needs. Panasonic recently released their newest addition to the S series - the Lumix S5 camera: a smaller-sized highly portable and lightweight video centric camera that is easy to carry around. And Zacuto has now produced a fantastic S5 cage and S5 Recoil Shoulder Rig for it.
Panasonic S5 Cage
Zacuto have been really clever designing their Lumix S5 cage. They have studied the layout of the S5 really well and built an exoskeleton to suit. Its compact too and you almost think there’s no cage around it. The first thing to note when you’ve screwed the cage into the bottom of the camera (using a ¼" 20 screw) and attached the two ‘eyelet’ screws into the camera’s neck-strap eyelets (tip: remove the plastic strap holders from the S5 and rings) is how sturdy it feels - it’s rigid and rock solid. It feels great to handle with both the camera grip or better still with the cage’s hand-strap. This offers you more support and is strong enough to carry holding it in one hand. Simply, tighten the hand-strap to fit like a glove! The other thing I noted was how easy it was to get access to all the camera controls, buttons, and to open up the battery compartment underneath when you need to switch batteries. There’s no obstruction and you DON’T have to unscrew the cage at any time.
Along the top of the cage is an integrated Z-Rail (NATO style) for mounting an optional top handle – the Tactical Handle - or other accessories such as a monitor-recorder, plus, there’s a plethora of ¼" 20 mounting holes on the top and left side for anything else you’d like to add. Indeed, if you get the Tactical handle you can switch it from the top integrated Z-Rail to its left-side Z-Rail to make handling of the camera between handle and grip even easier. The top rail is great for doing low down shots or simply to carry the camera around too. On the left hand side they’ve even added a rosette connector for EVFs or small monitors using Zacuto’s optional Axis evf mounts.
I can mount the Atomos Ninja V to the cage’s top Z-Rail using Zacuto’s optional mini Z-Rail and Z-Rail Ball Mount (aka The Zarn) so I can record Apple Pro Res HQ & or Apple Pro Res Raw out from the S5 microHDMI. With the cage you get a microHDMI to Full Size HDMI adapter / right angled strain relief which locks down beautifully deterring any accidental pull-outs and rock solid HDMI cable connection. Behind the Z-Rail and monitor I mount my Panasonic Lumix XLR-1 Audio adapter and there’s enough room for it to fit snugly into place. If you get the recommended Tactical Handle you’ll notice it also has an extended Z-Rail integrated along the top so you could mount monitor or other accessories there. On the top right of the cage is a cold shoe adapter for you to mount microphones or a lavaliere receiver. Plus, there’s strap holders molded into the cage if you like to use them.
Underneath it’s just as neatly designed. They have included 2 ¼" 20 threads and a 3/8" 16 thread for a tripod plate. And an integrated Arca Swiss compatible plate to attach to an optional Arca Swiss quick release mounting base or Zacuto's own ACT Mounting plate. And that’s fab if you’re committed to Zacuto’s eco system like I am as I already have these. With the Lumix S5’s excellent stabilization especially with Panasonic’s own powered lenses you can easily get away without using a gimbal - scenarios such as street / guerrilla filmmaking - and the Zacuto is a real pleasure to hold and maintain stability as you move around. The cage and hand-grip on the right provides perfect weighting.
Of course, when it comes to holding a camera for a long time, and getting the right camera angle for eye height – perfect for film, moving documentary, interviews etc… you can’t beat having a shoulder rig. Shoulder rigs keep the action smooth – there’s nothing like distracting your film audience with camera shake. When I’m making films there are many scenes where the director wants to give the audience a more intimate viewpoint and movement around characters. When it comes down to being serious about your filmmaking you’re going to need a shoulder rig. Zacuto’s ACT Recoil Rigs for the Lumix S5 are rather special and you can buy a caged Recoil rig or the cageless option. The Caged ACT Recoil kit comprises of the S5 Cage, the Tactical handle for top-side/leftside mounting, a padded ACT Baseplate with a camera plate to attach to the cage and integrated 15mm rod supports - front and back, a right-hand side trigger grip with 360 rotational movement (which is very comfortable with its wooden handgrip) and, a free ACT EVF Pro together with a Axis Micro to support the EVF attached to the Tactical Handle.
To build it is easy – the cage simply screws onto the Recoil Rig’s ACT Baseplate with a provided camera plate and lock it down. There’s a rear locking lever and pin to keep the camera from falling off. Its strong, sturdy and tight! There’s an optional extra I recommend you get for the Recoil rig - an ACT Mounting Plate so you can ‘quick release’ the cage from the shoulder ACT Baseplate – saving you having to slide off the camera and cage. The optional ACT mounting system is just wonderful. It allows me to snap on a shoulder rig - and if you get two of them - attach one to a tripod so you can quick release the whole S5 Recoil Rig from the Tripod’s mount. Using a shoulder rig will mean the camera’s integrated eyepiece will not be accessible while on shoulder - so you need an external EVF and the free ACT EVF Pro –a 3.5” LED back-lit eye piece with a HDMI input and HDMI loop-thru which works a treat. Its a 800x480 resolution EVF which can support up to 1920 x 1080 60p. Its good enough to use from the Atomos monitor which can downscale its output to the EVF’s FHD display – which is ample resolution to get great exposure and functionality whilst its on the shoulder.
The whole Recoil Rig feels really comfortable on my shoulder. The weight distribution is excellent especially if you are using V-Lock batteries like I do attached to rear rails on the back of the ACT Baseplate – it keeps the rig balanced on the shoulder and you can film for hours in comfort. Most importantly, the imagery looks great – nice and steady when you’re filming character scenes at eye height and you feel much more confident that you can move around while maintaining the shot.
Well I have to say I’m very happy with the Panasonic Lumix S5 Cage and the complete Recoil Rig kit. It’s well designed, strong, quick to rig and I can switch between shoulder and tripod on set, which adds much more fluid control to my filmmaking. The Zacuto Recoil Rig and cage for the Panasonic Lumix S5 gets my seal of approval! View my complete review HERE.