Made in Russia – Considering the POOLiCAGE for the BMPCC

I already knew when puchasing the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera that I eventually would need to invest in a protective metal cage which also provided for a full rigging of the camera, with rods, batteries, mics, etc. In my search I have considered the CAME-TV, the Tilta ES-T13 and the CamTree Hunt (a carbon copy of the Tilta). With the exception of the CamTree Hunt, the CAME-TV and Tilta are produced in China (the CamTree Hunt is manufactured in India). Of these three, the CAME-TV and CamTree Hunt are in the same price range, approximately $200, whereas the Tilta (which reputedly has the best build quality of these three models) costs approximately $300, which is a bit pricey for me. They all come with the cage, handle (on top), baseplate / adapter for 15 cm rods and a clamp for the Micro HDMI connection (which has to be protected as it easily breaks). I have heard reports that makes me worried concerning the CameTree Hunt and its build quality, such as having to modify it yourself to make it fit properly and scratches to the camera (although there also exists good reviews of it online). The CAME-TV seems to be solidly constructed but also lacks the wooden grip which I prefer out of comfort, especially as it gets really cold in Sweden. But recently I stumbled upon this Russian brand called POOLi, which specializes in manifacturing various cages, baseplates, rigs and other accessories for video cameras.

The POOLiCAGE and attached handle
The POOLiCAGE “full” and attached top handle (not in scale)

The designer and producer of the POOLiCAGE is the Russian citizen Andrew Kramar, who has made the following statement in Google English on-line (I have taken the liberty to make some lingual corrections to the text to make it comprehendable):

Hello everyone, my name is Andrew Kramar. Today, let’s talk about my development of the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera cage POOLiCAGE, primarily intended for clamping cables. Additional devices that are used with the camera, such as an external monitor or additional power, are also available. It includes a 1/4 inch thread for optional accessories and baseplate for tripod. With the POOLiCAGE we have lots of free space that does not create obstacles for tripod mounting, or for the lens or lens adapter. The CAGE may be used either individually or as an addition to a RIG. Cable clamps create a secure fix of the cables and are rigidly fixed to the CAGE by means of screws that protect against inflection. Watch this review of the CAGE for the BMPCC.

It seems that Andrew Kramar is a one man factory and design company. He seems to be using high quality CNC machining techniques and obviously knows what he does, although he probably keeps his “factory” in his garage or basement. But I do not have any problems with that at all, if that is the case, as I highly value craftmanshipbmpcc-in-a-poolicage and small scale manufacture rather than large factories with minimum waged and poorly motivated workers with no unions and inhumane working conditions (such as in China or India). At least one skilled guy may maintain high manufacture quality and quality control. Kramar seems to have started off with a simple version of the POOLiCAGE which resembles the Wooden Camera BMPCC cage somewhat (see image to the right), and a rugged shoulder rig. He has made a large collection of various products during the last few years, including cages for the BMCC and BMMCC, and Panasonic and Sony DSLR’s, continuously evolving each product. He maintains the Russian web shop Pooli.ru as well as the community POOLiTM on VKontakte (VK), the Russian equivalent of Facebook and the second largest social network in the world. It seems he only manufactures each item at the time on pre-order. Kramar has released a YouTube video of the manufacturing process of the later advanced and larger model of the POOLiCAGE, which shows his craftmanship and reveals a Western built CNC machine (its computer uses English).

The POOLiCAGE is very cheap comperad to the other brands and models mentioned above. The bigger and full version of the POOLiCAGE costs 11.200 Russian Rubles (RUB), which is the equivalent of 1.680 Swedish Kronor (SEK) and approximately $190, including duralumin top handle (with a oak wooden grip), baseplate / adapter for rods, and a pair of 300 mm long 15 mm aluminum rods. This really seems to be a bang for the buck. Living in Sweden, it’s very easy for me to order products from Russia cost effectively, and I have had quite good experience of other manufacturers, such as RafCamera. I also enjoy Russian / Soviet manufacture philosophy (ruggedness andpoolicage-handles endurance) and appreciate their lenses and cameras (Super 8 and 16 mm). The POOLiCAGE seems to be living up to its Russian tradition of manufacture philosophy and credo, as it seems to be very solid and heavy, as well as simple and rugged. All POOLiCAGE models are made from the Russian D16T aluminum alloy coated in a anodising black lacquer. In its design and functionality, the heavy model seems to be a fusion between the Tilta ES-T13 and the CAME-TV; it uses a cable clamp system of screws taken from the latter, which I actually prefer as it provides secure fixation of all connections, not just the Micro HDMI (as with the Tilta), and is easier (and quicker) to handle. The finish doesn’t seem to be particularily well considered (as judged from the pictures when magnifying the image) but there is no reason to doubt the functionality. The cage seems to be modular and assembled with screws, which means that it can be dissasembled if needed. What I like is the baseplate that the cage may be delivered with, in particular the model called S-BASE-2, which seems to be very versatile in its applications and much more advanced than those provided with the CAME-TV or Tilta / CamTree, as seen in the pictures below.

The POOLi S-BASE-2 baseplate
The POOLi S-BASE-2 baseplate (not in scale)

What I also like with the POOLi S-BASE-2 base plate is that it is high enough (80 mm) to allow the battery lid of the BMPCC to open fully while being mounted, and that it has a 3/8 inch thread mount on its bottom, which would make it easier for me to attach the Krasnogorsk-3 pistol grip (which has a 3/8″ screw) to the rig. There is also the smaller and less versatile (and 1100 RUB or 165 SEK or $20 cheaper) version of the baseplate, the D-BASE-2 (see image below right), but as it is only 35 mm in height I doubt that it will suffice to open up the BMPCC battery lid fully and unobstructed, at least without anpooli-d-base-2 additional quick release base plate (which is an option of course). The full version of the POOLiCAGE seems to have more mounting points (1/4 inch threads) c0mpared to the Tilta / CamTree and CAME-TV. It resembles the ViewFactor Contineo BMPCC cage in this regard, including its small wooden grip which seems to be attached to the cage in the same manners as ViewFactor’s. Although it could be removable (as it is fastened by screws), judging by the manufacturing video (which displays all parts of the cage in their raw form, see 3:07) removing the wooden grip don’t provide you with even more mounting points. But on the right side of the cage, on one version the mounting threads seems to reflect the pattern of the ViewFactor cage, including four 3/8 inch threads. The greatest differene between the POOLiCAGE and the other brands and models mentioned, is that all the others are CNC machined into one solid piece, whereas the POOLiCAGE is built up from parts that are assembled with screws. I guess this may pose some problems with rough handling, that they may unscrew eventually; one has to check the screws with the provided allen key (the cage is delivered in parts, judging from pictures from the VK community and videos). But I don’t doubt its build quality and fit, as comments on the VK community has been overwhelming, that it’s easy to assemble, that the camera fits well into the cage, that the quality is high, etc. So Kramar’s customers seem to be very satisfied with the product.

The POOLiCAGE delivered in parts safely and secured in its beautiful package (picture grabbed from VK)
The POOLiCAGE delivered in parts safely and secured in its beautiful package (picture grabbed from VK)

This larger, more advanced and wholly emcompassing version of the POOLiCAGE seems to have been in production since at least July 2015. But there is also the original POOLiCAGE, from which the larger one has been developed, which seems to have been produced since February 2014. It is a smaller camera cage that only encompasses half ot the BMPCC body, more resembling the Wooden Camera cage but thicker and somewhat heavier than the latter. Both models of the POOLiCAGE seems to use the same thickness to its aluminium parts, but as there is less metal overall to the older modelpoolicage-battery-lid cage, it shurely must be lighter. The POOLiCAGE “light” basically retains the cable clamp screw system with the possibility to add the handle on top, and like its big brother, is fastened to the camera through its top and bottom 1/4 inch screw mounts, but leaving the camera body grip bare. So it is less versatile compared to the later model, with fewer mounting points, but also compact and neat. It weights 155 g without and 255 g with the simple top handle, or 272 g with the wooden handle. This version of the POOLiCAGE is also cheaper and would lower the total price by 3000 Russian Rubles (RUB) or 450 SEK (approximately $50). The only thing that concerns me with the full POOLiCAGE model is how well it allows the battery lid to open up, especially when combined with the POOLi S-BASE-2 baseplate; with the lighter version, that lid is clearly free. Something else that could be a benefit from the simpler model is that it should be more comfortable to press the buttons on the back of the BMPCC. However, it doesn’t protect my camera as well as does the heavier and larger version of the POOLiCAGE, and the price difference isn’t that important. It seems that you get more for your money with sticking to the later and developed model of the POOLiCAGE.

The POOLiCAGE light with simple handle
The POOLiCAGE “light” with simple handle attached to the top (not in scale)

But there is also to consider a simpler all metal version of the top handle, without the wooden grip, which would further lower the price 500 Russian Rubles (RUB) or 80 SEK (approximately $9) which is a negletible difference; the only reason not to buy the wooden grip handle (which fits both versions of the POOLiCAGE) is that the simpler version of the handle seems to have more mounting points at the side. Right now I have a hard time deciding which model of the POOLiCAGE or top handle to buy; I have more or less decided to buy either of them. To be honest, the full and heavy version of the POOLiCAGE is quite “ugly”, although it’s at the same time aestetically appealing because of it Russian tank construction ruggedness. The light version of the POOLiCAGE seems more attractive, not only for its design with its rounded corners and less aggressive and obstrusive nature, but also because it reveals more of the actual Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera which in itself is a good looking camera; the full cage would hide the Blackmagic aestetics. Also, I have come to love the ergonomics of the BMPCC integral grip. It’s not a money issue for me actually, but a question of deciding if I either want a more discrete look which retains some of the small form factor of the camera (without the need to remove the camera from the cage) and easier access to the camera controls, battery and SD card, or if I want more protection and need more mounting points. To be honest, all of those extra mounting points on the heavy version will probably never come to any use; the light version seems to have enough 1/4″ threads for my needs, such as mounting a mice and monitor to the camera. Also, the chassis of the BMPCC is as solid as the cage itself, being made of a magnesium alloy. To preserve good enough mounting points with the POOLiCAGE light, the simpler version of the top handle (with more 1/4″ mounting threads) is probably the best match to compensate for that lack.

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