Steadying my Aim – Completing my DIY Shoulder Rig

Yesterday I finally received my SmallRig 1622 Rubber Non-slip Handle Grip, travelling all the way from China since the beginning of April. My original purpose with this purchase through SmallRig’s ebay store was two-fold: 1. To use the rubber grip as an alternative to the alumium threaded SmallRig 1638 Top Handle, to fit the former to the latter’s cold shoe mount for more comfortable handheld camera work from low angles, and primarily 2. To mount the rubber grip to the SmallRig 1087 Long Lens Support, or properly speaking its 15mm Rod Clamp, to create a second grip for the left hand with my DIY shoulder rig based on the Krasnorosk-3 pistol grip and shoulder brace, and the POOLi™ D-BASE-2 Ø 15 x 60mm rods system. My main inspiration for this is the rifle-like look of the K-3 assembly, which has let me to adopt the modern assault rifle configuration with a forward hand grip. Coming from a military background, this feels natural for me; if such a configuration may provide a steady hand for a sharpshooter, it’s reasonable to assume that it would provide for a steady hand for a film shooter as well.

Unboxing the SmallRig Rubber Grip

A week ago my patience with the long delivery ran out and I contacted the seller on ebay who told me three days ago there was some unexpected issues with the Chinese mail services, so they sent the item through FedEx, a trip from Shenzhen to Gothenburg which took no more than a couple of days, taking a route though FedEx offices in Germany, France and Denmark; impressive I must say. It was delivered to my doorstep in a large envelope which contained a small cardboard box, which in turn contained a large plastic bag with the rubber grip. The item was unscathed upon delivery. After a close inspection, the handle seems to be made from a aluminum frame, with the non-slid rubber grip glued unto the frame. Each end discloses the metal, one end sporting a 1/4″-20 female thread in the centre, surrounded by four M4 female threads, the other only having a plain aluminum end with no threads or anything of interest. Each end is circumscribe by a aluminum ring which is fastened with one M4 allen screw. I dissasembled the ring from the threaded end, hoping that it would reveal the metal with a diametre that would fit into the SmallRig cold shoe base that came with the SmallRig 1638 Top Handle, which is hollowed out to fit the all metal threaded 1638 grip; it would had if it wasn’t for two rubber flaps procruding from the non-slip rubber grip, glued to the salient circular threaded aluminum end. As I still haven’t given up on its utility as a top handle, I will have to do yet another DIY solution, such as buying elongated M4 screws that would fit into it, and some kind of plastic or rubber circular gasket with a thickness equal to the hollow of the cold shoe base, drilling four holes for the M4 screws.

Dissembling the SmallRig Non-Slid Rubber Grip

But I can put it to immediate use as a forward grip, using the SmallRig 1795 1/4″ Fixing Screw with D-Ring (that I purchased towards the end of March) to attach the grip to the SmallRig 1087 Rod Clamp. I tried it out, assembling the SmallRig 1638 Top Handle Cold Shoe Base to the POOLiCAGE, mounting it to the POOLi™ D-BASE-2, attaching the Ø 15mm rods. Then I mounted the newly modified Krasnogorsk-3 pistol grip to the D-BASE-2 3/8″ female thread, attaching the telescopic shoulder brace to the pistol grip, using its 3/8″ screw (with attached hand strap), extending the stock to its fullest extension. I removed the actual adjustable lens support piece from the SmallRig rod clamp, which made it possible for me to thread the SmallRig 1/4″ Fixing Screw with D-Ring, first through the top portion 1/4″-20 female thread, after which I could press it down for it to procrude out from the 3/8″ female thread at the bottom of the rod clamp. I then screwed the 1/4″-20 female thread of the rubber grip onto the fixing screw, and fixed it tightly so that it wouldn’t unscrew unvoluntarily. I then mounted the rod clamp with attached rubber grip to the Ø 15 x 60mm rails. Next, the mounting of the LOMO OKS 3-10-1 10mm f/2.1 prime lens, using the proper RafCamera Kinor-16SX-2 to MFT adapter. But first I attached the Zenit lens hood from my Meteor 5-1 (sporting a 77mm thread) to the 62mm thread of the OKS 3-10-1, using a Haida 62-77mm Step Up Ring that I purchased from Kamda.se approximately one month ago. I had to adjust the forward extension of the rails, putting a battery to the camera (which is done without hinderence from the rig) and turning it on, applying the 2.39:1 frame guide because of the heavy vignetting of the lens; I pulled the rails back until they (and the the D-ring of the fixing screw) dissapeared from the view finder screen.

Assembling the Handheld Rig, using the newly aquired step up ring with the lens hood and forward grip

My initial impression of the fully assembled rig is that it feels really firm in my hold, using both of my hands. It feels natural and comfortable. I haven’t taken any actual shots so I cannot judge the stabilising factor and practical value of the “assault rifle” configuration, but clearly it must do a better job compared to my first experiences last year shooting Lux ex Tenebris, using the simple Manfrotto 3/8″ female to 1/4″ male adapter between the Krasnogorsk-3 grip and Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera bottom 1/4″-20 mounting thread. The backelite pistol grip and shoulder brace combo sits quite firmly to the D-BASE-2, although there is some slight wiggle along the axis of the thread, necessitating me to firmly rescrew the 3/8″ male thread a couple of times when I did som “dry” practice with the handheld rig in my apartment; but it never detaches or unscrews itself entirely as it did previously, last November. Holding the rig with both hands on both grips, I didn’t notice any unwanted movement; it only happened when I did unnatural movements, placing the entire weight on the pistol grip, etc. With the top handle attached I can vary the position of the left hand, between the top handle and forward handle, always holding the rear pistol grip by my right hand, with the hand strap placed around my wrist for protection in the case that I would accidently drop the rig from both of my hands. The only item lacking on the hand held rig is the Petroff follow focus, which I received a couple of days ago; I have to work out a follow focus gear ring solution for the OKS 3-10-1, using a simple plastic solution glued onto the focus ring of the lens. That’s the next DIY project. Stay tuned!

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