Shooting Video with the SHAPE Sony a7S Kit
The Sony a7S is an impressive little camera that combines a full-frame sensor, 4K HDMI output, and unparalleled low-light performance. Add S-Log2 gamma support, internal X-AVC S recording, and a versatile Sony E-mount to the mix and you have a camera that is ready for professional video production... well, almost ready, that is. Before the camera can appear on set, it needs to be outfitted for the job. This means building a support system around the camera to help protect it, enhance its usability, and accommodate standard filmmaking accessories. To make this process as painless as possible, Canadian manufacturer SHAPE has built a kit specifically designed to get the a7S up and running
At its core, the SHAPE a7S Kit is a 15mm LWS rod support system that consists of a cage, baseplate, top handle, and a pair of 10-inch-long rods. In addition to these essential components, SHAPE has also included a follow focus and a two-stage 4 x 4" matte box. In doing so, SHAPE has created a kit that readies your a7S for professional video production. Let's now take a closer look at each component of the kit, starting with the cage.
Rather than contouring around the camera like some other cages, SHAPE's Sony a7S Cage takes a more streamlined approach with a flat top plate and elegantly curved side arms. The effect is both aesthetically pleasing and practical. The cage is constructed from CNC-machined aluminum for durability, and has 1/4"-20 threaded holes on the top and sides for attaching optional accessories, such as an articulating arm to support an external monitor/recorder. Two cold-shoe mounts are also provided on top of the cage to accommodate additional accessories, including the supplied Black Liquorice Candy DSLR Handle. The top handle provides a convenient way to carry the rig on set, and features an ergonomic rigged design, 1/4"-20 and 3/8"-16 accessory threads, and can be rotated to allow for forward, backward, and sideways orientation.
Black Liquorice Candy DSLR Handle
With the camera secured inside the cage—using a 1/4"-20 screw—you still have access to all rear camera controls, including the Record button, as well as all connectors on the sides of the camera. The curved side arm design even provides the room needed to use the cable protector included with the camera. If you need access to controls on top of the camera, the top right section of the cage—which has one of the cold-shoe mounts—is removable. The cage also maintains access to the battery compartment door for easy battery changes, and the camera's Multi Interface Shoe is a boon if you want to use shoe-mounted accessories like Sony's XLR-K2M or XLR-K1M XLR adapters.
As part of the kit, a Delta Adapter Plate is provided, which is a V-lock-compatible adapter that attaches to the bottom of the cage to enable quick-release mounting on an included Sony a7S Baseplate. In addition to a quick-release, V-lock mounting interface, the baseplate also provides support for 15mm LWS rods. With the cage mounted on the baseplate, the lens will be centered between the rods and positioned at the appropriate height for use with a matte box. 1/4"-20 and 3/8"-16 mounting holes on the underside of the baseplate are available for tripod mounting or attaching a quick-release tripod plate. Included with the baseplate is a pair of 10-inch-long 15mm rods, which are used to support the kit's follow focus and matte box, as well as other rod-mounted accessories.
Sony a7S Baseplate
The included follow focus features a quick-release clamp, which allows you to attach and adjust its position easily and also remove it without having to first remove any rod-mounted accessories in front of it. It is horizontally adjustable to adjust to lenses of varying widths and comes with a standard 0.8 pitch drive gear and a friction wheel gear. The 0.8 pitch gear is used with cine-style lenses that feature built-in 0.8 pitch gearing or other lenses that have gear rings attached. The friction wheel comes into play when you're using lenses that don't have built-in gears on the focus ring, such as DSLR lenses. Rather than interlocking teeth, the friction wheel uses—as the name suggests—friction between the wheel's rubber outer surface and the focus ring on your lens to drive focus.
Sony a7S follow focus
The follow focus can be positioned on the left (operator's) or right (dumb) side of the camera and the drive gear/friction wheel can be attached on either side of the gear box. A removable white marking disc made of Delrin thermoplastic allows you to mark focus points using non-permanent or dry-erase markers. Additionally, the follow focus features a slide-adjustable aluminum marker that can be moved and tightened into position along the disc.
The final piece of the a7S Kit is the MATT44 2-Stage 4 x 4" Matte Box, which provides a means to prevent glare on your lens and to use standard 4 x 4" filters. The matte box attaches to the kit's 15mm rods and features a swing-away design that enables easier lens changes without having to remove the matte box from the rods. Knobs on the side of the matte allow you to adjust the height to properly align with you lens. Both of the matte box's 4 x 4" filter stages rotate, with two filter trays included. Also included are top and side flags for blocking light from striking your lens, and a set of matte box rings (donuts) to prevent light leaks. The rear opening of the matte box is 100mm, with donut sizes of 90, 82, 72, and 66mm included. To accommodate lenses of different diameters, a fabric ring (nun's knickers) is provided that features elastic bands to fit around the front of your lens. It can also serve as a sort of bellows to prevent light leaks when using lenses that change length while focus or zooming.
With the Sony a7S Kit, SHAPE offers a ready-made kit that outfits the a7S for serious production work. It provides added protection for the camera, threaded holes for mounting accessories, and 15mm LWS support rods. Swap out the included 10" rods for longer ones and you’re ready to add an optional SHAPE Composite shoulder pad and SHAPE Quick Handle + Rod Block for shoulder-mounted shooting. For increased comfort, you can also add the Telescopic Arm Support + Rod Block and to distribute the weight of your rig, the SHAPE Belt. Whether you’re a current or prospective owner of an a7S, this kit from SHAPE is definitely an option to consider if, like many, you plan to take advantage of the professional video capabilities of the camera for your next production.