Building the Ultimate Handheld Camera Rig in 2019

I love shooting handheld and so does Caleb Pike from DSLR Video Shooter! Sometimes it just feels good to hold a small camera or to have a real run-and-gun mentality.

It can also be cost-effective to shoot with smaller cameras and rig them up to get the features you need. That being said, let’s find out all about Caleb’s custom handheld rig… spoiler alert, it’s really, really nice.

Starting with a small camera is a no brainer when putting together this kind of rig, it is really what it is all about. Building rigs around DSLR style cameras was all the rage a few years ago but they were mostly about compensating for the inherent flaws of shooting with stills format cameras.

Along came the Canon EOS lines, the FS7’s and the likes, cameras that could give the kind of image a DSLR could, and they brought with them connectivity, ND filters, professional sound input and monitoring and better ergonomics. Suddenly the ‘franken-rigs’ looked a bit clunky and honestly, silly.

Now, we are seeing a renewed popularity of rig building. Is this due to the bigger cameras settling into a higher price bracket or perhaps some of the incredible advances in the stills format cameras and external recorders? Whatever the reason, building a rig around a stills format camera seems kind of cool again.

Fuji XT3

Fuji XT3

Before proceeding further, here are all the accessories you’ll need to put together this setup from scratch:

  • FUJIFILM X-T3 Mirrorless Digital Camera (B&H, Amazon)
  • Atomos Shinobi 5.2″ 4K HDMI Monitor (B&H, Amazon)
  • SmallRig Cage for Fujifilm X-T3 Camera with Battery Grip (B&H, Amazon)
  • SmallRig Quick Release NATO Rail (1.6) (B&H, Amazon)
  • NICEYRIG Camera NATO Top Cheese Handle Grip (Amazon)
  • SmallRig DSLR Monitor Holder with NATO Clamp (B&H, Amazon)
  • Kessler Crane Kwik Short Camera Plate (B&H, Amazon)
  • Harwerrel Aluminium 50mm Quick Release Plate (Amazon)
  • SmallRig Baseplate with 15mm rod clamp for camera rig (Amazon)
  • NP Battery Adapter (Amazon)
  • Blind Spot Gear Power Junkie (B&H, Amazon)
  • SmallHD Micro-HDMI Male to HDMI Type-A Male Cable (B&H)
  • SMALLRIG 11 inch Adjustable Power Articulating Magic Arm (B&H, Amazon)

This rig is built around a Fuji XT3, a very nice camera loved for its colour science and usability. The lens is not detailed in the video but lots of options are available native and via adapters.

The principle of this rig is to give the essential features that allow for a distinct handheld feel and style. Gimbals are wildly popular but do have a look about them that some find too ‘floaty’, fair enough. Is it more cinematic to have a real handheld shot? Perhaps it is one of the many factors that go into creating that cinematic image. 

Rig Cage

Rig Cage

Adding a rig to a small camera inevitably increases the weight and some will see this as a problem, while some consider it as a way to even out the micro movements, the jitters, that are common with handheld shooting with small cameras. IBIS-type systems and lens stabilisation can help, but adding weight might be the best way to calm those jitters. 

This rig adds handles, side and top, a battery solution, a monitor on an articulated arm and bases it all on a cage a rail design. It is a flexible set-up that can be adapted to a number of different situations and styles of shooting.

Core Rig

Core Rig

The monitor is the Atomos Shinobi, but this kind of setup would be equally at home with an external recorder. The power setup is really clever running everything from one battery.

It is a common complaint with DSLR rigs that you end up with multiple batteries to worry about, the camera, the monitor, the external audio recorder… it gets confusing. So running everything from one battery is great.

Battery plate

Battery plate

There are still cables running around this setup but the cable tidies really help. Everything seems to fit together really comfortably and looks quite lightweight in the video.

There is still a need for ND filters and the audio recording and monitoring may not be ideal but this rig comes in at a great price, around a cool camera. Something a bit different.

[source: DSLR Video Shooter]

Claim your copy of DAVINCI RESOLVE 15 - SIMPLIFIED COURSE with 50% off! Get Instant Access!