In the last few months, the name Portkeys has popped up more than a couple of times in our newsfeed. There’s a reason for that: it seems that the company knows what it’s doing. That does not mean that their products are perfect and don’t have any flaws. It’s more about what they do and how they’re made.
It seems the Porkeys’ team has been thinking outside the box, trying to innovate some areas (gear-wise) that were getting stale. Like, for instance, monitors. Or handles. How could you innovate a handle? That’s a reasonable question, and the answer will be given by filmmaker Arber Baqaj who will guide us while discovering Portkeys’ latest product: the Keygrip.
The concept is quite simple. The Keygrip is a handle. But why would you want to spend all that money on a handle? How can you improve such an add-on? Let’s take a step back. The diffusion of DSLRs, mirrorless and small cameras has been a godsend for all of those indie filmmakers that can now enter a field that was virtually impossible to get in a few years ago.
But getting these cameras small and cheap has a hidden cost: camera makers have to cut some corners and compromise somewhere. Usually, it’s ergonomics. These small cameras do not have handles and buttons as a shoulder cam used to have. Did you ever use an ENG camera? A solo camera operator can change any setting with a single hand while shooting. That is not the case anymore.
Now, if you’d like to get back some of that ease of use while creating a rig to shoulder mount your camera, the Keygrip could be the right solution.
In this case, we’re seeing Arber using it with the Pocket 4K, but keep in mind that one of the great qualities of this grip is that it’s compatible with a vast number of cameras on the market, from RED to Z Cam going through Canon and Panasonic, albeit not with all the same functions across the board, so check on the Portkeys website if your specific camera is on the list.
Other than that, the grip is solid, made mainly of aluminum with wooden accents. It’s hefty and feels good while holding. The small LCD conveys the essential pieces of information to the user while setting the system. While shooting it’s not necessary, so don’t worry about the small size.
You can connect it to the camera of choice through USB, Bluetooth or LANC cable, depending on the system you are using. Together with the handle, you’ll get a comprehensive manual to learn how to operate it. The learning curve is a bit steep, but don’t worry, it’ll take a while in the beginning, but once mastered, you’ll be more than happy with the performance.
Furthermore, the handle works even with Tilta’s Nucleus series. That means that you’ll be able to pull focus even when shooting alone. Cool, right? Plus, if you’re worried about powering the whole set, fear no more. There’s a couple of standard 18650 lithium batteries, the same used by a lot of monitors and gimbals.
You can even feed power to your Nucleus if needed. It is an easy solution and it will last for hours. The last detail is the mounting dove. There’s an ARRI rosette, a quite common standard in rig design, but if your camera doesn’t have anything like that, there’s no need to get frustrated since there’s a bracket with a rosette mount in the box.
At this point, there’s one question left to be answered. How much will this accessory set you back? The answer is $399. Is it high? For a handle, yes. For an add-on able to communicate with that many cameras, that can get you going also if shooting solo, this offering has a lot of capabilities after all, right?
Not really, no. The real question is if you can take advantage of such a product. If you feel that you can incorporate it in your rig and your shooting habits could benefit in the long run, then go for it, it’s not an investment that’s going to break the bank after all.