Building a Sony a7S III Cinema Rig

Mirrorless gets a lot of love for its small form factor. It also presents a lot of problems. Video-oriented models made it an even bigger mess, as filmmakers were absolutely picking them up for their video capabilities and they aren’t designed to handle the various tools and accessories that creators use. Still, you can’t deny the image quality and price makes it worth it.

Among the newest mirrorless cameras to make a big splash is, obviously, the Sony a7S III. It managed to keep the same basic mirrorless form factor, so for a true production you’ll likely want to start building up a cinema rig. Robert Machado from Machado Visuals shows how he configured an a7S III to handle a production environment.

Admitting that it is unlikely this setup will be often used, Machado did point out that a production environment is a potential use case for many a7S III’s.

He also talks about how a majority of the items selected are from Wooden Camera, which generally offers excellent products but at high prices. SmallRig is a great alternative.

At the core of nearly every mirrorless/DSLR rig is a cage. The Unified Cage is a good place to start and has some nice features. The handle can fold down for storage and can flip sides so you can arrange accessories as you want.

Machado appreciates support for ARRI-style dovetails which helps with balancing the rig. You’ll also want some 15mm rods.

Using Tokina Cinema Vista Prime Lenses with a Canon EF mount, Machado prefers the Metabones adapter. Mounted to the front of that lens is the Wooden Camera UMB-1 Universal Matte Box.

He upgraded with more stacked filters so he could use a combination of cosmetic and NDs. For lens control he uses the Teradek RT Follow Focus System. He uses an arm to get the lens motor in place while the controller is mounted to the top of the cage. All this weighs a bit so a lens support is almost necessary.

Powering the rig is a Teradek Dual Gold Mount Battery Plate plus a dummy battery for the camera. Machado says Gold mount is generally more common on professional sets as opposed to V mount so recommends it here.

This dual plate also has a mounting bracket for a Teradek transmitter which functions as a pass-through plate. Then he adds a C-Box to take the a7S III’s HDMI output and convert it over to SDI since SDI is a much better cable. 

For monitoring, Machado opts to use the SmallHD 503, a bright on-camera monitor that is easily mounted to the rig. Being able to adjust the cage allows the use of the XLR-K3M XLR Adapter on the camera. This means you can get your pro XLR mics on the rig.

Machado does get into the potential dual ISO of the camera. He doesn’t buy it and I’ve talked to some Sony reps about this and confirmed this. The base ISO is 640 in S-Log3, and there is a “high-sensitivity” mode at ISO 12800.

There is some extra degree of noise reduction in this setting, but it isn’t a true dual native ISO, so there is no guarantee that the a7S III will deliver the same dynamic range as the true base ISO.

Including the camera, all this equipment adds up to over $10,000. That’s a lot. You could practically buy an FX9 for that much. It’s possible, but you don’t need to do everything here. Maybe only a couple of things can get you on your way. Or if you do want to go for it with your a7S III it is absolutely possible.

Are you going to completely outfit your a7S III in a cinema rig?

[source: Robert Machado]

Order Links:

  • Sony Alpha a7S III Mirrorless Camera (B&H, Amazon)
  • Wooden Camera Base Unified Accessory Kit for Sony a7/a9 (B&H, Amazon)
  • Bright Tangerine Drumstix 15mm Sterling Titanium Support Rods (B&H, Amazon)
  • Wooden Camera Safety Dovetail Plate (B&H, Amazon)
  • Metabones Canon EF/EF-S to Sony E 5th Generation Adapter (B&H, Amazon)
  • Tokina 50mm T1.5 Cinema Vista Prime Lens (B&H)
  • Wooden Camera UMB-1 Universal Matte Box (B&H, Amazon)
  • Teradek RT Wireless Lens Control Kit (B&H)
  • Bright Tangerine Morrissey 15mm LWS Lens Support (B&H)
  • Teradek Dual Gold Mount Battery Plate (B&H)
  • Wooden Camera C-Box 3G-SDI and HDMI Converter (B&H)
  • Sony XLR-K3M XLR Adapter (B&H)
  • SmallHD 503 UltraBright On-Camera Monitor (B&H)

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