Rigging the FS700 - tips, tricks and a review of Lanparte's Pro rig V2 + many photos!
Time: 2017-03-29 15:46:54

Drazen bought a shoulder mount rig from lanparte. He put his sony FS700 on it. After that he write an article 
about it on    www.dvxuser.com


Disclaimer: I have absolutely no affiliation with none of the manufacturers mentioned in this text.

FS700 on a fully loaded Lanparte Pro rig V2 - this is not the included monitor!
After spending a lot of time figuring out how to rig the FS700, and finnaly making some progress, I decided it might be a good idea to share some of the experiences with others, especially since I had a hard time finding good information on some of the issues I had.

I guess you're probably expecting a wall of text here, so better get on with it! I did include a lot of photos to make the reading easier 

I spent first few weeks using FS700 butt naked – just the camera and a small magic arm with a Small HD DP6 on it. Very quickly I realized that the ergonomics of the camera were a total disaster. Using the hand grip to hold the camera in level with my eyes was uncomfortable and basically the only comfortable position was using the camera old Hasselblad style – handholding it below the camera body, rested upon your lower chest. This was ok for neutral handheld work, but not everything looks good when filmed from the waist height, so I dug through the office and pulled up some old rigs we used for the 5D. I cannibalized some of the parts, and made an impromptu simple rig, with really long rods both in front and in the back of the FS700, added an acient Chrosziel mattebox and a super cheap follow focus. I spent few more weeks shooting like this, mixing different components, lenses, boom mikes and so on, basically trying to figure out the best way to rig the camera.

The old rig with a Canon 300 f2.8 mounted through Metabones adapter. The rig could barely keep 
up with the weight of the lens - a lot of bending and squeeking was involved.

When I got the basic idea of what I wanted, I started digging on the internet to see what would be the best off the shelf rig that could be adapted to my needs. Somewhere among the hundreds of forum posts and reviews, a Chinese manufaturer called Lanparte caught my eye (I really have to check what's up with the name – it totally sounds like l33t speak for "LAN party" to me, if anyone remembers those...). After checking all of the reviews I could find (there's not that many, actually) I contacted the factory direcly, and found out that we could actually get their brand new Pro rig V2, that was just about to be presented on Amsterdam's IBC. We ordered the rig, with some changes and it was on it's way!

The included Pelican-style case in the background (slightly covered 
with PortraBrace bag, sorry). It has a handle and wheels.

A small digression – Lanparte's customer service is flawless. Compared to some of the western equipment manufacturers I have delt with in the past, these guys are great. All of my questions were answered in detail, I was offered multiple payment options and I never had to wait more then 12 hours to get an e-mail from them, informing me of everything I wanted to know. Also, I never, ever, ever got anything from China so fast. We placed the order on friday, payed on saturday and on tuesday the package was in Europe. Also, during all this time, I was frequently informed of the shipment status from the company itself. They really do care about their customers. 

The rig arrived in a Pelican-style case, with precut styrofoam and everything was neatly packed inside. The new shoulder mount was actually packed in Chinese daily newspaper and bubblewrap, which was not surprising considering these were not supposed to be shipped for a full month. 

A view of the C cage 

The rig comes fully equipped with pretty much everything you need to shoot, focus, hold, mount, monitor, control and power all of your gear. And it's built like a tank. Seriously, the level of precision and quality is just unbelievable. There is not a trace of that "flimsy stuff" that people often think of when they hear "made in China". Everything is just superb. Also, it's not cheap. Not in the sense of what you might expect from Chinese manufacturer, but this really isn't a shabby knock-off of famous brands. It's a well thought out, perfectly designed and innovative rig that totally has it's own merit. And even tough the price is almost half the cost of the camera, this thing totally left me in awe. Oh, and it's not light. I don't know the exact weight of the rig with the camera, but it's clear that this is not intended for run 'n gun workflow. It's a price to be payed for all the bells and whistles that are included – and there are MANY. 

The battery plate with the included battery

I'll start from the back of the rig and the super cool battery pinch. It's a battery plate with a V mount that has all the power outputs you could ever need, - USB, 5V, 7,4V, 12V – and they come doubled on both sides! The battery is included, and it's got a backlight LCD with some very nice features. Besides the power level bars, you're actually precisely informed of how much juice is left in percentage, and since the battery plate also serves as a charger for V mount batteries, in charging mode it tells you exactly how many hours and minutes it will take to charge up the battery (takes about 5 hours for a full charge). The pinch also sports a powered HDMI splitter, so you can feed the signal into more then one monitor. Included in the package is a plethora of spiral cables, several HDMI cabels, and a dummy batter to power Canon 5D / 7D. Unfortunately, the cable to power the FS700 isn't included, but that's hardly Lanparte's fault, considering Sony changes their power cabels all the time. More on how to solve that problem later... The battery plate has two 15 mm bar holes, so it can be easily mounted and unmounted. Oh, and the angle of the plate can be adjusted, so you can have it pointing down, standing up or whatever you want and it serves as a great counterweight! 

Besides the standard camera mounting plate (also has a V style lock on the bottom and camera is mounted on a Manfrotto style plate on the top), we also ordered the before mentioned new shoulder mount. The included mounting plate is a "through and through" type, meaning rods go all the way, and can be height and angle adjusted while building the rig, but they also included a knob on the side that you can use to fine tune the height even when the rig is fully assembeled. There's a bubble level right next to the locking mechanism, which by the way, also reeks of quality and precision. You'll notice I use those words a lot, but they simply best describe how good this stuff is. 

When we were ordering the rig, I knew that I will want to switch the standard mount with the new shoulder mount (this is what you are seeing on the photos) because I believe the FS700 simply wants to be on your shoulder. The shoulder mount is as tough as the rest of the rig. On both ends you can attach 15 mm rods, it has the same Manfrotto style plate and the padding is both contoured and very comfortable to have on your shoulder. It's not a "through and through" style, but that really doesn't matter, because once you tighten those rods, everything stays in place, even with a fully loaded rig. The 15 mm inputs on the shoulder mount can also be height adjusted.

The stability of the rig is greatly improved with their new C shape cage. The cage is now higher, enabling you to use even big cameras and the extra height sure comes in handy, since you can put the FS700 onto the rig without removing the Sony top handle. This is really cool, because if you want to quickly do some hand work, all you have to do is take the camera out and you're ready. The only thing that needs to be removed from the handle is the hot shoe mount. Another thing about the C cage, I mounted it both to front and back rods, used some longer rods to connect everything together and it works like a charm. The cage can also be easily opened on top by loosening two locking knobs, which is a godsend if you need to access the camera quickly. On top is a big handle, and if you have any doubts – it's very sturdy. 

The C cage can be opened up at all times, even with a lot of additional gear on top.

Also included in the package is a 7 inch LCD monitor. This is probably the weakest part of the rig, at least compared to my SmallHD DP6. The resolution is much lower, and out of the box it comes with a very bluish tone. It has basic RGB + brightness calibration, so you can actually get the picture to look ok. Honestly, it's not a bad monitor. The size is definitively a plus, it has some nice features like peaking, histogram, 1:1 mapping etc. and I like the built in shader, but I've been spoiled with the DP6 crisp resolution. That said, I wouldn't have a problem using it as a camera operator with a dedicated focus puller on DP6, or giving it to a client to check what I'm doing. For mounting the monitor, there's a big magic arm included, and compared to the crappy one I got from SmallHD, this one is super sturdy. It locks tight (I'm guessing it's the rosette type locking mechanism in the middle) and stays in place.

Ah, the follow focus - my favorite!

Moving along the rig, my favorite piece – the new follow focus with A/B hardstops. Ok, so if everything I talked about before was that good, this FF is beyond that. The quality, the attention to details, the smoothness, the size – it's all perfect. The unit is a quick release style, meaning you don't have to tear up the rig to set it up where you want, it simply clips on or off the rods after you loosen up one knob. Also, it can be used on either side of the camera, and the gear mechanism itself can be switched to front or to the back of the FF unit. All this basically means there's no way you're not going to be able to get the gears connected to the lens. We also got the new Lanparte's follof focus arm – a small gear extender that enables you to reach lenses even on bigger cameras, but it also makes changing lenses easier. I was worried that with the arm connected there would be some unwanted gear play, but I was wrong. There is absolutely no play at all. None. Zero. Zilch. You move the FF knob and the gears move the very instant. FF also sports a big, wide marking ring that you can use to mark your focus points. The ring connects magnetically and once you put it on, there's no way it's going to fall off. In case you do somehow break it, it's easily replaceable. We ordered the long FF whip, and just like everything else, it's also great. Included in the package was a "one size fits all" lens ring, but we got several more to make it faster to switch between lenses in the field. If you're in the market for a follow focus unit, I cannot praise this one enough. 

Lanparte also redesigned their front handles, and they're just as awesome as everything else. Instead of using ball joints, they used rosettes, so once you tighten them up, they're not moving a millimeter. The handles are also quick-release style, so you can pop them on or off anytime you want, without disturbing the rest of the gear mounted on the 15 mm bars.

The ingenious separate rod system for the mattebox enables you to fit the mattebox to any lens in a matter of seconds, without changing anything on the main 15 mm bars

Finally, at the front of the rig is the new mattebox. Compared to the old one, this has been improved upon in many ways. First of all, the main body is now carbon fiber, shaving of some precious weight, and the french flag and side doors now have double locking points. It has two filter holders, and convenient brackets enable you to use both 4x4 filters or 4x6. One filter can be rotated. You also get several different size soft lens brackets, to make sure there's no unwanted light getting in, and a rubberized cloth to pull over the front element. The mattebox is a swing-away type, so getting to the lens is really a matter of seconds. You can unlock the mattebox and open it to the side with one hand, but once it locks in, it stays in place. The best part tough is the new L bracket that holds the mattebox. It's a great design, because the L bracket has it's own, separate 15 mm rod system on the right side, and you can slide the mattebox along these rods. This basically means that the L bracket is always in one place on the main rods, while you adjust the mattebox position completely independently. After going nuts over the old Chrosziel mattebox, that had to be loosened and adjusted with every different lens, this system makes it so much simpler, faster and easier. One other convenient feature is the ability to adjust the height of the mattebox. You just need to loosen up two knobs and it slides up or down, for about 3 cm. Oh, and by the way, on Lanparte's site, there are only photos of the old mattebox, but you can see what I'm talking about on my photos hopefully. 

Ok, so as I'm sure you've concluded by now, I'm quite extatic about this rig. But it's really, really, really great. And considering everything you get, the price isn't really high at all. 


And now to some tips and tricks. First, on how to power the Sony FS700 off of V mount (or any other external battery). One option is to cut the included power adapter cable and use that. I didn't want to destroy the cable, so I tried to find a different solution. I did find a site that sells AB battery plate for FS700, and they also sell the bare cable separately – but it costs 70$! I'm no expert, but that just seems unreasonably high for a piece of wire with the plug on the end. Then I tried to find if there is a dummy battery, such as the FS100 has. Unfortunately, this does NOT work with FS700. After digging on the internet, I found out that FS700 uses same type of power cable as some cheaper Sony DSLR's. I did some research and found a 10$ charger on Ebay that has the exact same power plug as FS700. Look for AC-PW10AM! I have no idea if the charger itself will be strong enough to run the camera, but the power plug is the same, so I'll just chop up one of the included Lanparte cables and solder it onto the Sony power plug. 

Cheap and effective - moving the hand grip to front handles and using it simply as a start / stop trigger

Another big problem with mounting the FS700 to a shoulder rig is how to trigger the camera. I spent days online trying to find an appropriate LANC controller but I could not find one that would fit onto the front handles of LPT rig. Then I looked into the so called "rosette extender bars" – they're basically flat bars that connect to the camera on one side and accept the FS700 hand grip on the other. They're also amazingly expensive for a pice of metal with 2 rosettes – over 100$! After some thinking and examining the LPT's handle bars, I noticed they have two standard thread holes on the middle section and got an idea how to solve the problem. Using a very sturdy magic arm (I think it's Gitzo or Kirk) I had lying around the office and some mounting adapters I managed to mount the FS700 handle grip right to the front of the rig, and in such a position that when holding the Lanparte handles, my thumb ends up straight onto the record button. Since other buttons have no use to me anyway, reaching them is not a priority – the focus magnifier doesn't work on external monitors and SmallHD's DP6 has 1:1 mapping so it's better to use that if needed. Only thing I had to pay was the LANC cord extender. It was 6$ on Ebay. This solution works really well, the Sony grip stays firmly in place and the weight of the rig is on the LPT's handlebars. If you would try to carry the weight of the rig directly on the camera grip, you would definitively need something else. But for this setup, it works great. 

If only Sony would include a firmware update that would enable the REC button to also work for canceling the recording of the buffer when shooting super slow mo, instead of having to push Execute button on top of the camera, I would need nothing else. But, until that happens, I'll just have to use the start trigger and time my shots more carefully. 

In future I will probably grab some 15mm bars and turn this big rig into two smaller ones – one for tripod work and another for shoulder mounting. When I do that, I'll be back with more info!

If you lasted this far – thanks