Kevin Luiz of Capion Studio reviews the latest cage from rising South Korean brand Motion9, designed for the Panasonic GH4.
Motion9 On The Rise
Camera cages are a dime a dozen in today's market. Every once in awhile, however, a company will emerge with a pleasant surprise. In enters Motion9, a South Korean company offering quality cages at competitive pricing. Until now, I never really had a need for a camera cage, but as my shooting style evolved, a cage seemed to become a bottom line necessity. There are a few questions that arise as your kit expands at an accelerated rate. You might find yourself asking some of these questions. Is a cage right for my workflow? What is the cage's build quality and functionality? Lastly, how does the product stack up against the competition? Lets dive in!
Workflow: Should You Cage The Beast?
When is the right time to cage your camera and why should you bother? This question stems from your workflow on set. You might find yourself operating solely on sticks and have a great support system to hold all of your accessories. A cage might appear to be added weight when fitted in this mode. However, a camera on sticks can benefit greatly from Motion9's rugged frame and handle. The GH4's Cube Cage transfers this weight evenly, distributing it down through the frame to your rig's base plate.
Now lets get something clear: you have to have a solid base plate and rods to pull this stunt off, but the cage allows you to actually pick up your entire rig on sticks and move it throughout your set, without ever having to grab the unit from the legs. Having this option substantially enhances your mobility. Let's say you are standing on a stage and your camera is down below. With the Cube Cage, you can literally extend your grip to the handle and pick the entire rig off the floor without having to jump off the stage. The unit is truly that strong!
Rigging without a tripod requires accessible grip points if you want a functional shoulder mounted unit. As mentioned previously, Motion9's build allows for even weight distribution so that you can grip your rig from the handle. The cage's handle works great for transferring the unit to different positions and angles, as well as transportation.
Lightweight rigging is probably the number one reason to go with a cage. Your main need might be to add some accessories directly onto the camera's body without having an elaborate rod system. Magic arms, matte boxes, plates and other mounting accessories might feel like a ball and chain when your shooting style requires dexterity. The GH4's Cube Cage offers sixty-seven 1/4 inch screw points throughout the frame, allowing you to bolt on just about anything from a monitor to audio equipment. This will allow you to sling the equipment you need in a compact, handheld form.
Lastly, cages will protect your camera body (to an extent). If something so horrible as a camera drop were ever to occur, depending on the way the camera was to hit a surface, the cage protects roughly eighty percent of the GH4's buttons. The camera's main handgrip and lens, however, is another subject entirely.
Form & Function: Just Shy Of Perfection
The GH4 Cube Cage is not only functional, but aesthetically pleasing as well. The cage is offered in two tones of color, standard black and gunmetal gray. Panasonic isn't particularly well known for crafting cameras with subtle curves and sleek designs, so the cage enhances the body, transforming it into a burly tank. The Cube Cage sports a stylish handle and even a plate to cover your Lumix logo that you can engrave. It's truly something to behold in your hands with just enough weight to feel solid, but light enough to be nimble.
The Cube Cage with the HDMI accessory weighs in at 424 grams and without the accessory weighs a mere 347 grams (15 and 12oz respectively if you need a translation). To me, holding the camera in its cage sort of feel like my hands are wrapped around a medium format body. The cage widens your grip and places your left palm just under the HDMI port to form a dual-handed wield.
In terms of access, you can rest easy knowing that all of your buttons are accessible and nothing is blocked. You will have full access to the battery door and all of your knobs have plenty of breathing room to slide your fingers to and fro. For mounting lenses with adapters such as Metabones, you will have to remove the adapters foot so it does not conflict with the cage's base. One pitfall of the cage's design is the cut of the aluminum on the right backside is a little chunky. This will cause the precision of your thumb on the camera's wheel to take a slight hit, but nothing that can't be worked through. I've been shooting with this cage now for a good month and a half and my muscle memory is starting to adapt to compensate for the design.
A large selling point of the Cube Cage's functionality is perhaps the detachable HDMI protector. This clamp allows you to fully pin down your cable without the worry of HDMI wobble or damaging the camera's port. The option is nice and doubles as a left-handed grip, but you might want to consider removing it if you intend on shooting with the built-in display. While the unit is attached to the cage, the screen can swing out, yet it is unable to articulate the full one hundred and eighty degrees. This is something to keep in mind, but if you are utilizing this accessory, it's safe to say that you will have an additional monitor attached for swiveling.
Comparison & Conclusion: A New Brand Name
There's no questioning it, Motion9's form and function has a striking resemblance to more established cage manufacturers. Their build quality is definitely on par to the likes of Movcam, Tilta and Wooden Camera. I've put my hands on just about every cage out there at last year's NAB and I can say Motion9 is really carving out a space for themselves. Motion9 has also reflected on style and offers a cage that really contours to the body of the GH4. Other brands such as Varavon, Honu or Kamerar offer functional units for the money, but their forms could take note from some of the bigger dogs.
Speaking of money, the GH4 Cube Cage runs on their website between $305 to $595, depending on your selection. This puts you into the higher end territory of cages, but you really get what you pay for. You can opt to purchase the cage itself or buy the unit with the additional rod riser and battery system. Alternatively, if you are a bargain shopper like myself, a quick ebay or google search might yield even lower prices.
In conclusion, if you are in the market for a new cage, you can take my word that Motion9 has crafted a real piece of beauty with it's Cube Cage line. As with anything, products are never perfect, but this particular unit, in my eyes, is just shy of a 5 star rating. So the next time you're at a tech show and Motion9 is there, definitely swing by and check out its line of products - you might just be surprised at what you see. Based on my experience the Motion9 Cube Cage for the Panasonic GH4, we may have a new brand name on the rise!
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
• Solid Build Quality
• Even Weight Distribution
• 80% Coverage for Button Protection
• Sixty Seven 1/4 inch Mounting Points!!!
• Large Contoured Handle Grip
• Widens Your Two Handed Grip To A Less Cramped Form
• Attachable HDMI Clamp Accessory
• Sleek Design
• Two Tones of Colors
• Engraving Plate Over Lumix Logo
• Right Hand Chunky Thumb Wheel Cut Out; Hinders Finger Accuracy
• Must Remove Metabones Lens Adapter Foot To Fit On Cage
• Transformer Sound Effect Plays When You Place The Camera In The Cage
Check out the short video below courtesy of Motion9 which further explains the features of the GH4 Cube Cage!