Posted by mcbob on 7th Nov 2016

SmallRig FS5 Kit for Sony FS5

I recently had the chance to acquire and try out SmallRig's new FS5 accessory kit over a busy two weeks of corporate and documentary shoots - figured I'd post a few thoughts on its utility and value.

The kit includes four key elements: the FS5 baseplate, a pair of FS5 top plates, a replacement metal LCD mount spud, and an extended replacement LANC cable for the handgrip. Like other SmallRig many things its main differentiator is being small in price and relatively small in size... but not small in robustness. The last thing I'd want to do with an FS5 is throw metric dollars in rig paraphernalia at it to eventually make it higher in price, equal in size, and less capable than an FS7. SmallRig seems like a natural choice. I tend to use a lot of their stuff, so this may read like an advertisement for their gear... semi-apologies on that, but hey, their parts work.

The two most welcomed accessories are the LANC cable and top cheese plates. My previous solutions to lengthen the super-short stock cable involved wildly oversized male-female extenders that tended to be habitually unkempt. The coiled SmallRig cable outright replaces the stock Sony cable, and is long yet neat enough to stay on the camera at all times. Nothing need be plugged or unplugged now when fitting the handgrip to the camera, moving to a shoulder rig handle, or mounting to my Letus Helix Jr. Big +1. I actually bought a second, just in case... never want to be without this part again.

The two small cheese plates solve the cramped, borderline unusable location and questionable depth of the top 1/4”-20 accessory mounting thread holes on the FS5 body. Simple accessories and cold shoes can now be securely mounted without removing the stock audio handle. The plates are relatively small and light with 1/4”-20 and 3/8”-16 thread holes on four sides to offer plenty of configuration choices. In my case, the top addition was a low-mounted cold shoe to hold a wireless receiver further back on the camera in both handheld/stick (with the top handle) and gimbal use (where I typically remove the top handle). Another huge +1.

The metal LCD mount isn't the most necessary accessory unless you've managed to break the stock plastic part - which is quite likely over its time of ownership if you're a risky and borderline clumsy user like I am. One alternate use is accommodating my tendency to use the LCD in front and back positions - front/side for handheld use, and rear for operating on sticks in a more "studio" configuration. It's helpful to now have both mount spuds fitted to the camera, making the position change a simple matter of moving the LCD alone. A small thing that I might do without, but very happy to have it nonetheless - +1.

This brings us to the FS5 baseplate, the most substantial and unfortunately disappointing part of the kit. This isn't to say it's horrible... it isn't. It is an exceptionally sturdy and useable baseplate with a few caveats. The build quality is extremely good, but I do have some minor quibbles with its flexibility.

Its a very chunky unit that mounts securely to the bottom of the camera. It places a smooth set of 15mm rod mounts at perfect elevation for the camera. However, due to the placement of the pass-through plate mounting screws on the forward part of the camera, the mounting holes for your quick release on the baseplate are over halfway towards the back. This leads to a tendency to tip forward with my usual shorter-sized Manfrotto plates. Fortunately you can work around this by using the 501PL long style QR plate, letting the forward half of that plate extend flush with the front of the SmallRig baseplate.

The baseplate adds two ARRI-style rosettes for accessory mounting, ideal for handle relocation. These work, but not seamlessly. The M6 threaded holes are very deep-set, and some accessories do not have mounting bolts long enough to thread confidently on to the baseplate - and half to single turn, at best, and disengages completely when trying to reposition the arm. Replacing these bolts solves this issue at minor additional cost. Additionally, making the rosettes integral to the baseplate means that the handles cannot be moved forward to improve balance with lens changes. This can be solved with changing out handle arm lengths, but is a bit more clumsy.

Lastly, the baseplate is very sturdy, but that sturdiness comes with noticeable weight; it adds nearly a pound/500g to the weight of the camera. That sort of weight works against the primary strengths of the FS5 system. A few ounces/grams could likely be shaved off with some time at the drill press adding "speed holes" throughout the less structurally vital areas.

Make no mistake, the kit baseplate would serve very well. If I had no baseplate, it would be an excellent ready solution. For my own needs and what I already have laying around, an old SmallRig low profile base plate combined with a Manfrotto QR clamp and a short rod-mounted rosette cross bar work with a bit less weight and a bit more flexibility... at least until I can figure out a more elegant solution to make batter use of the new FS5 baseplate. +1/2 for this part.

In all, for under $200, this kit solves a lot of little quibbles with the useability and flexibility of this camera, with solid build and good value. At 3.5 out of 4 stars, it's a good option to consider.