Modding FS7’s Handgrip

I didn’t like being limited by the FS7’s handgrip arm so I decided to rip off the arm and try something different. Minor surgery ahead!

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One of the reasons I love my Sony FS7 Mark II is the fact that, other than a media card, it shipped with everything in the box I needed in a camera kit. I love that the supplied LCD came with both a collapsible shade and a loupe which effectively turns it into an EVF, and a LANC smart handgrip with extending arm, and a few other things. But, there’s always room for improvement.

What I don’t love so much about the handgrip is that it’s not intended to be removed from the arm. Attached to the body via the arm’s Arri rosette, I can only position the handgrip so close or so far away from the body, and even at it’s closest, I still wind up jabbing the handgrip into a mattebox. I also can not angle the arm positive when extended forward which means the handgrip will always be in the negative and cause the entire rig to roll to port when sitting it on a flat surface. It can never rest flush with a flat surface with the handgrip/arm assembly attached.

The handgrip is intended to be positioned about chest-level in shoulder-mount mode, but I find that method of operating uncomfortable and unresponsive. I am not a human tripod…even though sometimes I have to be. Because the handgrip is affixed to the arm, my options are limited. I don’t like that. I need to be able to position the handgrip wherever I want.

After a bit of research I discovered that I wasn’t the only FS7 owner/operator who felt the same way. We love the handgrip, but hate being stuck with the arm. Thankfully, there are a few solutions. The one I settled on is from Chinese third-party manufacturer of camera accessories, SmallRig. Their “Handgrip Rosette Adapter for Sony PXW-FS7/FS7II 1887” kit converts the base of the connection between the handgrip and the arm into an Arri rosette so you can mount it anywhere, including directly to the body of the FS7.

Assembly is straight forward. First, I needed to remove the handgrip from the arm by gently removing the four hex screws from the assembly. They’re glued in so you have to make sure you don’t break the head off or strip them. Thankfully, the process went without issue.

Next, I needed to align the first part of the adapter assembly to the two locking pins and attach it with either the four replacement screws or the OEM ones. I decided to use SmallRig’s.

After the first part of the assembly was affixed, I then needed to attach the final part containing the thumb screw via the two larger hex screws.

Now I needed something to attach the handgrip to. I had considered this when ordering the parts and thought the SmallRig 15mm Dual Rod Clamp with Rosette would work well.

Wanting to continue to keep the spirit of a low camera profile, I wanted the ability to operate the FS7 either with it’s built-in shoulder pad, or on a VCT-14 shoulder pad, but without having to disassemble anything. With this in mind, I also purchased a SmallRig Camera Base Plate with Rod Rail Clamp for Sony FS7, and Manfrotto 501-style dovetail.

I attached the base plate to the bottom of the FS7.

Then attached the dovetail using the provided 1/4″-20 screw, and an additional one I had laying around. I made sure to keep the aft parts flush with each other so they don’t potentially dig into my shoulder if positioned underneath the shoulder pad.

I was pretty happy with both assemblies and decided to keep building out my rig to see how it all fit together.

It’s a very tight setup. I really like being able to position the handgrip wherever I want, and in tandem with a left-hand grip for extra support. I found this method much easier to support various front-heavy lens weights as I can extend the handgrip wherever I need it to accommodate whatever the situation. The best part is the handgrip can be positioned right at the mattebox which is where I like to put my hands to be able to kinetically operate the camera as organically as possible while shoulder-mounted.

Sure, I could have just used any handgrip, but the ability to have the Sony smart handgrip is huge for being able to have LANC control over the camera and certain lenses. Why buy an expensive new LANC handgrip controller when I can just slightly mod the one that came with the camera and save a lot of money? In the end, the entire endeavor cost about $155, shipped (free shipping with Amazon Prime). I order everything on Tuesday, and it all arrived today except for the 6″ rods which arrive Monday. I can’t wait to try out the new equipment on my next shoot.

What do you think of my modding exercise? Have you tried modding your FS7 handgrip? What are your experiences with modding your FS7? I want to know in the comments below!

By Jason R. Johnston

Jason is an award-winning cinematographer, and director of commercials, branding films, native content, music videos, documentaries, and narrative films. As a full-time freelancer, he can be hired to DP or direct almost any project you have in mind. He is based in Sparta, Tennessee, and ready to travel for any gig.

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