The O-Series

The OConnor name connotes quality gear, albeit high-end and high-cost, normally supporting large, heavy camera systems where innovation is paramount and cost is relative, thus justified. Drawing on this pedigree, OConnor is a welcome player in the exploding competitive DSLR and midsized digital cinema camera accessory playing field—but do the form factors and prices scale effectively? As components have trickled in this past year, they have been quickly snapped up, including the O-Grips and O-Box WM. New to the lineup are the Universal Camera Baseplate, the highly anticipated O-Focus DM and Vitec Group family member Anton/Bauer’s Matrix Cheese Plate, rounding out a near-complete support rig.

Renowned for camera support systems including tripods and fluid heads, OConnor has made the next step with the O-Series video support accessories and filmmaking gear. O-Grips, the highly modular handgrip solution, are single-handle ball joints with a high load capacity of more than 40 pounds. The O-Box WM mattebox, Universal Camera Baseplate and O-Focus DM follow-focus unit for still photography and cine-style lenses are a few of the other compatible support rig options available.

O-Grips, the unique multitool handgrip system, stands out among the new OConnor offerings ($1,600 list). A modular, sturdy design unlocks extensive configuration options, making them my favorite O-series tools, and one of my picks for this year’s most innovative cinema developments. With a few twists and an occasional Allen wrench, subtle or dramatic position adjustment from the traditional handgrip to straight out, up and everything in between is possible. I tried single-jointed, with a half sphere of stepless articulation, while the double-jointed version extends articulation to a complete sphere, adding many more support options, including infinitely stackable configurations by adding modules. After my first test shoot, fears gave way to glee. The ease with which I made micro and macro adjustments, increasing my flexibility and creativity, was significant, always settling as a very solid anchor once locked. Designed not only with the DSLR in mind, O-Grips are very stout, with a single-handle, ball-joint, 44-pound payload capacity. Beyond handgrips, the modular design with articulating ends makes them the strongest articulating arm for hardware mounting to be found with 3⁄8-threaded ends (one female end, one male end). Connect O-Grips together or to any standard 3⁄8-mounting point (though not tool-less; they require a 5mm Allen wrench). My favorite is underslung—add a monitor to an end if desired. The versatile O-Grips rod bridge is the only one I’m aware of supporting the three industry-standard rod spacings—studio 19mm, studio 15mm and lightweight support (LWS) 15mm.

The O-Box WM is a two-stage mattebox for the 16:9 full-format sensor, allowing 18mm lenses (and wider, in cases) accepting 4×4 and 4×5.65 filters, one with 360º rotation, with a third 138mm round filter in the bellows. The studio 19mm, studio 15mm and LWS 15mm rods and clamp-on attachment are also supported. Priced competitively at $1,400 ($1,100 street), accessories include a unique top-mounted “cheese bar” (for mounting a monitor, etc.), side flags, retaining brackets, a bottom bracket and flag, universal mask set and step-down rings to 80mm. Saving the best feature for last, O-Grips complement the O-Box with side and bottom (pistol grip) mounting points, made possible thanks to OConnor’s nearly unbreakable, yet lightweight proprietary composite material.

The O-Focus DM is a direct-drive-gear, compact, double-sided follow focus with cine specs optimized for still photo lenses increasingly used in today’s cinema, while not excluding cine lenses. A 15mm LWS bridge is included (15mm/19mm studio rod bridge optional), and though nearly one-quarter the price, the DM borrows many CFF-1 ($4,500) features. Adapting to the still photo lens, a toothless friction wheel eliminates cumbersome toothed gear lens rings, simplifying lens changing, now a painless procedure—a slide of the dovetail support does the trick. Simple, yet elegant, DM operation is smooth and solid. Further accommodating still lenses, the O-Focus DM has a gear ratio of 1:0.75, the lowest available for short-throw still lenses, which means that each 360º rotation of the handwheel translates to a 270º drive-gear rotation. Hard stops on the handwheel compensate for the still lens’ endless rotation, giving accurate feedback of focus position, especially useful for the solo shooter and focus puller alike.