At A Glance: Zacuto DSLR Recoil Rig

An entire industry has erupted around making video-capable DSLRs more capable for video. The diminutive cameras are ideal for shooting from small areas, but are absolutely uncomfortable for handholding during long takes, as well as difficult to use for fluid camera movements. Zacuto’s DSLR Recoil kit is designed as a shoulder-mount support system that places the weight of the camera and any attached accessories on your shoulder while freeing your hands for camera movements and focus-racking. The DSLR Recoil also allows you to customize the rig for comfort and add accessories like the Zacuto Axis Mount for an adjustable EVF solution. Zacuto offers several EVF models, as well, and while the EVF and Axis Mount are optional, they’re more or less necessary for this kit unless you’re using a monitor because there’s no way to look through the camera while it rests on your shoulder. The Axis Mount also requires an additional purchase of the Half Cage or Z-Rail supports to attach it to the system.

The QR Shoulder Pad places the majority of the weight of the shooting setup on your shoulder without the need for extra counterbalance to the rear. This short profile is useful for shooting from corners or tight spaces, and the EVF or monitor and any accessories are also positioned in front of you so you can maneuver and monitor the system without needing to look through the camera. The Erector set-like construction of the Zacuto system definitely takes some practice, and even with the instructions, I had to watch Zacuto’s online video tutorials to see exactly how it all fit together. But once you’re used to the Recoil and attachments, it’s very fast to make adjustments and balance. Thumbnail clasps are included at each point of articulation on the setup, including a really nice sliding dovetail plate on the shoulder mount, which allows you to fine-tune the camera’s position for best comfort. Flipping this same switch all the way through to the end makes it a quick release for setting the camera and baseplate on a tripod or support with minimal fuss.

You can control the included Zacuto Z-Drive follow-focus unit via the Zacuto Tornado grip, which also acts as a left-hand support. The Z-Drive follow-focus unit on the Recoil is unique for this type of rig, as it moves control over the follow-focus gears from an uncomfortable position right next to the camera and lens to the Tornado grip. This extends ergonomically with an angled, swiveling design with a free rotating dial that serves as a follow-focus unit at fingertip length. The Z-Drive follow focus and marking disc is positioned at a 60º angle from the camera, and the Tornado grip "horn" rotates independently of the follow focus for making adjustments without removing your hand from the support, or conversely, affecting focus. (Because of the curve, the Z-Drive isn’t compatible with matte boxes.) In effect, this setup allows you to use a DSLR without even touching it, especially when used with the optional Okii MC1 wired USB remote for Canon DSLRs. The Okii MC1 remote can be secured to the right-side support, the Zgrip Z-Mount Zwivel handgrip, which has a ballhead-like articulating joint for versatile support and maneuverability.

With industry-standard 15mm rods, the DSLR Recoil’s modular design allows any number of Zacuto accessories to be added for a system that can be tailor-made to your shooting style. Adding the optional QR Handle ($220) to the top gives you a way to carry the system while providing low-to-the-ground handheld or tracking shots. The QR Handle can be used with RED SCARLET and EPIC cameras. The Mini DSLR Baseplate with Gorilla Plate V2 is compatible with Zacuto’s Tripod Adapter Plate and other quick-release plates, as well as Kessler and Really Right Stuff equipment. The baseplate is also the main difference between the DSLR Recoil system and other Recoil kits—the Sony F5/F55 Tornado Recoil ($1,950) and UB3 Recoil ($2,000) for larger cameras like the Canon EOS C100/C300/C500, as well as RED models. Each component is also available separately for building your kit piecemeal, so you can upgrade to the other kits through the purchase of the Sony F5/F55 Baseplate ($450) or Universal Baseplate V3 ($560) with 12-inch rods for flat-bottom video cameras.

Overall, the kit takes a bit of learning, but it’s a comprehensive system with a number of options available.

List Price: Begins at $675 (EVF Snap); $1,695 (DSLR Recoil); $565 (Axis EVF Mount); $250 (Okii MC1 USB Mini-Controller); $215 (Tripod Adapter Plate); $390 (Half Cage); Begins at $28 (Z-Rail).

Contact: Zacuto,