Berkey System GH2 GHx Cage designed by TVPG Labs

If you’ve been reading this blog for any time at all, you know that I shoot on Panasonic Lumix GH2 cameras.  The GH2 is an unparalleled video tool in it’s price range, but it does come with some compromises.  The main one is it’s plasticy body and small form factor.  Sure, the small form factor can be a bonus if you’re shooting something that requires you to be discrete, but when compared to other professional options out there, those who use the GH2 professionally end up with a bit of a wish list on how to make the camera handle better.

The first thing I noticed, is that there is only one mounting hole on the bottom of the camera, so when I use the GH2 with a follow focus and on a standard video plate, the pressure from the follow focus, causes the camera to rotate and in effect loosen itself from the plate.  Because of the direction of the threads and the standard use of a follow focus with your left hand, it quickly becomes a problem.

If you get that problem sorted you soon realize that the follow focus causes the camera to rock when you adjust focus due to the up and down pressure on the lens and the camera body’s less than rigid plastic build.  So what is a guy or girl to do?

rewo cageA while back I purchased a Rewo Cage for my first GH2 camera. I’ll be giving my complete thoughts on the Rewo cage soon in an upcoming review.  Let me just say that the Rewo cage was the best option for GH2 shooters up until now.  One bummer for me was that it wasn’t easy to get the camera in and out of the cage.

I use my cameras for both video and stills, and the GH2 in the Rewo cage is an awesome video production tool, but it kind of kills it’s stealthiness and definitely makes it harder to use for photography.  I began longing for a cage that would allow me to quickly  and easily remove the camera, while still providing all the benefits of the Rewo cage when in video production mode.

Zacuto Zwiss CageI looked at products from lots of different manufacturers, but no body had anything like what I wanted.  Some came close, but then fell down in crucial areas.  I liked the Zacuto Zwiss Cage, but it was much too big, at close to a foot wide it would dwarf my little GH2..  And Zacuto has never picked up on the needs of GH2 shooters.  Their baseplate offers nothing to prevent rotation and worse still, it blocks the battery door.  And a cage that doesn’t lock into the hot shoe of the camera would be useless for us GH2 shooters anyway….hello again awful rocking…

Sunwayfoto Generic Arca Plate for GH2Over time with a lot of research and experimentation, it became obvious that the only way I could hope to keep the camera from rotating was to use an Arca Swiss styled plate that was either designed specifically for the GH2, or one that has a small lip across one side that can be fitted against the front of the body to prevent rotation of the camera on the plate.  Once that puzzle had been solved, the search was on for the perfect Arca Swiss Clamp.

Redrock Micro Arca ClampIt wasn’t easy to find a good match.  First I considered the Redrock Micro offering, but it was obviously designed for canon cameras.  The lip of the front of the clamp was bigger than my lumix pancake lenses.  I needed something small… miniturized just like my GH2.  The problem that I was having is that everything I was seeing online was showing up at my door much bigger than it looked in pictures!  I decided to just order the smallest clamp I could find and see if that would work.

ReallyRightStuff Arca Clamp for GH2When I got that last order in from ReallyRightStuff, I was delighted to see that the clamp that looked so tiny on the website, was actually exactly the same width as the Arca Swill plate that I had mounted to my GH2.  A perfect match!

Now all I had to do was match it to the perfect baseplate.  A long baseplate designed for a traditional video camera was not an option.  I wanted a baseplate to match the form factor of the GH2.  I wanted to be able to get my follow focus as close as possible to use it with even the shortest of lenses.  After a lot of research I found  I placed my order for Mini Baseplate Assembly, because the Mikro Baseplate Assembly looked too small (I’m a slow learner).

Berkey Mini BaseplateI was hopeful that the notch in the bottom of the ReallyRightStuff Arca Clamp would fit right into the groove sliced into the top of the Mini Baseplate.  When it arrived, I was disappointed to find that the notch was just a smidge too big for the groove and that the baseplate itself was too big for the Arca Clamp.

I called up the number on the website, and Brian Berkey picked up the phone.  I went though my process with him and asked if he thought that the  Micro Baseplate would be a better match.  After comparing some measurements, I was delighted to find out that the Mikro Baseplate and the ReallyRightStuff Arca clamp practically share the same dimensions.  Berkey Micro BaseplateI was even more excited when Brian said that he thought he could create a wide enough grove for the notch on the bottom of the Arca Clamp and secure it so that it would be impossible for it to rotate.  Needless to say, Brian and I hit it off!

And since I was having such a lucky day, I decided to go ahead and share my idea with Brian about my dream GH2 cage.  I had been looking over the Berkey System components and had become convinced that the cage that I wanted was just waiting to be assembled from Berkey System components.  The only thing Brian hadn’t made yet was the top plate!

I guess my enthusiasm for the project was contagious because Brian said he would consider making one if I would send him over a drawing of exactly what I wanted, which of course I promptly did.

So as I write this, I feel like the luckiest guy in the world because even though it took several weeks, and a couple of revisions, I now have in my hand my dream GH2 cage.  It checks all of my following boxes:Berkey System GH2 GHx Cage Designed By TVPG Labs

1. Camera secured at both mounting screw and hotshoe to prevent flex and rocking when using a follow focus.

2. Ability to quickly and easily remove the camera from the cage. It would be ideal to incorporate a Arca Swiss clamp inside the cage which would also solve my next wish:

3. Absolutely no camera twisting! I hate camera twisting!

4. Easy access to all camera controls, ports, battery door, etc while camera is mounted in the cage.

5. All holes should be spaced to the ARRI and RED standard to allow use of professional quality accessories.

6. Either a built in rail block or an upgradable rail block that would mount the cage at the correct height above the rails and prevent the camera and the cage from rotating on the rail block. Have I mentioned I hate camera rotation?

7. A cage that will allow me to upgrade my camera without having to buy a new cage.Berkey System GH2 GHx Cage Designed By TVPG Labs

So maybe you’re wondering how you could get your hands on a handsome new cage like mine and how much it costs???

First let me say that this cage makes the camera work in the way that it is supposed to work, and then it just gets out of the way.  That is awesome, but it’s really just a minimum standard.  Two of the most compelling things about this cage is that you can upgrade your camera, and still use it in the same cage (it’s future proof….as long as they don’t go making future cameras a lot bigger), and it is modular.  You don’t have to save up and buy everything all at once.  You can start out with the base plate and the Arca Plate and Clamp which will prevent the camera from rotating and provide a base to which you can add on to as you have more money.  Having pointed out that it can be flexible in that way, I now have to tell you that I won’t be so flexible for the early adopters.Berkey System GH2 GHx Cage Designed By TVPG Labs

The cage as you see it in these pictures is made up of $650.00 worth of components from Berkey System.  That includes the top plate that will eventually be priced about $165.00.  But the plate I have was hand made.  And in order to be able to produce these in a way that makes economic sense, it would need to be CAD rendered and CNC’d. Because of those up front production costs, Brian think’s he would need to sell 20 complete cages in order for it to be a profitable venture.  And remember there’s also some third party parts that make this cage work: the ReallyRightStuff Arca Clamp ($60.00) and a Cam Caddie cold shoe adapter ($20.00) and the Sunwayfoto Arca Plate ($24.00). So if this is going to happen, 20 people are going to have to be willing to shell out $754.00. Brian Berkey wants to gauge interest. So what do you think?

Just in case you’re wondering, I’m not making any money on this project. I’m super stoked to have the exact cage that I wanted. If the GH2 community shares my enthusiasm and this gets off the ground, that would be awesome, because I will probably end up wanting another cage for a third camera soon.

FYI, I’ll be doing a video soon to show off the cage’s features!

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Ford Hot Rod at Merchatville Car Show 2011 shot with Panasonic Lumix GH2 and the Lumix 7-14mmMerchantville Car Show Shot with Panasonic Lumix GH2 and 14-140mmIt was July 2011 and I had just purchased my awesome Lumix 7-14mm superwide zoom with constant f/4 aperture.  For interior shots, it’s an amazing lens that can really expand a small space, but shooting small spaces can only be so much fun.  I wanted to get out of the house and put my new tool through its paces.

I decided to grab my daughters and head up to the local car show, The Merchantville Car Show, which happens to be one of the best and largest in the South Jersey area.  It was a blistering hot July day with lots of chrome and eye candy.  A perfect playground for my GH2 and my new lens.

I started out with the 7-14mm mounted to my GH2 and had a blast experimenting with composition.  I couldn’t believe that by placing the camera just inches from the center of the car, I could get the majority of the front clip of the car in the frame!  Wow, this lens is wide!  The great thing about this lens is that it is rectilinear, meaning it’s not a fisheye.  So there’s some distortion especially on the edges of the frame, but with careful framing it won’t distract from the subject of the photo.

After about an hour and a half I decided to switch over to the 14-140mm kit lens to get some sniper shots of the crowd and cars at a distance.  If you watch the slideshow below of all the shots from that day, the point where I switched lenses is very obvious.  It was a great day and a lot of fun.

2011 Merchantville Car Show TrophiesDo you have either of these lenses?  I’d love to read your impressions of them in the comments!  What are your favorite outdoor events to shoot?  I can’t wait to read your thoughts!


First of all, I’d like to thank Will Hutchinson of Micromuff for providing a complimentary Micromuff Skinny for me to review for the GH2 shooters’ community. See my disclosure policy here.  The Micromuff Skinny is a small deadcat that attaches directly to the onboard microphones on top of the GH2 body.  It arrived tidily packaged in a small round cardboard box which made a nice impression.  But would it do the job?

I wanted to review the Micromuff Skinny deadcat because not too long ago I ended up needing to reshoot part of a job because of some really bad wind noise on my B Cam (a GH2).  For local businesses I offer a lot of different packages to match different budgets, but my premium packages include two cameras (GH2′s) so that the final product isn’t just a long running static shot.  I find this particularly helpful for talking head types of interviews.

Before I got my second GH2, I used to just conduct an interview, move the camera and repeat the interview.  This works if you don’t have any other options, but it can really wear on your talent and it easily doubles the amount of time the project takes to edit.  With a two camera set up, I have one GH2 locked off, while I man the other.  Footage is easily synched in post using Plural Eyes.  Easily I say, unless you’ve been shooting outside and your audio is mostly incoherent rumbling wind noise.  Plural Eyes uses the audio tracks of both sets of footage to make a multiclip.  This process only works if both sets of audio are mostly clear.  In my case I was using a lav mic with wind protection on my talent with the wireless receiver running into my A Cam and relying on the built in microphone of my B Cam, which turned out to be a mistake.  What’s that old saying?  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  A tiny onboard deadcat custom made for my GH2?  Let’s try it out!

So you can tell from the above review that the Micromuff Skinny Deadcat is definitely effective at reducing wind noise.  It’s also obvious that it doesn’t magically eliminate it.  It does however do a good enough job to allow Plural Eyes to work it’s magic and create a multiclip of multiple camera footage.  I wouldn’t count on it to achieve perfect results capturing audio on your primary camera.  You need a professional audio solution.  The Micromuff Skinny Deadcat, at least in it’s current form is a very capable way of insuring that your audio will sync when you’re using the built in microphones on your GH2 as a second camera.  Nothing more, nothing less.  The product retails for 12.95 pounds in Britain, which converts to just a little over $20.00 here in the USA.  It’s definitely affordable when you consider the cost and inconvenience of having to reshoot spoiled footage and the cost of outfitting your second camera with a mostly unnecessary professional audio solution.

I think that Will might actually be able to improve the design of this product by changing it to have the deadcat material partially fold under the unit so that the fur would naturally extend around the microphones as well as above them.  This would probably block any wind that might be sneaking through the velcro connection that holds the Micromuff Skinny Deadcat to its mounting place.  I’m pretty sure that’s where the remaining wind noise is coming from.  That velcro joint is just openly exposed because of the placement of the microphones on the top of the GH2, while it’s not exposed on canon cameras that have the microphone on the front of the body.

For another real world review of the Micromuff Skinny, check out Jesse Brauning’s review here.

What are your thoughts about this product?  Would you buy it?  Are you using another method to control wind noise?  Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!








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in Uncategorized