Sony FS7 on DJI Ronin-M? Yes, you can!
Looking online about this setup did not give you much detail so I decided to get a try and succeed to balance and use such setup. Please find below my detailed explanation. This is not in the DJI Ronin-M specifications, but if you have a setup already balanced before turning on the motors, it will work as only a little energy is needed to fight the movements.
First, my assignment was for the Auto Show at Shanghai 2017 where we should quickly go for few stabilizes motion shot, to more details and static shot on tripod. I wanted to get a very simple way to switch from one to another without the need of any tools; the camera chosen by my client, Renault innovation was a Sony FS7.
I successfully tested the full size DJI Ronin with a Sony FS7 before, but the size of the gimbal and its weight is a killer if you don’t have a way to support it with an Easyrig backpack or similar. This is heavy and not practical in a fair environment. With the smaller Ronin-M, you can get inside cars and keep shooting for way longer time.
The first question was to pick up the right lens. I assume that only wide shot will be done this way and so pick up the great Sony SEL1018 10 to 18mm crop sensor lens which is also a perfect match with the 18-110 Sony cine lens. It saves a lot of space in my bag and it cover an amazing range altogether. The SEL1018 is about 250 grams, and quite short, the lens do not extend, cover the equivalent of a 15 to 27mm full frame and is stabilized. It’s also not to expensive considering all of this. The maximum aperture is 4 (only) but it’s not a problem as I prefer to get more things in focus in a wide shot.
The second challenge was to get the camera body stripped at maximum and able to go back to a regular shoulder ENG in less than a minute without any tools.
To support me, the great Smallrig team offered me few items to get this working. I have put the item number and I strongly suggest you gave them your preference when trying to build the same rig.
I built my setup using their long NATO rail that I simply screw to the large 3/8″ hole after removing my camera handle.
The screws needed a small adaptor to fit a 1/2″; that’s the only trouble for now, but Smallrig is working on modifying this to let a NATO rail go on top of FS7 directly.
I also used their handgrip (#1963) with a locker on a rosette (#1272, #1255) to change orientation when going from gimbal to ENG style.
I put another small NATO rail (#1195) on top of their Ronin frame (#1704) so I can use the same handle on camera or on the Ronin. I use 2 others of their lockers (#1816) to hold the Sony screen and the second one for the camera hand-grip and remove the DJI’s one.
I just needed a 90 degree rosette adapter (#1592). I have to change also the locker on the Sony extension arm as I felt the screw was not getting in completely.
This is not perfect as one arm is a bit longer than the other, but it’s completely manageable. The operator can start stop the camera and have all recording information in front of him.
As you can see, the Sony preview monitor can be seen by the Ronin operator and put back very quickly with a simple NATO to 15mm rod (#1245).
The screen can be adjusted as it’s already designed. Her is side by side during the interview session.
As I owned the Sony FS7 Mk2, the square rods still fit a 15mm round shaped and still hold firmly, the older version is also compatible.
The third and last challenge was to balance it all. I order a copy of the Cinemilled.
I have to put the camera the very end of it.
I also have to extend the Ronin-M vertical 15mm (#1766). I did not need to get extra counterweight using a large SWIT battery.
The weight of it was enough to get it perfectly static even without powering the motor. These batteries are actually very nice as they are compatible with Sony, meaning that you can have the remaining time accurate on your screen; they also last about 500mn!
They do not get too much out of the camera body.
The final result is just fantastic, all fit in a bag, footage is great and both camera setups are possible without any large downside. (Ok, you can’t put it in briefcase or reverse mode).
Feel free to contact me if you need such setup for you next video project in China mainland or Hong Kong.