The Movcam GH5 cage is just one of many available for Panasonic’s popular camera. Camera cages can be a little hit and miss, and it’s generally hard to find one that works well for everyone.
Movcam have over a decade’s experience building camera accessories, starting with their steadicam-style stabilisers which are still the company’s leading product in some markets. They have recently added wireless lens control (FIZ) systems and RED I/O modules, as well as partnering with Angenieux on their latest servo lenses.
Does this engineering experience and manufacturing know-how necessarily equate to a camera cage that positively augments the functionality of Panasonic’s versatile workhorse though? Let’s find out!
(Editor’s note – While Movcam is an advertiser, sponsor and long-term supporter of Newsshooter.com, our editorial is always independent of these relationships and all products are given an honest and fair evaluation.)
MOVCAM CAGE FEATURES
The Movcam cage is made of Al-Magnesium, which includes the handle and riser which are both included in the kit. This makes the cage durable and very light. I found the weight to be almost unnoticeable when mounted to the GH5 as compared to the naked camera, so I resolved to just leave it always on. It’s this lightweight which gives it a significant advantage compared to other available camera cages. If you like your cage to blend in with your camera body, the finish matches the GH5’s perfectly.
Unlike some of Movcam’s other camera cages (such as the version for the Sony a7S), the GH5 cage is a single piece that doesn’t need to be screwed together. The cage mounts with one ¼ 20 screw to the bottom of the GH5. The camera doesn’t twist in the cage because it’s designed with a lip that prevents the camera from twisting. It features several ¼ 20 taps all around it for mounting extra pieces of kit, but no ⅜ taps are available unfortunately. On the side you have two slots for an optional hand strap and both of the GH5’s strap rings are usable.
The media door is unobstructed and opens easily as well as the battery compartment and the camera inputs on the side. Access to the important function buttons on top of the GH5 is all pretty good, with only the video record button being a little tricky to press comfortably, but I use the main camera trigger most of the time anyway.
I found I could get to the buttons easily (with my average sized digits), and the GH5 has a lot going on in this section of the camera so that’s an accomplishment in itself!
If you use a Metabones adapter Movcam generously includes a small support bracket that is tucked away on the bottom of the cage. Unscrew it and mount it to the adapter for reduced lens twist.
The Movcam cage has a built in Arca-Swiss camera plate, which I like a lot! This is great for us Arca-Swiss folks since you no longer have to add one and if you want to take the cage off that makes it one step easier – the plate can be removed or you can add yours on top. Keeping in the Arca-Swiss family has it’s advantages because the included riser uses an Arca-Swiss clamp as well. By using an Arca-Swiss camera plate you can easily leave the camera cage on and go straight from a tripod to a gimbal if you are using a compatible plate.
CAGE WITH XLR ADAPTER
The kit comes with a NATO rail and optional riser that is also a NATO rail for the handle. The riser will position the handle so you can use the XLR adapter with the handle. This is a nice setup but I did find the handle now blocks the top cold shoe. To fix this use one the two cold shoes on the handle. On my review cage the the top cold shoe was a little tight for some devices, but the back shoe was fine.
Also it’s worth noting that with the XLR adapter attached the cable going into the adapter blocks the cold shoe on the cage, unless you choose to use right angle cables.
While it’s definitely useful, the HDMI lock is a little fussy to get on and off. You will need to use a screwdriver to get the cable tight, but at the same time be careful to not over-tighten it especially if you have a thicker cable as it can pinch. Once you get it mounted it’s solid (maybe a little to solid?). When you’re done with using HDMI you need to pull out that screwdriver again to release the cable. I would have loved to see it mountable using just thumb screws so I don’t have to keep going back to my tool bag. A small gripe, but definitely something that could start to get old for users that will use the HDMI out regularly.
Another issue is that the HDMI lock blocks the screen when it’s pulled out, and restricts the tilt in certain positions. The stock Panasonic does this as well, so it’s not an issue that’s exclusive to Movcam’s cage but rather something to be aware of. I don’t see a solution for this so if you need it locked you will have to live with that limitation.
The included baseplate and riser is also made of Magnesium, making it strong and oh-so light. I was really impressed with the machining of all the parts and (again) the finish matches the GH5 nicely. The cage attaches to the riser with a standard Arca-Swiss clamp. I like this because that’s the same system I use on all my cameras – I can easily take the camera off the riser and attach it to my tripod nice and fast.
The kit also comes with a pair of 8″ rods that are positioned to the correct height to work with a mattebox and follow focus. No adjustments are available for the rails’ height.
A Metabones support foot is also available on the riser to attach to the adapter. This works great to give you a much better solid connection – one less twist. In my experience with a good, tight EF-mount lens and a follow focus the lens won’t twist. My Canon 24-105mm worked a treat. Just be careful to not lose the screw though! It threads into the base but can easily unscrew itself if not in use.
Movcam chose to make the baseplate raiser mount to a ARRI dovetail. This is a high end choice that most GH5 owners don’t use, however if you are a RED or ARRI shooter the dovetail will be a familiar piece of kit. The ARRI dovetail does give you a lot of options when it comes to balancing the rig on your tripod, depending on the length of the dovetail. You have a lot more room to move the camera to the front and back which makes balancing the rig a lot easier. If you don’t use an ARRI dovetail just mount the quick release plate of your choice on the bottom of the raiser.
The Movcam cage is incredibly light, and feels very strong courtesy of the Magnesium alloy. In it’s smallest form (just the cage) it sits nicely in the hand and fits snugly while not obstructing camera operation so I don’t see a need to take it off. If I do it’s easy, since the quick release plate doesn’t have to be removed to get to the mounting screw.
While there are many GH5 camera cage choices available from companies such as CAME-TV, Zacuto, SmallRig, LockCircle, 8Sinn, and Varavon just to name a view, the Movcam option is hard to beat given its feature set and price.
At $315US you get a lot for your money – the cage, a handle (with riser), HDMI lock, Arca-Swiss mount, Metabones adapter support, Baseplate and the pair of 8″ 15mm rods. So out of the box you are all set to go, even in studio-style setups. Just add your follow focus and mattebox and you’re ready to go!