So, after many days shooting video with a completely discombobulated rig where cables stuck out everywhere, catching up in everything around them, with PCM audio recorder mounted on top of the camera via a fragile hot shoe mount, (making every move in danger of braking something), I finally landed (after much research) on finding a much needed, affordable, compact DSLR camera cage – the Kamerar Tank TK-3 camera cage.
What’s a DSLR Camera Cage and Why Do I Need It?
If you really value your ever growing photography and video gear that you worked so hard for, you will probably start thinking of having everything you need (DSLR camera, audio recorder, HDMI monitor, microphone, etc.) in a portable and compact rig, that will keep everything together in an ergonomic and safe way.
And if you are like me, being out and about filming with an improvised rig, you probably found yourself thinking more at how to keep your feeble rig intact instead of thinking of the creative aspect of what you are actually shooting.
This is the part in the movie when we introduce the DSLR camera cage.
A DSLR camera cage is simply a structure that mounts all this gear together in a compact and expandable manner with lots of room for adapting your already existent gear. It keeps it all together, simply put.
These cages come in many color and sizes, together with their afferent price tags, of course.
The one I was after had to adapt my existing gear (see listed below), be expandable (meaning that it should house any other items that I might need), be robust, ergonomic and yes, affordable.
It was a daunting task as I was not ready to shell out $600+ for the most popular ones out there.
Luckily I found one that fit the bill for me at a decent price.
Kamerar Tank TK-3 DSLR Camera Cage
The Kamerar Tank TK-3 DSLR Camera Cage has a strong construction consisting of a top and bottom metallic plate joined together with what Kamerar calls four Swiss rods. These Swiss rods (as well as the plates) have tons of alternating (threaded and non-threaded) 1/4 diameter holes for mounting your accessories, in many different ways.
The TK-3 cage comes with two 8″ long 15mm rails that will let you mount a follow focus (on either side of the lens) and possibly a matte box.
The really nice feature that I was after was that the height of the cage was exactly enough to fit a TASCAM DR-70D DSLR audio recorder mounted on the top (I had to remove the camera attachment bracket with the mounting screw) and I used a hot shoe adapter screw to mount it to the top plate.
Than I simply used the cage’s bottom camera mount screw for the Nikon D7100.
The only downsize I discovered later when I mounted the Kamerar FF-3 Follow Focus, was that the whole camera had a slight tilt movement while operating the follow focus due to the fact that the camera body wasn’t flush mounted to the bottom plate (because of the rubber flats attached to it. This leverage movement was accentuated on my 35mm lens that was larger than a 50mm lens which was shorter.
I fixed the issue by inserting two pieces of 1/16″ thick silicone sheets on each sides of the bottom of the camera, plus I added another hot shoe adapter mounted in the bottom of the TASCAM audio recorded that mated with the top hot shoe of the camera. By adding these two tweaks, the camera body had a much more sturdier mount due to the top and bottom mounting points.
On the top I added the Marshall Electronics M-CT7 7″ camera top monitor via a cold shoe bracket mounted to the TK-3’s handle.
Also the Sennheiser MKE 600 shotgun microphone I am using was mounted to the top plate of the cage the same way.
I had to whip out my soldering skills to make a custom length balanced XLR cable connecting the microphone to the TASCAM audio recorder, using a male Neutrik NC3FRX 3-Pin and a female Neutrik NC3MRX 3-Pin connector.
If the expression “best for the buck” ever made any sense, it sure is in this case. The Kamerar Tank TK-3 camera cage is possibly one of the best solution out there for building a decent looking video rig with minimal expense that will adapt many of your already existent photo gear. Why not give it a try?