Varicam LT reviews - my Varicam LT setups: fast, lightweight, future proof
Here are my custom made setups for my Varicam LT and lenses. My aim is to be quick with changing lenses and setups, and have the most lightweight combos with lowest possible centers of gravity. I hate to waste money on short lived, heavy, complicated and strictly proprietary (hello Sony and Canon!) accessories. Building my setup is an evolutionary process, and I reuse stuff from earlier cameras, but recently I ended up using mostly accessories from Denz which are often unique, great value for money and really awesome - rock solid, featherlight, elegant, all that I expect from "made in Germany" (ethics statement: I paid the regular price for all these parts). I could reuse all this with my next camera, and I could rig up an Arri Mini for my needs in a similar way.
1. Tripod use with light lenses, attaching Zacuto viewfinder and microphones to the Varicam handgrip
I wanted to reuse my Denz FS7 baseplate and connect it to the bottom of the Varicam, in the center of gravity for use with light lenses as a Canon 16-35 (Want to find your combos center of gravity? Put a rod on the table and use it as a seesaw for your camera...) This involved some tedious drilling as these damn holes in the camera base don´t follow any standard. I attached a Sachtler Europlate with two screws to the Varicam LT. To my knowledge there is no baseplate like that available from anyone for the Varicam, but a machine shop would drill that hole in a short time. The baseplate takes 15mm rods. Here it is: lowest possible center of gravity, with the one disadvantage that standard matteboxes will not be aligned with the optical center of the lens (I´d have to bring down the Chrosziel mattebox by 15mm or so).
At the front of the rock solid Varicam grip, I attached both the Zacuto axis and Zacuto Eye viewfinder, and a 15mm rod for the onboard mics. I used two of the Denz brillant 15mm rod clamp. Brillant? Well I started out with parts from another manufacturer which in a couple of weeks were unusable due to broken screw threads in soft metal. I was on a shoot and suddenly unable to put mics on my camera because of some s....y screws. Out in the field, we are at the mercy of screws. The Denz clamps come with 1/4'' screws and fit in the right positions on the handgrip. As they were built as parts of bigger Denz setups, they come with a little ridge which I easily got rid of with a file. For the viewfinder clamp, I also needed to take away a fraction of a millimeter on a small side to make the clamp fit properly.
Front end of handgrip with both rod clamps, for viewfinder (lower clamp) and onboard mics.
2. "C300" setup for handheld
I owned a C300I and loved the handheld setup, working with the camera in my hands in front of me, at my chest, on my knees, from the ground level to eye height, very close to my subject if needed. Here is my Varicam solution which I use all the time now for handheld.
I took a Denz bridge for 15mm rods with Hirth rosettes and two 200mm rods and attached the Varicam handgrip to the rosette on the right side.
Now I can push the rods into the baseplate from the rear side of the camera and close the screws at the baseplate. Denz stuff is rock solid even with heavy loads tearing on it.
Voilà the C300 Varicam LT. Length of the handle is adjustable.
3. Varicam on the shoulder
Firstly, I take the Denz part and Varicam handgrip and handle shown in 2., seperate and reconnect them as shown below, and push the rods into the baseplate from the front side of the camera. Handle and handgrip angle need to be adjusted. Secondly, I take an old Sachtler Quick release plate to which I attached a simple custom made shoulder pad (aluminum and rubber foam) with two screws. This thing is on and off the camera in two seconds. Denz has a similar solution with his shoulder pad for 15mm rods. I am working more often with a tripod than anything else, so I was frustrated to see Arri use the old ENG system on the Alexa which is the dumbest thing they could ever have done, as it adds many kilos of extra weight and the need for adapter plates, and puts the center of gravity higher up, calling for bigger tripod heads. I could hardly believe how big and heavy all that stuff is to connect an Amira to the tripod although I had already suffered for many years with a Panasonic HDX900. Denz now offers a flatter, lighter base plate solution for the Amira...
4. Tripod with heavy lenses and lens support
I used a second Denz FS7 baseplate and a couple of rods to get a lightweight flexible lens support. The FS7 plate is in the center of gravity for the whole rig and attaches to the tripod head.
I use a part from a Chrosziel light bridge as a lens support. I accommodate different lenses by different adapter parts fixed on the lens. With the PL EF mount I can change lenses in a couple of seconds without hassle and they rest safely on the support.
Note how the on camera baseplate fits with the tripod. I just scratched a mark into the rod to see where it has to fit when I push it into the baseplate.
I use some selected B4 lenses with the IB/E35x adapter, mainly the Canon 18x28, the Canon Cinestyle 21x7.5 and the Angenieux Cinestyle 11.5x5.3. They saved me tons of money and many kilos of weight.