The best camera rigs can transform the handling and range of shooting styles for your video camera. Camera rigs are useful pieces of kit that aid photographers, videographers and filmmakers in operating the camera’s controls whilst simultaneously attaching other accessories like lights, monitors, and flags.
Although rigs are varied, they all have some similar functions with varying degrees of complexity. In their simplest form, camera cages can wrap around the camera provide multiple mounting options for handle grips, follow focus controls, cold shoe mounts, different sized thread mounts, ARRI-style attachment points and NATO rails.
A rig is not a gimbal. It may look like there is some crossover, but mostly gimbal stabilizers are designed to offer smooth, stabilized footage. A rig can achieve the same thing, but is designed more for attaching multiple accessories, e.g. lights, microphones, external monitors, and for taking the weight of a fully kitted out video setup.
Rigs can come in shoulder or chest-mounted flavors. Shoulder rigs often offer mounting points for a matte box, which consists of a series of flags to shield the lens from light flare, and follow focus controls to operate manual focus reliably instead of fiddling with the lens barrel.
There are so many rigs out there that knowing where to start can be a daunting task. Prices vary from very cheap to eye-wateringly expensive, so knowing what you need before you go shopping can help hone down on specific pieces of kit. Beginners might want to consider small cages that allow for handles and multiple accessory mounting points because they are relatively inexpensive and unobtrusive. But for professionals, or those with bigger budgets, chest or body-mounted stabilization rigs can provide extremely high quality results but are much larger, cost a great deal more, and take skill and patience to set up properly.
So whether you want something small and lightweight that can slip into your existing camera bag, or you want to invest in some specialist kit, check out our roundup of the best camera rigs of 2021 below to find the one that’s right for you.
Best camera rigs in 2021
Unobtrusive, slick, and lightweight the SmallRig Full Cage for the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K/4K fits perfectly around the camera and keeps tight to the body’s form factor. Designed around the camera body shape, there’s access to the camera port, battery, SD memory card, and heat dissipation holes where needed, which means you don’t need to dismantle it when it runs out of juice or space.
The camera is locked in with two 1/4"-20 screws top and bottom, with locating pins and rubber holding the body tight. It comes equipped with NATO rails, multiple 1/4"-20 and 3/8’’16 threaded holes, and ARRI locating holes for attaching multiple accessories, whether SmallRig-specific or not.
A Nikon-specific camera cage from SmallRig, this cage is compatible with not one or two, but five different Nikon camera models: the Nikon Z5, Z6, Z7, Z6 II, and the Z7 II, making it perfect for shooters who own multiple models or need to upgrade kit without the need to change cages.
It has an integrated cold shoe mount for lighting or other accessories and includes a NATO rail as well. The FTZ mount adapter for using older F-mount lenses on the Z-mount mirrorless bodies won’t fit with this cage natively, but an inexpensive FTZ support can be purchased separately to make it compatible.
Filmmakers on a tight budget might want to check the latest offering from Neewer, renowned budget-friendly camera accessory maker. The Neewer DSLR Shoulder Rig comes with a C-shaped bracket for handling off-shoulder and a matte box to reduce light reflections across the lens, though there is no bottom flag on this model.
It’s adjustable and flexible for cameras and lenses of most sizes, with a follow focus unit to aid in manual focusing during the shoot. It has a 2.4lb (1.1kg) counterweight at the rear to offset the camera’s weight making it sit comfortably on the operator’s shoulder. It is heavier than other shoulder rigs though, which is to be expected considering the budget-friendly price.
While not the first camera rig someone new to filmmaking might consider, the Steadicam AERO 15 Stabilizer System is comprehensive in its approach to stabilizing the camera. Able to support any camera up to 10lbs (4.5kg) it comes with an A-15 vest to attach the arm to, making it much easier to control and support during use.
Made of aluminium and carbon fibre, it saves weight wherever it can and comes with a telescopic carbon fibre post and locking quick release plate for easy adjustment. Its only downside is the size and cost, but for those looking to stabilize footage reliably, this Steadicam sets one hell of a precedent.
This camera cage kit comes with a beautiful wooden handle, ergonomically shaped to fit nicely in the hand. The handle aids use and provides a cold shoe mount on which to place a range of brackets or lighting accessories. The HDMI cable clamp makes a reliable connection when the camera is linked up to an external monitor to prevent cable pull-out or damage to the HDMI connection port in the event of an accident.
As expected with a SmallRig camera cage, it features multiple 1/4"-20 and 3/8"-16 mounting threads but also includes a NATO rail and ARRI-style mounting points for accessory expansion. Ever the Swiss-army knife, the cage handle can also be used on either left or right side for flexibility.
Unlike other shoulder rigs, the Tilta Universal Shoulder Rig has plenty of add-ons that come in the kit to make it comfortable to use all day long. The kit consists of the rig itself, a baseplate with comfortable shoulder pad, a 4x4 carbon fibre matte box to help reduce glare from lights, and a follow focus unit.
Aimed at improving video shooting abilities with DSLRs and mirrorless cameras alike, it contains many pro-level features synonymous with high level filmmaking. A lightweight carbon fiber matte box protects the lens front element from extraneous light and helps to filter the light coming into the camera with top, bottom, and side flags. The follow focus unit features variable tension adjustment plus two hard stops for lenses with infinite focusing to allow for fast and reliable focus pulls.