Third-Party Accessories for the FS100
A quick look at some of the options available for kitting out an FS100 rig.
By Adam Wilt | February 27, 2012
NEX-FS100 with ShotGrip handle; Hot Rod PL Tuner-S kit; Arri 32mm Ultra Prime, matte box, and follow-focus.
The protean design of the NEX-FS100 cries out for customization, and the market responds... Whether you want a more comfortable and stylish top handle, a simple lens adapter, or a full-on, ruggedized wrap-around support system capable of mounting the heftiest cine zoom, somebody makes it. Let's take a look at some of the options available.
I don't wish to imply that I've made an exhaustive survey of the field—any such survey would be quickly out of date in any event. Rather, I've tried to collect a reasonable selection of FS100-specific accessories and E-mount adapters, to show what's out there and to spark your imagination. Some of these things I've used, others I've just read about. If I've missed anything you think folks should know about, please add a comment with a pointer to the deserving bit of kit.
Top Handle / Cheeseplate
Some find the FS100's supplied handle to be suboptimal, and the placement of the camera's topside accessory mounts, just in front of the LCD, makes it difficult to attach accessories directly to the camera.
Berkey System has a top-mounted cheeseplate for $225. It bolts into the camera's top mounts, adding multiple attachment points forward of the LCD where they're more useful. It works with the camera's original top handle, or with Berkey System's own modular handles and rig bits.
Caleb Crosby's "ShotGrip" top handle / cheeseplate combo is available from Shooting Machine for $225.
ShotGrip with 7" shortie rods and dual stub clamps rigged to support the FS100's original mike holder. Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 lens on LA-EA1 A-mount adapter.
The ShotGrip cleverly uses a 15mm diameter handle riser and dual 15mm rods for the handle itself, allowing lots of real estate for accessory clamps. A black walnut handgrip is secured to the horizontal rods with two clamping screws, making a comfortable and stylish handle.
The ShotGrip's cheese plate with two 1/4" and two 3/8" sockets.
The handle itself screws down into the frontmost 1/4" socket on the top of the FS100, feeding through the cheese plate. The handle riser's tapered base wedges into the cheese plate, securing the handle against unwanted rotation. The handle has a large, rubberized knob on the top: it's this knob that screws down the clamping mechanism, making it easy to reposition things without tools. Loosen it, and you can rotate the entire handle and slide the rods back and forth.
The ShotGrip's tapered riser wedges firmly in the cheeseplate.
Shooting Machine also offers stub clamps, $50-$65, for hanging bits 'n' bobs off the ShotGrip (or any other 15mm support rod). I used a pair to mount the FS100's mike holder, both on the riser and on the top handle itself. The system works quite well, though you do have to tighten the bejeezus out of things to prevent parts from coming loose and rotating at inopportune moments.
Shooting Machine gear: 4.5" rods, 7.5" shortie handle, 12" full-length handle, handle riser, cheeseplate, assorted stub clamps. A ShotGrip system contains one handle, handle riser, and cheeseplate with its two bolts; extra rods, handle parts, and clamps are available a la carte.
Now, if only Mr. Crosby would consider making a contoured, Aaton-style, black walnut handgrip...
Still-Camera Lens Adapters
The FS100's E-mount is only 18mm deep. That's shallow enough to allow adapters for almost any lens mount used on lenses capable of covering the FS100's image circle.
Sony has a pair of A-mount adapters for Alpha lenses: the $200 LA-EA1 with electronic iris control, and the $400 LA_EA2 which will (with an upcoming FS100 firmware update) provide both iris control and autofocus.
Those with Canon EF glass should investigate the Conurus / Metabones EF to NEX adapter, $400, which is supposed to allow iris control, lens metadata capture, and image stabilization. EF lenses are entirely electronic, so electronic iris controls are necessary; this adapter looks very nice indeed, though I haven't had a chance to use one.
Metabones also offers adapters for seven other lens mounts, in the $65-$120 price range; they're purely mechanical adapters, without any control capability, but they all use chromed brass mounting surfaces for a precise and long-lasting fit.
Germany's Novoflex offers the NEX/NIK Nikon G to E-Mount adapter for â¬169 (around $230), as well as adapters for fourteen other still-camera lens mounts, both 35mm and medium-format. Novoflex stuff is pricey, but it's well designed and precisely crafted. I've used Novoflex adapters a couple of times and been impressed with the quality.
The NEX/NIK adapter, along with the other Nikon adapters I'll mention, includes manual iris control through mechanical manipulation of the iris-actuation lever; it works equally well on G or D series lenses. It does not use electronic control, nor does it convey data or power to or from the lens.
MTF Services Ltd in the UK makes a Nikon G to E-mount adapter for Â£265, about $420. I have no experience with MTF, but have heard several people recommend these adapters.
"All fine and well", I hear you saying, "but these are a bit rich for my blood. Isn't there anything cheaper?" Why, yes, of course there is. There are lens adapters in the $23-$40 range, if you're willing to, um, make some compromises. I am a cheap bastard myself, so I have explored these affordable options!
Both RainbowImaging and Fotodiox offer inexpensive adapters for almost any lens mounts conceivable.
I bought the RainbowImaging Nikon G to E-mount adapter, $40 on Amazon, at the same time as I purchased a Fotodiox Nikon G to MFT adapter for my GH2.
The RainbowImaging adapter appears to be made of soft aluminum, though it has a chromed mount for the Nikon lens. The lens fits nicely on the mount and the mechanical iris control works well, though the lens has perhaps half a millimeter of play forwards and backwards (it's perfectly snug side-to-side).
It didn't fit on the FS100.
Its E-mount flanges were just a bit too big to fit the camera. Never mind: it's soft aluminum! Fifteen minutes with a flat file, taking off the outermost 0.5mm or so, was enough to allow a proper fit (if you try such a thing, be very certain you clean any filings out of the mount before putting it on the camera; I washed it out and sprayed it compressed air after each round of filing before getting it anywhere near the FS100!). Yeah, a milling machine would have been faster, but I don't have a milling machine: like I said, I'm a cheap bastard.
The $40 adapter on a Nikon 17-55mm. Note the filed-down flanges.
Yes, the adapter is labeled "Fotasy", not RainbowImaging. Hey, it's only forty bucks, whaddya want?
Now, that $40 Fotodiox adapter for the GH2 didn't work out so well. The lens had a lot of slop on the adapter, both laterally and longitudinally (though the adapter itself fitted very snugly and securely on the GH2); I couldn't even touch the focus ring without causing the image to jump. Furthermore, when the lens was locked in place, the iris control didn't let the iris open all the way. I returned it, and got the RainbowImaging Nikon G to Micro Four Thirds adapter for $23, instead.
This adapter came in the same sort of plain-white box as the RainbowImaging NEX adapter, and it has the same minimalist instructions, printed on a tiny slip of paper reminiscent of a Christmas cracker joke or a slightly oversized fortune-cookie fortune. Yet it doesn't say "Fotasy" on its body; its iris ring has much finer knurling; it uses different screws to attach its Nikon mount; its labeling uses a different font. It fits very tightly on the lens, with no slop at all... perhaps a little too tightly. Hey, it's twenty-three smackeroos, whaddya want?
I mention all this not to dump on Fotodiox or on RainbowImaging, but to show that for $23-$40 you're not going to get the same level of precision, consistency, and robustness as with higher-priced mounts. You really do get what you pay for... and you pay for what you get. TANSTAAFL.
I consider these low-cost adapters to be perfectly suitable for casual use, but if I planned on doing serious production on an ongoing basis with Nikon lenses on E-Mount and MFT cameras, I'd invest in the MTF or Novoflex adapters mentioned above.
PL mounts are the Next Step Up; PL adapters have their own locking collars (PL is a breech-lock, not a bayonet mount), back-focus adjustment through shims, and (often) provisions for external support. PL lenses tend to be big and heavy compared to stills lenses, and their mounting flanges reflect that difference in mass and the forces generated thereby:
Two views of an E-mount lens (Sony 18-200mm, left) and a PL-mount lens (Arri 135mm Ultra Prime, right).
You would expect that a PL-mount adapter might cost a bit more. You would be correct.
MTF Services Ltd has a standalone PL-mount to E-Mount adapter for Â£350 ($590 from Abel Cine). It's the only one I've seen that isn't set up to tie into iris rods or other supports; it appears to depend entirely on the E-mount for its attachment.
16x9's Cine Lens Mount - E-Mount & Support, $870, includes a support bracket for 15mm rods, offering a modicum of additional support.
The 16x9 PL-mount adapter can be shimmed between its main body and its E-mount ring.
Solid Camera has a standalone PL Mount Adapter for $695; it has a separate 15mm support bracket, for $225.
Hot Rod Cameras has the Hot Rod PL-E mount; it appears to be available only as part of the Tuner-S Kit described below.
PL-mounts from Hot Rod Cameras and 16x9; supports not shown.
Next: Build-up kits; EVFs; Sample Setups...
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