Master Guide to Rigging a Nikon D800 or D800E (Part 5)

In this part I’ll cover base plates, rods, release adapters, etc and batteries for the Nikon D800 and Nikon D800E.

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Previously we have discussed rigging up the camera and supporting it. Let’s talk about the basic system now – the thing that brings it all together. Unlike video cameras, DSLRs don’t have handles, mounts for external monitors, sound recorders or rugged HDMI ports. To get these to ‘stick’ on to the camera, we need what is called a Cage.

DSLR CAGE

Considerations:

  • Good material, preferably aluminium metal
  • Must have enough flexibility to mount many setups
  • Lightweight if possible
  • Must not interfere with camera functionality or buttons
  • Must offer a quick release system
  • Good to have adjustments to include battery grip

 
It’s very simple really. If you want cheap, better not get a cage, just make a DIY one. But if you’re really serious about your rig, you need one of these:

Zacuto Z-DZC DSLR Z-Cage


Remember, a good cage does not interfere with the rest of your gear, and does not test your patience! The above rig also includes:

BASE PLATE AND ROD SUPPORT

A base plate is screwed on to your camera tripod hole. Most professional base plates can take both 1/4″ and 3/8″ standard screws. It usually comes along with the tripod head, but if you’re gearing up for a full rig including cage, follow focus and matte box, you’ll need additional support.

This support is provided by rods. My favorite choice for that is:

Zacuto Z-DSLR-B DSLR Base Plate

Considerations:

Rods extend the reach of a base plate, and by doing so, shift the center of gravity (or mass) of the entire system. As we discussed earlier, a rig is essentially a class 2 lever system that needs rods to become class 1. Rods take the weight of big zoom lenses, matte boxes and follow focus systems. Without rods, a large amount of stress will be placed on the camera F mount.

Professional rods are made of steel, but carbon fiber is great. The standard diameter to use is 15mm, and the length will vary depending on the lens.

A good base plate not only supports the camera, but can change its position in slight increments to accommodate every other piece of gear. The last thing you want on a rig is not being able to adjust the height of the camera.

Now we have a full support system:

  • Tripod – for stability with ground
  • Head – for movements and leveling
  • Base plate + Rods – to support everything
  • Cage – to support accessories

 

HDMI SUPPORT

HDMI is a consumer format, and the pin does not lock on to the port. So if you’re not careful, the cable will fall off while you are recording or monitoring. For this reason we have what is called an HDMI Lock:

Lockport D800

For a cheaper option, try this:

Blue Echo hd EZ lock Universal HDMI Lock

That’s basically about it as far as support systems are concerned. Let’s move on to batteries.

BATTERIES, CHARGERS AND BATTERY GRIPS

The Nikon D800 and Nikon D800E comes with some power already. Let’s get the basics over with:

AC Power
The Nikon D800 and Nikon D800E needs two things to get AC power:

  • EH-5b AC Adapter
  • Nikon EP-5B Power Supply Connector

 
These are optional, and very confusing for some reason that only Nikon understands.

Nikon EP-5B Power Supply Connector

Battery

The camera comes with one battery, the:

Nikon EN-EL15 Rechargeable Li-Ion Battery

There are issues with battery life, so I guess you might want at least 4 to get through a day of shooting video. EN-EL15 batteries with an E or F as the 9th character of their serial numbers are being replaced by Nikon due to overheating issues. So check your serial number.

Charger

Nikon MH-25 Quick Charger for EN-EL15

Charging time for a single battery is about 2 to 3 hours. Want more, this might help:

Battery Grip

Nikon MB-D12 Multi Battery Power Pack

This fits at the bottom, and comes with two trays – one for the original battery and another for 8 AA batteries. The battery grip is more of a photographer’s necessity, but it has the advantage of taking another battery:

Nikon EN-EL18 Rechargeable Li-ion Battery

The EN-EL18 almost doubles the capacity when compared with the standard battery.
A fully rigged system has to supply power to not just the camera, but also the external monitor, sound and data recorders, microphone, etc. The Nikon battery is not good enough for that. The rig needs to be supplied with a bigger and better battery system, preferably like the ones made by Anton/Bauer. At the time of this writing, we don’t have a Gold Mount adapter for the Nikons yet, something like this:

Anton Bauer Gold Mount for Canon EOS 5DMkII, 7D, 60D

It is possible to design a rig with Anton/Bauer or IDX battery system if you know what you’re doing. The Nikon D800 and Nikon D800E has a voltage of 7V, but this is beyond the scope of this article.

In Part 5 I’ll cover viewfinders and external monitors.


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