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Review of the SHAPE kit for the Sony A7SIII

About Dominic Gill

I am a director/cinematographer and co-founder of Encompass Films. We work primarily in the field of adventure sports, environmental science, and the outdoors. We’re currently working on a varied collection of projects. At the more active end is a short film that follows the exploits of a small group of low-rider bike builders as they weld, sand, and paint their way to their dream bike.

The Shape kit for the Sony A7SIII

This project will find me either in a paint-filled garage or filming off the back of a cargo bike in the heart of Reno, Nevada. We’re also making a series of short films about iconic brands including the songwriting Mecca the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. Finally, we’re working on a feature highlighting the work of a handful of climate change advocates on the political right in the United States, that are doing their best to make progress on climate change a non-partisan issue. These shoots are all over the nation, sometimes in D.C., sometimes in a cornfield in Iowa!

The SHAPE kit the Sony a7siii used in action

The cameras we’re using

One of the two cameras we’re using for these projects is the Sony a7siii, which is, honestly, the first ‘B Cam’ I’ve owned from Sony that I hold on equal footing with the A Cam, a Sony FX9. The introduction of 10 bit on these tiny bodies has supercharged their abilities and hence has me using it whenever weight or space is an issue.

Sony A7SIII camera with the SHAPE kit

To configure it well, I decided to use the Shape a7siii cage with the 15mm LW rod system, coupled with their multi D-tap gold-mount battery plate, 98W Full play batteries, and their swing away matte box. Depending on the situation and how many lens changes are in my future, I also add the lightweight single rod follow focus. 

Review of the SHAPE kit for the Sony a7siii

My favorite feature of any Shape kit is probably the push button. On this kit, it is located on the top handle, allowing me to carry it easily, film at low angles with confidence, or swing it 90 or 180 degrees away from microphones or hot shoe accessories when necessary. The cage itself is well-designed, and of course, pretty bomb-proof. I’m also a big fan of the v-mount rod block attachment (I have a Sachtler touch’n’go plate permanently fixed to the bottom of this), allowing me to easily remove the camera leaving the rest of the system on the tripod if necessary – it often is for me since this camera doubles as my stills camera. The block also allows you to easily adjust the balance of the camera, providing you have longer rails to slide components around the rails with very little to undo or tighten.

Cameraman shooting on set with the SHAPE kit for the Sony A7SIII

The silicone swing-away matte box is a fantastic addition to the kit. It not only opens up the necessary world of filters on a camera that has no internal NDs, but it’s light enough to keep me fast on run’n’gun shoots and durable enough to withstand a beating. While you can attach this matte box in a number of configurations, I primarily use it in the swing-away rail format. Not only do I like the access to easy lens changes this gives me, but I often find myself having to carry the camera rig on my back and the rails provide sturdy support along the whole length of the camera on which to do that. I like the snap-on configuration to shave extra weight, though I’d definitely recommend buying a full set of adapter rings to ensure your complete lens kit has the same exterior diameter, making switching lenses in this format lightning-fast. 

The carbon fiber flag never needs to come off since it’s so light, so I leave it on, and even if I don’t use it to guard against flare, it serves as a filter protector when I’m on the move.

Behind the scene on set with the SHAPE kit for the Sony A7SIII camera

Only two small issues with the matte box, both minor and fixable:

  • The fabric knicker is slightly too loose on the matte box end and could be fixed with a tighter elastic sinch (the drawcord toggle is an unnecessary and bulky addition, I think) or a small zip-tie threaded through the fabric, if you rarely remove it. It could also use 4 small loops to help tease it over the end of the lens.
  • The screw used to tighten the matte box onto the rods is a little fiddly. A slightly bigger head to that screw (like the nice red vertical adjustment screw) would help when adjusting the matte box along the rails quickly.

The gold mount adapter plate and full play gold mount batteries are a must-have as well. Getting away from the tiny Sony batteries is essential if you’re putting this camera to work. These Full Play batteries are not only pretty small for their power, but they’ll keep my small HD screen and the camera and occasionally phantom-powered mics going all day on a single battery. I might even squeeze in an occasional phone charge on the USB port on the battery too!

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