SmallRig Cage Review for Sony a7iii & a7Riii Mirrorless Cameras

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Athol Hill SmallRig A7iii Cage Review

SmallRig is a fairly established brand. I’ve bought quite a few items from them over the years, and the quality has always been exceptional given the price.

When I first got my A7Riii, I wanted a grip extension without the battery grip as I have big hands. The grip extension I purchased at the time was excellent in construction and design.

SmallRig has built a reputation for its cages amongst the videography and photography community. Buying a cage from SmallRig is a Modular experience. You buy a base component and then add what you need.\

The nice thing with Small Rig is you can build anything you want. It’s like having a shopping list at your disposal; you name it, you can add it to your camera.

In my case, I combined:

  • A SmallRig Camera Cage for Sony A7RIII/A7M3/A7III
  • A SmallRig NATO Top Handle with Record Start/Stop Remote Trigger
  • SmallRig Swivel and Tilt Adjustable Monitor Mount with ARRI-Style Mount
  • HDMI Cable Clamp 1679

I felt this combination would give me the best outcomes for what I needed in the stills and video realms.

Let’s take a closer look at how it all performed.

SmallRig A7iii/A7riii Cage Specs

 
Pros
  • Incredible flexibility
  • Modular construction
  • Construction Quality
  • Value for money
Cons
  • No photo record option
  • Grip would be better with rubber
  • Product Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 14.35 x 10.6 x 5.85 cm; 167 Grams
  • Date First Available ‏ : ‎ 17 November 2020
  • Manufacturer ‏ : ‎ SMALLRIG
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B08NF4M318
  • Item Model Number ‏ : ‎ 2918-AU

Build Quality

The build quality on all the SmallRig components is solid with almost no plastic outside the buttons or cables.

SmallRig provides

the cage and accessories in what looks like eco-friendly or recycled cardboard boxes.

However, in a move that somewhat defeats this, they insert the cage and screws in plastic bags. It would be good to see a move away from this or the use of biodegradable/compostable plastics in future.

I think we’ve now reached a point where manufacturers have enough eco-friendly alternatives available to consider the move, and it would be good to see SmallRig ditch the plastic for cardboard envelopes or biodegradable plastics. Even my new surfboard came in a honeycomb cardboard shell!

Packaging aside, the SmallRig cage consists of all-metal construction with what looks like a black anodised-like coating. I say all metal except the buttons and cables, obviously, along with a bit of rubber to provide grip where you attach the camera.

The cable quality seems good, and I like that they incorporated a short cable to avoid having excessive cable mess to deal with. The buttons on the handle also seem of similar sturdy quality.

The SmallRig Record On/Off button for Sony uses a short USB-C to Micro-USB cable included in the pack.

The construction quality on the SmallRig is high across the board. There is nothing evident in manufacturing defects or quality issues when looking solely from a construction quality perspective.

It all looks and feels like a high-quality premium piece of gear costing far more than the SmallRig modest price tag.

There is some excellent thought into the design that I will cover under the design and features section; suffice to say that there isn’t much missing from a pure construction perspective.

My only criticism would be on the handle, where I would like to see some rubber incorporated into the grip. It’s easily addressed with rubber tape from the hardware store, but it would be great to offer this as an option.

Design

The use of a NATO grip allows you to keep the camera low while you are on your feet, ensuring you don’t put yourself at risk of flying objects like skateboards.

SmallRig has made its design flexible and customisable rather than just packaging all features they think a consumer may want. It’s the right approach as it allows customers to chop and change their components as their needs change.

Despite the levels of customisation, there are several clever design elements with the SmallRig cage. They show a level of thought and understanding of how people use their gear rather than simply adding the bare minimum.

The magnetic design of the mini-screwdriver/hex key allows it to be attached to the bottom of the camera. It uses a hex key size that fits the screwdriver slot perfectly.

This means you can screw in the tripod mount quickly and move to the flat head for final tightening.

These small design cues are incorporated into other components, which is great, but they aren’t always consistent. The tightening knob on the NATO handle includes a thumbscrew with holes to ensure you can tighten with the screwdriver under the grip. It’s simple and effective.

The design of the SmallRig cage includes an innovative screwdriver/hex key. However, I do wish they could leverage them across all the components.

Instead of following suit with the same hex key combination, the tilt design for the grip incorporates two different hex keys, none of which match the one in the grip. One for the tilt and one for the attachment, in a move that’s somewhat confusing.

Essentially, each component is a great design individually but a little disjointed as a package.

None of these is a show stopper or a reason to avoid the product; they’re minor problems that could be better and could be easily fixed in future designs. They also give you every hex key you need, so you don’t need to find additional hex keys.

Surprisingly enough, I expected the cage to be uncomfortable holding one-handed, but the way the grip is incorporated in the cage is the opposite.

Provided you aren’t using an external display, it’s comfortable one-handed with no jagged edges hitting your hand. With the number of sharp edges on the edge, this is impressive.

Features

The high quality of manufacturing is consistent across all the components.

The features of the SmallRig cages will depend on what you buy with your cage. You’re purchasing lego blocks to build whatever you need.

In my case, I have (re-written for ease of reading, so you don’t have to scroll to the top)  the following, which I will cover individually.

  • A SmallRig Camera Cage for Sony A7RIII/A7M3/A7III
  • A SmallRig NATO Top Handle with Record Start/Stop Remote Trigger
  • SmallRig Swivel and Tilt Adjustable Monitor Mount with ARRI-Style Mount
  • HDMI Cable Clamp 1679

You’ll find the SmallRig Camera Cage littered with 1/4’’-20 and 3/8’’-16 threaded holes like a bad case of acne. I can’t imagine you’d find yourself in a position where you couldn’t attach something through lack of space or attachment point.

If you’re the type that uses hand straps for your camera, it can accommodate a hand strap on one side.

Moving on to the top handle, the model I selected incorporates a video start/stop button, which allows you to start recording without touching the camera controls.

The handle requires a cable connection to the micro USB cable on the camera, and the cable is provided

It also comes completed with 1/4’’-20 and 3/8’’-16 threaded holes. SmallRig includes retention pins similar to most tripod plates that allow the camera to slide a little if the grip comes loose before it gives way.

The retention pins are spring-loaded, so if you intend to remove the handle, you can depress them quickly enough to get the handle off.

The button on the NATO handle is bright red, making it easy to see. This photo highlights the quality.

The SmallRig Swivel and Tilt Adjustable Monitor Mount is another great addition if you plan on shooting low angles and own an external camera monitor like these.

The tilt adjustability gives you enough flexibility to cover most conventional camera angles and could be moved to alternative locations on the camera if you aren’t shooting low angles.

My only real point of contention relates to the video start/stop button. I noticed that SmallRig only makes the cable for the video start/stop, but not a shutter release.

Whilst on the surface, this may not be an issue, videographers aren’t the only ones who use cages.

It also doesn’t inconvenience video users to use the shutter release because you can also use it on Sony for video. As a result, if SmallRig had mapped this to the shutter button, it would have served dual purposes.

The only way around it for me to was to purchase a remote shutter from Sony, which I’ve attached over the SmallRig button. The button now serves a dual purpose.

If you plan on shooting stills, I’d recommend avoiding the version that has recording and buying a wireless or cable trigger to attach.

Aside from that issue which only affects a small portion of the market looking to take photos, there isn’t much else to complain about. The cable clamp works as advertised. It prevents the cable from moving in the camera and can’t be used for cable organisation.

My HDMI screen came with a lengthy cable, so I have to use velcro to keep it in check.

Value for Money

The cable clamp ensures any bumps or knocks don’t damage the HDMI port on your camera.

Given the quality of the SmallRig cages, there is no question that SmallRig scores high in the value for money stakes. For what you are getting, the SmallRig offers incredible value for money.

The cage itself retails for just under $90, which goes up depending on the assortment of add ons you include. Adding the Nato Grip and screen swivel will add $80 and $40, while the cable clamp is only $15.

It isn’t a lot when you look at the cost of good high-quality photographic gear these days, where a good Arca plate and clamp can set you back nearly $200.

SmallRig Discount Code

If you want to save $5, enter the coupon code shotkit on the SmallRig website when buying something over $100.

SmallRig Cage Review | Conclusion

While the cage covers most of the camera, the buttons remain readily accessible for any customisations you need to make.

When I purchased my first SmallRig product (the grip extension), I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was suitably impressed.

Over time, having added more SmallRig items to my collection, it’s become abundantly clear that my previous experiences with SmallRig were not a fluke.

Put simply, SmallRig produces really impressive camera gear at an excellent price point. For photographers and videographers, it’s a great outcome.

As a videographer, there isn’t much to fault. Some minor elements could improve for photographers, but cages are designed primarily for videographers.

There are some consistency issues I mentioned when it comes to hex keys, but they are minor in the grand scheme of things, and it would take off half a point max.

It’s hard not to recommend SmallRig when you look at the pricing, level of customisation and quality, and it’s easy to see why SmallRig has garnered the kind of support they have in the market.

SmallRig A7iii/A7riii Cage
SmallRig Cage for Sony A7iii/A7riii

Robust construction and flexible customisable design make this modular camera rig a great buy for Sony video shooters.

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Athol Hill is a sports and portrait photographer based in Melbourne, Australia

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