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Header image for article Kitting the Sony FX9: Accessory Guide

Kitting the Sony FX9: Accessory Guide

Any time a new compact lightweight camera like Sony's PXW-FX9 comes out, camera assistants and operators have to spend a fair amount of time thinking about how to kit it out. To that end I recently spent some time myself evaluating and analyzing the different accessories on offer for the new camera. I also conferred with our rental department to get the perspective of a typical camera house environment and use that to compare against the more specialized needs of an owner-operator or low-budget filmmaker. Combining this insight with my own experience as a 1st AC and documentary camera operator helped me create this accessory guide, which, while not all-inclusive, should serve as a good starting point for any new FX9 owner.

Firstly, the FX9 is a versatile camera, with a few first party modular parts. Similar to the FS7, Sony has produced an extension unit which attaches to the back to expand functionality. This time, however, they have not placed any integral features (like timecode) on the extension unit. That makes it less an obvious “must-have” addition and more of a situational component. This guide will omit it from the recommendations for that reason, but don’t forget to account for it while accessorizing your camera if you need some of its specific functionality for your build.

To help narrow down the myriad options, I’m separating the recommendations into three loose categories: Rental House, Owner-Operator, and Indie. One last thing, the FX9 has the same general body dimensions and attachment points for accessories as the FS7. Many manufacturers' top plates, shoulder pads, and other accessories work between them without modification. If you are approaching this list from the perspective of an FS7 owner looking to upgrade, you should check with your accessory manufacturer and see if you can continue to use the gear you already own.

 

RENTAL HOUSE FX9 LOAD OUT

Rental departments and peer-to-peer gear sharing services have slightly different needs than a single owner operator setup. The chief factor for a rental environment is to use the camera itself as the asset that brings in the money. To that end, two things are paramount: appealing to a wide range of productions (to have the highest chance of getting a client) and reliability (to keep the asset working as much as possible). Because of that, certain types or brands of gear are more sought after, perhaps even despite a high price difference, because the cost in lost business of having the camera or gear out for repair would certainly exceed the price premium for the build quality. Here are some of the items and recommendations from the AbelCine Rental department.

ARRI Pro Set

ARRI products are known for having some of the most well thought out design and rugged durability and that definitely carries over to their line of Pro Camera Accessories, or PCA for short. With few exceptions, our rental teams have used ARRI PCA rigging for most camera systems for years. The benefit of the design for the FX9 is that it is perfectly fit and designed to reduce play and wobble on things like the shoulder pad/baseplate and viewfinder. The default setup for this kit requires the use of a VCT style quick release plate. Of course, being an ARRI product, it can easily be adapted to work with the bridgeplate and dovetail combo of your choice. Numerous mounting holes and ample space on the top plate make mounting extra monitors, transmitters, or other accessories simple.

 

 

Sony Mic Mount

One thing that our rental clients frequently ask for is a simple, low-profile mic mount for attaching a shotgun mic to the camera. Since this is typically for “scratch” audio in most studio or narrative setups, they typically don’t want an oversized shock mount as they are overly concerned with handling noise. We have used this particular model from Sony’s lineup for years. It should be noted that the normal attachment plate for this mount must be removed first, which reveals a standard 1/4-20 thread you can easily attach to the top cheese plate.

 

CoreSWX Gold/V-Mount Battery Bracket

Most rental houses will be standardized on one type of battery if possible, typically either V-Mount or Gold mount. CoreSWX make some excellent batteries and have a number of camera specific battery plate options to convert proprietary formats over to some commonly shared ones. This is a nice option for builds that won't need the Sony extension unit, but still want V or Gold mount batteries. 

 

Wooden Camera D-Box

Providing power to external accessories such as transmitters, lens control systems, and monitors is a common request. Since cameras like the FX9 have limited capability for distributing power, parts like Wooden Camera's D-Box can close the gap for builds that need to run multiple power-hungry accessories. Our rental team likes this model because it is highly configurable and can even be setup to convert a V-mount only camera plate (like the Sony Extension Unit) to gold mount. 

 

Wooden Camera E to PL Mount Adapter

Sony's E-mount lens mount is a great option for a prosumer grade camera largely due to its ability to be easily adapted to other lens mounts. In the rental environment, where cinema lenses rule the roost, a PL mount adapter would be the go-to so clients could mount anything from an entry-level prime to rare anamorphic. Other common adpaters might include other still-photo standards, such as EF mount. 

 

Owner Operator FX9 LOAD OUT

For an individual camera operator, the accessory needs can vary a lot from operator to operator, but there are a few things any owner would want for their kit. Besides reliability, one of the chief things any camera op wants out of their personal camera is speed and efficiency. It's critically important in a "one-man-band" or run-and-gun situation that the gear not require too much attention or be too fiddly. Anyone who has worked a gig wearing the hats of camera op, audio mixer, and lighting tech all at once knows that at some point, the gear just needs to get out of your way so you can shoot. The primary goal of this load out is to build a camera that the op can take out of the gear bag and immediately shoot with. The secondary goal is to make the camera more easily slot into a broadcast or live style workflow. 

 

Shape Camera Cage with Handle

Being able to act as a human tripod for the long hours of a shoot starts with being able to properly balance the camera on your shoulder. Canadian manufacturer Shape is no stranger to producing baseplates and shoulder pads that can be configured to make any operator comfortable. The ability to slide the camera back or forward on the shoulder pad allows for more balancing options depending on the lens choice or other accessories. Attaching to the tripod via the broadcast standard V-mount plate simplifies the setup so that the shoulder pad doesn't have to constantly be removed and replaced when going to sticks is needed.  

 

Shape FX9 Remote Extenstion Unit

One of Shape's most well-known and easily recognized innovations is their push-button adjustment system. The remote extension replaces the stock attachment point for the Sony grip that ships with the FX9 so that it can also be used with the same tool-less quickness of the other Shape handles. It's easy to underestimate how much more efficient it is to use, but as soon as you experience no longer needing to partially dissassemble the hand-grip mount just to adjust it, it's hard to go back. 

? MAP:
The manufacturer requires us to advertise this product at a set price (Minimum Advertised Price). However, we sell this item at a reduced price. To see our price, simply click the Add to Cart button. You are under no obligation to purchase the item.
$219.12

 

Sony VCT-14 Tripod Adapter Plate

In order to take full advantage of the shape camera cage, a standard V-lock style, quick-release plate is needed for the tripod. The Sony version is one of the originals and generally most compatible, though Shape and others make similar plates in basically the same price range. 

 

Zacuto Gratical Eye EVF

When working with your own camera, it's important to have an EVF that you can trust. Many operators find the loupe-over-LCD screen approach to be a little lackluster, especially when it comes to handling the focus yourself. Zacuto's Gratical Eye is a lightweight option that includes software for focus peaking and exposure analysis. Note that a power solution is needed for the Eye version of the Gratical, so if it is used with the Sony extension unit or a battery back plate such as mentioned in the above rental kit, only a power cable and SDI cable are needed. Otherwise, it might be better to go with the standard version of the Gratical with its own set of batteries. A convenient mounting option would be to use the Zacuto Axis Mini. 

 

Sony UWP-D Audio Gear

One of the great updates to the FX9 from the FS7 is the addition of two additional sets of hardware controls for audio channels. That makes adding additional audio gear for run-and-gun and documentary work a bit more manageable for the single operator. 

In staying in Sony's ecosystem, the Multi-Interface Hot Shoe (MI Shoe) can be used to attach the SMAD adapter and one of their UWP digital audio receivers. Using the 2-channel version makes for a complete 4-channel setup (counting the two XLR-3 inputs on the camera) that uses no cables for the wireless portion. Down the road, Sony is promising a firmware update that would enable the extension unit to support a broadcast-style drop in stereo receiver, such as the URXS03D. 

 

Indie Film/New Media FX9 LOAD OUT

Sony cameras are very popular with the small crew and even smaller budget crowd, and for very good reason. The list of features (full-frame, high frame rate, slow motion, versatile lens mount, etc.) check a lot of boxes for a reasonable asking price. Independent narrative filmmakers and new media influencers often need to emulate the workflows of high-dollar productions, but on shoe-string budgets. The below accessories offer a high features-to-cost ratio, just like the camera.  

 

Wooden Camera Unified Accessory Kit (Base)

Wooden Camera is a unique manufacturer in that they offer rental house grade products, but also cater to the lower budget crowd with their scaling accessory kits. Going with the base model of the unified accessory kit gives the needed functionality (baseplates and rods for focus motors, top plate and handle for mounting monitors, etc) without any excess. As more money comes in or the scope of the jobs expand, more gear can be added on as needed from the more complete kits. Wooden Camera build quality is also a step above, which is an important factor for rigging as it essentially becomes the protective case for the camera.  

 

SmallHD Focus Series Monitors

Having an external monitor is a must for most camera setups. For content creators who are both the filmmakers and the subject, the difference of turning a 7-inch screen toward yourself versus a tiny 3-inch viewfinder is a big deal. For indie productions relying on stabilizers like a MoVI or Ronin to provide production value, getting the screen off the camera is a must. SmallHD is well known amongst 1st ACs and camera operators for their high-end monitors, but they also make an excellent entry level product in the Focus series. Since they are available in 5-inch and 7-inch sizes, and high-brightness or OLED versions, there should be a model that suits most productions. 

 

Cameo Swivel Mount

Mounting accessories to a camera, especially monitors, is often inelegant, resulting in a sort of squid-like mass of cables and articulating arms. If a low-profile option is desired, the Cameo Swivel Mount offers a very simple way to attach a monitor that can be adjusted with simple friction, no tools or lever loosening needed. This is a great option to have in the kit since it takes up so little space. It comes with an insole for hot/cold shoe mounting and can work with the Cameo ARRI Washer to prevent unwanted rotation if your attachment point supports it. 

 

CoreSWX Flat Pack Batteries

Core's Flat Pack batteries are a unique option for Sony L-series compatible monitors. They are designed around the SmallHD Focus series and offer very long runtimes in a much more compact form factor than traditional L-series batteries. They have a unique feature in that they can pass power through from their charge cable, so if you typically power the monitor off of the camera body or camera battery packs, you don't need to remove the flat pack to do that. Also, it's an excellent option for wireless monitors off the camera since they allow for the monitor to be set down flat without tipping over. 

 

Tilta Nucleus-Nano Wireless LCS

Having motorized control of the lens has become more and more important over the years. As the sensor sizes and formats keep getting bigger, the depth of field at a given aperture is going to shrink. That means it's easier than ever to get that cinematic razor-thin area of focus, but even more critical to have tight control of the lens, no matter the type. While it's not going to impress any Local 600 union focus pullers, Tilta's Nucleus-Nano is a very good option for micro-budget productions. It works great with still-photo style lenses by allowing you to map the tiny focus throws of those optics to the larger throw of the hand wheel, giving much greater precision on focus racks and pulls. It communicates wirelessly and directly with the included motor, which is powered via USB or USB to p-tap adapter, so even builds with little accessory power options can use it and there's no extra control box to rig. 

? MAP:
The manufacturer requires us to advertise this product at a set price (Minimum Advertised Price). However, we sell this item at a reduced price. To see our price, simply click the Add to Cart button. You are under no obligation to purchase the item.
$229.00

 

Truthfully, the options are nearly endless when it comes to kitting out cameras like the Sony FX9, but hopefully this guide serves as a nice starting point for anyone looking to make this new offering from Sony rough and ready for all their production and content creation needs.

Nic Somera
Camera Technology Specialist, AbelCine LA

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