Working With the A7s and the Varavon Armor Cage / by Sohail Mamdani

A while back, I wrote this post about my new(ish) portable setup for shooting video. This one is a followup to that.

The Varavon A7s Armor Cage with grip

The Varavon A7s Armor Cage with grip

This past weekend, on a trip to Yosemite (my first), I broke out the A7s that's been sitting in my bag for way too long and starting shooting with it. 

One of the first things I did when I bought my A7s (in fact, I think it arrived before my A7s did) is to buy a cage for the camera. Varavon was having a Black Friday sale and I immediately nabbed the Armor Pro Cage for the A7s.

The Varavon armor pro for sony a7s. Photo courtesy varavon.com

I got everything you see above, including the ENG-style grip and the top handle. 

There are plenty of specs and details on the Varavon cage, but here are my thoughts on this little bit of gear. 

It's built solidly. Seems to be milled from a solid piece of metal (steel? aluminum? no idea), and looks like it could take some punishment.

There are loads of mounting points. In addition to having a cutout so you can still mount stuff on the A7s' hot shoe, it also has another cold shoe on the top, as well as one on the top handle, which is a good spot for a mic. Also: 1/4-20 milled holes on the top and sides for more mounting options with arms and other accessories.

plenty of mounting points on the varavon cage. 

It fits the A7s really snuggly, too. I took the little strap mounting clips off because I couldn't deal with them as I tried to maneuver the camera into the cage. Also, you have to leave the doors to the ports on camera-left open to keep the ports accessible. I actually got the whole camera mounted before I realized that the doors were closed and, well, there you go. 

The Door to the A7s' ports have to be left open to be accessible when using the cage. also note how I took the strap clips off. 

The bottom of the cage has a nice surprise - an Arca-Swiss–style mounting plate. 

an arca-swiss–style mounting plate sits on the bottom of the cage

As you can see, it doesn't keep you from mounting a plate of your own choice, but I've been attaching these dovetail–style clamps on just about every one of my tripods, heads, etc. Today, I picked up a Benro bullhead that had a Manfrotto-style plate/clamp on it, and I immediately replaced it with a lever-style clamp for the Arca-Swiss plate. 

a cheapo amazon-bought clamp attached to the cheapo samy's-bought benro head

I also love that it has a cable clamp that prevents the cable from ripping out your HDMI port in case it gets yanked on. I've ordered a couple of cables from B&H that were rated highly by Dave Dugdale over at learningdslrvideo.com, but picked up a cheapie from Samy's to shoot with till they get here.

As for those red screws, near as I can tell, they aren't placed properly to hold the table firmly against the cage, but are useful nonetheless, as they do prevent the plug from wiggling too much. 

hdmi cable held in place by the image clamp

I'm headed off to Samy's again to grab a small shoe-mount ballhead I can use to mount my Atomos Shogun. Sample footage with that will be on the BorrowLenses.com blog, along with a report on some lenses/adapters I've been using with the A7s. 

For now, I'll say this: there are more expensive cages (and one or two cheaper ones) on the market, but for the money, even without the Black Friday deal I got, the Varavon Armor Pro Cage definitely gives you plenty of bang for the buck. Any annoyances I've encountered so far have more to do with the A7s' peculiar ergonomics, not the cage itself — save one. The ENG grip cuts into your hand after a bit; I'll need to get some kind of padding along the finger grooves, because I can't see myself holding this thing for long periods of time with that cold metal biting at my fingers.

The Armor Pro Cage is available from Varavon direct. B&H has a version that doesn't include the ENG grip and is, inexplicably more expensive that the one from Varavon direct.