Best DSLR shoulder rig for under $500

For nearly two years, I’ve searched in vain for a DSLR shoulder rig that does what I want it to do, at a price I’m willing to pay. But last week, I finally cracked the code. After taking a look at Ikan corp’s new Recoil XT shoulder rig (and realizing it was ergonomically and technically NOT the rig for me), I got the idea to combine affordable components from Jag-35 with an inexpensive shoulder stock that Philip Bloom once raved about from DotLine Corp. And the result is, for the first time ever, I’ve got exactly what I want. An affordable shoulder rig that:

1. Is balanced – I can completely let go with my hands without the rig falling over.
2. Is light as possible – no shoulder-numbing counter balance weights need to be added.
3. Includes follow focus for smooth cinematic focusing on the fly.
4. Is ergonomic – Z-finder is positioned in front of my right eye; I can comfortably use rig for longer than a few minutes.
5. Can be quickly reconfigured – camera can quick-release for use on tripod.

OK here’s the component parts, and how much each costs:

From Jag-35:

$59.99 DSLR tripod plate
allows mounting to stock and attachment of rails

$139.99 Quick Release Gorilla Stand attaches to rails allowing Zacuto Gorilla plate to quick-release camera on and off

$65.00 Zacuto 15mm rods 6.5″

$189.99 D|Focus follow focus V3

From B&H:

$69.95 Dot Line DL-0370 Hands-free video stabilizer

Total cost: $524.92 (see update below for how to shave almost $40, bringing total cost under $500)
Total weight: 2.5 pounds, including strap

*Also needed are the Zacuto Z-finder, mounting frame, and gorilla plate. But I won’t count that in the cost of the rig, since it’s really a separate bit of mandatory kit.

You might think that it would be hard to breathe while holding still a rig that rests partially on your lower chest, but it’s not that bad. The camera will move slightly every time you take a breath, but it’s easy to adjust your breathing pattern slightly for maximum stability (it simply involves being mindful not to push out your chest when inhaling – it’s easy to expand lungs down and sideways instead).

I was worried that the $69 stock would be cheap plastic, and it remains for me to use it awhile before the verdict is fully in. But it feels very solid. And as far as the Jag-35 components go, I’ve been very satisfied with the quality of their gear. It’s not top-of-line stuff, but it’s solid and dependable and simple, and a fraction of the price of competitors like Zacuto. That’s a winning combination for me every time.

UPDATE: Incredibly, I just found an apparently identical version of the $69 stock listed on Cowboy Studio via Amazon for $29.95. How’s that for a deal? Brings the total cost of this rig down to under $500. Sweet.

29 thoughts on “Best DSLR shoulder rig for under $500

  1. Pingback: Going steady with my new shoulder rig | Dan McComb

  2. Alonso

    Mounting frame and gorilla plate? Which ones do you use?

    This rig is exactly what I’ve been looking for. I’m new to this whole world of shoulder rigs, but damn are they expensive.

    This is the gospel! Gareth Edwards, director of Monsters used a variant of this.

    1. Dan McComb

      Hi Alonso,
      I use the Zacuto Mounting Frame and Gorilla Plate. They are a great foundation for this rig, because they hold your camera much more firmly than would otherwise be true, and this is very important when you use a follow focus. Initially I set this rig up with a Jag-35 DSLR Stand, which screws right into the tripod mount on the bottom of the camera. But it doesn’t work very well, because the follow focus puts enough pressure on the mount, that it comes loose with use. The Gorilla Plate mounted to Quick Release Gorilla Stand ( fixes this problem perfectly, and is really the only way to go.

  3. ChronicCantabridgean

    Your blog post struck a cord with me. My people would confirm that I too struggled for along time in pinpointing the correct rig configurations for how I shoot. I came to the conclusion that one “module” or “package” or “bundle” was not going to ever be perfect for my needs and set forth in listing indivudual components that I would need that could ideally be interchangeable for highly mobile work (hate the term “run and gun”) and then tripod work. Once components needed were nailed down, then there were 2 other questions to answer; 1) which vendors are making components that are not mutually exclusive so that I can grow my rig over time to my needs without being a captive audience to that one vendor for compatibility (i.e. I love Zacutos base plate but it is only compatible with zacuto rods, and I love iDC follow focus but it is not designed to load to industry standard rods), and 2) are the components pro in quality or material and manufacture.
    I am convinced jag35 makes high quality and feel their components are designed for cross polination. I especially love that cage that can take rods. Long story short, i stumbled on your blog just I had settled on my component strategy and just as I made the determination that jag35 was where I would obtain some of my components but not all (I am going to edelkrone for their fabulously ingenious follow focus requiring no collars and allowing for multiple positions to accomodate for longer handles or low slung work I have ordered all the components you listed above and will be building yur identical rig (with the exception of the follow focus where I splurged)

    1. Dan McComb

      Wow, that Edelkrone is a work of art. I’d love to see a review of it after you’ve used it for a bit. My only question about it is: is it rock solid even though it attaches to only one rod?

  4. Sean

    I will definitely let you know how my hybrid rig works with the edelkrone follow focus. I feel optimistic. I also would like to talk to you about FCPX. I’m a fence dweller an one of those trapped in the netherworld with projects in FCP7 that need further editing.

  5. Tim


    have been going through the same dilemma in looking for the ideal shoulder setup and this look’s like it will fit my needs perfectly. love the idea of not having to use counterweights! I guess I just need a slight nudge in the right direction, I was initially looking at the D|runner bundle from jag35 then came across this. Can you see any downside to this rig over the D|Runner? It is a more affordable option and allows me to spend the savings on the z finder too which i was going forgo in favor of the monitor x from jag35.

    Am loking to buy ASAP as i have a shoot coming up in a couple of weeks, and being that im on a small* island in the south pacific it may take some time to ship (NZ). So any advice and info you can provide would be mucho appreciado!

    1. Dan McComb

      Hi Tim, the main downside to my rig that I’ve found is that I’ve found it very difficult to get steady shots while walking: the arm that clasps over your chest jostles the camera if you’re in motion at all. Of course, it’s difficult to get steady shots while walking with any shoulder rig, but this one is particularly bad. The shoulder pad arm also causes ergonomic problems for female shooters. That’s basically it. If you’re male, and your goal is to shoot steady shots (especially lengthy takes) with your feet planted in one spot while rolling, this is a great solution.

  6. derek

    Polaroid makes the identical shoulder rig sold at B&H for $39.99. I set them side by side in the store and they are obviously made by the same manufacture. All joints, thumb screws, and even surface texture are identical. The Recoil shoulder rig is $89 if I am not mistaken, so you are paying 2x the cost for a different sticker on the collapsing shoulder joint.

  7. Megan

    Darn. I’m somewhat disappointed to hear your remark about female shooters. I’m looking for a way to stabilize my DSLR for handheld work (I’ve got essential tremor in my hands/arms which has me tied to a tripod for now) and found this while researching the Dot Line rig you mention. Can you comment further on the specific issues with the shoulder pad? Thanks!

    1. Dan McComb

      There are many other alternatives that should work for you. I also have seriously shaky hands, so handheld work is out of the question for me. I recently added the Square Shot rig to my kit, and I’ve found it possible for me to do some handheld using this (though not as long as with a shoulder rig). I’m also seriously looking at the new rigs from Edelkrone, which appear to be very nicely designed and well made for the price. But I haven’t tried them yet. Here’s the US distributor:

  8. Megan

    Is the issue that it’s just too narrow a curve, or too short a front arm, to fit comfortably over some women’s chests? I did have that concern, just looking at it, but haven’t found any site with detailed enough dimensions to see whether the thing would work for me. Well, I’ll keep looking.

  9. Megan

    Thanks, Dan. Yeah, I wondered about that front brace, trying to picture where it would fall on someone smaller and female. Had to laugh at your “not ergonomically correct.” When I first saw the setup pics on the company website, I was thinking something a bit less diplomatic. (grin)

    The Edelkrone pocket rig looks pretty interesting, though. Lightweight and unobtrusive. Thanks for the links.

  10. Kevin

    Hi Dan — I assembled a rig from your design and used it this past weekend…It worked great !! Thanks for the post, and best wishes.


  11. Alan


    got the same setup for much less:

    * Gorilla OEM Version for 70 bucks
    * NoName OEM Viewfinder (Clone of Zacuto) for 70 bucks
    * Rods Carbon 30 bucks
    * NoName Follow Focus 50 bucks
    * M16A2 Body-Rifle-Strap 20 bucks
    * Baseplate China-OEM Riser 40 bucks
    Sum: 280 Dollars (including shipping fees)

  12. Jeff

    Dan how did you shoot the time lapse scenes in the Nordstrom video? Was the entire video shot with you DSLR and shoulder rig pictured? Was the actual time lapse video shooting in time lapse mode or just individual pictures edited? Sorry I am a newbie and loved the shoe scene as well as the other time lapse scenes!

    Thank you I enjoyed your video!

    1. Dan McComb

      Hi Jeff,
      The timelapse footage for that piece was shot with 3 GoPro cameras. The brief bits of non-timelapse footage was shot with a EOS 60D. We didn’t use the shoulder rig at all on this shoot. The GoPros were mounted from the ceiling on a Magic Arm, or stuck on a light stand. And yes, the shooting was in timelapse mode on the GoPros, one frame every two seconds. The shoe scene was actually just a series of stills shot with the Canon on a tripod, and assembled together in Quicktime at 10 frames per second, to get that stop-motion effect. Glad you enjoyed it.

  13. Tom

    This looks like a great setup and thank you for sharing this cool innovation. Here is my one question: obviously you are able to pan with this setup, but does it allow you do any tilting with the camera? My only concern with putting this together is that the chest stabilizer will prevent tilting movements as is possible with a traditional style shoulder rig.

    Thank you!

    1. Dan McComb

      HI Tom,
      You can do some tilting, but the chest stabilizer definitely limits your range. I would say you can tilt about 30 degrees, and after that it gets awkward. But in practice this hasn’t been too much of an issue for me. If you need to tilt down often to say 45 degrees, then I would look for something other than this.

  14. Garrett

    Love this rig, I have the cowboy studio shoulder rig. The best thing is hands free if you need it to be. Being able to open doors or manage gear while tracking subjects is made so much easier. The only problem, the cowboy studio rig didn’t last long. Not sure what the piece is called but it’s the last piece that attaches to the rig, allows for you to align camera in front of face. The screw that mounts it to the rig stripped the plastic threads out pretty easily. Pretty hard to find that replacement part. Definitely a rig for someone who needs to pack light and still have amazing stability, doesn’t allow space for mounting a beachteck or monitor off camera, but if you’re shooting with this rig your intention should be to be as light and mobile as possible. Great suggestion.


    1. Dan McComb

      What’s great about this rig is it’s so cheap, that even though it’s made out of plastic, you can just buy a new one if it wear’s out. Mine, however, is still going strong.


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