Vimeo member SatoStudios threw up this great little overview of the Varavon Mini Armor Video Cage while in use. It may look unusual, but the weird shape was designed to leave clearance to all basic controls of your typical DSLR camera body. The lightweight frame offers just enough mounting areas to put your common video accessories such as a wireless mic receiver, preamp, microphone, and EVF / LCD Monitor.
At first glance most Varavon products take unusual routes in designing camera gear. One example is how they opted to design their ViewFinder with a pop open door and mirror for low angle shots. Unusually I find myself using this feature quite a bit now. This time they've designed their Armor (cage) to not look so 'cage like' when compared to all the other square or rectangular boxes on the market. Varavon sent over the Armor [Thanks Varavon] and it looked like a weird contorted frame, but that's all designed to make your camera still feel like a camera. We didn't really notice this until mounting the 5D Mark II and using it as we normally would hand held. The frame is very lightweight, but it's far from flimsy. Not exactly sure what's it's made from but it feels more like steel not so much aluminum.
Since most DSLR cameras have the hand grip placed on the right side of the body, I guess Varavon figured you'll be focusing with your left hand and supporting the camera with your right. For this, they provided some 15mm standard stubs only on the right side of the Armor body and include a well crafted wide grip handle for support. Instead we tested different things from Shoulder Pads to Target Shooter style gunstocks mounted on the stud. You can use this 15mm mount for a variety of things, but if you build up too far, you might have a tough time getting on and off a Tripod head.
The Armor comes with a mounting base, which is already designed to accept the Varavon View Finder. I have one for the 5D Mark II, so it fit in place perfectly. The entire package together really works, but it has it's 'cons'. The quick release is still a propriety system. The View Finder I have is only for the Canon 5D Mark II, so this won't mount correctly if i'm using a 7D, 60D, T2i, T3i, GH2, etc. For people who own multiple cameras, expect that you'll only be using it for one. Another thing I found was the many many threaded holes around the cage. It's nice if you're mounting a direct 1/4-20 bolt directly. But I tried mounting a hot shoe adapter and it continuously positioned the wrong way. This is due to the threads not allowing a bolt to spin freely before locking it down. I may have to drill a few of these out to remove the threads. For most people Varavon products haven't been competitive in pricing, but that could be contributed to quality. Also, tools like the Varavon ViewFinder and Cage don't exactly fall under 'Future Proof' designs if someday you choose to change cameras. All in all, in the time i've had a chance to use Varavon products, I've been really impressed. They make excellent quality ViewFinders, Sliders, and now this Armor Cage. More information on the Armor can be found at their website (click here).
Here's an interesting DIY DSLR Cage that appeared on auction. It's like a camera caddie meets rotating flash bracket type layout. From the description it's a one off piece, but a very cool setup of handles, base, and accessory mounting points. There's a bit of a back story in the auction details if you want to check it out. It's too bad this thing never flew into production, if the price was right I think it would have done well. This looks like it could have easily stepped in where Varavon's DSLR Armor is trying to take place. Either way, if you're a DIY'er time to take a close peek at this design to spark some creativity. Unless it's sold, you can find it here.
Varavon's new Armor adds a few extra handles as well as accessory mounting points. It's a cross between a cage and a hand held stabilizer. I think it looks pretty cool, but i'm not sure how you actually set the thing down. Either way, it keeps the camera looking fairly low profile while still adding functionality to shooting hand held, I think it's pretty cool.
Thinking about what I have laying around to simulate a DIY, it reminds me of a Photographer's Rotating Flash Bracket. Maybe throw a handle here and there, drill a few holes... Check this one out by Custom Brackets.
CB Junior Rotating Flash Bracket Kit