Mounting the Pocket Camera on the Ronin-M

A few weeks ago I finally got my DJI Ronin-M. I got it specifically for the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. Right off the bat, I ran into some small problems and in this post, I would like to show you how I completed a working set-up.

Cage

I use Tilta cage for all my current set-ups (shoulder, slider, tripod, etc) and I wanted to use it for the Ronin-M too.

And here was the first problem. The cage has a custom quick release system built into it. There is no way to get quick release adapters nor to replace this plate with the universal one.

For a moment, I thought that maybe I could mount the cage together with the baseplate, but I realized it’s not gonna work:

There is no way to balance it out with this configuration. I would probably need to use the extension plates for the Ronin to be able to move the base plate lower.

Speed-booster to the rescue

I started looking into some other ways to make it work and I figured out that maybe I can use the Speed Booster tripod foot:

I took my Manfrotto plate (501PL) and screwed it in. The camera is light enough to stay in place. It’s not ideal and I’m not 100% comfortable with this hack, but I didn’t find any other way to make it work with this particular cage.

In the next step I screwed the Manfrotto adapter to the Ronin’s base plate:

Power solution

A great thing about the Ronin-M is the ability to power the camera off of the Ronin’s battery using the P-TAP socket in the mounting base. The only thing I needed was the cable with P-TAP port on one end and BMPCC power plug on the other.

Monitor

This is something that I didn’t expect — my regular HDMI cable that I use isn’t working well with Ronin-M. It’s too stiff, and the cable is affecting the motors too much. So I started looking online and quickly found out that there are some specialized HDMI cables designed specifically for the gimbal set-ups. They are made of a very flexible materials and they won’t affect the balance of the camera.

I picked Sanho HyperThin:

Another extra accessory that I needed was a monitor mounting bracket. The original one from DJI is ridiculously expensive for what it is, so I decided to get something else:

Check out the mount on eBay

It’s a metal clamp that can be attached to the top bar and then we can use one of the two (1/4" and 3/8") mounting holes to attach the ballhead with the monitor.

After a few tests I replaced the small ballhead that came with the monitor mount with the one I got with my Cullmann Tripod. It holds much better and the monitor feels more secure:

A big disadvantage that I found when configuring the monitor is that Ronin doesn’t have any P-Tap sockets in the battery area to power the monitor. I would need to route the cables from the mounting plate which means another cable affecting the balance. For now, I just use the 2 LP-E6 batteries.

Here’s the fully assembled set-up:

Configuration

There are countless tutorials describing how to properly balance the gimbal, so I will just show you the settings that I applied in the mobile app to make the Ronin work best:

Using the default settings I was getting pretty nasty jarring on the tilt motor. I wasn’t able to walk with the camera without having these disturbing jumps up and down.

After playing with the settings above, I managed to get rid of the problems. If you experience something similar start with the values above and take it from there.

Battery Tests

I think it’s worth mentioning that DJI used to supply 3400mAh battery with the Ronin-M as a standard kit, but now the package comes with 2 intelligent batteries of 1580mAh. DJI explains that the reason behind it is to reduce the weight of the device even more. To be honest, I would prefer to have a bigger battery that lasts longer over the two smarter ones. The weight difference is not that significant.

From my tests the intelligent battery lasted for 2h powering the Ronin-M and BMPCC in idle mode (on the stand).

When the gimbal is in use it lasts for about 1.5h, depending on the kind of work we do with it.

What’s next

One of the critical aspects of using the camera on a gimbal is Focus Pulling. With my current setup it’s not possible.

I have 3 choices:

  1. Use wide angle lenses,
  2. Use deep depth of field,
  3. Keep constant distance to the subject.

In most cases I can work with the above limitations, but in order to be able to pull off more interesting shots, I would need to have a full control over the focus as well.

This means that additional part is required: remote follow focus and a focus puller to control that for me.

Summary

Working with gimbal systems certainly takes some time and getting used to. Similarly to any other stabilizers, like Glidecam and Steadycam, without practice, the results won’t be amazing. While I’m definitely getting better in operating my Ronin-M, there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

I will try to post some of my best test clips in future posts.

Quick links to the products

  1. DJI Ronin-M (Amazon)
  2. Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera (Amazon)
  3. Tilta cage (Amazon)
  4. Metabones EF to BMPCC Speed Booster (Amazon)
  5. SmallHD DP4 monitor (Amazon)
  6. Cullmann Tripod with Ballhead (Amazon)
  7. Manfrotto plate 501PL (Amazon)
  8. Manfrotto adapter (Amazon)
  9. P-TAP to BMPCC power cable (Amazon)
  10. Sanho HyperThin HDMI cable (Amazon)
  11. Monitor mount (eBay)

Originally published at Time in Pixels.