A review of the DSLR rigs from Zacuto

As with my recent review of the new Z-Finders it is very important in the interest of honesty that you are aware that I have a relationship with Zacuto, both as friends and as an affiliate. But, as I say in my ethics statement I only take banners from products I completely endorse. There is nothing on this site that I don’t use day in day out… as the moment I recommend gear that sucks there goes any credibility that I had. Of course not everyone will agree with my opinion, as like all reviews, this is my opinion. I am sure many of you prefer other rigs and am sure they are great. I simply bought a massive Zacuto Rig 3 years ago and have never looked back. I bought cheap variations which were naff, I then bit the bullet and used my credit card and I do not regret it in the least! Their lifetime warranty is what sealed it for me, anything goes wrong, even accidental damage and they will swap it out, forever!

My first Zacuto rig

With the introduction of DSLRs that shoot video Zacuto have held centre stage with their Z-Finder, the absolute number one accessory for the DSLR, but also their rigs are indispensable.

Using the original Tactical Shooter with Z-Finder V1

At NAB they introduced a whole new line of “Gorilla Rigs” and “Cinema Rigs”, I haven’t played around much with the new Cinema rigs apart from the Crossfire, but that is essentially the Striker pimped up. All the ones with counter balances I haven’t played with apart from at NAB, but if your budget can afford it (they are not cheap) but you are shooting NON-STOP handheld, this is the way to go, especially if you are using Matte Boxes etc.

There are two main “Gorilla Rigs” down one from the last lot. We used to have the Rapid Fire, Quick Draw and Tactical Shooter. I hated the Quick Draw as it didn’t have a butt, they have dropped it thankfully so we now have the Target Shooter and Striker.

The Target Shooter is essentially the Rapid Fire which was the one I generally suggested to people to get. It’s the cheapest one and works really well. The Butt of it goes where a rifle butt would go giving you one point of contact, the Z-Finder gave you two then two hands on the camera gave you two more. Four points of contact. It’s also really lightweight, simple and works a treat and  like all Zacuto gear build up from it. The new Target Shooter is different as they removed the Manfrotto QR plate as they have their new plate which simply slides onto the pole and is quick released from that. You can attach your tripod QR plate onto the bottom of the Zacuto plate so it’s still easy to go onto a tripod or slider etc…just less plates are used. Before if was Manfrotto plate then onto the other half of your manfrotto plate onto your QR plate of your tripod. They have simply taken a step away making it more rigid. Other than that the Target Shooter isn’t drastically different and is still the one I recommend for those starting out, it’s the one I used to use all the time. That has changed recently. But until then it was always this one.

Target Shooter

It really is very simple but it makes a huge difference to stability and is very adjustable to all sorts of body types. Something some other non Z rigs aren’t.

Next up is the STRIKER! The rebadged tactical shooter. The different between this and the Target shooter (these names are confusing) is you have an extra handle for your right hand to grip. This give you extra stability for those longer handheld shots. It does make a difference. This is what I would call the pro Gorilla Kit. Because your hand is on the handle you can use this in conjunction with the Switronic flex remote (also available from Zacuto) to let you start and stop recording without letting go of the handle.

It’s a great kit and they haven’t changed much apart from the new baseplate.

flex remote

This is where it gets REALLY cool for me, they have brought out something called the “Single Action”, it’s essentially mini rails for the Striker than adds a follow focus. This can be used on the tripod too but the joy is using it handheld with the Striker. Stick these together and they become the “Cross Fire”, easily my favourite rig from Zacuto ever. If you need follow focus on your handheld gorilla rig this is it. I find it really comfortable to use and very adjustable (all these rigs work with all the DSLRs by the way). It’s what I take everywhere with me and if you saw me at either the Phoenix meet up, NY meet up or Converge 2 then this is what I had. It’s what I will be using on all my handheld jobs. I love it and the way it easily comes off with a tweak of the below red know and the camera comes free! I love the big counterweight ones too but they are big, heavy and ruin the compactness of the DSLR rig for me. If I was shooting a handheld movie I would without doubt use the Cinema rigs, but for all my doco work and personal projects then this is the one I choose.

Single Action

With my new favourite Matte Box, the Petroff
Demonstrating the Cross Fire at the NYC meet up

I recently got the Petroff Matte Box as picture here. It’s my new favourite matte box. SUPER strong, two 4×4 trays, really well made and affordable but this is key…REALLY light! Also check out the new DSLR handle which makes carrying these rigs a lot easier and works great for low angle shots.

Here are the new Cinema Rigs. These are the top end of the Zacuto line, so not for the budget conscious. They really are worth it for high end projects, but if you are on a budget…Stick to the basic one and then move up. The cool thing is with Zacuto, you don’t like it after getting it delivered, send it back. They have the world’s best customer service. Nothing to lose really!

With the removal of the old DSLR plate and the addition of this single action it makes the rig much lighter and works a lot better.

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  1. Hi Philip

    Many thanks for the review ! … Having come from using a korean ‘Gini’ rig i’ve decided to invest in Zacuto … Cross Fire it is then !!!



  2. I love that they come out with a handle about a month after I bought the parts to make one to carry my rig around. It’s still great stuff though.

  3. Philip have you ever used the rig thats pictured on the second from last picture? I currently have a Redrock Micro Shouldermount but this looks a bit more streamlined.

  4. Just wondering how good this stuff is for wedding videography where you need to have smooth moving shots. If not, what kind of situations makes this equipment a “wouldn’t be without it.” I don’t see much written about the practice it must take to produce really steady shots, especially with anything over 85mm on a 5DMkII.

      1. The monopod Philip suggests in the 7D dvd is killer. When I am shooting something more than a few minutes handheld I generally use that as personally I feel like it’s much, much smoother. It gives the shot a lovely floating quality.

  5. That’s what I am thinking, but what am I missing?. Obviously this stuff is hugely popular in some circles or they wouldn’t be selling it 🙂

  6. I have a Tactical that I am tweaking out a bit by adding two redrock grips and the Jag35 cage so that I can get my follow focus on the cage, but on the top. I think the Crossfire looks awesome but I can’t justify paying for it having just spent a boatload of money on the older versions 🙁

    I’m curious if you’ve ever tried out any of the redrock rigs or from any of the other bigger names out there to see how they all stack up. It looks like Gale Tattersal used the eyespy rig and the NFL draft had a bunch of them as well. Really curious how they handle as that whole rig isn’t too pricey.

  7. Zacuto is always coming up with great stuff. When I saw video of the crossfire from NAB I thought that this was exactly the rig I was looking for. I didn’t really like any of the older gorilla rigs because they didn’t really allow you to modify them as much as the newer one does. After I bought my newsman rig for my EX1 I have been in love with Zacuto product and have been trying to decided which rig to buy for my 7D. Now that I know the crossfire has your seal of approval i’m all good to go. Thanks Phil!

    Will you be bringing it with you to Florida in june/july? would love to take a look at it before I buy.



  8. Thanks for the great review. Does it still work with a Canon 70-200 lens & matte box? Looks like the rails might be too short.

  9. Hey Phillip, I was wondering why the follow focus is so expensive? I mean the complexity of it is… well not complex at all. Just a couple of gears with a knob.

    1. Unfortunately for a follow focus to be reliable and accurate it costs money. There are cheap alternatives out there. Check of the D-focus from jag35.com

  10. is there anywhere in the Uk that will sell these rigs? Have found a few places but the prices are seriously high!

        1. Nah! It’s a Buff! And I’m glad to see you Philip wearing one, as it’s a product made in my hometown (Igualada, next to Barcelona in Catalunya, Spain)… Actually, it’s made by my family…

          Regards from Igualada!

  11. They all look excellent! I just wish they wouldn’t use the military names, that’s really off-putting to me.

    With regard to prices – they do seem steep with the weak pound, but you are buying quality and a flexible system that’ll grow. It’s strange that the ‘heart’ – the camera – is getting cheaper and everything around it is getting more expensive. The whole package is still mind-blowingly amazing value compared to the next level up.

    1. yeah, not a fun of names either. Problem is camera tech is getting cheaper and its hard for the smaller companies to keep up. There are of course budget alternatives…

  12. these guys stock Zacuto parts…


    Pretty good customer service. They actually sent their first batch of the new z finders back because the new glass had faults apparently. This was nice, as i would imagine many shops just sending out products without checking them for the customer to have to complain and get a replacement, costing time (and in professional situations even money).

    Plus they have girls that sound really hot on the phone!

    1. CVP are ok, just not very knowledgeable. Don’t go asking for advice. Do that direct with Zacuto first. . Also check out The Flash Centre.

  13. Assuming one had the new Target shooter and the new Z-Finder Pro, what would one need to make it possible to quickly transfer the camera to a Manfrotto tripod or unipod with a 501 style head? Would it just be the Manfrotto slider that I currently use with my 5D? If so this would be a very quick and easy changeover.

  14. Nice reviews, even if they are somewhat “after the fact” for me.

    I ordered a Striker right after the NAB week and have had it for about a week. I have only had a chance to shoot with it once.

    For those wondering about the price, once you see the machining that had to go into it as well as the workmanship for these kits you’ll have an “ah-ha.” To me it was almost like holding an Apple product where not only is it well made but all the parts and design seem to be very well thought out. And in typical Apple fashion, now especially with the Z-Finders, they always seem to be improving them (and usually right after you make the plunge to buy one). (Thanks to Philip, though, for pointing out earlier that Z-Finder v2’s can get the glass upgraded!)

    I find the Striker to be a tad front/top heavy. I had my 24-70mm f/2.8 lens on for the one time that I was shooting with it. I would imagine my 70-200 f/2.8 would feel even more so, but that something like the 50mm f/1.4 might not be that bad. Even if focus (or zoom) isn’t changing, I think you’ll always need your left hand on the camera somewhere.

    Do you find the Cross Fire to feel really front heavy? Espcially with a matte box? Perhaps I just haven’t had a chance to get accustomed to the Striker and how to get a good balanced feel with the various points of contact. Like you say, the cinema kits with their counterbalances start to make a lot of sense for longer handheld shots.

    I will say that the Flex remote is dang near essential with the Striker. I didn’t buy one initially and then the first time I had it set up with the 5D I had another “ah-ha” moment and ordered one right away. I haven’t had any time with it, but it seems to fit just right for one’s right thumb. The only thing I’m wondering about is the delay with start/stop (mostly start).

    Finally, since the monopod was mentioned here already in the comments and having had the Manfrotto 560B-1 for about five months now, I’ll say it is indispensable. (Turns out it’s great for handycams and video point & shoots as well as HD-DSLRs.) I had wondered for a while if one could have either a monopod or a Zacuto rig for portable stability where a tripod is not practical, but now I’ll say that for the even slightly heavier user, you need both. It’s kind of like an iPhone, iPad and a laptop with these and a tripod. Sure there is some overlap in what you’d use them for, but if you are filming a lot, you’ll need/use all three at some point for purposes at which they excel.

    In summary, you can trust Philip Bloom here…and American Express will thank you for it.

    1. Cheers Mate. Yes is is front heavy, all of them will be unless you use a counterweight. The petroff matte box I have is so light it adds little to it…

  15. Great stuff… having real trouble deciding on the Zacuto Crossfire or the Red Rock micro rig’s both seem quality – but the RR micro is 1K less…. Think I may need to test drive them when I’m in the US next…

  16. What I don’t understand is if you are buying all these extra accessories why don’t you buy a camcorder which has many of these components already included or much cheaper accessories are available.

  17. BorrowLenses.com just got a couple of these rigs in…I’m going to try out the Striker & the Z-finder for a week…Hope to see you in Key West next month!

  18. Thanks for the review! This really does help me understand the different design option Zacuto offers.

    The shooter (are the names confusing or what) looks like the way to go for follow focus needs. In the pics of you at work I never see you using follow focus when shooting gorilla. I’m sure it’s easy to pull the follow focus of the rig and use on a tripod?

    Waiting on my Z-Finder first though.

  19. Hi Phillip,

    Thanks for the great information.

    Three question –

    1. can we get an exact link to the matte box you are using ?

    2. when adding a long lens, do the rigs need longer rails ? It looks like the rigs can not accommodate long lens and a matte box

    3. Can the Double Barrel be easily converted into the CrossFire?


  20. Hey philip good stuff, thanks for all the info.

    By the way do you ever sell any of that old rigs like rapid fire that you don’t use anymore cause they’re outdated?

    I’d love to take them off your hands!!

  21. Philip,

    I’m eyeing the Fast Draw shoulder rig vs. the Striker due to the front heavy nature of Striker with added gear.

    My concern is being “stealthy”. I think they are equal in this regard.

    Your thoughts?

    Many thanks! Chris

    1. the striker can be stealthy as you want it, just take bits off it and make it into a small simple rig, or pimp it up when needed. You can add counterweight pretty easily to the striker when needed too I am told.

      1. Truth be told is that I have to fit my D-focus on the Striker to make it all work. My “ghetto” Cross Fire is what it will be. Saving pennies to make it work. I just don’t want to skimp on the base framework.

        I think you are right in looking at this as a modular system.

        1. I’m doing something similar. I got the JAG35 cage which is really, really nice and really cheap. Mounted my z focus on the top and then mounted my shotgun and zoom. The really nice thing about my Tactical is that like you say I can continue to swap pieces on and off as needed. It does get heavy though which is why I tend to use the monopod more. I don’t do a lot of walk and talks with my 7D.

  22. Erm….. am i missing the point here? Are dslr rigs over priced for a captive audience (presumably overpaid), or do the shiny metal parts and simple gear wheels really cost that much to manufacture?

    1. it’ a LOT more to the sum of it’s parts, its also a very tired question that gets asked every time I post about gear like this. V small companies, making stuff in the US with all R&D themselves with incredible well made parts and lifetime warranties…

  23. Hey Guys,

    So I sent an email to Zacuto and Rachel got back to me within hours. Very helpful –

    She help me put together a part list that will enable me to assemble either CrossFire or Fast Draw (including Z-Finder, DSLR Handle and follow focus)

    Itzzz niiiice and Zacuto is very helpful.

    I will be shooting in 3 deserts over the next 4 months, Gobi, Sahara and Antarctica. These are the three harshest climates on the planet and any weakness in the gear or myself should surface.


  24. Is it a big diffrent betwin a Crossfire and Double Barrel in terms of less or more wobble. I’m planing to with CrossFire and the buy then pimp it close to Double Barrell. Don’t need the 2 haddle on DB and are told by Zacuto that it’s not only to take the one haddle of. The rig get unbalanced. I find that when jusing Canon 50 1.2 it’s a big chance that I got wobble very easy. What’s your point on that? I know tripod is the way to go but I want to get as good handheld footages as possible.

    By the way your F-stop “Learn Canon 5D mkII Cinematography” is great. I well spend money.


      1. Well I talk to Kat on Zacuto and yes, I order the Crossfire and some extra parts and the Petroff after changing my mind from Genus matte box. All after your good choice and FreshDV…Damn happy! Thanx for guys like you!

  25. Hi Phillip,

    Love your work man, learned a lot since I found your website.

    Can you tell me what the specific model name or number of the Petroff Matte Box is?


    PS. I’m in Miami but I have a few friends who would love to catch up with you if you are in Tampa or Key west. Please keep us posted if you are in the area.


  26. Hi Philip,

    It was great having you over in Oslo Philip 🙂 I have a question related to a Zacuto product combo:

    If I get the Mini Baseplate with 12″ Rods + the Flippable Z-Focus and put my 5DmkII with the battery grip ontop, then I want need the Z-spacer?
    I would still want to use the RC4 Low-Profile Rectangular Quick Release Adapter from Manfrotto to quickly release the camera to swap it for another 5DmkII I guess? What if that other 5D camera does not have a battery grip – will it be too low for the Z-Focus ?


  27. Hi Phillip,
    have you ever used the Gini Rigs before? will be nice to hear reviews from other brands other than Zacuto. we know Zacuto products rock, but is nice to balance it a bit.

    1. as stated in this blog, i am an affiliate for Zacuto which makes me it hard to do reviews of other gear. But I never recommend anything, even from them if I think ti sucks.

  28. Hey Philip,
    thanks so much for the review, the last two rigs look so awesome!
    Do they still have the lifetime warranty?

  29. I hope they can deliver the product. My experience is that Zacuto never keep their shipping dates. Usually it is moved forward 5 times before it is shipped. Very frustrating!

  30. Zacuto is just too pricey for my blood right now. I know you get what you pay for, I just can’t pay for it yet!

  31. thanks for the great review, again! Philip, if i may asking, how do you deal with the shipping costs? (or do you get the equipment for free, anyway? 😉 ) Im from austria, europe and really would like to buy zacuto stuff, but with shipping costs, etc. its effortless for me. have you ever bought some stuff from redrock, uk?

    1. 90% of my gear has been bought from the USA whilst I am in the UK. Although the exchange rate is not as good as it used to be it still worked out cheaper for me to pay for cheaper and tax than buy it in England where things cost a lot more. You need to check out the costs of doing it yourself versus the dealer price where you are…

      1. Phillip,

        I’m interested in getting the Target Shooter, but you mentioned the Rapdi Fire is more or less the same, yet I noticed, ergonomically, they are different. Is one better for “adding on” later if I want to add Follow Focus, Matte Etc.?

        Thank you!

  32. When we received our Target Shooter from Creative Mitcorp, my first thought was, “that’s a lot of money for 2 aluminum tubes”, BUT in actual use it as actually brilliant, adding fantastic stability. I already had the z-finder 2.5 (also brilliant) which added a lot of stability, but the target shooter really adds a lot more stability. Very impressive. Might update to the Striker in the future but not sure it’s really necessary to do so. Zacuto products are expensive, but they are brilliant, and as was once said to me, you never regret buying the best you can afford.

  33. Thanks for the great breakdown. I’m getting the CrossFire and was wondering how you transport it? I need to travel as light as possible, so a big Pelican with foam inserts just will not do. Any recommendations for bags / cases to look at?

  34. Hi With the petroff matteboxes do you need to do any adjustments or do they work out of the box for the Zacutzo? Thanks

  35. Hi Just ordered a Cross Fire. Will get a petroff matte box as well. Do I need to get any extra rods for the matte box and my canon 5d? . Great site!

  36. Great review Phil! Question about the Petroff. Why do you prefer this matte box compared to say RedRock Micro or Genus?

  37. so in the pic of you in the fox hole trench thingy. was that from a mens warehouse commericial with joachim bach?

  38. Phil, not sure if you check old posts … quick question about the gear. I got the Crossfire am about to order some more stuff (through your link of course ;-)) and I was wondering about the need for the “lens support.”

    (So that the follow focus doesn’t tilt the camera.)

    Steve mentions it on multiple videos — and often in conjunction with the larger Zeiss Cine Lenses. My question is, have you found the need for it? Will it work properly with the normal prime lenses?

    Thanks — I’m going to get a lot of accessories (shoulder, weights, handles, etc) to build out my Crossfire and I wanted to get your opinion.



    1. hi Anthony. I haven’t used lens support on this, on my tripod rig yes. the zacuto lens support. but only on the really heavy lenses

  39. One more thing — which 4×4 filters do you typically use with the Petroff Mattebox? Zacuto has the best price on the box but they don’t sell it with filters.



    1. Glidecam is a totally different beast to a handheld rig. Two very different products…one is to shoot handheld the other is to shoot Steadicam style shots and is hard to use, very heavy and takes months of practice!

  40. Hey Phillip,

    I’m a young dane, currently taking apprenticeship to be an photographer – a 5 year education here :).

    I got the job, to start a video department at our studio, and I’m kind of unsure of what rig to pick! I guess a steadicam ain’t preferable to a DSLR, only with an extra monitor? I actually picked a Cambo CS-STYX setup, but I realized it was a two handlebar setup, making it quite hard to pull focus yourself, while holding the camera, isen’t that right?

    I hope you can give a little advice on this 🙂

    Cheers, and thanks for an amazing informative site!

  41. Hey there! Thanks for this guide.

    I just wanted to make sure I’m understanding this right: Since I’m on a tight budget (surprise, surprise), is it possible to buy the Target Shooter (the most basic model with just the rifle butt) and then just add on as I get the funds?

    Like, add on the arm to make it the Striker, and then add the Single Action to that (follow focus and mini rails) to make it the Crossfire? Does Zacuto sell the upgrade parts like that? Or is that not how it works… Thanks. 🙂

  42. Hey Phillip.

    I notice you have the Petroff matte box pictured above. I’m getting ready to make a matte box purchase for the 5D and was wondering what your thoughts were regarding purchasing the Petroff versus the new O’Conner matte box.