Shoulder rig kit for about 200$

I receive a lot of email from people asking me which shoulder rig they should buy. My usual answers swing between the Shape WLB Sumo or a small Zacuto rigs, depending of the expected usage.

The problem with these suggestions is they, while valid, are out of the budget for a lot of shooters (starving students, I am looking at you). This is why I decided to look around and see it if was possible to design a complete rig kit for about 200$ that would be decent enough to be used on small paying gigs.

The parts

A basic kit requires at least a shoulder rig (duh!), a viewfinder and a light. Some people could argue that you dont really need these two accessories but past experiences has shown to me that  you do. You could even add a mic into the kit if you need audio for your line of work.

The rig

I had to look long and hard to find something decent and cheap. In the end, to stay within budget, I had to compromise on build quality. Priced under 22$, the CowboyStudio Shoulder Support Pad is a steal. It is not as stable as bigger rigs and does not allow you to plug any other accessories but it gets the job done at a ridiculously low price. I tested it for about 30 minutes and, while it is far from perfect, it is a big improvement over shooting hand held.

The light

Lights can be expensive, especially when you want LED. And trust me, you want LED! Other lights are too heavy or dont last long enough. While LED may not be the strongest lights, their flexibility and small size mean you can use them pretty much everywhere.

LED lights have come a long way in the last two years. LitePanels used to be the only decent option in this market segment but, since then, things have changed. While the LightPanels Micro Pro hybrid is an incredible product, it is totally out of our budget. This is why I suggest the CowboyStudio Led VL-126. It is ridiculously cheap (under 60$) while providing a decent amount of light. For the price of a single LightPanel Micro Pro, you would build a 1’x1′ light out of these!

Note: I have yet to confirm, but this light looks strangely like the Opteka VL-126 Ultra, which is a bit more expensive.


Here comes the most expensive part of our kit. Yet, at 99$ the LCDVF is an excellent investment and very easy to resell once you get an electronic viewfinder or external monitor. I have been a big fan of the Z-Finder but since I tried my friend LCDVF, I think I prefer the LCDVF. The magnification ratio is better fir the current HDSLR LCD screen pixel density.

Note: BH sells the LCDVF at 169$ while CowboyStudio sells it at 99$ on Amazon. You may want to read this article before placing your order.


There you have it, total price is under 200$, including shipping! And, once you have more money, it is quite easy to upgrade the rig to something more stable while keeping the viewfinder and light.

About Tommy

Photography allows me to be what I want to be, to be where I want to be, and to do what I want to do … I’m not professional photographer and I don’t need a title, I love to take photographs and that is what I do, I love to learn and I always try to do it better …

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  • Hello,

    thanks for the post. You wrote:
    “My usual answers swing between the Shape WLB Sumo or a small Zacuto rigs, depending of the expected usage.”

    Could you specify which of these two rigs is better for what purpose?


  • admin

    Sure Robert!

    The Sumo (and other rigs in its familly) is good for general shooting when you cant setup a tripod. It is very stable and allows good framing options thanks to its support arm (you can put the arm on the ground for low shots).

    The Zacuto gorilla/tactical shooter (or what ever they call it now) is my travel rig. It is easy to take apart and takes minimal space and weight. It is also extremely robust so I am not worried when I pack it in my bags.

    You can find reviews of both products on the site.

  • Uke

    Can you add a bracket to the shoulder rig so you can add more accesories like a mic also?

    • admin

      Yes, depending of the bracket you have in mind.

  • Andrius Simutis

    I just wanted to point out that the link you have for the LCDVF is actually to a knockoff purporting to be the genuine article. If you want to promote knockoffs to save a buck, you should at least link to someone selling the knockoff as a knockoff and charging knockoff prices. The one on amazon is charging more and claiming it to be the genuine article, in other words a scam.

    • admin

      Andrius: if you check this page , you will see what I think about these copies. Also, in the post I do mention that these are copies but, from what I have gathered from trustful sources, these use the same optics and made on identical specs than the official version. Try to find out where the LCDVF are build and then check where the copies are made and you will understand my point!

      Google a bit and you will see my point. I just wish I had the spare money to buy both and do a real test to get to the bottom of this!