Wood handgrips have come back in to vogue lately. There's something lovely about a warm wooden grip when operating a handheld camera. It feels amazing, and it looks damn fine. There are several folks making wood grips these days, a lot of designs are similar to the look of the classic Aaton wooden grip. One company that has sprung up recently is KinoGrip, and they now offer a wide variety of custom trigger and non-triggered grips that hearken back to the Aaton spirit, but with an updated shape. I've been shooting with a KinoGrip for a while now, and love it. Read on for some photos and my thoughts…
Originally called Wood Ergo Grip, KinoGrip is the creation of Ray Thomas, a Tucson-based shooter. I met Ray a few years ago on Twitter, and we've had drinks most recently at Cine Gear '13. When he first started sharing pictures of these custom grips on Twitter, I knew I had to have one! Fit and finish is exceptional, and they can be customized in terms of size, fit, finish, and trigger options. I offered to test some of Ray's first designs, here's a shot of an early grip prototype that I tested on a RED Epic handheld setup for a Taylor Swift music video.
I don't have those wee little French hands, and the old Aaton-style grip never felt quite right in my hand. So when I purchased my grip, I asked Ray to custom build my grip just a bit larger, a little more substantial. I also had it made in a gorgeous dark walnut. Function is critical, but if you can look good doing it, why not? For mounting, you can get a standard ARRI rosette option, or a 15mm spud with rod adapter link. I chose the rosette option, so that I could use it with the slick Zacuto FS700 grip relocator. It's a nice combo that allows me to quickly pop the grip on to any 15mm rods.
When I bought my Kino Grip last year, they weren't yet offering start/stop trigger options. As of now, they have a plethora of camera trigger options, so I've actually just sent my grip in to get upgraded with a trigger. The beauty of Ray's triggering setup is that the grip and trigger is compatible with a wide variety of cameras…the triggered grip has a port built in, and to start/stop on different camera systems, you simply need to purchase the appropriate camera cable. So, for Sony FS100/700, Canon C100/C300, and all other standard LANC cameras, you just need the KinoGrip LANC cable. But if you're shooting the next day on Alexa/Amira, or perhaps a Canon DSLR, you can simply swap out for the appropriate cable with the same grip.
In fact, Kino Grip may be the only company offering a proper start/stop trigger for the 5D Mark III (Ray's cable actually plugs into the camera, it doesn't use an IR setup). As a cinematographer who is constantly shooting on different camera systems for each project, having a modular option was critical for me. I love the fact that I can use my grip on just about any camera now. It's beautifully modular. And of course you can simply unplug the cable and use the grip sans cable if you just need a handle.
I did some testing for KinoGrip recently on a new design prototype outfitted with a trigger (shown above). You can see in these two pictures that it simply uses a minijack plug. (Note that the LANC minijack cable shown in these photos is a straight plug, but the new cable design now offers a 90-degree plug). Other plug options include a locking minijack (similar to Sennheiser's locking audio connectors), or a locking lemo. For my walnut grip trigger upgrade, I chose the minijack plug, as it seemed to be the most low-profile option. And after testing this latest prototype grip for a while, I was confident that the minijack was secure enough not to need a locking connector.
So there you have it. Over the past 12 months, a cottage industry has sprung up, and we shooters suddenly have a number of options for wood grips, a buffet of choice and brands. While they are certainly not essential for operation, wood grips are a very warm and classy way to personalize your handheld camera rig. I've personally been very happy with the quality and functionality of what KinoGrip offers. They are also quite affordable, as wooden grips go. If you are in the market for a wood grip for your camera, check them out.