A review of the Bright Tangerine AXL. by Vincent-Aaron Segers. +- 5min read
While browsing the internet looking at some camera-gear (like every nerdy focus-puller) something stood out due to it's bright orange color. Yes, you're right it was something from Bright Tangerine and that "something" was the new Bright Tangerine "Axl" . Curious of what it was I reached out to them to explain the Axl . The kind guys from Bright Tangerine (thanks!) sent me a unit for some hands on testing.
At first glance it feels very solid, well built and sturdy. The used material is of high quality and the parts have been anodized to battle against the elements. We all know Bright Tangerine of their iconic lightweight matte boxes and manual follow-focus systems like the Revolvr.
The Axl is Bright Tangerine's newest addition to camera "hardware" . It's a multipurpose view-finder bracket that you can use on various cameras and viewfinders. It utilizes 15mm rods to hold the bracket on nearly every camera set-up that has these rods attached to their camera. On their website you can find various bracket attachments for different viewfinders. At this current time I'm testing the EVF bracket for common Arri viewfinders such as the MVF-1 and MVF-2. But they have brackets for Canon, Sony, Zacuto aswel. On the top there is an engraving with numbers so you can set the preferred position as well.
As a focus-puller I'm not "stuck" to one camera-operator /or DP so I see a lot of people in a week shooting various camera set-up's in various settings. But I've noticed something that was similar nearly every time. The "struggle" of finding the "perfect " spot for their viewfinder: one operator want's it far upfront, the other one is left-eyed, some people don't use the viewfinder at all. As you can see, there are a lot of preferences and I try to keep every operator / DP happy. But sometimes I have to build my motors underslung on the 15mm rods and add my CineRt upfront near the matte box and yes the space does get very restricted on the rods. We all know that DP's are very picky on everything that is mounted on their camera haha . But sometimes there is room for change and in my personal opinion: breaking old habits and diving into something new and innovative.
Is this going to be a game changer? Who am I to judge. That's why I took it to the field with various DP's / operators for their fair opinion. I first tested it at " The Movie Lot" with my befriended DP and rental owner Piet Deyaert . Please make note, that this test was not in a shooting environment. Piet prefers a "fixed" distance from eye to viewfinder but likes to swivel the viewfinder around when going high or low angle. This is what he had to say:
"Straight out of the box, the Axl feels very strong and well built. The fitting of the MVF-2 in the Axl bracket is nice and tight and feels like this will last for a long time. I'm used to adjusting the viewfinder from on top of the bracket and not on the right side, because I like to hold the camera with my right hand when shooting handheld and adjust the viewfinder accordingly with my left-hand. The bracket seems just a tad short for off-setting it to my eye, but this is a personal preference. When shooting on tripod or fixed shots the big large knob to adjust the viewfinder's position is much more convenient."
A week later I had the chance to shoot with David Doom , also a befriended DOP of mine. He is also very picky about the position of the viewfinder, especially because he is left-eyed, so the viewfinder has to be more to the left. I had to rig a 3D goggle on the camera with direct feed of that system on 1 monitor and live-feed of the camera on another monitor.
This is what he had to say: "Feels like a breath of fresh air. Finally a viewfinder bracket that can slide FAR away from the body. I need this space because I'm used to use the viewfinder with my left eye. Other viewfinder brackets come a little short and this is just perfect."
Two shoots later I had the chance to work with DOP Bjorn Charpentier (SBC). As myself he is a real "gear-nerd" and thinks out his set-up very well before hand. We had a hand-held shoot this day in the snow. I reached out and asked him to play with it during the shoot. These are his findings: "The Axl is very well built, and the quality of used metal is gorgeous. With the original viewfinder-bracket (nb. Arri) it's sometimes a struggle because the butterfly screw is hard to reach due to the mounting of Cinetapes / UDM's and such. The large screw works well, but it would be much nicer to have to closer to the viewfinder. Preferable on top of the camera, so IF would need to adjust it, it's easier to reach. Personal taste: I like the knob due to it's practicality but aesthetically it would be nice to have it a bit smaller. The length of the viewfinder bracket could be a little bit longer, but for hand-held shoots it's enough. When I set-up my viewfinder I don't move it anymore during the shoot. I also had the chance to use the Axl on a more studio set-up (dolly, slider, tripod). Here I found out that when retracting and pulling the Axl in it "bumps" against the focus-pullers' motors due to the size of the knob. Not a "real" issue, but assistants could get mad haha.
"the original Arri VF works, but the Axl is better. It's like the icing on top of the cake."
I can conclude that the Axl has an overall positive feedback from the people who have used them. Unfortunately I did not have the chance to try the Axl out on other camera brand and or set-up's. The majority of the shoots in Belgium are on Arri camera's. Would I love to have the Axl in my setbag? Sure! I think it's nice to have it as a solution due to the fact that every camera set-up needs a different approach and it's always nice to have an additional, well built piece of equipment when needed. Will it replace the common Arri VF? Well.. I'm not sure I will replace the viewfinders' we are used to work with. I think it will be an addition to a lot of people on their sets. I think the Axl will reach it's full potential on Red, Sony and Canon users, as they don't have a real sophisticated viewfinder.
Don't forget, people are creatures of habit.
the Axl is now on sale on there website: www.brighttangerine.com/axl special thanks to: David Doom, Piet Deyaert, Bjorn Charpentier and "The Movie Lot"