Get A Grip - PortKeys KeyGrip

A side handle with camera control features
The PortKeys KeyGrip is a side handle with advanced camera and motor control features. If you've used a PortKeys monitor then you might be familiar with the kind of camera controls this device offers. I'm honestly not a regular user of grips, or at least not this style of grip. I use grips with my shoulder rig, but they are just basic hand grips. This one is so much more.

Watch my video review by clicking on the thumbnail or at this YouTube link: https://youtu.be/v2qrngQrv0w.

Not Your Average Handle

The KeyGrip has a small OLED screen on the inside which tells you there's a lot more going on with this handle than just simple start stop. It has the ability to directly control focus motors like the Tilta Nucleus Nano and connections for controlling a number of different cameras. Depending on your camera model, the top thumb wheel and joystick can be programmed to perform different functions such as ISO, aperture, menu navigation, ND, etc. The available control options are best shown off in a video rather than an article like this, and I cover that in my video. Otherwise this image of what it can do will have to suffice.
KeyGrip camera control options. Depending on your camera, the menu changes.
click to enlarge
 
 
When programmed for my E2-F6, I was controlling the electronic ND filter with the thumbwheel and my Tilta Nucleus Nano motor with the knurled wheel. Along with the record start/stop button, these were very handy controls the have. I can adjust my exposure, focus, and then hit record all with one hand. The electronic ND is one of my favorite features of the Z CAM system, but there isn't a convenient way of controlling it. You have to dig into the menu to find the setting, which makes it very hard to use while shooting. Having that control under your thumb is great. The same goes for the motor control.
The OLED screen allows for setting up control over different cameras.
click to enlarge
 
 
A top view of the thumbwheel and joystick. You can see the rubber part that came up on other reviewers' units.
click to enlarge
 
 

The Controls

The record start/stop button right where you'd expect it, where your index finger can easily reach it. Below that is a knurled rotary control with hard stops. This is used solely for motor control. Further below is a multi-function switch. This changes the function of the thumb wheel and joystick on top. To adjust the functions we need to dig into the menu.
Using the joystick for menu control is not as convenient as I would like. It always seems like I have to move it the opposite direction than what feels natural. For example, in the KeyGrip's own menu I would expect to push up and down to navigate up and down through the menu options. Instead that moves in and out of the selections. Pushing left and right moved the menu up and down, which is totally backwards. Thankfully, the thumbwheel can also be used to navigate the menu and it feels much more natural. It's also the only way I can find to move back out of a menu page.

When controlling the Z CAM menu, it had the same issue where up and down moved left and right through the camera menu. This was slightly less awkward since that's actually how the camera's own up and down buttons work.

Another complaint that me and another reviewer had was that when on the menu function, scrolling the thumbwheel would trigger the shutter adjustment on our Z CAM cameras. If you aren't aware that you've activated that control, then you could accidentally change your shutter angle without knowing it. I've come to realize that this isn't the fault of the KeyGrip. By default the Z CAM is set so that its Up button acts as the User Button for shutter adjustment. By turning off that User Button in the camera you will no longer accidentally adjust your shutter angle.

click to enlarge
 
 
The record start/stop button is on top and the knurled motor control wheel is just below it.
click to enlarge
 
 
A straight-on view of the controls. Notice the multi-function switch is missing the rubber cover.
click to enlarge
 
 

Build Quality

I was able to use the KeyGrip for over a month on a couple of shoots, so I'm writing as someone who has some solid hands-on experience. The build quality is pretty good overall. The body is machined from a single chunk of aluminum and feels very solid. It has real wood on the grip parts, even though they look fake 🤷‍♂️. I suppose it would look better with a darker wood and finish. The ARRI rosette is solidly mounted to the lower part of the handle. The thumbwheel for attaching it is nicely knurled and my unit retained the standard M6 screw without issues. Early reviewers suffered the screw getting lost inside the thumbwheel.
The inside of the handle with all of the connections and ARRI rosette mount.
click to enlarge
 
 
A view of the multiple connectors inside the handle.
click to enlarge
 
 
The CR7HB dummy battery.
click to enlarge
 
 
The grip itself performed about as well as I expected, while the dummy battery did not. It stopped working pretty early on, but I think this was a fluke as the second one has worked well for over a month. The buttons are the weakest part of the unit. Early reviewers had some issues with the rubber peeling off and the top of the joystick breaking off. The joystick is mostly plastic and sticks out like a target, making it relatively easy to hit or catch on something. My copy hasn't had these problems, but I tend to be gentle with my gear. I did manage to pull off the rubber cover from the multi-function switch, but I fully expected it and it's really not a big deal. The KeyGrip has already undergone some updates to fix some of these issues.

While I no longer have a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera for testing, as of the publication date of this article there is an issue with the Bluetooth connectivity. Apparently Blackmagic changed something in a firmware update and broke that functionality with PortKeys products. PortKeys is aware and is working on a fix.

A close-up of the joystick and thumbwheel.
click to enlarge
 
 

Motor Control

The motor control wheel feels great. It has just the right amount of dampening so you don't throw your focus too fast. I connected my Nucleus Nano to the KeyGrip using a special 5 pin to USB micro cable. I'm not certain whether this cable comes with the KeyGrip, so definitely inquire before buying yours.
Many of the PortKeys products have motor control, and I think it's a great function in theory. PortKeys monitors like the BM5 and LH5H allow for A and B focus points to be set using the touch screen interface, which is nice. You get that same functionality with the KeyGrip by pressing the joystick to the right for a few seconds. You can also trigger calibration by pressing and holding the Rec button and joystick at the same time. The only thing you can't do is change the direction of the motor. You still need the Tilta wheel to do that. One other caveat of motor control with the KeyGrip is it will only output 8V to the motor even when receiving a full 14.4V from a v-mount battery.
The KeyGrip will only output 8V to the motor even when receiving the full 14.4V from a v-mount battery.
click to enlarge
 
 
The KeyGrip and Tilta Nucleus Nano mounted on my Z CAM E2-F6.
click to enlarge
 
 
click to enlarge
 
 

How to Buy These Products

View these products on Amazon and B&H Photo:

These are affiliate links. Read more about what that means at this link