The best video accessories for DSLRs

Film School

Production Values
As a film maker, I have always been envious of the fact that photographers have the luxury of high-quality image capabilities at an affordable price. Film makers the world over are exchanging their low-end video cameras for the new DSLRs. If you don’t believe me, just check out the web and see for yourself. Not only indie film makers, but Hollywood directors are also taking advantage of this new technology. We just needed somebody to create a camera that would allow us to fully realise our films. We are at the dawn of a new era in visual imagery, where film and photography have come full circle and are reunited. Not for over 100 years has the link between the two been so close.

If you want to shoot high-end film, however, you should take note of what is to follow. In order to create moving images of outstanding quality, just like in photography, it is not only about the camera. The equipment base, however, is far more complex than in photography. Having the right equipment for every job is even more important when dealing with the moving image. It’s very rare that you can just go out with your camera and shoot a film. As a photographer, you may take a monopod or tripod, a couple of lenses and a flash, but that would be it, whereas I would need a tripod, possibly a glidecam or dolly or jib/crane to create a free-flowing sequence that engages and entertains the audience. Different microphones would be needed as well as lights and reflectors. I don’t want to scare you, but there will be extra costs if you want to cross over into film. Until now, it has been the one thing that has stopped a lot of photographers making that leap, meaning much talent has previously gone to waste. I know many truly magnificent photographers who would make equally good cinematographers, it being such a natural crossover, but with the film world being as self-important as it is, those amazing photographers have been priced out of the market.

Not anymore. Here, we have tried to show what you can get for a relatively low cost that would allow you to shoot high-quality films and can be used for almost all modern DSLRs. These products are not all essential, but will greatly improve your visualisations and allow your creativity to flourish. Although a lot of the equipment was initially designed for video cameras, the beauty of them is they can be used with your DSLR with little or no adaptation. For those of you new to this field, take special note of microphones and audio recorders, as these are things you probably won’t have come across before. Sound is equally as important as image in film. Once you have purchased these bits of equipment, you will rarely have to change them when you upgrade your camera, as they will thankfully outlast your current DSLR.

RØde stereo videomic
From £139

The X/Y configuration of the StereoVideoMic means it can capture the exact ambience of the recording space, enabling users to use true ‘studio’ stereo recording techniques in the field. Fitted with a shoe mount, the StereoVideoMic has a low noise circuit design and offers 9V battery operation, an LED battery status indicator, high pass filter switch, and a -10dB pad switch which allows for the microphone to be used on most cameras with perfect level control. You can also use the StereoVideoMic as a remote microphone on a stand or a boom pole, which makes it quite versatile and well suited for all applications including documentary, weddings, sports and events, and interviews.

Zacuto sharp shooter
From £1,238.46

Zacuto’s entry-level DSLR Gunstock Shooters are universal, quick-releasable, extremely lightweight and great for guerrilla-style shooting. These have Zacuto’s Z-Finder built in for precision focusing. All kits are light and easy to handle, making them ideal for achieving smooth movement and less user fatigue in both tripod and handheld use. The pieces come equipped with a shoulder strap for all-day carrying, allowing users to go from ready position to shooting position within seconds. This also enables users to effortlessly move from tripod to handheld without a cut or interruption. The Shooters can be used with any 15mm lightweight accessories, follow focuses and matte boxes. They can also be used with or without counterbalance. It uses the Manfrotto quick-release plate to enable users to quickly get the camera off the base plate. The Sharp Shooter weighs 6.5lbs and offers four points of physical contact.

Glidecam 4000 Pro Camera Stabilisation System
From £979.99

This bit of kit enables you to move your camera in any direction with ease. The Glidecam 4000 Pro is a lightweight, handheld stabilising system designed for cameras weighing between 4lb and 10lb. Whether you wish to pan, tilt, boom or run, the stabilisation system eliminates instability or shake, even from a moving vehicle. It incorporates a no-tools telescoping centre post, a sleek and lighter base which allows you to attach and adjust the counterweight disks, a foam handle grip, a lighter gimbal and a new yoke design. Prices start from £365.93 + VAT. www.creativevideo.co.uk

Manfrotto Fig Rig
From £180

This circular frame can make light work of shooting video with your DSLR. It was created by award-winning film maker Mike Figgis, who worked with Manfrotto to develop the idea. He has since used it to shoot his own movies. The DSLR is placed in the centre of the wheel, allowing for the user to be able to attach a number of accessories, from microphones to lights. This design then becomes part of the body to produce smooth, steady travelling shots. As the operator walks, their muscles and tendons absorb all the shocks, transferring only fluid movements to the camera. As there are no straps or harnesses attached to the Fig Rig, quick and wide movements can be made within the same shot — from ground-level to overhead, in one smooth movement.

Redrock Eyespy Deluxe Rig
From £977.99

EyeSpy rigs come in three configurations. The standard set-up includes a DSLR base plate, shoulder pad, hand grip and rods. EyeSpy Balance has everything the standard has, but includes microbalance counterbalance weights for a rig that is easier on the arms for extended shooting. The EyeSpy deluxe bundle includes kit to help with smooth and precise focusing. The bundles start at $620, with the complete package costing $1,470.
Sandisk Ultra II SD and SDHC Memory Cards
From £57.99

If you are looking for speed when it comes to downloading your images and video, the SanDisk Ultra II SDHC card is a good bet. It is capable of reading/writing speeds of up to 15MB/second. This high-capacity rugged card is perfect for recording work reliably in all manner of locations. So sure is SanDisk of the card’s toughness, each one comes with a lifetime guarantee.

Manfrotto 628b Monopod
From £65.00

The 682B from Manfrotto is a heavy-duty three-section monopod featuring three retractable legs that allow it to stand upright on its own. This is especially useful when changing batteries or memory cards or when swapping lenses mid shoot. It also features a rubber grip, wrist carrying-strap, quick action lever leg lock system with 45-degree run, and a large 60mm camera/head platform with plastic cover and dual 1/4 to 3/8in camera fixing screw.

Wireless RF Pro Remote Control for DSLRs
From £39.19

Hahnel Industries have a range of UHF wireless pro remote controls that can transmit a radio frequency up to 80m through walls and act as a push-button control that works like a short-distance cable release. The control can command auto-focus before releasing the shutter and a lock-in function for continuous shutter release and bulb exposure function. The receiver can be set onto the camera with the built-in camera shoe, which is provided. The remote control is available for Canon, Nikon, Sony and Olympus DSLRs.

Zacuto z-finder v2
From £257

The Z-Finder V2 is an optical viewfinder that allows DSLR cameras to have the correct form factor for video, making it easier to achieve exact focus. This is especially useful for shooting handheld. It attaches to your LCD screen and includes 3x magnification, Schneider optics, a 40mm diameter lens, an adjustable (left or right) eye-cup and, most importantly, a field of view set up to match the LCD screen sizes of many cameras, including the Canon 5D MkII, Canon 7D, Panasonic GH1, Nikon D300, Nikon D5000 and Pentax 7D.

This feature is from the May 2010 issue
Back issues can be ordered by calling 01858 438840 or by sending an email to photographymonthly@subscription.co.uk

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