With DSLRs becoming a popular option for emerging video shooters, a number manufacturers have seen a market in providing ‘essential shooters gear’ which will quickly rid you of that unwanted cash burning a hole in your pocket. So what really constitutes essential?
Depending on the model of DSLR you pick up and how you use it, you’ll have varying needs. But by their very design there a few limitations that most shooters will encounter quickly after purchasing;
1. Weight – anything below the Canon 7d or Nikon 90d will weigh as much as a barbie video girl and will cause problems when doing anything more than mounting it to a tripod.
2. Sound – An afterthought in the design process, sound remains the biggest problem with DSLRs to date. It may be OK for filming kids in the back yard but terrible for anything more than that.
3. Focusing – The business card sized LCD on most models makes focusing on the fly nothing more than guesswork.
And the list goes on…
So taking the above points, the real essentials are those that help correct limitations.
Dealing with Weight.
The easiest option is to look at shoulder support, but those are expensive and not everyone uses them. Look at hiring them. The purchase price of a full rig is normally equivalent to around a month’s straight hire.
You can make the most of the weight ÷ cost equation by purchasing a good lens with image stabiliser option (specifically the Canon L series lenses). In situations where you can’t hire a rig, a decent tripod and a heavy lens can give you enough weight on the body of the camera to counteract some of the shake in a shot.
n.b I found a super 8mm camera with a gunshot screw in handle for $5 at a flea market, which I use on the bottom of my camera for lining up shots and shooting simple handheld.
Dealing with noise
Without any hesitation, I’d recommend getting an external mic and/or recorder. A good audio recorder such as the Zoom H1 will set you back all of US$99 and allows hours of fuss free recording. An external mic such as the Rode video mic (US$30) will give you condenser style audio and will sit on the shoe of your camera.
There is some amazing software out there such as ‘Plural eyes’ for post production audio syncing.
Dealing with focus
There are varying options for focusing support, the best being an external LCD monitor such as the Small HD DP6 which features focus assist and false colour at much closer resolutions to that of the camera LCD, but you’re looking at around US$1200 for a whole kit. Again hiring is a good option on important shoots.
Another option is to use a LCD Viewfinder, essentially an eyepiece for the back of the camera LCD, it offers a closer look at your image and works similarly to the electronic view finders (EVF) on a Sony EX3. You’re looking at around US$200 for cheaper Jag35 units or a harder mounted version from Letus at $375.
Another notable essential:
Hard cases – waterproof, shockproof and aggressive baggage handler proof, an instrument case gives you the peace of mind that you could drop your gear down a flight of stairs and not break a sweat (not that I encourage it). Pelican cases start from US$300 and cheaper alternatives can be found at electronic supply stores.
So all in all, buy the equipment that you need to get the job done. Sometimes it’s tempting to go out and buy a wanky slider (take offence Mr Bloom) or carbon fibre support rods. All that matters is you have to right tools to make what is a good stills camera, into a great starter video camera.