East Grinstead photographer and filmmaker Nitsan Simantov. Wedding photography and commercial video production in London and West Sussex.

Filtering by Category: affordable video gear

Low cost 'Windcut' brand microphone windshield review

I got my Windcut fur windscreen a few weeks ago, after a few shoots of use I was very pleased to be able to do a positive review on this. The Windcut went head to head with the Rode WS6 and on close inspection seems to be slightly better than the Rode, even though it's much less than half the price of the Rode.

Quick review:
Wind protection - 9.5/10 It lost half a point just because I don't want to claim this is the world's best windscreen, however, it's definitely the best I've ever used!
Price - 9.5/10 Prices from £10 to £21, with the average shotgun mic at about £16.
Build quality/looks - 8.5/10 Nicely hand made, the fur is not quite as perfect looking at the corners as the Rode is, but this makes no difference in functionality and is really only noticeable if you play with it. On your camera it looks very professional.
Overal rating - 9.25/10

Windcut microphones can be bought direct from the manufacturer's eBay shop via THIS LINK.

This review is best consumed with ear/headphones. It's a little quite because I felt it was best to leave the audio of this review completely untouched.

A big thanks to Jonty Egginton for being my cameraman for the shots where I had to be in front of the camera.

HTDZ HT-320A 10" shotgun microphone

So here is the HTDZ HT-320A shotgun microphone in use.It's a really great quality microphone that can be found for less than £20 on eBay. This is the shorter brother of the HT-81 (10" compared to 14"), both of which deliver great audio for a tenth the price of a Rode microphone. The HT-320A can be found HERE.

In case you missed it, check out the new cool DIY microphone hot shoe mount.

CABLES: The cable that comes with this microphone is WAY too long for on camera use. I have a 30cm cable which is almost too short. 40cm would be an ideal length for mounting on camera, 50cm will probably be fine too. Here are a few different cable setups you can use: My current setup is a female XLR to male 6.35mm (1/4") jack adapter + 30cm long female 6.35mm jack to male 3.5mm jack cable. With this setup the 30cm cable can also be used as an adapter from the 8m cable which usually comes with this microphone. The ideal cable for on-camera use would be a 30/40cm long female XLR to male jack - I don't know where to get this exact cable but I've found a 50CM one, LINK. If you can't get either of the above you can also use a female XLR to male 3.5mm jack adapter + 30/40/50cm 3.5mm jack extension cable. I recommend using high quality shielded cable as it should be less susceptible to interference and should last longer, cheap cables can break after a couple of months of use.

I use all STEREO cables to ensure that the mono signal from this microphone gets to the correct channel in the camera or recorder, I still need to figure out how to get it to go to both channels but haven't had time yet.

The Glidecam HD-1000 is awesome (Sample footage + mini review)

I've recently bought a Glidecam HD-1000 for an important music video shoot that's coming up.. I got it a week ago and 10 minutes later I had it just about set up and balanced, not perfectly but pretty close. Please note that I've had experience with stabilizers before (including building two of my own 'DIY' designs) so for someone inexperienced with stabilizers it may take longer to learn to balance it or use it, but my point is that it's very, very fast to set up and balance.

I'm still learning more and more about how to use the Glidecam and how to get good shots with it. It's something that requires lots and lots of practice, as well as building up the stamina and strength to use it. Not something you need to worry about too much if you only intend to do one or two shots with it every once in a while, but if you intend to shoot live events on it or even just do a 3 minute long shot (for a music video or whatever) then you should get lots of practice with it and you will naturally get used to shooting with it for longer periods of time. One trick I'm trying to master is switching hands mid shot without shaking (or dropping) the camera because it gets very heavy on your wrist after a 10-15 minute shot. - it would be so easy if they made a longer handle.. I might have to DIY one.. If I do, It will be posted here and on my Youtube Channel

Another option is to use a vest or arm brace, However, good (and bad) vests are very expensive and very large too, the arm brace from Glidecam is also pretty large and not cheap either at about £150. You can opt for the Flycam branded arm brace although I'm not 100% sure that it will fit the Glidecam.

Another option is to 'DIY' an arm brace.. I'm going to try to make one from a skateboarding wrist guard I have similar to the one pictured below. Most of them are built with hard plastic on both sides of the wrist which should give a good mounting point for the Glidecam's handle, it should be strong enough as it's made for impact for the weight of a person but we'll see if it's still good with a hole in it.. I will post my design soon.

Here a video from my first day of using the Glidecam. I didn't have it perfectly balanced but still got some nice shots with it. Notice some of the shots have some downwards tilt, that's due to it being a little bit too bottom heavy, and one or two of the shots had a random sideways tilt because the Glidecam wasn't bottom heavy enough..

I will soon post a video tutorial on how to properly balance a Glidecam or Flycam because at the moment there is a lack of good tutorials on the subject. Watch this space..

DIY slider tips (Zaza/Igus slider)

Some tips on which slider to buy and how to set it up on a bowl mount tripod.

Show notes:

I recommend getting the 10-80 slider, rather than the 16-60. I havn't used the 10-80 enough but I've heard it's not as stable as the larger 16-60 - It does slide much better than the 16-60 though.

UPDATE: It looks like Igus have raised their prices substantially specifically on this product line. I will have to speak to my contact there and find out why.

Best budget video DSLR (550D vs 500D vs HV30/other camcorders)

Danno wrote in asking about upgrading his SD camcorder for making music videos for a budget of £500. I've compared three of the best budget camcorders currently on the market, all three of which i've used personally. Those are Canon's 500D, 550D and HV30. I've included the HV30 in the comparison because it has some features that the DSLRs do not which some people would consider a necessity. (There are notes on cheaper camcorders at the end of the article)

Very important note: Most camera limitations can be worked around. Remember, content and professionalism is more important than your camera's quality - Learn your industry, know your job inside and out, know your equipment (RTFM - Read The _____ Manual!), get good actors and learn to direct them well - communication is KEY, prepare for and set up your shots well, practice, practice, practice. - (Upgrade your equipment when possible..)

Canon 500D (T1i / Rebel Kiss X3) This camera wins for budget compared to quaity. £350 on ebay.
It has nice image quality but it's not perfect.

Pros: •    Decent (not perfect) image quality.

Cons: •    Limited options and settings •    Only shoots at 30fps @ 720p (or 20fps at 1080p which is useless) •    No mic input •    Not amazingly sharp •    No manual control over exposure (except exposure lock - which means you have to point the camera around until you get a correct exposure and then press the exposure lock button. Do this before every video or the camera will vary the exposure during shooting.)

I shot these three Diskeeper videos with a 500D:

Canon 550D (T2i / Rebel Kiss X4) For much higher quality but still at a good price go for the 550D for £460. Pros: •    Sharp image •    Full manual controls •    1080p @ 24p or 30p - 720p @ 50p or 60p (for slow motion) •    Mic input - you will need to add the Magic Lantern firmware hack in order to cancel out the camera's automatic gain control get decent audio (at your own risk of course)

Cons: •    No headphone jack for monitoring. Use an external recorder for the best audio. You can output audio from the audio recorder's headphone jack into the camera but you must use. •    No articulating screen

For video 550Ds work just as well as higher end DSLRs with the exception of a few features such as the 60D's articulating screen, manual audio control and headphone output and the 5D's full frame sensor.

With both of these cameras you will need a lens. Thea absolute minimum you will need to spend on a (used) lens is £50 - A Sigma 18-50mm f3.5-5.6 DC is a nice starter lens. Make sure you get a Canon-fit one, they make them with other mounts. A better lens is recommended, such as the Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM - but that's an issue for another article.. You will also need memory cards. An 8GB 'Transcend' brand SD card will give you about 20+ minutes of recording time.

Notes about both DSLRs: •    They will not shoot long scenes over about 12 minutes in length. •    They wont autofocus whilst shooting video. •    Both cameras have good battery life. They will last for an hour+ of shooting per charge. (Extra batteries are about £5 from ebay.) •    Both of these cameras are near-useless for shooting yourself due to the lack of autofocus or articulating screen, but you can simply add an external 3.5" monitor to the DSLRs for about £20 or even less. •    Neither of these cameras are built for hand-held video shooting but there are many cheap solutions to this. •    These two cameras will give you the ultimate in performance compared to price. •    Both will shoot very decent still images too.

Camcorders: If there are limitations to DSLRs you simply cannot work with, or if you don't have the budget for them, you can always get a decent camcorder from about £200 and upwards to £400. Some shoot to DV tape and others to hard drives or SD cards. I'm going to be comparing the Canon HV30 at £400, because it is the only one I have used extensively.

HV30: Pros: •    The image quality is not as good as the DSLRs, but it does produce a clear, crisp image under good lighting conditions - in fact, I've had footage from this camera (as well as footage from a Canon HF11) air on TV with no complaints whatsoever from the broadcasters. (Good content kicks the ass of good image quality) •    It can autofocus! And does it pretty well. •    It has a fantastic minimum focus distance of 1cm. •    It has a nice zoom range (which, in my opinion is highly overrated unless you're shooting documentaries, sports or wildlife etc) •    Shoots to MiniDV tape so you can record for just over an hour at a time. •    Tapes are cheap too at a pound or two each. They are reusable just like a memory card, however, copying the footage to a computer is tedious because you have to play the footage while the computer is recording. (Note, for most DV and HDV camcorders you need a computer with a firewire connection. DSLRs and camcorders that record to hard drive or SD will be fine with a USB connection.) •    Decent audio but nothing to write home about.

Cons: •    This camera (as well as most camcorders) lacks good manual controls over exposure. •    It has an almost useless manual focus thumb-wheel. -Many camcorders will not even have this. •    Does not go as wide angle as many DSLR lenses do - And forget about wide angle adapters if you want decent image quality. •    Lacks the out of focus background that many filmmakers want. (You can get a pleasing background when you zoom in a lot) •    Like most HD camcorders, the HV30 shoots at 1080i only. The 'i' stands for 'interlaced', this means that each frame is split into two frames called 'fields'. DSLRs shoot progressive (1080'p') which means each frame is captured and recorded whole. See the example below. Interlaced footage can look really bad when there is motion in your video.

In the two images below, you can see two examples of interlaced footage, the lower image is exaggerated by speeding up the footage on a computer. You can convert or 'deinterlace' interlaced footage to progressive footage using most video editing software, but it still doesn't always look perfect.

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Consumer Camcorders: If your budget really is low, you can get a decent or what I would call a 'semi-decent' HD camcorder on ebay. Starting at £70, you can get half-decent mini camcorders made by companies like Flip, Sony and JVC. At that price you won't get much but it's a good starting point. If you want something with better image quality I'd say any known brand camcorder at or above £200 - at this price range the cameras can be compared to the HV30's quality. For example, Samsung's HMX-100 has been getting good reviews, and I've seen some neat looking footage from it. Or you could choose one of Canon's camcorders starting at £200. I recommend sticking to Canon's 'HVxx' range (20, 30 and 40) because there is a big community of filmmakers (Both pros and hobbyists) that use or have used these cameras extensively, so most problems can be solved with a simple google search. The same thing goes for the DSLRs, there is a huge online (and offline) community of people willing to help each other.

Conclusion: If you can afford it, get the 550D. It's a fantastic camera even with it's limitations. It's image quality is incredible compared to what you could get just two or three years ago, it also gives you great creative control over the image. Most if not all of the 550D's limitations can be handled with some pretty simple and cheap solutions - Some cheaper than others, depending on how 'DIY' you're willing to go. :)

A good DSLR bag - Canon 200DG Deluxe

I've just been looking at camera bags with my friend Stafford.I have to recommend Canon's 200DG Deluxe, this is my current HDSLR and HV30 bag. I've had the bag for about 3 years, originally for stills photography. It's not very comfortable if you're going to be carrying it all day, like I do when I shoot stills, because it only has one strap as opposed to two straps on a backpack. But I found out this is simply a great bag for DSLR video. When I shoot video I don't have my bag on my shoulder all day like when I shoot stills, and this bag gives me easy and direct access to everything I need and has plenty of space for a very decent amount of gear and accessories.

This bag comes at a really nice price of £27.08 ($43.32). Link A very similar alternative is Canon's 2400 at about the same price. Link

Nikon owners can get a pretty much identical bag with Nikon's 'watermark' for £22.83. Link

If you have any recommendations for a good camera bag post them below.