This year’s Newsshooter last minute Christmas gift guide is a little different. Not only is every item on the list a useful present for you to gently suggest your loved ones might buy you, but each is also something that I’ve added into my kit in the past year.
These are items that I find are useful enough to carry around, yet are not too expensive. So let’s get to it:
I have Hoodman Hoodeye eyecups on my Sony a7S II and a7R II cameras. These do a great job of blocking out extraneous light and providing a comfortable, yet solid point of contact with your eye socket. I find them to be a massive improvement over the standard Sony eyecup.
Tenba tools pouches
Tenba have a great range of storage pouches that allow you to organise all your little bits of gear. These can then be placed into your camera bag, or any regular bag. The walls and base of each pouch have a bit of foam and board protection, but the lids are made of a clear polyurethane window so you can instantly see what’s inside. I have all wireless mic kits in these and also my smaller E-mount lenses like the Zeiss Loxias. My favourites are the Tool Box 6 and the Cable Duo 8.
Peak Design straps
I was initially skeptical about the usefulness of Peak Design’s camera straps. They are quite a lot more expensive than conventional straps, but can be worn in several ways and quickly attached and detached. What’s unique is the clever anchor link system – a pair of small connectors that attach to your camera. The other end attaches to the strap, which can then be attached, or removed in seconds. This is great because you can get rid of the strap quickly when you use your cameras on brushless gimbals, Steadicams, sliders and the like. No more messing around trying to unthread a conventional strap. I have these on all my mirrorless cameras. The anchor links are apparently strong enough to hold 200 lbs, but I haven’t tried them on larger cinema cameras – do so at your own risk.
Movcam a7S II cage
Movcam’s a7S II cage is one of the best around. It provides a multitude of mounting points on your camera to attach handles, rods, cold shoes, mics etc. The best thing about the design is that it can be used with the Sony MI show connected XLR audio adapters.
The Zeiss Exolenses are extremely high quality add-ons for your iPhone and selected Samsung models. There is currently a wide angle, a macro and a tele lens. I have the wide angle for my iPhone 6S. Zeiss recently announced a new mounting bracket for the iPhone 7. We tested the wide lens earlier in the year and found that it was very sharp and free of distortion. A very useful tool for any news shooter who wants to have lens options available to them even on a night off.
X-rite ColorChecker video
Colour accuracy is getting more scientific these days. X-rite’s ColorChecker charts have been around for ages, but the latest video versions are specifically designed with the video shooter in mind. There are more patches on the chart that relate to skin tones. There is also a newly designed greyscale target that makes exposure a lot easier, especially if you are shooting in Log. They come in regular and passport versions, so there is no excuse not to carry one around.
What’s even more interesting is that you can now use the charts to automatically colour match your camera using new tools in DaVinci Resolve, Color Finale (FCPX Plugin) and 3D LUT Creator (for Premiere Pro and more). Expect to see this becoming more widely supported in 2017.
X-rite recently launched a new kit aimed at filmmakers that comprises a i1Display Pro calibrator and the ColorChecker Passport Video.
Manfrotto PIXI Mini tripod
The PIXI Mini tripod is inexpensive and a firm favourite in the vlogger community. You’ll often see the likes of Kaiman Wong using them for YouTube videos. It’s great because it not only functions as a tripod, but can be used as a simple handgrip. Especially useful when doing selfies.
The design is incredibly simple, yet effective. Instead of a screw or lock to adjust the position of the ball head, there is a simple button. Press it to position the camera, then let go to set it in place. The tripod will take most action cameras and smartphones with the right adapter. It can also take many compact system cameras – although not with larger lenses.
Aputure Amaran AL-M9 LED light
This tiny Aputure Amaran AL-M9 LED light has found its way into my kit bag this year. Don’t let the minute size fool you, it is actually pretty powerful.
Not much bigger than a credit card, it has a built-in battery that charges using USB power. It weighs a mere 140g, which makes it small enough to mount on your camera or phone, or stick to walls, car dashboards, ceilings – basically, wherever you want. It is dimmable and has a high claimed CRI and TLCI of 95+.
The one downside is that it is single colour daylight only. If you want a bi-colour light I would recommend the pricier Aladdin Eye-lite instead (which I also have in my bag).
Rode iPhone XLR mic interface
Rode continue to innovate in the smartphone recording field. Their latest iOS device is the i-XLR, which allows you to connect an XLR mic to your iPhone or iPad via the lightning connector. It works with a large range of lavalieres, dynamic mics and self-powered shotguns. One thing to note, though, is that it doesn’t provide phantom power.
The i-XLR doesn’t need a battery and powers from your iOS device. There is a headphone socket that allows you to monitor the sound going into the phone with zero latency.
The only other issue that you might encounter involves keeping your phone charged. Using the i-XLR means you can’t plug a charger into the lightning port at the same time. The best solution I’ve found so far is to use Apple’s own iPhone battery pack to extend battery life. This is preferable to other battery packs as it has lightning pass through. The downside to this is that you can’t use it with the Exolens – seems you can’t have it all just yet.
I’ve started to carry the i-XLR everywhere with me as a backup audio recorder.
Rigwheels Rigmount Sport
The Rigwheels Rigmount Sport made last year’s guide and continues to be one of my firm favourites (I’m cheating a little and allowing it onto the list because I actually got a second one this year). They consist of an extremely strong magnet and small ballhead. Simple, yet very useful. You can use it to attach a light, a GoPro or another action camera to a vehicle or any number of other metal surfaces in seconds. Repositioning and adjusting your shot takes seconds too. You can also use the Rigmount Sport as a small tabletop stand. Well worth the $49 price.
GoPro Hero 5 Session
The diminutive action cam might not be as highly specified as its sister Hero 5 Black. There is no touchscreen, no HDMI output and lower framerate options. What the Hero 5 Session does have is all the standard framerates I need combined with picture quality similar to the older Hero 4 Black. The main reason this lives in my bag is the small size. I can put it almost anywhere and it can even sit discreetly on top of my other cameras without drawing much attention to itself. It also works really well with the Rigwheels Rigmount.
Hahnel Procube battery charger
This little battery charger is a great addition to the kit of anyone using small DSLR or compact system cameras. The Procube takes two batteries, meaning you can put them on overnight and they will both be ready by the morning – no more getting up half way through the night to change battery. In addition there is a useful charge status LCD that keeps you up to date on the progress. It also comes with a lead to charge batteries in the car from the cigarette lighter socket and a special plate that can charge 4 AA rechargeables.
You can get the Procube for most popular small batteries, including the Sony NP-FW50 used in the a7S, and the Canon LPE-6 used in the 5D range.