Video on a stills camera

Video on a stills camera is amazing! Shallow DOF, fantastic image quality, wide range of lenses and so on. But they are not built to shoot video, your hands are in all the wrong places, important features are missing and it’s impossible to get a steady video shot hand held at 100mm. I want to shoot video on my 5d so I need to get some extra gubbins attached, and I’m a bloke so buying extra gubbins and attaching it to stuff is in my DNA…

The first thing I did was a good old bit of t’internet research. I soon realised if I wanted all the extra doobries on my camera I would have to sell my car. It all costs a fortune. The Redrock and Zacuto gear is very good quality but I had to start looking for cheap alternatives. Luckily there is a minor cottage industry growing up around DSLR HD video and one of those small volume manufacturers produces the DFocus, a simple follow focus system, it is mounted from an adjustable plate that attaches to the base of the camera, or rails with the adapter, and uses lens gear rings to transfer the movement. Some cheap alternatives use friction mounts to spin the focus ring, but gears is the way to go for accuracy.

I dropped an order in before Christmas and waited patiently, the kit had to be manufactured and then sent to me all the way from America. It arrived about a month later all packeged up really nicely, I love sheredding the packing though, so two seconds after I took the following shots I shredded the bags and got everything out.

The quality of all the parts is very good for the price, with the actual follow focus and mounting plate feeling quite sturdy. Once it is set up and tightened the quality of the focus pulling improves a huge amount, with smooth transitions and quick changes really easy to carry out.

That is all fine and well, I can now smoothly change focus, but trying to get critical focus in sunlight on the viewfinder is near impossible. This is a situation where I had to spend a bit of money. I got the chance to peer at an LCD through a Zacuto Z-Finder. This attaches to the back of the camera and magnifies the LCD in a traditional feeling eyepiece. The difference is huge, not only can you pull the camera into your eye but you can really see the focus on the LCD too. So later in the day I ordered on.

It is a very neat and well built bit of kit, there is a bit of a process to get it stuck to the back of the camera, it comes with a ring that is stuck to the back of the camera with adhesive, then the z finder can be clipped on and off the camera easily. So clean the smudges from the back of the LCD, turn the screen on so you can make sure you don’t obscure important info the stick the clamp on. Place a book on it overnight so the glue cures and it is ready to go.

That is all fine and well but it means I have to wait a day before I can play with my new toy! Once it has all set and dried I attached everything to the camera the  Z Finder looks the biz and it really suits the design of the 5d with the follow focus, the next thing to look at is some rails to add stability, I think I might go homemade with those as rail systems really cost a fortune. I am going to look into the gunstock style shooting rather than shoulder mount as I think that will be easier to balance and shoot with due to all of the weight being out the front of the setup.

So now all I need is a couple of L primes, a tilt shift and so on, so on, so on………….


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