It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, but this time (unlike in April) I wasn’t official press. Forget about a tripod or monopod - Secret Service rules prohibited even selfie-sticks. Forget about a lot of glass, especially long, fast glass: not only would everything have to be hand-held, but those same rules stipulated no backpacks and no bags bigger than 18” x 13” x 7.” And then there were the closed-door meetings where even if I had been press, no press were allowed. Traveling small, light and unobtrusive were the orders of the week. Heads-up: this is a post about gear -- not politics -- but if you don’t want to see photographs from the Democratic National Convention in Philly (along with protests) you’d better stop reading here.
When I received a demo unit from Convergent Design of their RAW-enabled Odyssey 7q+ 4k recorder/monitor combo, I finally had the basic pieces -- along with the Sony FS5 and RAW upgrade -- to do a long-awaited review. But when I thought through the test scenarios and other gear I might need, I reached out to Zacuto, a highly regarded "Made in America" filmmaking accessories manufacturer founded by working pros to help me pull it all together. The RAW review is still in the works, but I thought I'd take time in the interim to review the Zacuto gear used in the project. It quickly became a reflection on broader industry trends and how small U.S. manufacturers can respond.
I wonder if sliders for some of us are like gear bags for others: we keep looking for the perfect one. The SmartSlider Reflex S is the first slider I've used which has a separate variable drag control. The slider is robust, and the drag control works. It's a fascinating and worthy alternative to the sliders I have: Cinevate's Duzi, and Syrp's Magic Carpet.
In this penultimate episode of our series on Sachtler gear -- our first exposure to this legendary German company's products -- we take a peek at their follow focus unit, available separately or as part of the complete and beautifully integrated Ace accessories kit (which also includes their matte box and base plate). At $630 for the follow focus alone, it's just over three times the price of my edelkrone FOCUS ONE, but spoiler alert: if it fits with the rest of your gear, I think it's worth it.
At just about $5,000 for a fluid head alone, Sachtler's Video 18 S2 costs more than the cameras owned by most people who read this blog (and just about five times my daily shooter, the Sony a6300). But if you want to know why it costs so much -- or how good it is (spoiler alert: incredible) and when it makes sense -- read on.
UPDATE: PLEASE NOTE CORRECTIONS IN "NITS" SECTION AND AT BOTTOM OF THE POST
If you use your hybrid video/stills camera to make movies, at some point you will likely find the limitations of your still photography lens hoods. You may get as far as dedicated video cameras and geared cine lenses, in which case you most likely won't even have a lens hood. This is when matte boxes matter, and you can start cheap: $20 will get you one made by Neewer. But at some point, you may want more. The Sachtler Ace Matte Box is a good place to start.
If you're looking for a 4K recorder/monitor combo unit for your hybrid mirrorless or DSLR, Blackmagic's 4K Video Assist deserves to be on your short list. It has a bug that needs to be addressed (see below), but the price, display, build quality, dual card slots, dual batteries, and dead simple touch interface make it a unique value in the market.
This is why it makes sense to find the optimal compromise between price and performance for the core components of your gear (camera and lenses): you're going to need a pile more dough for everything else. But "pile" is a relative term. Welcome to episode 2 of what I'm now calling our Goldilocks series, where this time we look at baseplates - a category I used to think was beyond mundane. I was wrong.
Just six months ago I wondered if Hasselblad -- among other beloved photography brands -- would "...fade, like old photographs, into the sands of time." Fast forward to April of this year, when Hasselblad announced a brand new H6D in 50 and 100mp versions, coupled with the best software interface in a camera I've ever seen -- and an eye-watering price of $32,995 for the 100mp model, body only. Now Hasselblad as announced another new camera, the X1D at $8,995 (body only). While the X1D has the same sensor and user interface as the H6D-50c, it is roughly one third the price and less than half the weight. What does this mean for photographers -- and for Hasselblad?