Category Archive: Reviews

RØDE VIDEOMIC Pro Review

For quite a while now, we’ve been using the original VideoMic and have sung its praises to whomever may be listening. It transformed the sound recording capabilities of our Canon DSLRs, turning them into well-rounded workhorses. So it was with open arms (and minds) that we welcomed the news that RØDE had released a ‘pro’ version.

A couple of weeks ago we were sent a VideoMic Pro (VMP) to demo and we’ve been putting it through its paces in some real-world scenarios which would test it to the extreme, curious to see how it compares with its older sibling, and it’s fair to say that we haven’t been disappointed!

The most obvious change from the original VideoMic is the change in scale. The VideoMic was a beast which sat upon an elasticised cradle of near-gothic proportions in order to provide necessary cushioning to limit noise created by camera movement. Add to this the stature of the shotgun and it was quite imposing (and sometimes difficult to manage in cramped situations).

The VMP addressed this head-on and is a fraction of the size whilst retaining all of the presence.

RØDE have managed to reduce the footprint, whilst incorporating a significant increase in the quality of the mic and its electronics. The overall reduction in size and the newly designed anti-shock cradle conspire to make the new unit somewhat less likely to take someone’s eye out.

Regarding its technical performance, the new mic is simply outstanding. Noise (which was almost non-existent in the VideoMic) is further reduced and the sound dynamics are, well they’re of broadcast quality. This step-up in quality can be heard in these clips below.

Interview recorded with original VideoMic

Similar interview, this time recorded on the VMP

The whole unit feels more robust, its features are more readily accessible and the new cable is a lot easier to live with than the original curly-lead since it fits more snugly around the camera en-route to the ext. microphone input.

Like its predecessor, the VMP sits on a ‘cold shoe’ flash mount for ease of attaching to a DSLR camera body. Drilled inside this fitting is a screw-thread so the VMP can be attached to a RØDE boompole for off-camera use, when you need to really fine-tine the sound control (we’ll try to review one of these in use at a later date).

A very welcome addition to this product offering comes when purchasers of the VMP register for RØDE’s 10 year extended warranty in the form of a free ‘Deadcat’ windjammer.

The only drawback we’ve noticed is that the elastics which make up the anti-shock cradle are somewhat more prone to dislodging when bringing the VMP out of the kit bag. This wasn’t an issue on the VideoMic and whilst it’s certainly no reason to mark the VMP’s review score down, it’s worth pointing out. After all, we had to find something negative to say!

Rating
Ease of use: 5/5
Build quality: 5/5
Functionality: 5/5
Sex appeal: 5/5
Value for money: 5/5

The original VideoMic is a good deal cheaper and is a fantastic mic for general use, therefore it may be more appealing to the ‘enthusiast’ market but if you’re serious about your sound quality, it’s well worth stepping-up to the VMP.

Overall rating:

5/5 – Highly recommended.



LCDVF 3/2 Review

First Impressions
The LCDVF 3/2 is a new version which comes in a 3:2 form factor to snugly fit Canon’s EOS 550d (amongst others) and since we’re currently using the 550d on an almost daily basis, this seemed the perfect time to test-drive the new loupe.

It comes supplied with a pre-attached satin lanyard, 2 metal frames for attaching to the camera body, a cleaning cloth, a neoprene carrying case and user guide including fitting instructions. A very welcome inclusion was a Bluestar micro-fibre eyepiece cushion, which sits snugly over the rubber eyecup and makes the unit infinitely more comfortable to use on long shoots.

Upon first inspection, I was quite disappointed with the LCDVF. The plastic feels brittle and the manufacturing wasn’t to the standard that I expected. On the demo unit we received, there is a small nick in one of the inner edges that is quite visible when looking through the loupe, although not so large as to be distracting. Also, the long edges of the camera-attaching end are not exactly straight which made it a little tricky to align with the camera’s screen.

That said; this is where the disappointment ended.

In Use
Fitting the magnetic frame to the camera was very straightforward with the adhesive strip remaining malleable enough to pop off and realign in the first few seconds yet forming a fast bond once ‘massaged’ into place.

Rested under a couple of light books, the frame was set firmly in place within 15 minutes, but to be safe, we left it sitting under this gentle weight for 3 hours, by which time it seemed all-but immovable.

The loupe snaps on and off the camera effortlessly yet once in position, the magnetic bond is strong enough to cope with a range of movements, remaining firmly and comfortably in place until you need to remove it, at which time it hangs easily from the neck via the lanyard so it’s always within reach.

Once in place, it provides a 200% magnification of the camera’s view screen making focus effortless whilst recording. Prior to shooting, in conjunction with the 5x and 10x magnification, setting up focus is pin-sharp, even with the aperture wide open.

With the LCDVF in position, the camera is now held against the eye during shooting, providing a 3rd point of contact. Micro rotations are massively reduced by the increased length of the body and by the shifting of the focal plane forwards by approximately 2.5 inches. This increased stability means that slow, steady tracking shots through hand-held work become more viable.

Verdict

LCDVF is almost half the price of the Zacuto Z-Finder but even though we’ve not been able to test-drive a Z-Finder yet, we can’t think of any reason how this lesser price could offer any lesser benefits. Once applied to the camera it instantly provides a massive increase in focus-ability and apart from the magnetic frame no ‘setting up’ was required. It just snaps on and instantly provides a clear 200% magnification as promised.

For anyone planning to shoot video seriously with their 550d (or any other DSLR for that matter), we strongly suggest that the first investment you make is in an LCDVF. Since the minute we attached this demo unit to our camera, we all agreed that shooting video without it is not something we’d ever like to do again.

It’s not only useful for video makers though. We enjoy stills photography too and whilst it’s a little cumbersome for every-day use, for macro photography, it is an invaluable tool, allowing for very fine levels of focusing to be achieved.

All in all, a fantastic product which quickly makes itself an essential piece of your filmmaking kit.

Rating
Ease of use: 5/5
Build quality: 3/5
Functionality: 5/5
Sex appeal: 4/5
Value for money: 5/5

Overall rating:

5/5 – Highly recommended.



Dedicated Reviews Site In Development

We’ve been discussing that we want to start bringing your reviews of the latest (H)DSLR gear which we intend to test in real world simulations, following industry methodologies.

In order to provide you with a One-Stop-Shop solution with reviews, buyers guides and product news, we are in the process of developing a new, dedicated web site for this purpose which we aim to have up and running in the next few days.

Pop over to http://reviews.rollingshutter-films.co.uk/ and bookmark us.

In the meantime, if there are any specific products you feel we should be putting through their paces for you, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll make the necessary arrangements.

Pimp my HDSLR!

We love putting crazy things in front of our 550d and building things to support it (see below)…


e.g. 1: We needed a matte box in a hurry, so we threw one together from some aluminium we had in the store room.


e.g. 2: Then we mounted it on a rig we made from some steel tubing, steel plate and an old tripod!

…but we’ve realised that some (read most) of the madcap workarounds we have come up with over the last 6 months or so are not exactly repeatable so there’s little/no point in reviewing them for you.

So! (takes a very deep breath)… Over the coming months we are planning a huge run of product testing. Everything from follow focuses through eyepieces to full rigs and dollies/cranes. If you can attach it to an HDSLR (or attach an HDSLR to it), we want to review it it.

Some of the more popular pieces of kit we already own and have used to death (which will make reviewing it easy) whilst other stuff has yet to pass through our hands. In order to be as fair as we can to as many suppliers as possible, we’ll be contacting many of the key manufacturers and/or suppliers and asking if they’d be so kind as to send us what they consider to be their most HDSLR friendly products. Then, with as complete a balance of items as possible, we’ll bolt them on and run a series of comparative tests to find out how they hold up.

Some of the tests will be measurable and we’ll show you direct comparisons of data whilst others will be subjective, reflecting our view of how well the item fits into a practical workflow. Since we have no affiliations with any suppliers, we’re free to be as brutal as need be and we’ve no qualms about tearing a sub-standard item to shreds, just as we’re happy to pile heaps of praise upon those items which stand out from the crowd.

Rating guide
All of our tests will result in an overall rating (1-5) with a breakdown reflecting performance against each of the following criteria:

Ease of use: When you’re on a busy set, will it slow you down?
Build quality: Is it robust enough to meet the needs of a demanding shoot?
Functionality: Does it make shooting easier or is it just a gimmick?
Sex appeal: Does it have that ‘wow’ factor?
Value for money: Is it worth breaking the bank for?

Overall Rating


Bloody awful, keep your cash in your pocket.


Well, that was a bit of a let down.


It does what it says it will do… no more, no less.


Better than OK. Still not great, but pretty darned close.


How did we manage without it? Stop reading this and go buy one!

It’s going to take a little time to convince people that we won’t be harsh for the sake of it and that it’ll be in their interests to send us some equipment to test. Then we need to devise and run the tests.

Luckily, we’re passionate about our HDSLRs and can’t wait to get stuck in!

Watch this space…

Canon BG-E8 Battery Grip for EOS 550D

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
The first thing I noticed about the 550d is its size, or lack thereof. I have large hands and it feels like a toy in my usual grip. The body is also so light that with anything larger than the kit 18-55mm lens attached, it tends to topple forwards placing unnecessary stress on the lens attachment.

Luckily, the solution to both problems came in the form of the extremely useful, if not essential Canon BG-E8 Battery Grip.

The assembly not only adds necessary size to the small camera body but it adds room for two BP-E8 batteries to be used simultaneously, essentially doubling shooting time.

Curiously, it supplies power in such a way that both batteries are drained at exactly the same rate (meaning they both die at the same time), so for long shoots it’s advisable to go equipped with an extra pair of LP-E8 batteries and an extra charger. (By the way, I highly recommend that you only buy original canon batteries. They not only last longer but their power delivery is more camera friendly).

In the box you get the BG-E8 Battery grip, a tray for 2x LP-E8 batteries (supplied separately) and an additional tray which holds 6x AA/LR6 batteries for emergency use (with decent batteries, this could be up to 2.5 hours of emergency power).

Items as they arrive.


Battery tray loaded with 2x LP-E8 batteries.


Battery tray affixing to BG-E8 grip.


BG-E8 affixing to EOS 500d Body.

As we’ve come to expect from Canon, the grip is manufactured to exacting standards and it looks and feels great. The plastic is a fairly heavy gauge, yet doesn’t feel ‘plasticy’, and has strategically placed rubberised inserts for a solid grip. The battery tray’s locking mechanism moves into place with a satisfying click and won’t easily undo, spilling your batteries over the set floor.

IN USE
Once the grip is in place, the camera looks and feels like a much beefier piece of kit and it looks a hell of a lot more professional too. Not a hugely important point but one which may lend you a little additional credibility when you turn up at a shoot where your client is expecting to see a more traditional video camera. This beefed up beauty looks like it cost an additional zero, especially with a small 50mm on the front.

For those of you with larger hands, it gives you somewhere to rest your little finger which (as you can see below), tends to be left hanging on the default assembly:

Another great benefit of this addition is the new position of the battery tray. The default body position is on the underside which means you need to remove the camera from the tripod/rig in order to change cells. With the grip in place, you change batteries from the side so you don’t need to strike the rig because of a flat battery.

If you spend any amount of time working on portraiture, there is an extra benefit to fitting a battery grip: When the camera is turned through 90 degrees into portrait aspect, an additional three buttons (AV +/-, zoom in, zoom out), an additional shutter release and menu-selector-wheel come into play. The extra shutter release makes portraiture a snap and removes the need to become a contortionist and the wheel is handy too. The zoom +/- buttons are micro-switched (as opposed to the body’s soft touch buttons) and respond with a solid click when pressed.

An additional ISO button would have been nice, but we can’t have it all!

All in all, it’s a great piece of kit and I highly recommend it to anyone who intends to use their 550d seriously. It addresses several of the inherent flaws and provides a robust platform for professional users. Mine never leaves the camera body!

There are after-market versions available for a fraction of the price (such as the one from Delamax) but I’ve not used them so can’t really comment on their performance (but I’m sure there are plenty of product reviews out there).

Rating
Ease of use: 5/5
Build quality: 5/5
Functionality: 5/5
Sex appeal: 5/5
Value for money: 3/5

Overall rating: