My favourite things…

I get many emails asking which **** do I recommend? So I thought I would compile a list of my favourite things. Basically if it’s here I recommend it and more importantly use myself. 

 

Follow Focus

First off is the quite simply perfect follow focus from Zacuto. Zacuto make (in my opinion) the best camera accessories. Nobody else come close. There is a down side…they are pricey. But what you get for your money is the best made gear I have ever come across and a lifetime warranty. You can get cheaper but you get what you pay for…

The above follow focus is the lightweight flipable follow focus. It is an absolute JOY to use. For a long time I operated without one, now I couldn’t imagine operating without one. You can move the wheel to either side so your focus puller can be either side of the camera. Combine this with the Z-whip and the focus gears and you have in my opinion the best follow focus on the planet (that I have used!!)

The gears attach very tightly to each lens, again they aren’t cheap, but the system works just so damn well. It’s pro gear all the way. 

My second favourite follow focus is the Redrock Micro one. Again it is lovely but MUCH cheaper. Not as flexible in configuration as the Zacuto one, doesn’t have the lifetime warranty and the gear system is more clunky. If money is no object go for Zacuto, if on a budget go for Redrock FF. It’s still very good indeed.

 

 

I have also heard good things about the indifocus pro but have no experience with it. 

35mm Adaptors

It is no secret that I love my Letus. I want to have children with my Letus. It produces images that I simple adore. It has been a year since I got my first Letus Extreme. Prior to this I used the Cinevate Brevis and Redrock Micro M2. In fact my first 35mm adaptor was the Letus Flip enhance. A real piece of junk to be brutally honest. That is why I was so surprised how good the Extreme was. Just 1/2 stop of light loss, image flipped and one solid mother!

The Letus Ultimate

Earlier this year Hien and the team brought out the Ultimate. A spinning ground glass version of the Extreme and 3 times the price! Is it worth it? Well I think so, it lets you stop down all the way AND use high speed shutter. There have been recent issues about QC, I believe these are being ironed out and this will put the Ultimate at the top of the tree when it comes to 35mm adaptors. I have shot many many hours with the Ultimate and my EX cameras and every time I am blown away by the picture quality each and every time. 

I don’t like the on/ off button at all but I love the back focus adjustment, a big problem with the extreme and the display that tells you when the batteries are running low. You can also power the adaptor using an external power source, I use a D-tap connector to power it off of the camera. Works a treat! Use this adaptor with just about any camera and the results can be spectacular. 

 

The Letus Elite

An updated version of the Letus Extreme, now with added back focus adjustment like the one on the Ultimate. In my opinion, absolutely bloody essential. Adjusting the back focus on the extreme is more fiddly that Topol playing his fiddle in Fiddler On The Roof with a backup of orchestra of fiddlers. In fact it is a bit of a bitch and in itself can cause even more problems once got in the correct position. You can now buy a back focus add on for the extreme and I recommend this more than I recommend you hiring me for your next production!

I believe the Elite is only available for the time being from Zacuto as is the back focus add on. But the Extreme is available from LetusDirect.com in the US and Mitcorp.com in the EU. The Extreme is a wonderful adaptor. The Elite makes it brilliant and much cheaper than the Ultimate, but you can’t stop down past f5.6 without getting the pattern of the ground glass in and high speed shutter is a big no-no.

Brevis 35mm

I have a special place in my heart for the Brevis. Until I got my first one I had bad experiences with the Letus Flip Enhanced and struggled to really get great images out of the Redrock M2. The lightweight Brevis with just 1/2 stop of light loss was a breath of fresh air. The swappable ground glass elements an added bonus! My favourite being the CF2. I used the Brevis with the HVX200 and JVC HD201 very successfully (especially the latter with it’s inbuilt flip). Then the Sony EX1 came out and it just didn’t work well at all together. Devastating. So I stopped using my Brevis until about 3 weeks ago. Dennis Wood from Cinevate updated my 2 Brevis adaptors with the new XL element designed for the EX cameras. I took the EX1 out with it and was very happy with the results. Although some users report light fall off using the EX1 and this element. I haven’t fully tested it enough to say.  The Brevis is great will every camera out there, and now much more usable with the EX1, but it isn’t perfect. Not yet…

 

Rod support systems

With any 35mm adaptor, to protect your lens thread you really must invest in some rod supports. These are the two sets I thoroughly recommend. 

The Zacuto System

More flexible than Madonna doing yoga, than Mr. Tickle scratching a itch in an awkward spot whilst reaching into the fridge for an ice cold beer! The Zacuto system is the Rolls Royce of support systems, you can configure it just about any way you could ever want it. 

You can stick monitors on it, turn it into a full handheld rig. In fact I believe you can even turn it into a go kart with the new Z-Kart add on. It’s insane what you can do with it. Again, as I mentioned earlier…expensive, but worth every single penny! It will last forever, if it doesn’t send it back to Zacuto and get it replaced. Lifetime warranty!

I saw pictures of Zacuto gear a year before I bought my first system and thought no way. Too expensive. So I bought cheaper set ups and had to replace them, again and again. I realised that I was wasting money on inferior products so I bit the bullet, blew a grand and got my first set up. Best decision of my life. Nothing comes close. I am now officially a fan boy and will sing their praises till everyone is sick to death of hearing it. Not just the best gear but superb customer service. A shining example of a tiny company showing everyone how it is done. 

The Cinevate Proteus System

Congratulations to Dennis for making a really different and very usable rod support system. In fact I have used the Proteus system a number of times recently and loved it. Great value, incredibly well made and a great addition for any adaptor out there, not just the Brevis. Easy to get a great balanced system, although I recommend the 60cm rods for sure. Don’t get the shorter ones. 

 

Camera Lights

 

Am not going to go into my choice of full lighting rigs other than to mention briefly my love of the Lowell Rifa soft light system. Best lights I have ever used. Period. 

Now for smaller “on camera” lights there are two which I have and rave about.

Zylight

Where on earth did this light come from? It just suddenly appeared and blows away all the competition. An LED light which can change from daylight to tungsten at the touch of a button AND also change to just about any other hue you want. Couple that with the ability to link multiple lights together via bluetooth and turn them on all from one unit. It’s expensive but worth saving up for. All the other lights seem clunky in comparison. This is the future of LED lights, the future of camera lights and it’s name is Zylight. 

Litepanel Mini

Litepanel make great lights. Their 1x1s are some of the best lights I have ever used. The Mini is an incredibly versatile thing, battery pack on the pack and you can use it anywhere you want. Kicks out a nice even daylight, comes with CTO and other diffuser gels. I use my mini often and cannot recommend it enough. 

Mattebox

This one is easy. There is only one Mattebox on the market that I can recommend for quality, value and usability…The Redrock Micro Mattebox. It was a long time coming but when it finally arrived it blew away the “budget” competition and put to shame the pro Matteboxes out there when it came to features and price. Sure Arri make best Matteboxes in the world but their prices reflect it. The Micro Mattebox has all the features you can want, including swing away. Works with small cameras like the EX1 through to full size pro cameras and even the RED. There is nothing that comes close in this price range and I cannot recommend it enough. The price is insane. The product is brilliant. 

 

 

Above is the mattebox without any flags. The only downside I can think of is it isn’t that light. If you want a really lightweight clip on mattebox this isn’t it. Look at Chrosziel or Vocus for that. Want a proper rod mounted swing away Mattebox? Then this is it!

Affordable Steadicam

This is my least knowledgeable section. I am very inexperienced when it comes to stabilisers. But I have two and think they are both great. 

Steadicam Merlin arm and vest

You don’t need the arm and vest if using a light camera/ or have arms of steel but if using something like an HVX200 or EX1 then the arm and vest are essential. Superb quality as you would expect from Tiffen/ Steadicam but bloody hard to use. You really have to invest many many days/ weeks getting to grips with it to get quality results but when you do it’s worth all the trouble. So well made, it just oozes quality. Look at the Steadicam Pilot for a more heavy duty one. I can’t comment as I haven’t used one but have heard great things about it!!



Camera Bags

I am a big fan of Petrol bags and of course the ever reliable Porta-Brace. But I recently camera across a new make called Cinebags and am really pleased with it. It houses my EX3 beautifully and will do the same with my EX1. I believe it is airline hand luggage compatible, has oodles of pockets and looks bloody great! Am so bored of the standard camera bags. 

You can buy this bag and others by Cine Bags in the EU here

Tripod

There are many great tripods out there. Sachtler, Vinten and Miller all make superb pro tripods. I don’t like Manfrotto ones to be honest. If you are after a great tripod with a great head for your smaller camera then there is only one tripod I can thoroughly recommend. That is the Miller DS20 Solo with Carbon Fibre legs. It looks a bit like a stills tripod but don’t be fooled. This is no stills tripod this is a pro camcorder tripod with an affordable price tag, superb build quality. Goes stupidly low and really high. I love it and it goes everywhere with me!!!

 

 


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34 comments

  1. Thanks so much for taking the trouble to write and illustrate this posting Phil – it really helps the rest of us with less time and opportunity to keep up with the latest user-friendly kit.

  2. Hi Phil,

    What do you think about the new Arri kit (Mattebox, followfocus and rig) for indy? I like their follow focus for the two hard stops and mattebox can be used by other Sony HDV camaras.
    One more question: is it possible to used the Zacuto gears in combination with the Redrock FF?

    Ciao Marco

  3. Hi Phil,
    I glued some 15mm rods to each side of my head, whilst attempting to make the very first ‘mattebox for the eyes’…i’m afraid i’ve buggered it up somewhat…the spacing of the rods is completely off, and my wife, Linda, says I look silly and won’t be seen out with me.
    So, for my next project, I’ve decided to go for a more simple invention; namely a ‘human arm camera support’, whereby I will attempt to weld burning hot metal to my human arm.
    I will advise you of results in the following weeks.
    Thanks for your inspiration!

  4. thank you very much for all of the info, with a tight budget i have considered the brevis and the flycam 6000. now from reading this page i am now certain that they are both the choice i will now run with. thank you again for writing about the flycam – i could find little to nothing about the quality of it until now. sincerely grateful.

  5. Do you really need a 35mm Adapters on cameras such as the EX3. Wouldn’t it be faster to just get the Sony ACM-21 2/3″ Lens Adapter and use your own lenses you may already have? Why am i seeing people using 35mm Adapters on the EX3. Is it because they already have the 35mm Adapters from previous cameras, or is it better.

  6. Hi Phillip,

    Cool website and many, many thanks for all the info!

    I’m guessing you’re a very busy guy, but if you could answer this one question for me I will be extremely grateful;

    Will the PROAIM-7000 fly full size cameras such as Sony 970’s and 750’s?

    I’ve been itching to get into Steadicam for a while now and it seems the best way to do this is to buy a low end rig and train myself up. The problem is that almost all of my jobs are on larger cameras and I’m not sure whether this rig will be suitable. The other option is the Glidecam V-25, but its three or four times the price!

    The PROAIM-7000 seems to be a great option as the price is so good but I don’t want to be stuck with something that I can’t actually use with full-size cameras.

    Any advice would be greatly received as I’m soooo confused!

    Kind Regards

    Siggi

  7. I own the pro-aim 7000 and the flycam 6000.
    Also their dof adaper is a joke.

    This company does not understand quality control
    Bits fall off, aluminium parts strip threads, parts don’t fit properly with other parts.

    They are potentially great products, but I gave up trying to tell them all the short falls, I mean a cheap product is no good and just plain frustratiing if it
    “nearly works.”

    I have spent the last 4 months re-engineering parts on the the pro-aim 7000
    and am close to a working product.

    However the pro-aim would be great for anyone wanting a cheap way to learn steadycam techniques.

    I have tried with sonyhd cam and digi betacam, they are really too heavy
    for the build quality.

    I use it with a jvc prohd camera with brevis dof adapter.

  8. Hi Steven and Philip,

    Thanks so much for the info on the Proaim-7000!

    Its nice to know that someone has actually brought one of these rigs. There is hardly any info on the web!

    I’m still pretty keen on buying one just to practice. It’s a bit of a honey trap I guess 😉

    Steven, if you have the time, could you explain a little more about the problems you had flying larger cameras? Did the rig feel like it would break flying this kind of weight? I’m worried that I’ll get one and the (rented!) camera will just snap off, leaving me well and truly stuffed!- Many, many thanks in advance for any advice given!

    Philip, I’m not sure if you replied to my initial posting. Did you? No worries if not!

    Thanks again guys!!!!

    Siggi

  9. hi siggi,
    sorry didn’t reply,
    been on holidays, the proaim 7000 can be modified to take heavier cameras,
    but I wouldn’t recommend it, I did try it with the 970 and it does feel like things would fall apart.
    I use it with a jvc prohd 251e with goldmount batteries and brevis and this is about the limit.
    As I said you could buy it and modify pieces, but If I had my time over again I would just go for the v-25 or more likely the movecam range.
    I have tried the movecams and they are fantastically built

  10. What do you think about the new JVC coming out next month? Have you tried it yet? Do you think its small form will make a low budget production look like an even lower budget production.

    1. i haven’t personally but as the image projected onto the 1/3″ sensor is huge from the alpha lenses expect a magnification factor of around 7x Great for wildlife though!

  11. Hey Philip – excellent site. Been browsing for hours. One thing I can’t find – what Nikon to Canon mount adaptor do you use to mount your nikon lenses on your 5d. It’s become one of those all day searches – so any help would be majorly appreciated! I find stuff from $15.99 to $150…

    thanks!

  12. Philip,

    I am shooting with an EX3 with the Letus Ultimate on their V2 Rod system. When I do handheld work this is pretty heavy. I did purchase the Redrock ShoulderMount but I wanted a little more weight in the back to counterbalance everything. Do you happen to know if the Zacuto lunchbox can be used with my V2 Letus rods? If not, is there something else you recommend as a back weight? Thanks a lot!

  13. I’m confused ?
    is the ultimate relay the newest dof adaptor for ex3..or is that the same as the ultimate 35 letus?

    which mount for the ultimate do you recommend??
    and so you suggest the rod system fromzacuto, but will fit the
    ex3 w letus. correct??

    1. the relay is not an adaptor, it is a lens that mounts straight onto the body of the ex3 to replace the stock lens, the Ultimate then mounts onto that.

      you mean lens mount? i use nikon lenses.

      i think the zacuto rails are the best, expensive but worth it.

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