Proper HV20/ Letus Extreme mini test shoot

I did a few brief shots on Christmas Day but today I took the Letus mini and the Canon HV20 out to Richmond park to see how I would get on.

I sorted out the issue with controlling aperture before I left, (how fiddly is that?), took my Marshall monitor with component connection as there is no way you can tell focus on the crappy little LCD screen, my Miller Solo DS20 tripod and 2 lenses. My Zeiss T2 50mm macro and the Sigma 20mm f1.8 (which in the end I used only once).

I didn’t have any rod support, which was a mistake, something I will talk about later. So it was all a bit precarious.

You are not supposed to film in Richmond Park without a permit as it is a Royal Park. But the camera is little, the tripod isn’t that big and I tried to keep away from the roads where the Parks police patrol!

The view I couldn't see with the camera and Letus!

I went to King Henry’s Mound. A great little place. It’s a raised point near Pembroke lodge with a telescope that has an amazing view over the South West but even better, point the other way through the bushes and you see a perfectly framed view across London with St Paul’s Cathedral dead centre. Nobody is allowed to build in that line of site by Royal Decree. So few people know about it but if you are ever in Richmond, go see it. It’s near Richmond Gate and Pembroke Lodge.

A close view...

Unfortunately with no lens longer than 50mm on me (I would need around a 2000mm to see the above view!) you can’t see what people are looking at at the beginning of the short! Well that’s it above! If I had my 20 x canon lens with 2x extender on my F350 i could get pretty damn close!!!

The first problem i had was it’s fiddly! Compared to using the EX1 it was like knitting with boxing gloves on. But the monitor helped, the advice from others about how to control aperture helped. But I really missed proper manual control.

I was blown away by how sharp the image was. Incredible edge to edge sharpness. WAY better than my extreme and EX1. This appears to be an issue with the EX1 with close focus. It affects both the Extreme and the Brevis. It is fixable, it just needs something to compensate for the spherical aberration.

When I got the sharpness spot on (only achievable with an external monitor) there is no way you would believe this image was coming from a £500 camera, albeit with a $1100 adaptor and $700 bit of glass in front.

I wanted to carry on for another couple of hours but I was having trouble with my Nikon mount. It was slightly loose. Annoying as I knew it was and I had a replacement sent to me by Hien, I just forgot it! It got progressively more and more loose to the point where the Letus vibration was making the image wobble amazingly. So it was time to stop. I had 30 minutes of vision on the tape.

Overall this camera is superb for the money, there is nothing that can touch it! Sure, if you have another 4 grand get an ex1 but combined with the Letus Mini, an affordable LCD monitor for focusing…AND ESSENTIAL THIS, get it rod mounted the lens thread cannot take the weight of the adaptor and anything but the lightest lens. This is what caused most of my problems. There was so much bend going on I had to stop and go home. Shame, it was a beautiful day and I really wanted to carry on. Oh well, next time (which will probably be with my EX1)!

Enjoy the little short, no story, just pretty pics!! The music has a couple of glitches. I need to fix that and put it back up clean!


  1. Great images!

    The HV20 is certainly a very nice mini adapter cam. Once you’ve got the exposure locked it’s not so bad, but it’s galling that Canon could have made our lives so much easier with just a couple of manual controls. Even the controls on something like a GS400 would have been leaps ahead.

    It’s an especially nice camera to take places where you need to be inconspicuous. I can take two HV20s with Brevis, rods and lenses places where I’d struggle to get a Z1. Plus getting them through customs in sensitive countries is dead easy as most of the adapter kit is or looks like SLR equipment. And at £500 the HV20 is disposable, which is great when you’re in tough conditions taking gambles to get shots.

    BTW, you don’t need a permit for shooting in the Royal Parks, as long as it’s strictly non-commercial. I e-mailed them the other day and have printed out their reply so I can have it with me whenever I’m shooting in Richmond Park.

  2. Cheers! That’s good to know. Having always gone in there for commercial reasons and always had the pass i didn’t realise.

    Could you forward me that email if possible?


  3. Hey Phil. Really nice stuff. Thanks for putting Mini through its paces….

    So in the left pan at about 1 minute, I notice some artifacting… I don’t know whether it is just my play back or its something there. Looks like it could be rolling shutter. I have this feeling that interplays with the vibrating screen at times. Also, its seems to be accentuated by using stabilization.

    Was this shot in 24p or 60i ? Stabilization on or off ?

    Having been messing with adapters and this camera for about a year now, I’ve known you can do some decent shooting with it, one you learn to work with the controls.

  4. Very nice images Phil! I should of gotten an HV20 but I just received my EX1 3 days ago and I’ve had a Letus Extreme for about a month now but I haven’t tried it yet on the EX1. Could you please keep us posted on your solution to compensate for the spherical aberration. You are getting me a little worried here. I did see your previous videos with the Extreme, looked very very good to me, ok very few shots had problems with edge to edge sharpness but I believed it was just part of experimenting. Do different focal lenses give you more problems? Anyhow, nice work!!!

  5. am no expert on monitors for this camera. Mine is a big Marshall with pro v mount batteries…overkill for this. Am sure others could offer good advice.

  6. Thank you Philip! I can’t believe it! I can’t believe it!
    This is big screen quality with a 500£ camera. Superb!

    The colors are excellent. ( I’m always having trouble with over-saturated reds and greens on my HV20. ) DId you apply any colour correction or is it your lenses and white-balance (and skill) ?
    Did you find it hard to get the right colours and white-balance?
    (The golden spyglass is particularly beautiful like in Lemony Snicket’s unfortunate series of events : breathtaking! )

    Having no experience with the Letus Mini, i noticed vignetting some scenes : would you say it’s tricky to avoid vignetting with the Letus Mini?

    Thanks a lot, Philip, for all your efforts.

  7. Thanks! You can zoom in more, but i often add vignette’s in post as I like the look. When I graded some of the shots the vignettes that were not apparent before showed up, but as I liked the look I didn’t mind!

    I had all the camera settings on completely basic settings! My experience with the camera is practically zero. Next time I am sure i would be able to get better footage!

  8. Philip,

    It’s remarkable that even a better picture quality is possible. What you show here is nearly perfect to my eyes.
    It might be the HV20 saturates some colours too much, but that might be solved by picking the Image Effect : Neutral (by pressing the Func. button – scroll down a bit to Image Effect with the Set-‘arrows’ button)
    Nevertheless i like the ‘Golden’ effect, for it adds a bit of drama (to my eyes) as opposed to a more neutral picture i.e. Kew Gardens (which is very beautiful, too).

    Would you say the Brevis would be a better choice as a first 35mm adapter for the HV20 or is this Letus Mini the one to go with?

    Thanks for using the Sigma f1.8 20mm. I have seen it here (in Belgium) 2nd hand for very little money and your results are astounding. Your experiences shown here really are a big help for us trying to find a low-cost high-quality solution.

    I can’t thank you too much.


  9. Phil!
    Wow it’s cunning!
    Great piece, I really think, the image has an incredible perceived cinematic quality(in a latter part of video).
    I actually prefer it to EX1! There is more fine, delicate color details, I may be biased though, having three Canon cameras:)
    It you could do a shootout of EX1 and HV20! I know you need an assistant to cary two cameras and gear, I will fly from Moscow to do that! Joking:)
    What music was that, please?

  10. Hi Philip,
    nice images, especially the ones in black and white. I have a question/request: would it be possible to post a still with and without the letus adapter+35mm lens for a particular shot, without color correction or image adjustments..? I am quite curious to see how they compare especially on the HV20 and what is he difference in terms of noise -your images seem to have a degree of post processing blur; or is it that the 35mm lens was used at maximum f-stop? (still there ought to be noise! 🙂
    Anyway, I imagine you’re busy so even some feedback/opinion would do.

  11. Mr Bloom
    I stumbled on your incredible work quite by accident,while I was buying the Sony PMW EX1 at a camera store. A sales person there gave me the address to your website.I’m beyond impressed with your amazing work.
    I don’t have as much equipment as you do.I own the Canon HV10 and the Sony PMW EX1
    All this is new to me,and I’m trying to make nice videos by learning from your clips.I don’t know how to use the EX1 but eventually I will get there.
    I will say one thing about my Canon HV10. It shoots the most amazingly sharp videos from edge to edge.
    You mentioned something called ‘spherical aberration’ on the EX1.
    What is that? Is this something I can fix myself?
    And one last question. In order to get video as sharp as m Canon HV10 should I shoot with the EX1 in HQ1080/24P or HQ1080/30P or HQ1080/60i ? Which format will get me the best and sharpest video?
    I thank you for your time and hope to hear from you.By the way, the clip with your Canon HV20 brought tears to m eyes.It was one of the most beautiful videos I have ever seen.
    I’m doing a video tomorrow in New York’s Central Park and I must say that it is inspired by that one.
    Thank you.
    Nick Dallas

  12. Rush, Taking a shot with the Letus then taking it off is quite unlikely. Far too fiddly! There is noise in the uncompressed ones, but not too bad. Less than some cameras without adaptors!

    Most of my stuff is shot wide open, video or adaptor…

    Cheers Crystal C

    Nick, The Spherical aberration is a very minor thing, but important with adaptors. The ex1 when focusing on the letus glass is not totally flat. Letus are making a lens fix for it. All those formats will shoot equally sharp footage, they are all 1080 and all HQ. Good luck with your shoot!


  13. Mr. Bloom,
    thanks so much for your reply.I wanted to get your opinion on something. The Red One camera is capable of 4K and 2K resolution besides 1080P, 1080i and 720P.
    The body alone is $17,000 and one of the lens costs $8000.
    That’s not including extras like the monitor,battery,and other necessary items. Imagine such a camera in the hands of an artist like you, after what you did with the Canon HV20!!!
    Anyways,how do you rate that camera?
    After watching some of your work I play it safe by always using a tripod. One of my friends who is a photographer told me to stay away from zooming.I may be wrong, but after watching some of your work, I think you don’t use the zoom at all.
    Thanks for any tips you can give me o the EX1.
    I’m trying to learn how to set up the PICTURE PROFILE for a sunny day What I’m going to do is set the EX1 on a tripod outdoors on a sunny day and set the Picture Profile and see how the images look as I make the necessary changes in the menu. This is purely because I don’t know what some of the settings mean. This way I can just pull up the Picture Profile and leave the house. Sony even made an ‘Idiot Function’ for someone like me!!
    Eventually I will take a photography course.
    What I would do to know as much as you do.

  14. You said you received “an excellent video tutorial as to how to control the aperture and not have gain.” Is there a web link to this? Thanks! Amazing work!

  15. Daniel. Here it is

    Nick, I would love to try a red. Not had a chance to yet. I don’t have the work to justify buying one. The glass itself it so expensive.

    I do zoom, but only for effect. Like little crashes. Look at my recent blog on lithuania. I don’t EVER use servo zooms I hate them! I was taught only replicate shots that a human eye can do. You can move you head left and right, up and down and you can move forward and backward, but you can’t zoom in terminator style! It’s lazy camerawork too!

    Also the temptation with 35mm adaptors is to rack focus all the time. Don’t, it gets boring very fast. Use the DOF to draw your attention to something within the frame, that is what it is designed for. Also, most 35mm lenses have awful breathing.

    There are some great Bill Ravens PP settings on I have published one set on my blog that I think give me great images. Used it on the Lithuania shoot.

    Thanks again for commenting Nick! Enjoy your shooting!


  16. phillip,fantastic work.
    what a talent.
    i realise this is great kit but what i always find very funny is the the first question is what kit what techniques etc etc.
    a bit like buying a leica because you have seen a Henri Cartier Bresson photo.
    i did, 15 years ago got a Leica IIIf,the shots i took were rubbish.
    phil i bet i could give you a ferguson videostar vhs camera with a milk bottle for a lens and you would do great work.

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