Keeping up with the prosumer market not only means knowing which cameras and equipment your serious enthusiast and professional customers are buying, but you also have to keep tabs on what they’re actually doing with them.
One area that’s been in a continuous state of expansion and ever-increasing sophistication over the past few years is HD video recording. Today, legions of upmarket consumers are using DSLRs and prosumer camcorders to capture production-quality Full HD 1080p movies of weddings, events, spot news, blogs and talking-head YouTube videos that are now considered an essential part of any photographic imaging business.
Picture takers at all levels also are posting millions of HD video clips online at social networking and commercial sites, shooting them with everything from sophisticated point-and-shoot models and compact system cameras to entry-level DSLRs. Indeed, the world is rife with scores of entry-level to pro-caliber DSLRs and compact system cameras capable of shooting truly breathtaking 1080p HD video at multiple framing rates and complete with vibrant stereo sound.
The impressive upsurge in HD video—and the myriad accessories that enhance and facilitate it—affords savvy retailers a splendid opportunity for the best kind of relationship marketing: the kind that generates more happy and loyal customers while bolstering your bottom line. Educating yourself and your sales staff, and upgrading everyone’s knowledge base on this segment, will go a long way toward establishing your store as the best source for the products and information on this broad-based, long-term trend toward more sophisticated video. Retailers who understand this dynamic niche and serve it effectively can benefit hugely.
To give you a heads-up on some of the latest HD video-related gear your prosumer and enthusiast customers will likely be asking about, and to suggest some broad product categories that are well worth looking into, we’ve rounded up some of the latest, most ingenious and effective items serious video shooters are acquiring to upgrade the performance and convenience of their video rigs. Remember this is an enormous field, so we’ve only been able to cover a small percentage of what’s out there in HD accessory land.
iDC Photo Video System One FF/VF Kit for Canon 7D. This ingenious tripod-mounted rig is designed to provide gearless follow-focus and enhanced live view for shooting HD video with virtually any lens. The gearless direct-drive focusing wheel is machined from an industrial-grade plastic bearing material and has a soft high-tech O-ring for positive rubber-on-rubber operation. The iDC unirail that holds the camera, lens and focusing wheel is a double dovetail design that’s CDC-milled from aircraft-grade aluminum, and it accepts any fluid head or QR plate with 1/4×20 or 3/8×16 fittings. A Hoodman HoodLoupe viewfinder is included for bright viewing in virtually any light. The unit is compatible with a wide range of other iDC HD video accessories and is available in configurations for other popular DSLRs, including the Canon 5D Mark II/III. $849. idcphotovideo.com
Hoodman HoodLoupe 3.0 Professional LCD Screen Loupe. This useful device mounts over an SLR's LCD screen to provide precise focus confirmation and more detailed viewing during live view or of the captured image, and it excludes ambient light to ensure glare- and shadow-free viewing. It provides full coverage of LCD displays up to 3.0 inches diagonally with a standard 4:3 aspect ratio and has an adjustable eyepiece. $79.99. hoodmanusa.com
Tiffen Dfx V3 Stand-Alone Filter Suite. This newly enhanced version of the robust and powerful Dfx video and still image-editing effects software package includes faster multi-processor interaction, more than 10 new filters for a total of over 120 optical filter effects, and a staggering 2000+ presets—digital versions of award-winning Tiffen filters, film stocks, specialized lens correction tools, film grain, exacting color matches, plus natural light and other classic and exotic photographic effects. This definitive set includes color shadow, deband, deblock, denoise, 113 film stock emulations, glow darks for stylized dreamy effects, and key light and rays effects to create stunningly realistic lighting effects in postproduction. It’s compatible with most major photo and video applications. $169.95. tiffen.com
Sunpak LED 42 Video Light. This ultra-slim shoe-mount light has (you guessed it) 42 LEDs that are powered by just two AA batteries, can provide illumination from a claimed 2 to 24 feet, and includes a power booster circuit for increased light without additional batteries. Other features include: an adjustable dimmer; color temperature without filter of 4,500-5,500K and with included color correction filter, 2,500-3,500K; and a diffuser. The unit’s battery life is said to be up to 70 minutes with 1900mAh NiMH AA cells. $69.95. sunpak.com
Satechi Wireless Timer Remote Control Shutter. Designed for Canon EOS cameras, this shutter-release accessory lets users set a shutter-release delay timer, manage exposure time, set a shooting interval and organize shooting from up to 50 feet from the camera. It has a beeping alert to indicate that the shutter is active, and it can be used for still shooting and basic video applications. There’s a backlit LCD on the 6.1×1.6×0.7-inch remote. The small shoe-mount receiver plugs into the N3 connector found on most current and many older Canon DSLRs. It’s also available for other camera brands. $59.95. satechi.net
Davis & Sanford ProVista Airlift 18 Tripod. With an FM18 fluid head and optimized for pro field or studio video applications, this sturdy tripod features double-strut three-section anodized aluminum legs for added rigidity, a pneumatic cylinder center post for easy floating adjustment, locking center brace bubble level, adjustable pan handle, independent locking pan-and-tilt adjustments and a true fluid head with 12-pound load capacity. Its closed length is 37 inches; it weighs 10.3 pounds including fluid head, and it has a height extension of 32–72 inches (with column). Functionality is enhanced with an included D&S Tripod Dolly W3. With padded bag and 10-year warranty, $209. tiffen.com
Steadicam Merlin. The Academy Award-winning Steadicam is the ultimate stabilization system for shooting smooth shake-free video hand-held and the mainstay of countless Hollywood cinematographers. The Steadicam Merlin 2 is the most compact, lightest, least expensive consumer version for serious HD shooters using DSLRs. This ingenious counter-weighted gimbaled device will accommodate camera outfits up to five pounds, features a rigid camera plate, multi-angle viewable level, large adjustable knobs and a secure gimbal lock for precise tuning. An accessory arm and vest are available to enhance steadiness and convenience. $799.
The ultra-professional Steadicam Pilot ($2,500-$5,000 depending on configuration and accessories) is a lot more expensive but well worth presenting to any high-end pro video shooters in your audience. steadicam.com
Sunpak Action Video Grip 1000AVG. This clever bracket provides an economical way to shoot steadier, sharper HD video with a DSLR or small camcorder, and it facilitates movements and transitions from any angle. It features a cushioned neoprene padded handle and high-grade ABS nonslip rails for video lights, flash units or microphones, plus an oversize platform with fore, aft and side adjustments for perfect camera balance. Three strap mounts for wrist and shoulder straps and a unique U-shaped grip provide a 135º gripping surface. It weighs 12.2 ounces and has a load capacity of 4.4 pounds. $29.95. sunpak.com
Hoodman Lens Cleanse Natural Lens Cleaning Kit. This is a 12-pack comprised of 12 wet and dry elements designed to keep optics clean and free from dirt and grime. The towelettes are made from natural soft-wood fibers and use organic plant enzymes to break down the grime that accumulates on lenses. They’re eco-friendly, said to contain no caustic chemicals and claimed to be safe for delicate coated surfaces. $9.99. hoodmanusa.com
Davis & Sanford Steady Stick Compact. This belt-mounted unit with a standard tripod socket takes the camera’s weight off the arms and shoulders and transfers it to the hips, vastly improving handheld shooting steadiness and minimizing fatigue. It’s adjustable for various shooting angles for panning low or high over a crowd, supports cameras up to 30 pounds, fits in most camera bags, and helps guide and control the camera in any position. The Steady Stick has a removable, padded handle system that connects to the side or bottom of the unit for increased maneuverability, includes a belt holster, PVC tube, rod and connector, and has a standard 1/4×20 socket. $52.99. tiffen.com
Smith-Victor KT500U Two-Light Thrifty Kit. This basic plug-in AC floodlight umbrella kit provides the essentials for shooting video or stills. It includes two lights with two ECA 250-watt Photoflood lamps, two socket and cord sets, two 10-inch reflectors with 5/8-inch stand mounts, two UM-6 umbrella mounts, two white 32-inch shoot-through umbrellas, and two Raven RS8 8-foot light stands. A new through-the-reflector mounting system places the umbrella close to the light axis for maximum lighting control. It comes with an Imaging with Light guide. $109.95. smithvictor.com
Lowel DV Creator 1 Location Video Lighting Kit. A great area or room lighting setup for serious video shooters and emerging pros, this comprehensive kit offers an outstanding combination of sophisticated lighting versatility, easy setup and reliability. It includes: one Pro-light P2-10; a Pro-light four-way barn door; a 200w, 120-volt lamp; one Omni-light O1-10 with barn doors; a 500w, 120v lamp; one Tota-light T1-10 with 750w and 120v lamp; three compact Uni TO stands; one Tota-frame; a Flexi-shaft Pak; a Tota-flag; one Tota-brella; a T/O Lampak; and assorted gels. It all stows in an included LB-30 soft case, making it an ideal combo for pros on the go. $819. lowel.com
Listec PromptWare PW-04 Teleprompter. A brilliant economical solution to providing a pro-caliber teleprompter for spot news, talking heads and scripted video productions, it turns your Droid, iPod, iPad or iPhone into a 4.0-inch teleprompter that attaches to your small video camcorder or DSLR via one of five included lens adapter rings. You can type your narrative directly into the included PromptWare Plus software or via e-mail by cutting and pasting, or do it via iTunes. A speed control adjusts the rate of your prompting script with menu-driven settings. Other features include a handheld or tripod mount, a remote control and a .07MB capacity. $299.95. listec.com
Delkin Devices USB 3.0 Universal Memory Card Reader. This UDMA-, SDHC- and SDXC-enabled card reader offers expedited data transfer to move video and image files from a memory card to a computer with sustained transfer speeds of up to 5Gbps. The USB 3.0 device is said to transfer two hours of Full HD 1080p video in 26 seconds, almost 10,000 images in less than a minute or 2,000 MP3 files in less than 13 seconds. It also has slots for CF, MMC, microSD and Memory Stick media. Delkin’s USB 3.0 universal reader offers complete backward compatibility with USB 2.0 and USB 1.1, allowing for seamless integration with portable or desktop computer systems and making this the ideal companion for present and future data management needs. $36.99. delkin.com