Holiday 2012: Video Gifts and Gear

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Holiday shopping for a professional photographer or videographer can be hard to do without breaking the bank. Most professional grade gear is justifiably very expensive, and you probably don’t want to buy someone an inferior version of something they already have. Luckily, we at B&H have compiled a list of affordable gift ideas that can work their way into most pros kits.


With cameras getting smaller and smaller, you don’t always need a huge and expensive dolly system for professional looking camera movements. Any of these Table Top Dollies can produce professional looking, smooth movements. They won’t replace a normal track dolly for long and fast dolly moves, but for simple moves on smooth surfaces these table top dollies can add a little extra flair to a shot.

Portable LED Video Lights

Lighting is an essential part of production, and most videographers will agree that you can never have too many lighting options. LED lights use about a tenth as much power as traditional tungsten light sources and generate very little heat, making them a welcome addition to any light kit. Add to that the fact that LED lights have gotten more affordable over the past few years, and you have a great and useful gift idea.

The Bescor LED-125 Dimmable On-Camera Light is an affordable and bright LED light by Bescor. The light’s 144 LED bulbs produce about as much light as a 125W light bulb, but unlike a 125W light bulb, the LED-125 can run for more than an hour on just six AA batteries. If you plan on using the LED-125 for longer periods of time, it can also be plugged in with the optional AC adapter. The LED-125 is also dimmable, allowing for precise control over the light output. As is common with LED lights in this price range, the LED-125 emits a very cool 6500K color temperature, and the included amber color-correction filter does a pretty good job of warming it up. The Bescor LED-125 comes ready to mount to your camera’s accessory shoe.

The Bescor LED-70 Dimmable On-Camera Light is the smaller and more affordable brother of the LED-125. It features 96 separate 5mm bulbs and emits about as much light as a 70-watt light bulb. It can run for an hour on just four AA batteries, or be plugged in with an optional AC adapter. The LED-70 is dimmable to 20%, mounts directly to a hot or cold shoe, and includes an amber color-correction filter to warm up its cooler-than-daylight native color temperature.

The ikan Multi-K Variable Color Temperature LED Light is a great choice for any videographer who doesn’t want to deal with filters and gels in order to achieve the desired white balance. The light mixes red, white and yellow LEDs together at different ratios to allow the user to change the color temperature from a warmer-than-tungsten 2800K to a cooler-than-daylight 6500K, and anywhere in between. The trade-off of this technique is a slight loss of brightness, but the Multi-K is still as bright as a 50-Watt light bulb, which is plenty bright enough for most uses. The Multi-K can run on six AA batteries, an external battery via an optional D-Tap cable, or the included AC adapter. The Multi-K can also mount to an accessory shoe or any stand with a ¼”-20 male thread. A soft carrying case is included.

Litepanels brings both style and substance to the table with its Croma On-Camera LED Light. The Croma upholds Litepanels’ reputation for high quality and natural-looking light and adds the convenience of variable color temperature. The Croma is capable of changing anywhere in between 3200K and 5600K. It is fully dimmable and about as bright as a 90W light bulb at full power. It will run for 90 minutes on six AA batteries. Of course, the included AC adapter or an optional D-Tap source can also power the light for longer periods of time. The Croma includes a carrying case.

The Rotolight RL48 Creative Color Kit V2 is a unique take on the portable LED light. Forgoing the typical grid layout of other LED lights, the Rotolight uses a ring pattern. Ring lights produce a unique circular-shaped highlight on close subjects, and are commonly used for glamour shots. The ring shape gives the Rotolight the ability to mount around a shotgun microphone if you so desire, though it can also mount to an accessory shoe. The Rotolight does not have a dimmer but comes with a collection of custom cut gel filters that allow the user to cut down light intensity, change color temperature, apply diffusion or add various cosmetic effects. The Rotolight can run for up to four hours on just three AA batteries and is about as bright as an 80-Watt conventional light. The creative color kit also comes with a carrying case that is capable of carrying two Rotolights, in case you decide that you like the first one enough to purchase a second separately.

The TL-50 Dimmable 5600K LED Light Fixture from Switronix provides a lot more punch than a typical 3-Watt LED light panel. Its 50 separate LEDs are crammed close together in a circle to produce a beam pattern that, while harsh at close distances, results in less light fall-off when farther away. The TL-50 is dimmable and is equivalent to a conventional 50-Watt light. The TL-50 also comes with its own rechargeable battery that lasts 2.5 hours at full power. It is daylight balanced and includes a warming filter for matching tungsten light sources. A cold-shoe mount is also included.

The Switronix TorchLED Bolt is certainly deserving of the Torch moniker. The Torch features a 200-Watt equivalent light output in a variable color temperature range. The TorchLED is one of the first battery powered LED lights that is bright enough to be used even in daylight to mitigate high-contrast shadows. All that power requires a more robust battery, and the TorchLED is aptly powered for up to 150 minutes by a Sony L Style camcorder battery, NP-F970. A battery and charger are also included. The TorchLED can be used with larger batteries with the included powertap cable or plugged in with an optional AC Adapter. The TorchLED can be mounted to an accessory shoe or to a light stand with a ¼”-20 male thread.

The Vidpro K-120 Light Kit with Vello Mulit-Function Ball Head is a great on-camera LED light bundle that comes with everything you need at a price that doesn’t break the bank. Its 120 individual LED lamps work together to produce a 75W equivalent daylight balance light beam. It is dimmable and can run on either Sony L Series or Panasonic CGR Type batteries. A rechargeable battery and AC adapter are included. The K-120 is hot-shoe mountable and the bundle also includes a Vello Multi-Function Ball Head to allow even greater mounting flexibility. A warming filter, diffusion filter and a hard carrying case are also included with this bundle.

The Vidpro Z-96K Professional Photo and Video LED Light Kit features 96 daylight balanced LED Lamps, which provide about as much light as a 50-Watt tungsten bulb. The color temperature can be warmed with the easy addition of either of the two included magnetic filters. The Z-96 can be powered by the included Sony F Series rechargeable battery, five AA batteries (not included) or the included AC adapter. The light also mounts easily to a hot shoe and comes with a hard carrying case.

Electronic Viewfinders

With the popularity of modular camera systems, the demand for adaptable and flexible viewfinders has grown and there are now several electronic viewfinders, or EVFs, on the market. EVFs are essential because they can be used with many different camera types and are typically of much higher quality than the viewfinders included on most cameras.

The Zacuto Z-Finder was one of the first “third party” EVFs to hit the market and is ideally suited for HDSLR cameras. This 800 x 480-resolution display has the ability to scale nearly any HDSLR’s output to full screen, and does so automatically. It also has high-end features like false color, zebra stripes, peaking and 1:1 pixel zooming. It has an HDMI input and output. The Zacuto EVF also uses an optical Z-Finder pro to magnify its 3.2” screen, which can be used separately, if desired. The Zacuto EVF runs on the same LP-E6 batteries as Canon HDSLRs and includes a battery, charger, HDMI cable and hot-shoe mount.

Kinotehnik’s LCDVFe is another high-quality EVF with an HDMI input and output. It has a 3-inch, 800 x 480-resolution display and runs on either AA batteries or its included powertap cable. It comes with a 15mm rod clamp and shoe mount to be easily mounted to any camera rig. Scaling can be adjusted to match virtually any camera signal. The LCDVFe has color peaking, false color, zebra lines, histrograms and anamorphic stretch.

Alphatron’s Electronic Viewfinder EVF-035W-03G adds the flexibility of both SDI and HDMI inputs and outputs. It has a 3.54-inch, 960 x 640-resolution display that is bright and big enough to be used as a monitor as well. It is powered by Sony NP-F style batteries (not included) or an external DC power source. It is also able to convert its HDMI input to an SDI output. The Alphatron EVF can also read and display timecode and audio meters. A carrying case and mount are also available separately.

Shoe and Accessory Mounts

Many of the items described thus far mount directly to a camera’s accessory shoe. Since most cameras only have one shoe, an adapter of some sort is needed to mount more than one accessory at a time. Vello makes two such adapters: the Vello Triple Shoe V-Bracket and the Vello Double Shoe Bracket. Another helpful accessory from Vello, a Multi-Function Ball Head, is a great way to raise or angle on-camera accessories. The small and sturdy ball head mounts to a shoe or male ¼”-20 thread and offers an adjustable cold shoe or ¼”-20 thread at the top. The ball head can articulate up to 90 degrees in any direction and be securely locked. It’s a great accessory for on-camera lights or monitors that need to be constantly adjusted.

The Pearstone 8.3” Articulating Israeli Arm and the Pearstone 4.2 Articulating Israeli Arm are both heavy duty adjustable arms for mounting heavier on-camera lights or monitors. Both can mount to either a shoe or ¼”-20 thread and terminate within a ¼”-20 threaded post.

Cases

Different shooting conditions require different types of cases. For example, a backpack-style case could make a great addition to the kit of a videographer who has only traditional shoulder strap cases, or vice versa. Professional-grade cases make great gifts, and we recommend these if you're looking for gifts for your special videographer.

The Cinebags CB-25B is a backpack-style case designed for handheld HD cameras and HDSLRs. It has space for your camera body along with numerous lenses and other camera accessories. A laptop up to 17” can also be carried in the CB-25B. It is waterproof, durable and comfortable due to its reinforced padding and waist belt. The bag itself weighs 5.8 lb and also comes with a two-year warranty.

The Portabrace BKS-2XM is another backpack-style camera case. It is made from strong 1000-denier Cordura nylon material, and has enough room to carry an HDSLR or smaller HD camera along with a laptop, while being small enough to be used as carry-on baggage for a flight. It has adjustable and customizable interior dividers and has loops on the outside for securing a small tripod or other accessories to the backpack. It is also made in the USA.

The Portabrace CS-DV3U is a more traditionally styled camera bag designed for video cameras, but also makes a good case for an HDSLR camera rig. Its coated waterproof Cordura nylon exterior covers foam padding to keep your camera safe. Inside the case is one large compartment measuring 18 x 7 x 8.5”, making it a good fit for 1/3” ENG cameras. It also has a number of pockets on the outside of the case for other camera accessories and a strap for securing a tripod to the case. It is manufactured in the USA.

If you need something a little bigger, take a look at the blue Porta Brace CS-DV4 or the black Porta Brace CS-DV4/DC Director’s Cut edition. Both cases feature a large 21.5 x 8 x 10” compartment, big enough for ENG cameras like the Sony EX1 or an HDSLR with an assembled rig. Like The CS-DV3U, both cases are made of waterproof Cordura nylon, have pockets on the outside for additional accessories, and have a strap to secure a tripod. The Directors Cut version is exclusive to B&H and features stylish deerskin-suede accents on the exterior of the case.

The Petrol PC202 and the slightly smaller Petrol DC201 are two affordable and stylish camera cases designed for HD camcorders. Both cases have a black nylon exterior and a bright red foam interior. Three rigid removable dividers are also included. The PC202’s interior dimensions are 18.9 x 9.8 x 9.7” and the PC201’s are 16.4 x 8.3 x 9.45”. The PC201 is small enough to be used as a carry-on. Both bags can also be illuminated with the optional PA1013 removable LED lighting strip.

Table Top Dollies

The Pico Dolly Camera Table Dolly is an affordable table top dolly that uses high quality inline skate wheels that allow for extremely smooth movement on smooth surfaces. Its aluminum chassis is 3.5 inches wide and ideally suited for small HDLRs or mirrorless cameras. The front and rear wheels are adjustable to allow for controlled straight or arced movements. The center of the Pico Dolly’s platform has a standard ¼”-20 male thread on it for either mounting the camera directly or attaching a tripod head. There are also two additional ¼”-20 female threads which can be used to mount additional accessories. A carrying case is also available.

The Digital Juice Orbit Micro Camera Dolly shares many of the same features as the Pico Dolly. It features four bright blue polyurethane inline-skate wheels attached to a compact aluminum body that measures 6.6 x 2.4” and weighs only 1 lb. Both sets of wheels are adjustable and lockable for controlled movements, and hash marks are provided for a better frame of reference. The Orbit Micro Dolly features three female ¼”-20 threads on the body and comes with one ¼”-20 male post screw adapter for mounting a camera or tripod head in any of the three female ¼”-20 holes. The Orbit Micro Dolly is best suited for small HDSLR or Mirrorless cameras.

If you—or the recipient of your gift—plan on mounting anything larger, like the Sony FS100, then a larger table top dolly may be a better choice. The Dot Line DLC Cinema Skater Dolly is a more robust dolly system that can be used with heavier cameras than the Pico or Orbit Micro dollies. The 12” wide machined-aluminum platform is triangular in shape and rises only 0.5” above the ground, enabling extremely low-angle shots. The Cinema Skater dolly also features three adjustable inline skate wheels, which allow for 360-degree rotation in addition to more traditional dolly moves. There is one male ¼”-20 thread for mounting the camera or tripod head as well as three additional female ¼”-20 threads for mounting additional accessories. A carrying case is included with the dolly.

Slider Dollies

Another affordable way to get professional looking dolly moves on a budget is by using a slider dolly. Slider dollies feature a track and carriage that are already assembled and ready to go. They can be mounted on the ground or on a tripod to achieve the desired height. Unlike table top dollies, they do not need a smooth surface to work on, but they are limited by their finite length.

The CPM Camera Rigs Carbon Slyder is a durable two-foot slider dolly from CPM. Smooth camera movement is achieved via a friction-based carriage that slides along two 24” long, 15mm carbon fiber rods. Because the CPM Slyder uses industry standard 15mm rods for its track, additional rods of different lengths can be purchased if you want to change the length of the CPM Slyder. The Slyder has adjustable feet and can also be mounted on two tripods or light stands. A camera-mounting plate with a quick release is also included.

For the more budget minded, Opteka offers a line of affordable friction based camera sliders, the 23” GLD-200, the 33” GLD-300, and the 47” GLD-400. All three slider dollies are made of aluminum and include a pair of legs that allow the dolly to sit 2” off the ground. The dollies can also be mounted on a tripod; though two tripods or stands are recommended for the 47” model. All Opteka models support up to 10 lb of weight and are perfect for small video cameras and HDSLRs.

Glidetrack was one of the first companies to offer an affordable camera slider designed for smaller cameras and has recently introduced a higher-end model, the Glidetrack Hybrid. The Hybrid Slider goes beyond the friction-sliding carriage of its predecessor, the Glidetrack HD, with an all new hybrid carriage that uses both friction and small roller bearings for exceptionally smooth movement. The Glidetrack Hybrid comes in several lengths and can be mounted to a tripod or light stands. It can be used at an angle or even upside down.

The Atlas FLT Slider is an extremely versatile and lightweight slider dolly by Cinevate. The Atlas uses ball bearings to achieve smoother and more silent movement than friction based slider dollies. It can also be used for vertical moves and, when paired with a counterweight, the Atlas is capable of very smooth movements at almost any angle. The Atlas is thinner than many competing dollies and weighs only 5.6 lb, making it perfect for videographers on the go.

Tripods

A good tripod is an essential and often overlooked part of any professional tool kit, and if you are using a lightweight camera, there are a number of newer professional tripods at a more affordable price that may make the perfect gift.

The Sachtler Ace is a lightweight aluminum tripod system from a brand that has a long history of catering to the professional video industry. The Ace features a true fluid head with adjustable drag, and five counterbalance settings to ensure the camera remains balanced. It’s a two-stage tripod and has a maximum height of 66.5”. You also have a choice of a floor or mid-level spreader. The Sachtler Ace's lightweight head mounts via a 75mm bowl, which allows for quick leveling adjustments and also features a quick-release plate. A carrying case is also included. The Sachtler Ace supports cameras up to 8.8 lb.

Libec also offers a professional tripod line for lighter cameras that scale back on price without scaling back on features. The Libec LX7 comes with your choice of a floor level or mid level spreader, and has a maximum height of 5.45’. It has a true fluid head and a fixed counterbalance. The LX7 has a maximum payload of 17.5 lb, which ensures compatibility with all but the heaviest camera rigs. It also includes a carrying case and quick-release plate.

The Magnus VT-4000 offers many features that are typically reserved for much more expensive tripods. It's a two stage aluminum tripod that has a maximum height of 59” and supports a maximum weight of 8.8 lb. Fluid resistance aids smooth panning and tilting. The tripod head sits on a 65mm bowl that allows for leveling adjustments. It also has a quick-release plate and fixed counterbalance. A carrying case is included.

Tripod Heads 

Many slider dollies require a tripod head to mount the camera. There are two main types of tripod heads: Pan/Tilt heads and Ball Heads. Pan/Tilt heads are preferred for video. They are designed to be smoothly adjusted while filming.

Manfrotto offers two affordable pan/tilt heads that are ideally suited for smaller cameras, the Manfrotto 502HD and the 701HDV. The 701HDV is perfect for small HDSLRs. Its fluid resistance ensures much smoother pan and tilt movement than a friction head offers, and its quick-release plate allows you to remove the camera easily for handheld work. The 502HD head features an adjustable fluid drag system and counterbalance. Both heads mount via a female 3/8” thread, which is standard on many tripod legs and slider dollies.

Ball heads are designed for still photography and can be adjusted to almost any angle and locked in place. They are generally smaller than pan/tilt heads and are highly functional, so long as you do not need smooth panning and tilting motions.

Oben offers a range of ball heads for almost any budget and need, two of which we recommend for slider dollies: the BA-0T and the BB-1. The Oben BA-0T is a compact ball head that supports cameras up to 11 lb. Despite its tiny 1.8” diameter, the BA-0T features a quick-release plate and three bubble levels. The Oben BB-1 is the heavy duty big brother. It supports up to 22 lb, for heavier cameras and longer lenses, as well as tension adjustment on the ball joint.

If you can’t decide which type of tripod head you need, then take a look at the Manfrotto MH055M8-Q5, which offers the best of both worlds. The MH055M8-Q5 can switch between a photo mode in which it acts as a ball head, and a video mode in which it is restricted to panning and tilting movements. In video mode, the MH055M8-Q5 also has adjustable fluid resistance and counterbalance control, making it a true still/video tripod head to match today’s still/video hybrid cameras.

On-Camera Monitors

The ikan VK7 is an HDMI monitor from ikan. It is available with a wide variety of battery plates so you can use the same type of battery as your camera. The VK7 has a number of advanced features such as false color, peaking and clip guides for framing. It has the ability to scale the video from HDSLR cameras that output pillar-boxed images to full screen, ensuring the monitor’s full 7” real estate is used. The VK7 has a 1024 x 600 resolution display with a 350 nit brightness rating. It has HDMI, Component BNC and Composite BNC inputs and outputs. It is able to loop out the video signal to another monitor or external recorder. It mounts to any arm or ball head that has a ¼”-20 thread.

The Marshall M-CT7 comes with a collection of accessories for using the monitor with a Canon HDSLR. The 7” display features 800 x 480 resolution and accepts HDMI and VGA video inputs. It is able to automatically scale Canon HDSLR HDMI output to full screen. The M-CT7 comes with a Canon battery plate, an LP-E6-compatible battery and a charger. A hot-shoe mount and HDMI cable are also included.

JVC offers its ProHD7 display in a number of configurations to suit different needs. Each configuration boasts an accurate 1024 x 600 7” LCD screen and can be battery powered by either optional JVC batteries or 4-pin XLR input from larger batteries. All ProHD7 models come with an AC power adapter, sun hood and ball head for mounting. An optional case is also available. The models differ based on what input and output capabilities you prefer. The DT-X71C is the most affordable version and has just HDMI and Composite BNC video inputs, perfect for any cameras that only have HDMI output. If you need to add SDI connectivity, then consider the DT-X71H version of the ProHD7. The DT-X71F is JVC’s high-end model and includes a host of feedback tools such as a vectorscope, histogram, peaking, zebra stripes, false color and more. It also has the ability to convert an HDMI input to an SDI output with embedded audio for easier integration in a studio environment.

External Recorders

Some cameras have an internal recorder that does not take full advantage of what their sensors are capable of capturing, and an external video recorder offers a viable workaround for this issue. An external recorder can be a great gift to anyone who has a camera that outputs uncompressed video but records to a compressed format such as AVCHD. It is important to make sure that your camera’s outputs are compatible with an external recorder. You are safe with most professional HD video cameras, but relatively few HDSLRs, such as the Nikon D800 and the Sony A99, currently support this type of setup.

The Atomos Ninja 2 Recorder is capable of recording 10-bit 4:2:2 video in the lightly compressed Apple ProRes or Avid DNxHD formats from an HDMI source. It records to common and affordable 2.5” HDD or SSD drives (not included). It also doubles as a monitor and boasts a 4.3-inch, 800 x 480 resolution touch-screen display. Two rechargeable batteries and a carrying case are included. The Ninja 2 is also capable of pull-down removal for recording progressive-scan footage from an HDMI source. A ball head or articulating arm is recommended for mounting to a camera. Similar to the Ninja 2 recorder, the Atomos Samurai adds SDI connectivity and a larger 5” display.

Teleprompters

If your special someone has a smart phone, tablet, or iPod touch then they are just one gift away from having a full-fledged teleprompter with one of these teleprompter kits.

Datavideo offers two tablet teleprompter kits, the TP300-AN for full size Andriod-based tablets, and the TP300-IP for Apple’s iPad. Both kits are tripod mountable and feature an adjustable camera-mounting plate and hood for the camera lens. In front of the camera sits 60/40 partially reflective glass that reflects the tablet’s display toward the viewer and allows the camera to shoot through. Free downloadable teleprompting software is available in the Apple App Store or Google Play. The reading distance for both is approximately 9’.

Prompter People offers the UltraLight iPad 2 Teleprompter. Despite the name, it is compatible with all full-sized iPad models and is tripod mountable. A wireless Bluetooth remote is also included for controlling the teleprompter remotely. The remote only works with Prompter People’s iPad app, iCUE, which is sold separately on Apple’s App Store. Prompter People specifies a reading distance of 12’ with the iCUE software.

Consider Listec’s Promptware PW-04 for an extremely light and portable teleprompting solution. It attaches directly to a camera lens with the included adapter rings and is light enough to be used handheld. The PW-04 is designed to work with an iPhone, an iPod Touch or an Android smart phone with a screen size of 4” or less. The PW-04 includes a wireless Bluetooth keyboard for controlling the downloadable prompter software, called Prompter Plus. A hard carrying case is also included.

Shuttle NLE Controllers

If you’re purchasing a gift for someone who is also a video editor, then Contour Designs Shuttle controllers would make a great gift. The Shuttle-Xpress comes in your choice of black or gray and has five programmable buttons along with the jog/shuttle wheel. Any of the 5 programmable buttons can be customized to any combination of hot keys, making them truly versatile. The hot-key combinations can also be set to change, based on what program you are using. The ShuttlePRO has 13 individual programmable buttons and also comes in your choice of black or gray. Two Shuttle controllers can even be used at the same time. All Shuttles are compatible with Mac and PC and work with any NLE program. Both models have a shuttle ring for fast forwarding and rewinding footage, along with a jog wheel for moving frame by frame.

Hopefully you’ve found something in this list that will make a great gift for someone (or for yourself). It’s easy to get a little overwhelmed when deciding what professional gear to get as a gift for someone else, so don’t forget that you can call or visit B&H in person and talk to experienced professionals firsthand.

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