Super cheap and lightweight video / timelapse setup (Canon 550D, 10-inch flexible tripod, Bilora Professional 1153 fluid head, H&Y Fader ND, 3-way rubber lens hood)

A fried of mine sent me this link where you can buy a 10-inch flexible tripod for $11.90. Basically it is the same as the "Joby GorillaPod SLR-Zoom" (the biggest GorillaPod) which you can get here for $49.95. The only difference I know is that the joints of the cheaper one are a bit stiffer. I decided to get one because I don't want to carry my tripod with me all the time. Shipping to Germany took 2 weeks and I'm really satisfied with the quality of this product. It carries my 550D with the 50mm or the 18-55 kit lens, a metal stepping ring, the H&Y fader ND and a big 3-way rubber lens hood without a problem. And the best thing: It also works nice with my new "Bilora Professional 1153 fluid head" mounted to it. I got the head for 39.99€ ($52) from a local electronics store in Stuttgart. I tested a lot of fluid heads (cheap and expensive ones) and decided to get this one. It's really cheap, build quality is great and panning is comparable to some of the cheaper Manfrotto heads. So all in all it's a great small head for shooting stills and videos - and it comes with a nice quick release plate.

This is a really lightweight and small setup with all the basic accessories you need for shooting nice timelapses or videos with some smooth pans. But you'll definitely need some more stuff for handheld shots or if you need to record usable sound.

My rating:
10-inch flexible tripod: 5/5
Bilora Professional 1153 fluid head: 4.5/5
3-way rubber lens hood: 4.5/5


Canon EOS Rebel T2i / 550D Firmware Update Version 1.0.8

A new firmware for the 550D is out.

"Firmware Version 1.0.8 fixes a phenomenon in which the set aperture moves unexpectedly when shooting movies in manual exposure mode using some Canon lenses (such as macro lenses)."

For instructions how to install it and for the files you need click this link.



How to achieve shallow depth of field when shooting video with your DSLR in bright sunlight

Shooting video in bright sunlight makes it almost impossible to achieve a cinematic look with a shallow depth of field. If you don't put a ND filter in front of your wide open lens when shooting video at a slow shutter speed the image will get to bright (overexposed). To avoid this you can choose higher f-stop values which will brighten down the image but also destroy your shallow depth of field as you can see in the stills below.

So if you want to shoot videos with a shallow depth of field at slower shutter speeds (which you definitely should do) you have to use ND filters or a ND fader when the lighting is to bright. If you don't want to change filters all the time get a ND fader - it works really great for shooting videos and adjusting it is also really easy and fast. Here are two videos to show the difference when shooting video with a ND fader and without one in bright sunlight.


H&Y Fader ND - a short review

I got a comment that the "H&Y Fader ND" is an imitation from the "Light Craft Workshop fader". To be honest, I have no clue which one is the original, but I think it's the "Singh Ray Vari ND" because this is the most expensive. I read Phillip Boom's post on these faders (this is the post) and decided to get the cheap one. I paid $79,19 (=64,42€, ebay seller "anne14389", shipping took 2 weeks to Germany) for my 72mm sized filter. I think this prize is unbeatable. But as I said before, I don't know if this is a genuine filter. 
Here's a sample video of the H&Y Fader ND on my Canon 550D with a EF 50mm 1.8 II lens. The setting was 1080, 24p, 1/50s, f/1.8, ISO100 and I twisted the fader from it's minimum to the 8th stroke (the maximum is on the 10th). It was really really bright when I shot the video. I had to choose f/20.0 to get the same image without the fader. By the way, the colors are flat because of my camera setting.

The thread on the outer side (e.g. for a lens hood) is 77mm. Build quality is really good (metal and glass) and the box it comes with is also really nice. Only negative thing so far: it doesn't come with a lens cap so you have to get one seperately. I ordered one for 5,98€ on ebay. I also ordered a 3 way rubber lens hood for 4,45€ to avoid lens flares and to protect the fader.

I will use this fader with my EF-S 18-55mm kit lens and with my EF 50mm prime lens. The kit lens has a 58mm filter thread, the 50mm prime has a 52mm thread. So I ordered 2 stepping rings (each one less than $2 on ebay) which make it possible to thread the Fader ND to these lenses. I decided to buy a bigger fader because I want to use it with lenses I will get in the future, too.

What are these faders used for? They make it possible to darken the image like normal ND filters. The only difference is that you can adjust the density of the filter (range from ND2 up to ND400 with this fader). This makes it possible to shoot videos with a wide open lens in bright sunlight without changing the shutter speed. Another nice thing that you can do with these faders is to take a long exposure picture in bright sunlight without getting it overexposed. This is a nice technique to shoot a sight on a crowded place if you don't have the chance to shoot it without people in front of it - the people will be blurred and you can see the whole sight. Another thing that many people do with this type of filter is to shoot water with longer exposures to make it look smooth. 

What can I say about the optical quality? I think it's great. Colors are nice and I can't see any distortion or vignetting at all. Only when I twist the fader over it's maximum - but this is not what it is supposed to do. I will use this filter for shooting videos primarily, but it also works nice for taking photos. 

If you want a really cheap Fader, get this one. Maybe the more expensive faders will give you even better quality, but the price-performance ratio of the H&Y fader is excellent for people on a very tight budget. My rating: 5/5.