Numerous new lenses, filters, lens add-ons, and related equipment are now available for popular HDV camcorders, both from third-party solutions providers and from the manufacturers themselves. Possibly a by-product of marketing priorities, it's an oft-overlooked fact that some of the best accessories come from the same source as the cameras.
Canon, for example, offers a handy dual battery charger and holder unit for the XL H1 camcorder. Of course, the unit charges two batteries consecutively, but it can also be used to power the camera without interruption.
With two charged batteries onboard and a third standing by, you can exchange packs without interrupting power to the camera. The CH-910 is priced around $165, and is currently available.
Canon has also announced a new wide-angle lens for the XL H1 to join its many HDV-ready lens offerings. The 6X zoom, 3.4-20.4mm lens was not yet on sale at press time, but when it becomes available, it will be a strong contender for HD videographers and documentary makers. It will feature a manual iris ring, presets for both zoom and focus, a handy distance display and two built-in ND filters.
Sony, of course, offers its own accessories, and it does have a dual battery charger, designed for use with its InfoLITHIUM L Series Battery and camcorders such as the HDR-FX7 HDV camcorder.
Two such power sources can be charged, simultaneously, and an LCD read-out will display time-remaining status. The AC-VQ1050D AC/DC adapter and battery charger is priced around $250. Also designed for the FX7 is a new Sony filter kit, the VF-62CPK. It's more of a lens protection kit than a creative image kit, with just two devices, a protector lens and a polarizing filter, designed to guard the optics and protect the lens from dust, water, and the like. It's priced around $230, and available for the FX1, as well.
Of course, the third-party accessory makers also deliver fine tools, often with a whole family of new products for a specific manufacturer or camcorder model. For example, a number of new lens add-ons from Schneider Optics' Century Optics division were developed for Panasonic's AG-HVX200 camcorder.
The new lens accessories, which feature multi-coated glass elements, include the .6X wide-angle adapter, .75X wide-angle converter, super-fisheye adapter, 1.6X teleconverter, and achromatic diopters in strengths of +1.6, +2.0, and +2.6. Their new Cine Style Manual Focus and Zoom Gear system lets you get accurate focus, and repeat it, with numerous zooms and cinema-style shooting techniques.
Schneider's new Century Pro Series HD 2X teleconverter is available for the Panasonic 200 and DVX100A/B, as well as Sony's Z1U and FX1, effectively doubling their focal length range without impacting original F-stop settings.
Designed in response to requests for a teleconverter offering even greater magnification than the popular Century 1.6X, the Schneider engineering team utilized leading-edge computer-design techniques to successfully develop the 2X, which provides extreme magnification while maintaining performance required by the new higher-resolution formats.
It comes with bayonet mount, for quick installation to the front of the camcorder lens, but the package also includes a lens support slider for mounting on standard 15mm support rods. The face of the lens is a threaded 102mm, so filters and glass protectors can be attached.
Suggested list price is $1,495.
Cavision makes a number of camera accessories for major models, such as the JVC GY-HD100/110, and will be showing its latest fisheye lens adapters at upcoming industry trade shows. A new 0.4X multi-coated lens is being added to the line-up, providing a 60% wider angle of view than earlier models.
It will be available, the company says, for 1/2" and 1/3" imaging cameras, but no prices were available at press time.
16x9 Inc. has introduced its new teleconverter, designed for the Sony HVR-V1U and HDR-FX7. The EX 1.5X threads onto the front of the camera lens (with supplied step-down ring), adding 1.5X magnification, moving the focal range in the telephoto direction.
On a camera like the V1U, with its own internal extender (digital), a full 2.25X telephoto effect can be achieved. The converter does offer some zoom-through capability, but after about 12X, some vignetting will appear.
The teleconverter's 72mm screw-in rear threads allow it to work equally well with Sony HVR-Z1U and HDR-FX1, Canon XH A1, XH G1, XL H1, and XL2, as well as Panasonic DVX100B camcorders. The list price is $875.
16x9 also offers rubber lens shades that can be adjusted to use with different lens diameters thanks to a 104:98 step-down ring. With support for 0.7X and EX 0.75 wide converters as well as 105mm round filters, the lens shade slides on over the lens converter, locking in place via a screw lock.
Having mentioned briefly the availability of new optical thread-on filters and filter kits, here's an interesting development from one of the leaders in that field.
Tiffen is introducing filter software, and its new DFX suite is a new approach to image control. Available for Mac or Windows, the software suite is (according to Tiffen) designed to complement, not replace, the use of traditional glass filters.
Nevertheless, the software (available in different configurations, or suites) offers over 1,000 varied effects, used either as factory presets or customized palettes with precision control over several image filtering parameters that would just not be available from physical filter rings.
DFX is offered both as a standalone product, and as a suite of application-specific plug-ins, so you can still work within apps like Adobe Photoshop or other such image-manipulation software. Plug-ins for most DV-type programs, including Apple Final Cut Pro, Avid Xpress, Adobe After Effects, and the like, are available.
Tiffen DFX plug-ins for Photoshop and similar applications are available in two editions. The standard edition features a range of popular filter effects while the complete edition provides the entire range of over 1,000 effects and gels. The suggested retail price of the complete edition is expected to be $350.
Tiffen has also introduced—for the folks who really want to thread their filters on—a new Scene Makers Filter Kit. It's available for film, broadcast, and video-centric uses.
It includes the Cool Day for Night filter (that's the actual name, as well as a fair description). Using the filter along with the right exposure compensation, it helps create a realistic dusk or night-time appearance during a day-time shoot.
To simulate the cool, bluish feel of night-time lighting, the filter uses a specific shade of lavender to deliver visual coolness while maintaining realistic flesh tones. In addition, since the ability to see details at night is diminished by lower light levels, a low-contrast component is added to the filter. A warming filter to boost pale, washed-out flesh tones, and a polarizer for color and contrast correction, are included in the new kit.
Depending on required thread (or matte box) size, the kit ranges in price from about $150 to $500, but I think it's a hot product at any price.
Lee Rickwood is a media consultant and freelance writer based in Toronto.