Anyone who knows anything about fashion will tell you that the accessories make the outfit. Of course, they’ll also warn you to never take fashion advice from a videographer. There is, after all, a reason that most of us stay behind the camera. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether you have the fashion sense of a model or a muleskinner, it’s your camcorder that counts. When it comes to camcorder accessories, the lens is what it’s all about. This winter, outfit your camcorder with the latest in lens filters, wide angle adapters, telephoto adapters and lens controllers.
Lens filters are small pieces of glass that you position in front of your camcorder’s lens to change the color of an image, alter the brightness or create a visual effect. Colored filters come in two main varieties: solid and gradient. Solid-colored filters cast a constant, even color over your shots. Gradient filters allow you to color a portion of the frame, while allowing the rest to remain unaffected. Videographers use gradient filters to turn plain skies into brightly colored sunsets.
Other lens filters reduce reflections off of glass or water (polarizers), reduce brightness (neutral density filters, which allow you to create shallow fields of focus), add a gleam to candles or bright lights (star), cast a soft fog (haze) or create multiple bug-eyed images. Neutral density filters (from companies like Century Optics, Sunpak and Cokin) start at around $25. Expect gradient (graduated), star and fog filters to range from $40 to $100.
Lens filters attach to your camcorder in one of two ways. The round variety are threaded and screw onto the lens housing itself. Check your camcorder’s lens diameter to insure that you get the right size. Square filters require a matte box adapter, which attaches to the front of the lens.
Wide Angle and Telephoto Adapters
Ever wish you could zoom in a little closer or zoom back a little wider? Wide-angle and telephoto adapters let you extend the range of your camcorder’s fixed lens to hone in on distant subjects (telephoto) or make the most of shooting in a tight space (wide-angle). Simply screw the adapter onto your lens and see the world from a new point of view. Wide-angle and telephoto adapters are available from such companies as Century Optics and Raynox. Expect to pay between $200 and $300.
Lens controllers allow you to control your camcorder from the handle of your tripod. You’ll never have to stand on your toes and reach around to find the zoom control again. Just connect the controller to a camcorder equipped with a LANC (control-L) or similar compatible control jack and make zooms just like the broadcast pros do with their studio cameras. The CooLzoom from Cool Contraptions is a variable speed controller that lists for $395, VariZoom’s popular StealthZoom sells for $229 and Manfrotto (distributed by Bogen) lens controllers carry a list price of $413.
This is just a sampling. These manufacturers, and the others in the category (see Manufacturer sidebar), offer a range of products to choose from. You’ll need to know your camcorder’s make and model number to insure compatibility when you order. We consider some of these accessories essential (like a UV filter to protect your lens from scratches) and others less so, but there is something here for every hobbyist’s budget and interests.