As an essentially self-funded independent moviemaker and photographer, with a tendency for social, health and human rights-related storytelling, I need to make the most of what I’ve got.
I may never have the fees, budgets and usage rates I used to pay other, often famous, photographers and directors after I jumped the fence from talent to talent-finder, commissioner and producer at the top end of advertising elsewhere in the world.
Every item of equipment I own must be thoroughly researched then saved up for before purchase. Every one has to last years beyond the maximum lifespan its maker has planned for it. I need to be very sure before forking out for every piece of hardware and software because there will be no budgets or lucrative contracts to pay for better, faster or more up-to-date.
And so I ask far more of my gear than most, I suspect. That includes adding bits and pieces to core items so they can do more, and do it better, and become more versatile. Right now I have two workhorse cameras for video and stills, a Panasonic Lumix GH4 and a more recently-acquired Panasonic Lumix GX8. I continue to be blown away at the quality I am getting from both as well as their ease of use. I held off investing in further major cameras and lenses after my Canon EOS 5D Mark II. I wanted to be sure the next ones would be more future-proofed, and way more versatile. And so they are.
One well-proven way of extending the life and usability of my gear is to add useful, affordable accessories. Before purchasing the GX8, I mated a battery grip with my GH4 and now my GH4 has the centralized weight and extra stability I was used to in more traditional movie cameras.
The Panasonic Lumix DMW-EC3 Eyecup
After my GX8 arrived, I began comparing the way my fingers slipped off the release buttons just a little too often, losing shots and stability. I thought about how the Miller & Schneider G-Cup for the GH4 makes it so much easier to shoot in laser beam sunlight when wearing glasses and especially contact lenses.
There is no GX8 equivalent of the GH4’s G-Cup available, or planned so far as I know, given the GX8 tends to be more popular amongst stills photographers than moviemaker despite it being a little gem for shooting video. Western Australia-based world-traveling British cinematographer Rick Young is another enthusiast for the GX8’s 4K and 1080p video capabilities and you can read all about it here.
Then I stumbled upon Panasonic’s very own eyecup for the GX8, the Panasonic Lumix DMW-EC3, and after a few fruitless inquiries from local online and offline stores, found a supplier elsewhere who could get one in for me. It arrived recently and a quick test showed I had not wasted my money.
The instruction sheet that came with the DMW-EC3 was a little short on details on safely removing the GX8’s rubber eyepiece but I succeeded after a little while and my new eyecup clipped on easily.
A quick test in blazing sunlight did not show any light leakage and the eyecup was comfortable to use. I have yet to put it through heavy testing as I need to update my contact lens prescription but I look forward to the DMW-EC3 becoming a permanent resident on my GX8’s EVF soon enough.
I may order a second one as a backup given the heavy use to which I will be subjecting my current DMW-EC3. Always have backups for essential accessories and equipment.
The Custom SLR ProDot Shutter Button Upgrade
The slick-surfaced plastic shutter release buttons on my Panasonic GH4 and GX8, like my Canon 5D Mark II before them, can present challenges to my trigger finger in stressful moments. I have lost shots and gained unwanted wobble when my fingertip slipped more than a few times recently.
Declaring enough is enough, I thought back to the so-called soft releases I had bought from Match Technical Services for a couple of pre-X-Sensor Fujifilm rangefinder-style digital cameras, especially my beloved X100. I have seen several other cheaper soft releases since but none were made to the same high standards as Match Technical’s products.
The soft releases I bought have now been superseded by a new range that have earned the adjective ‘soft’ with an integrated rubber grommet. If I can revive my dormant stills photography career, and am lucky enough to find the funds to purchase the long-awaited Fujifilm X-Pro2, then I will definitely be equipping it with a soft release and a Thumbs Up from Match Technical.
But I digress. Custom SLR’s lengthily named ProDot Shutter Button Upgrade is exactly what it is described as, a terrific upgrade to those all-too-commonly slick, sometimes hard to locate, plastic shutter release buttons.
I came across the ProDot via an article by Sky News cinematographer Andy Portch at News Shooter, and my GX8’s arrival was excuse enough to place an order for two packs of black ProDots. They arrived the day before writing this article and I already can’t imagine ever doing without them. I have one on my GH4, one on my GX8, and am considering getting my 5D Mark II out of semi-retirement a little more often after adding a ProDot to that too.
The ProDot matches the diameters of both shutter release buttons almost perfectly, and despite my dodgy close-up vision was easy enough to attach. My trigger finger instantly gained comfort and surety, proven with few dozen stills shots in a fairly intense situation.
I am looking forward to seeing how the ProDots go in normal, day-long stills and video shoots. So far, for shorter local shoots, they have worked brilliantly.
I turn off the undersized, oddly-located dedicated video buttons on both cameras and rely entirely on the normal release button. I can’t imagine Custom SLR coming up with a smaller version just for the weird little video release buttons on Panasonic and other hybrid cameras and nor should they. Normal-sized ProDots work just fine.
(cover photo credit: snap from Karin Gottschalk)