One of the biggest considerations when picking gear for travel projects is the weight and size. When you’re limited to what you can carry in a carry-on roller and a 23kg checked case, every item of gear you carry has to be useful. In order to cut down on the amount of gear I carry, I’m always looking for equipment that is both lightweight but also preferably multi-functional. If I can carry one item instead of two, I’ve instantly saved a fair bit of weight.
Over the last few months, I’ve been testing a bunch of kit that the guys over at iFootage sent to me. iFootage is one of the new breed of innovative product manufacturers that are consistently bringing interesting, fresh products to market. In this post, I want to run through a couple of pieces of kit that I’ve used for a number of commercial and personal video projects:
Electric Ray E1
One of the biggest challenges when shooting in the field is finding a way to power all of your kit reliably, especially cameras. On all of my recent shoots, I’ve been using the Panasonic GH5 as the main camera. During a project I was working on in Georgia, we spent a lot of time shooting timelapse and long-take under-cranked VFR footage. In many cases, we left the camera running for a long time whilst we picked off other b-roll footage. In situations like this, where you can’t constantly monitor the battery life, the iFootage Electric Ray is a really smart piece of kit.
So what exactly is the Electric Ray? The Electric Ray consists of a power converter and dummy battery, allowing you to power your camera from any USB power source. The converter converts the USB input voltage into a safe output that will power your camera. The beauty of this solution is that you can easily run your camera from low-cost USB power banks, rather than rely on a host of spare batteries or even more expensive v-mount style batteries. Whereas the standard Panasonic GH5 batteries have a capacity of 1,860mAh, you can easily pick up low-cost power banks with 20,000mAh+ capacity and use them to power your camera for a couple of days at a time.
As well as powering directly from USB power banks, I’ve found that you can also plug into the Electric Ray directly from USB plugs and cigarette lighter adapters as long as they provide 5v 2A supply. This means that if you’re shooting a driving timelapse or working indoors, you can run your camera directly from a constant power source with no fear of running out of power.
The best part is that the Electric Ray is super tiny, and ultra lightweight which means it really doesn’t take a large amount of space up in your bag, in return for giving you lots of power options. I also have quite a few projects in the pipeline for winter and I’m looking forward to utilising the Electric Ray in the cold, keeping the power bank inside my down jacket nice and warm and running power directly into the camera, hopefully giving me extended battery life to shoot all day regardless of the outside temperatures. I’m told the Electric Ray will run down to -50C, so I’m hoping for sub -30C temperatures in Bulgaria this year, to really put it through its paces.
As well as the Panasonic GH5 option, the Electric Ray also comes in Canon, Nikon and Sony flavours. As far as I am away, they’re all available in the UK from ProAV including the recently released Panasonic option. ProAV also did a nice review of the Electric Ray which I’ve embedded below:
Cobra Strike Monopod and Komodo K5 Head
With the advent of in-body image stabilisation in cameras such as the Panasonic GH5, I’ve moved more and more towards monopods as a quicker alternative to tripods. For the last few years, I’ve been carrying a Manfrotto XPro Monopod for pretty much all of my work. I love the flexibility of monopods, especially the fluid base style monopods, because they are much quicker to move around, can be used to add a bit of camera movement to your shooting and in a pinch, if balanced right, can stand upright on their own. Combine this stability with features such as IS lock and for anything beyond really long takes, I just don’t seem to use a tripod for much anymore.
But what makes the Cobra strike different from any other monopod on the market? Well, two things really, the first is its innovative quick release adjustment system. On most traditional monopods, you raise and lower the monopod by opening either clip style or twist style locks on the monopod, raise the camera and then lock the 3-4 locks off again.
On the Cobra Strike, you can actually raise and lower the monopod with a single locking mechanism, this means that raising and lowering the camera is extremely fast and simple, again allowing me to be more mobile with the way I work. The only downside to the Cobra Strike compared to the Manfrotto XPro or the traditional style iFootage Cobra that I also own is that you do sacrifice some maximum height and packing size. However, for me, I’m happy to sacrifice a touch of packability for much faster and flexible use.
However, for me, the most innovative feature is not the quick release adjustment, but the modular design of these monopods. I say this because I’m almost always using the monopod for both traditional monopod work, but then also, I detach the foot and the tripod plate, clip them together and use the small tripod for low angle timelapse shooting. The top plate has both 1/4″ and 3/8″ connectors that means that I can use the Komodo K5 video head on my travel tripod, or a car suction mount etc whilst also using camera directly mounted onto the feet of the iFootage monopods to capture time-lapse b-roll at the same time. This multi-functional use means I can be twice and productive and shoot much more footage, ultimately giving me greater choices when it comes to the edit.
Lastly the Komodo K5 video head that iFootage sent along with the monopods is a great, compact video tripod head. I was super happy to find that it takes the Manfrotto style video baseplates, meaning that it’s compatible with all of my existing equipment and the 5-6 baseplates that I already own. The functionality of the Komodo K5 is very similar to any mid-range compact video fluid head, but the thing that stands out for me is the build quality and weight of it. It’s remarkably lightweight for a fluid head and the all-metal construction means that I can happily use it and abuse it without worrying about plastic parts snapping off, which I have experience of when using cheaper tripod heads.
Check out the video demo of the modular monopod system and tripod head here:
It’s pretty rare to come across brands with innovative gear that actually live up to the hype, but so far I’ve found the iFootage gear almost faultless. It’s simple in its functionality but the small innovations mean I can be much more effective and efficient when I’m shooting. If you’re in the market for gear, it’s worth giving the iFootage gear a look. Alongside the monopods and Electric Ray they also have an amazingly compact motion-controlled slider called the Shark Slider Mini, travel jibs for quick crane shots (both of which I’d love to check out) and also some larger motion control units and tripods.
As always if you have any questions regarding the kit I mentioned above, please drop me a message below and I’d be more than happy to answer them!