The Digital Journalist
Letters from Central America:
The Tyranny Of The Right
October 2006

by James Colburn

Why is it that whenever you're looking for a Phillips-head screwdriver the only things that you can find in the kitchen drawer are flat-head screwdrivers?

Why is it that whenever you're looking for a flat-head screwdriver the only things that you can find are all the Phillips-head screwdrivers you couldn't find the week before?

And why is it that the world of photo and (now) video is geared to the right-eyed people of the world?

Oscar Barnak (how's that for a tangent?) may have been a lovely guy and he did, after all, invent the modern 35mm camera (the Leica, in case you've just joined the class), but he really screwed things up for some of us by designing the damn thing so that it'd be best suited for people that focus and view with their right eye.

Think about it for a second (time's up).

If you, as I do, focus with your left eye, you've spent your entire still career mashing cameras against your face (to the tune of a double deviated septum from whacking big cameras against my nose) and, if you're also an eyeglass wearer, messing up your right lens with your right thumb as you hold the camera or wind the camera (remember the good old days when you had to wind your camera with a crank?).

Now I'm discovering that video's darn near the same. Just about every ENG camera is designed to sit of your right shoulder and the eyepiece is designed to be used with your right eye.

Oh sure, some cameras allow you to extend the little eyepiece thingy for use with the left eye but it sometimes doesn't extend far enough for comfortable use and it usually ain't pretty. Truth is, if your left eye is the dominant one, you're screwed.

I've just spent a bundle of $$$ in getting set up for video (I hear it's the coming thing) so I got a good tripod (a Sachtler) for over $1,000, a good microphone (a Sennheiser) for around $400, and a very nice High-Def camera (a Sony HVR-Z1U) for around $4,500.

The Sony, as many video cameras are these days, is obviously designed to be held in front of the face much like a 35mm camera (vs. the Canon XL right-shoulder style).

It's something I'm used to and feels pretty good overall but I've been looking for something to add a little more support or bracing and guess what? Everything that I've been able to find puts the support smack dab on the user's right shoulder. So, once again, it's down to the whole right-eyed, right shoulder thing.

Damn it. There must be a solution...

I'm working on one.

© James Colburn
Contributing Writer