Camera Corner
Goodies to Go With
Your Canon 5D Mark II
June 2009

by Dirck Halstead

Although Canon had no major new products to show at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show last month, there was a lot of activity in other booths, as third-party manufacturers hustled to get aboard the 5D Mark II bus.

Harry Kaufmann, who has been supplying some of the more useful add-ons for video camcorders, has come up with a very major product that is urgently needed for anyone who wants to do any sort of professional video and audio with the Canon. As we reported in our review of the camera last fall [], one of the major problems with using it is that there is only one mic input (one more than the equivalent Nikon has), and no audio out, so there is no way to monitor your sound. Harry has now fixed that in a very elegant way with his brand new BeachTek DXA-5D XLR Adapter. About the size of the battery holder for the Canon EOS Mark II, it is configured to fit to the base of the 5D. In addition to two XLR and one aux mini pin inputs, it has added three control knobs that face the operator. The left and center knobs adjust gain on the left and right channels of the 5D, and the right knob is a master gain knob, which means you can adjust different mics independently, and once set, simply use the master gain control for shooting.

Of course, to do that properly you need a professional VU meter. That is on the left of the box, and has a light-emitting diode. Above each gain control is a LINE/MIC switch, a 48B on/off switch, a G1-G2 attenuator, a mono/stereo switch, and last but not least, an earphone out. All of this is connected to the mic in plug on the 5D. How on earth Harry's people figured this out is amazing. The units can be ordered directly from BeachTek through their ad on our home page. The unit sells for $399 and is worth every penny.

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A number of companies have come out with various shoulder-mount systems to use with the Canon 5D. As we said in our review, the camera is a beast to hold steady for video. Zacuto showed their systems, and we felt they were ALMOST what you need for professional steadiness. These DSLR "Gunstock" Shooter braces are designed to mount on your shoulder, and are very light but very stable. They range in price from $1,507 for a basic model, up to the pro production model at $5,515. The thing that makes it all work is their Z1 viewfinder, which is a high-quality optic that snaps over the LCD on the back of the camera. It is engineered so that when the camera is on the brace, the eyecup comes into direct contact with your face, providing a third or fourth point of supports (hand, belly, shoulder and face). The Z-Finder itself is a marvel, and Zacuto sells it separately for $395, although demand for it has been so strong that they are massively back-ordered. The top-of-the-line braces include things like a professional cine focus wheel. Remember, I said that it was ALMOST great. The one little problem is, when you look at the picture of the pretty lady holding the rig, you would assume that her right hand is holding a control that would go to a LANC outlet on the camera to control things like, well, starting and stopping the camera. Afraid not. The 5D Mark II doesn't have one. So what that means is that if you want to start or stop shooting you somehow have to cross your left hand overhead to try to push the button on the back right of the camera. A spokesman for Zacuto said, "Canon and Nikon put the button on the wrong side of the camera."

The good news is that we hear that Canon is frantically trying to address and resolve some of the 5D Mark II's problems. If they do, the Zacuto rig would be terrific. You can find more information on

Note: As we were getting ready to publish, Zacuto just announced a new bunch of 5D Mark II braces aimed directly at video journalists. They are smaller and budget priced. To take a look, go to

© Dirck Halstead
Editor and Publisher of The Digital Journalist

Dirck Halstead was Time magazine's Senior White House Photographer for 29 years. He now is the Publisher and Editor of The Digital Journalist, the monthly online magazine for visual journalism, and a Senior Fellow at the Center For American History at the University of Texas in Austin. His new book, MOMENTS IN TIME, published by Harry N. Abrams, is in bookstores, and available from

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