Whether you’re a vlogger or an indie film maker, cost is important. Heck. Cost is important period. So when I found myself salivating over the latest Sony A7s II and weighing the backlash I’d receive from my wife if purchased it, I backtracked.
“The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.” – Ansel Adams
I always forget that adage. Whenever I think a new piece of equipment would “allow me to do _____”, I have to get real with myself and say “I’l not doing it because I’m not even trying.” The maker of DSLR Guide on YouTube reminded me of this. Just because I’m financially able to purchase something doesn’t mean I should purchase something. It’s a change in my logic. My teenager self would usually save first, then find ways to spend the rest.
So I’ve been looking into how to be frugal for my own purposes. Reading reviews, subscribing to like-minded “frugalers”, checking Craigslist before Amazon on items I don’t mind being used. But enough about my personal story, chances are you found this headline because you’re looking for a recording setup that’s cheap and works.
By golly, have I got the rig for you.
Alright. It’s not the prettiest thing, but it works and it’s dirt cheap. That’s the important part, right?
This setup hinges around an Android app I found called DSLR Controller by Chainfire. I had a problem recording my last demo reel video because I kept getting out of focus. The Canon T2i doesn’t have an articulating screen, so I started looking into the Atomos Shogun or cheap field monitors I could use. At some point, I stumbled upon Chainfire’s Devices page and noticed my Samsung Galaxy SII was listed on there.
It took a couple nights of tinkering for me to realize my SII was technically a Galaxy SII “Epic” which doesn’t have the hardware to run the software. Then I noticed the Amazon Fire tablet was listed… and Amazon was selling it for $40 that week.
So! Here’s the exact items I’m using complete with hyperlinks to Amazon and important information you should know in case you want to tweak the setup a bit.
You have to change the operating system for this device to work. If you have never modded an android device, or the terms “bootloader”, “cache”, or “brick” cause you to sweat, you can use a Nexus Tablet or similar Android device instead. If you’re up for the challenge, I found this guy had the best walkthroughs for getting a custom OS on the Fire Tablet. The channel name is “Rootjunky.com” if you want to search for it yourself.
Search for this thing and you’ll hear other frugalers singing its praises. It turns almost any android tablet or old phone into a remote control and monitor for your Canon camera. With it, you can do HDR bracketing, remote manual focus, histograms, timelapse, peaking, and even do it by Wi-Fi if you want. For the price, you really can’t beat this app if you enjoy making videos.
Chainfire talks about this as a prerequisite. All USB cables are not created equal. OTG is a very specific kind of interface which allows both USB devices to switch between playing “host”. It has a specific pin configuration and is required to make the app talk with your camera. If you want an even SLICKER interface, you can find cables with this already built in. I bought this little guy when I thought I could get my SII working. I’m 99% positive it was not the cable’s fault.
This is a cheap version of the Joby GorillaPod that is so popular. It works, but the weight of the expanded battery pack, camera body, camera lens, and fire tablet makes it just a little tricky to work with. Again, I’m happy with my setup but if you’re going to be rough with your stuff look for a stiffer tripod.
Tablet Holder — $9
It barely fits the Fire tablet. I mean that as in the holder is just slightly too big. So if you’re going to be doing run & gun videography, get a smaller one. This worked perfectly for me because I can loop the cable through there and it works just fine.
If you already had the cable that came with the camera, you don’t need to buy this. I bought my T2i off Craigslist and couldn’t find the cable. This is just a replacement for that. It needs to be OTG compliant as well.
HOW HANDY ARE THESE THINGS??! I mean seriously! A hotshoe is now a tripod mount. Brilliant.
GRAND TOTAL $96.50
Was this helpful? Do you have any suggestions? Let me know in the comments below.