Mini Hoodman accessory review for DSLR video shooters

Whilst we crank away on my latest project, a new book called "The Lighting Notebook", I've been testing a wide variety of lighting and camera accessories to potentially include in the book. I'm always looking for tools that are well made, affordable, and that actually help improve my photography, or the process of creating. Sometimes you just don't know what you're missing until you actually try something new. This is the case with some of the latest products sent to us from Hoodman. 

Back in my film camera days, I used to put a viewfinder eye cup on my cameras to help block stray light and make the composition and focusing process easier. It's a simple add-on that can really make a difference in ergonomics, but I stopped using them - for some unknown reason. Hoodman makes a great eyecup that I just installed on my Nikon D3s and, ahh, I now remember why I used to love eyecups! The reduction of stray light and glare helps me see a crisper image and reduces eyestrain. It's especially nice when shooting outside in bright sun. 


I also shoot DSLR video and quickly discovered that focusing and capturing using the camera LCD leaves a lot to be desired. When outside, it's REALLY difficult to see clearly what you are getting and to be able to properly manual focus. Committed DSLR video shooters have adapted all kinds of groovy gear to their cameras to make them more ergonomically and functionally adept for video capture. We have a Zacuto support frame and magnified viewfinder for our Nikon D7000 that we use for video capture, but it's not an inexpensive add-on. The LCD viewfinder magnifier alone starts at $250. It works great, but not everyone needs that advanced a setup.

Hoodman makes a very affordable LCD hood/magnifier called the Cinema Kit Pro. It runs only $172 and works perfectly to block stray light and magnify the image 3X. The versatile mounting system also swings the viewfinder up and out of the way quickly if you need to share your LCD view with others. It mounts via your camera hotshoe and includes a new cold shoe mount to allow attaching microphones or other accessories. The Cinema Kit Pro doesn't have the anti-fog coating of the $375 Zacuto Z-Finder Pro, but it's probably not necessary for most people. Some may find the hotshoe mounting frame a potential weak spot, but it also allows complete flexibility in adjustment for adapting to various cameras. The frame has held up fine for me so far with little to no unexpected movement. I found the Hoodman image viewing quality to be comparable to our more expensive Z-finder Pro. Nice.

If you do any amount of DSLR video capture, the Hoodman Cinema Kit Pro is probably one of the best investments you can make…next to a good external microphone, but that's another blog post :-)