Skip to content

Vlogging: Alternatives to Camera Cage and Tripod Ball Head

If you’re a Vlogger then you probably want a Camera Cage and a Tripod / Monopod with Ball Head. Unfortunately, camera cages can be very expensive and are specific to particular models of camera. And ball heads are annoying because they’re flimsy and difficult to set up correctly. Luckily, there are alternatives. This week I look at the Ulanzi PT-3 triple cold shoe mount accessory, which makes a camera cage unnecessary. I also try out the Neewer Z-Flex accessory, which looks stronger and easier to use than a ball head.

Ulanzi PT-3: https://amzn.to/32n1fQZ

Z-Flex Accessory:
Best version: https://amzn.to/3pcrSC3
Mid-range: https://amzn.to/3p7hTh1
Cheap version: https://amzn.to/369JTbb

TRANSCRIPT


1
00:00:04,720 –> 00:00:10,192
Whatup nerds? I’m Jay Shareef.
Welcome to another episode of Tech Tuesdays.

2
00:00:10,192 –> 00:00:15,000
Every Tuesday I make a short video about whatever tech or gadgets I’ve received in the last seven days.

3
00:00:15,000 –> 00:00:19,527
I’ve had two parcels arrive this week. Both of them are small camera gadgets and

4
00:00:19,527 –> 00:00:23,746
I think they’re both going to make my videos a little bit better.

5
00:00:23,746 –> 00:00:29,639
First up, let’s talk about vlogging, and specifically the mirrorless camera I bought earlier in the year.


6
00:00:29,639 –> 00:00:31,789
This is the Canon M6.

7
00:00:31,789 –> 00:00:38,021
It’s the first real camera I’ve ever owned, and by “real camera” I mean a camera with an interchangeable lens.

8
00:00:38,021 –> 00:00:41,095
Now this is an excellent camera for many purposes.

9
00:00:41,095 –> 00:00:44,835
It can give you a nice sharp image. It has excellent autofocus.

10
00:00:44,835 –> 00:00:48,691
The internal mics are very good, but 
you can also attach an external mic as well.

11
00:00:48,691 –> 00:00:53,424
And, the best feature of all, it has a flip up screen.

12
00:00:53,424 –> 00:00:57,874
All of those features combined make it an excellent camera for vlogging.

13
00:00:57,874 –> 00:01:01,889
Now I’ve mentioned in the past how I personally prefer the flip up screen,

14
00:01:01,889 –> 00:01:06,839
while many other YouTubers prefer the screen to flip out to the side instead.

15
00:01:06,839 –> 00:01:13,585
I think flip up screens are better because I like having the screen as close as possible to the lens itself.

16
00:01:13,585 –> 00:01:19,182
However, this can introduce a small problem when it comes to external microphones.

17
00:01:19,182 –> 00:01:22,287
You see, the cold shoe attachment on this camera is on top.

18
00:01:22,287 –> 00:01:26,648
So the best place to attach your microphone is on top.

19
00:01:26,648 –> 00:01:29,560
The clever ones out there can already 
see the problem with this.

20
00:01:29,560 –> 00:01:34,756
Stick a microphone on top and suddenly you’re blocking your flip up screen.

21
00:01:34,756 –> 00:01:40,176
And on this model, the Canon M6, the screen needs to be pushed all the way up to work properly.

22
00:01:40,176 –> 00:01:43,927
Otherwise the image on screen will show upside down.

23
00:01:43,927 –> 00:01:50,317
Basically you have to choose between using the flip up screen or using an external microphone with your camera.

24
00:01:50,317 –> 00:01:56,043
And, if you are vlogging or talking to camera, ideally you want to do both at the same time.

25
00:01:56,043 –> 00:02:01,024
The first gadget I’ve bought this week solves this problem.

26
00:02:01,024 –> 00:02:06,229
It’s called the Ulanzi PT-3 and I’ve wanted to get one of these for quite a while.

27
00:02:06,229 –> 00:02:12,880
It’s basically a camera attachment that gives you a few extra cold shoe mounts to the side of your camera.

28
00:02:15,120 –> 00:02:19,409
And this is what it looks like.

29
00:02:19,409 –> 00:02:25,280
So here we have the Ulanzi PT-3 attached to the bottom of my camera.

30
00:02:25,920 –> 00:02:27,721
What does this mean?

31
00:02:27,721 –> 00:02:32,688
Well now I don’t have to choose between a flip up screen and an external microphone.

32
00:02:32,688 –> 00:02:39,254
I can have my screen flipped up and I can use my external microphone at the same time very easily.

33
00:02:39,254 –> 00:02:43,750
Oh and another advantage, as you can see, it has a quarter inch hole at the bottom.

34
00:02:43,750 –> 00:02:48,973
So I can connect it to a tripod or monopod as well. Let me show you that.

35
00:02:48,973 –> 00:02:52,114
And there we have it. My vlogging rig is now complete.

36
00:02:52,114 –> 00:02:56,474
I can now see myself and I’ve got an external microphone attached at the same time.

37
00:02:56,474 –> 00:03:02,659
Now I don’t like vlogging with my mirrorless camera and i’ll tell you why.

38
00:03:02,659 –> 00:03:06,160
Let me just put this set up onto the kitchen scales…

39
00:03:10,080 –> 00:03:16,573
700 grammes!! That’s how much this vlogging setup is.

40
00:03:16,573 –> 00:03:20,773
Let me show you the difference. This is my DJI Osmo Action.

41
00:03:20,773 –> 00:03:27,054
Yes, the picture is not going to be as good, but the convenience is in a different league.

42
00:03:27,054 –> 00:03:35,506
210 grammes!! This is basically more than three times as much as this in terms of weight.

43
00:03:35,506 –> 00:03:40,207
And also look at the size difference. Look at the the “footprint”, as it were.

44
00:03:40,207 –> 00:03:43,510
I’d be embarrassed to be seen out in public with something this size.

45
00:03:43,510 –> 00:03:50,194
But there are vloggers out there who are more
than happy to lug around 700g… 800g… a kilo,

46
00:03:50,194 –> 00:03:53,120
and something of this size… very, very conspicuous.

47
00:03:54,160 –> 00:03:55,867
I’m not one of them.

48
00:03:55,867 –> 00:04:00,424
Anyway, the Ulanzi PT-3 costs less than £15 GBP from Amazon.

49
00:04:00,424 –> 00:04:04,551
And the fact it exists tells me there is a demand for this product.

50
00:04:04,551 –> 00:04:10,068
And it’s worth keeping in mind that you can attach other accessories to these cold shoes as well.

51
00:04:10,068 –> 00:04:16,527
You can easily attach a flash bulb, for example, a rangefinder or LED light, 
if you wanted.

52
00:04:16,527 –> 00:04:21,532
In fact, it’s possible to attach, in theory, three different accessories.

53
00:04:21,532 –> 00:04:23,731
Although that’d be pushing it, to be honest.

54
00:04:23,731 –> 00:04:25,944
So what’s the point? What is this?

55
00:04:25,944 –> 00:04:29,573
Basically, this is an alternative to a camera cage.

56
00:04:29,573 –> 00:04:36,291
Except it’s better than a camera cage, because it’s cheaper and it can be used with multiple different cameras.

57
00:04:36,291 –> 00:04:39,994
Camera cages are usually specific to only one type of camera.

58
00:04:39,994 –> 00:04:43,281
The PT-3 does have a couple of disadvantages though.

59
00:04:43,281 –> 00:04:47,247
Firstly, it’s not as nice to use, or as versatile, as a camera cage.

60
00:04:47,247 –> 00:04:54,970
Secondly, the footprint of your camera rig – the overall size of your setup – is a lot bigger with the PT-3.

61
00:04:54,970 –> 00:04:58,793
So, it’s a little uglier overall than a dedicated camera cage.

62
00:04:58,793 –> 00:05:02,349
However, at a measly £15 GBP, I’m not going to complain.

63
00:05:02,349 –> 00:05:05,344
And, if I ever decide to use my Canon M6 for vlogging,

64
00:05:05,344 –> 00:05:08,892
I’ll definitely take the Ulanzi PT-3 out with me.

65
00:05:08,892 –> 00:05:12,000
Albeit with a much smaller microphone than this!

66
00:05:13,280 –> 00:05:18,635
The second gadget I bought this week is a bit of a weird one, if I’m being honest.

67
00:05:18,635 –> 00:05:24,624
And what I received was actually a little different to what I was expecting.

68
00:05:24,624 –> 00:05:28,639
This is the Z-Flex tilt head for tripods.

69
00:05:28,639 –> 00:05:34,751
I got mine for about £5 GBP from Amazon and it arrived very quickly. Prices for these do vary a lot though.

70
00:05:34,751 –> 00:05:41,802
And there are some fancier, high-end versions that cost more than £50 GBP – so ten times as much as I paid!

71
00:05:41,802 –> 00:05:45,154
So you’re probably wondering “what the hell is this Z-Flex thing?”

72
00:05:45,154 –> 00:05:48,513
Well it’s a little difficult to explain, really.

73
00:05:48,513 –> 00:05:54,974
Basically, like the PT-3, the Z-Flex is an attachment that sits between your camera and your tripod.

74
00:05:54,974 –> 00:06:01,148
At the bottom it has two mounting holes – a 1/4 inch hole and a hole that’s 3/8 of an inch.

75
00:06:01,148 –> 00:06:07,207
So, basically, it works with pretty much all tripods, because those are the two sizes you normally have.

76
00:06:07,207 –> 00:06:13,263
So this mini tripod has a 1/4 inch thread – as do most of my tripods, in fact.

77
00:06:13,263 –> 00:06:17,495
Let’s see how it looks when you put the Z-Flex on top of here.

78
00:06:19,866 –> 00:06:25,547
So there we go. That’s the Z-Flex sitting on top of my mini tripod.

79
00:06:25,547 –> 00:06:31,675
However, this larger tripod has a thread that’s a 3/8 of an inch.

80
00:06:31,675 –> 00:06:35,120
And let’s put that on here just to see if that works.

81
00:06:40,640 –> 00:06:44,980
There we go. It works on the larger tripod as well.

82
00:06:44,980 –> 00:06:48,223
This is the standard tripod you’ll often see professionals using.

83
00:06:48,223 –> 00:06:51,680
So there we go. The Z-Flex works with all different types of tripod.

84
00:06:51,680 –> 00:06:54,448
But, what is the Z-Flex for?

85
00:06:54,448 –> 00:06:58,388
Well, for me, it replaces these things.

86
00:06:58,388 –> 00:07:04,014
These things are called “ball heads” and they’re often attached to the top of a tripod or monopod

87
00:07:04,014 –> 00:07:08,771
so that you can quickly tilt your camera to different angles.

88
00:07:08,771 –> 00:07:14,237
The thing is… I hate these ball heads. I absolutely despise them!

89
00:07:14,237 –> 00:07:16,425
I have two big problems with these.

90
00:07:16,425 –> 00:07:23,265
Firstly, they struggle to cope with heavy cameras – especially if you have a big or heavy lens attached.

91
00:07:23,265 –> 00:07:27,143
My second problem is the lack of precision.

92
00:07:27,143 –> 00:07:32,497
And the fact that your camera can easily end up slightly off centre without you realizing

93
00:07:32,497 –> 00:07:37,561
because you have to, kind of, guess which way is directly up,

94
00:07:37,561 –> 00:07:41,657
and then tighten it… and then attach your camera on top.

95
00:07:41,657 –> 00:07:47,930
The problem is … you can never get it right! You will never, ever get it exactly right.

96
00:07:47,930 –> 00:07:52,565
Simply because there are too many variables – it moves in 360 degrees.

97
00:07:52,565 –> 00:07:56,080
You are bound to be wrong on one of these axes.

98
00:07:59,040 –> 00:08:03,200
See? It look straight from one angle. But as soon as you spin it around a little bit…

99
00:08:03,200 –> 00:08:06,000
Oh that’s not straight! That’s not straight at all.

100
00:08:06,000 –> 00:08:07,333
See what I mean?

101
00:08:07,333 –> 00:08:13,092
So, instead of a ball head, I want to use this Z-Flex on top of my tripods.

102
00:08:13,092 –> 00:08:19,910
Because it only tilts along one axis. Which is much better, as far as I’m concerned.

103
00:08:19,910 –> 00:08:26,461
Another big benefit of the Z-Flex is that it has a built-in spirit level, so you know your camera is level.

104
00:08:26,461 –> 00:08:30,777
Now I will admit that this is a lot bigger than I was expecting.

105
00:08:30,777 –> 00:08:33,748
And it’s definitely a lot bigger than a ball head.

106
00:08:33,748 –> 00:08:38,661
There’s also the minor annoyance of securing it in place requiring an Allen Key (Hex Key).

107
00:08:38,661 –> 00:08:41,816
They do supply one for you, and it’s not that difficult to use.

108
00:08:41,816 –> 00:08:47,504
But there are versions of the Z-Flex that come with thumb screws instead of Allen Keys.

109
00:08:47,504 –> 00:08:51,954
Which is a much more convenient design and I wish I’d bought that one instead.

110
00:08:51,954 –> 00:08:54,808
So, that’s my second gadget of the week.

111
00:08:54,808 –> 00:09:00,672
And if you want to get this Z-Flex, 
or this triple cold shoe from Ulanzi,

112
00:09:00,672 –> 00:09:04,097
the links will be in the description below.

113
00:09:04,097 –> 00:09:07,827
I do kind of regret buying the cheap and cheerful version of the Z-Flex

114
00:09:07,827 –> 00:09:12,153
because there are some updated, upgraded versions of it available now.

115
00:09:12,153 –> 00:09:15,410
And those are the ones I’ll link to in the description below.

116
00:09:15,410 –> 00:09:17,413
I don’t recommend this one at all.

117
00:09:17,413 –> 00:09:21,261
Anyway, this has been another episode of Tech Tuesdays.

118
00:09:21,261 –> 00:09:24,115
I’ll be back again next week with more.

119
00:09:24,115 –> 00:09:25,926
Later nerds!

Published inTechnology

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *