Manfrotto Mini-Me

More photo stuff…

With Canon’s release (Fucking finally) of a DSLR driver for webcam use in the age of COVID-19, we have entirely new practical uses for photo gear.

Quality webcam use has become very important to looking professional. You should put some thought into this. Good lighting is important. Some headphones. A decent background. Also image quality as this is an area few people are doing work..

Using a DSLR with the big lenses and focal lengths, apertures and great light gathering is awesome, but how to hold it? Most tripods, even small ones, don’t go low enough and the small ones are very flimsy. A low profile desktop base is too low. Also, we want to be able to adjust the position easily during a meeting as our seating position shifts around. I need a lens that is about 14″-17″ off the surface of a table or desk. Eye level is what you are after, placing the camera as far away as you can to zoom in for a flatter face image.

I had an old trash picked Manfrotto #3221 tripod with a nice #3130 fluid head on it collecting dust in my basement along with a few other great tripods. I could use this…if it was a lot smaller. So I made it smaller. My Mini-Me.

I cut the main struts to 160mm and 25mm off the extension to lower the unit. Feet were sourced from McMaster, #2517T86. I held onto the parts as I may put it back together as a mid sized tripod if I change my mind about things.

On the desk, it looks awesome. The adjustment handle and fluid head is so amazing and easy for making changes. Reversing the control arm for forward actuation means I can easily change the camera angle and the fluid head makes it super smooth.

You will want a USB Type B Micro USB3 (camera) to USB-C or USB 3.1 cable to move the pixies. Choose carefully to get the fastest cable you can. Data speed and processing is the big factor with videoconferencing so you want to free up any bottlenecks you can.

Power is another issue to look at. The USB line does not power my camera and video is hungry for power. I need a ACK-E6 DC power unit for my camera. I have an inexpensive aftermarket unit on the way. Keep your batteries fully charged until then.

Use your quality microphones also! A USB or 3.5 stereo to XLR female cable will allow you to connect to most computers and laptops. I’m partial to the USB route as many modern laptops or phones don’t have 3.5 microphone jacks. Check first.

There is a M10x1.5 lug on the top of the tripod that I’m going to make a light mount for. I have a nice cheap LED lamp on hand that will be a good donation. Another cheap worksite LED is mounted to the tripod leg via a RAM mount clamp. This is far too powerful for aiming at my face but is good for bouncing off the ceiling.

This setup works AMAZING on Zoom and Google Meet (Google meet is the best for high quality image). Sadly, FB Messenger doesn’t seem to allow me to change the camera setting.  The EF 40mm lens at the far end of the table does a lot to flatten the look of my face. I need to find my remote to access the auto focus and use a longer lens. I don’t know where that is.