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Review: VARAVON 523 MHD Monopod Set - 520 Monopod + 103 Video Head

Review: VARAVON 523 MHD Monopod Set - 520 Monopod + 103 Video Head

Overview : Varavon's 523 Fluid Head and Monopod System combines the Varavon 103HD fluid head and 520M monopod to give you fluid head control with the nimbleness of a monopod. Supporting up to 11 pounds of camera, with fluid dampened pan and tilt movements, the head features an integrated sliding balance plate. The plate is indexed, for quick balance resets. The QR (Quick Release) plate makes it fast to pop the camera off the set up when you need to go hand held, and pop it back on when you need a steadier shot. The fluid head features a bubble level, for precise level adjustment, and pan bar mounting rosettes on both sides of the head, the system includes one pan bar.

The monopod is made from polycarbonate to be lightweight, durable and impact resistant. It extends from 23 to 65 inches, about 27.5 to 69.5 inches including the head, giving you additional height of almost six feet. This is useful when trying to shoot over a crowd. the ball joint rubber foot, gives you solid grip on hard surfaces, even when the surfaces aren't completely level, and the rubber foot retracts, exposing a spiked foot for better grip on soft ground.

Monopod Features :
  • Supports 3/8" screw
  • Spiked foot
  • Handstrap & Folding Quick Lever
  • Width: 2.7 inches
  • Height: 23 inches
  • Max length: 64 inches
  • Diameter: 1.4 inches
  • Material: Polycarbonate
  • Weight: 1.8lb
Video Head Features :
  • Width: 3.8 inches
  • Height: 4.7 inches
  • Depth: 5.2 inches
  • Bubble level
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 2.2lb
  • Panbar weight: 0.5lb

Quality/Usability : I've been in search of a decent video head without breaking the bank. I saw that Varavon has a video head that looked similar to what Manfrotto offers and thought I would give it a try. A bonus is that it even includes a monopod and a carry case.


The Varavon 520M Monopod supports up to 13.2 pounds and is made from impact-resistant polycarbonate. Folded down, the monopod is 23 inches long and can extend to 65 inches long. Total width is 2.7 inches and the diameter is 1.4 inches. Total weight is just under 2lb.

The top of the monopod has a 3/8" screw that can accommodate all types of tripod heads or video heads.

Each section of the monopod leg has a folding quick lever. This allows you to unfold the lever to extend the monopod leg and lock it in place when you have the suitable height. This allows for quick extension and retracting of the monopod legs.

At the bottom is a ball-jointed rubber foot that provides grip on slippery or delicate surfaces, and allows the monopod to lean without sacrificing grip. The idea is similar to Manfrottos 561BHDV-1 monopod minus the 3 feets.

If you twist the rubber foot, it will expose the spike foot. This allows you to dig into soft ground such as grass to give additional traction and support. The monopod foot also pivots. This allows you to keep the monopod planted to the ground while giving you the flexibility to move the camera in different directions and angles.

The monopod has a foam padding for gripping. On the foam pad, it has the Varavon logo cut out.


If you're getting into doing videos, you will need a video head. They allow you to pan your camera and tilt your camera with ease. Yes, you can use a normal tripod head but with a video head, your camera is straight at all times. You either pan left to right or up and down.

The 103 Video Head measures 3.8 inches in width, 4.7 inches in height, 5.2 inches in depth. The video head is made of aluminum and weights 2.2lb. The panbar weighs 0.5lb. There's also a bubble level on the bottom base to help you level the video head.

The video head comes with it's own quick release plate. Unfortunately, if you are already using a different quick release plate for a different tripod head, you'll either have to remove it and attach the Varavon video head plate or attach the Varavon plate to your existing quick release plate. The mounting plate can be moved forward and back to enable finding the center of gravity with different cameras, and it has ruler markings on one side to help with positioning.

The panbar can be a great asset. It can go under your armpit to provide stability or it can go on top of your shoulder for stability and the ability to move around freely. You can also tuck the panbar down so that it is out of the way if it is not being used.

With the combination of both the monopod and video head, you can do high angle shots. Shots that you would not be able to get from eye level or unless you were standing on a chair. You can also get low angle shots. Shots that you would not be able to get unless you're straining your back or laying on the floor. Both these options are great if your camera has a flip out screen as you'll be able to see what you're shooting.

Conclusion : Overall, the VARAVON 523 MHD Monopod Set - 520 Monopod + 103 Video Head is a nice set up for any videographer. Although the rubber foot pivots, nothing compares to Manfrottos 561BHDV-1. The video head is fluid and smooth and definitely worth it alone.

Manufacturer: VARAVON
Site: Buy from Varavon / Buy from B&H Photo

Varavaon 520M Monopod ONLY
Site: Buy from Varavon / Buy from B&H Photo

Varavon 103 HD Video Head ONLY
Site: Buy from B&H Photo

Deal: Canon EF 24-70mm USM Lens, $38 Credit for $1,699 After Rebate + Free Shipping

Adorama offers the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Zoom Lens, model no. 5175B002, bundled with $37.98 in Adorama Rewards for $1,699 with free shipping, via the directions below. (A promotional code for the credit will be emailed to you 40 days after shipment.) It features one Super UD and two UD lens elements that minimize chromatic aberration in the periphery and color blurring around the edges of the subject. Rebate expires March 29.

To get this deal:

Deal: Canon PIXMA PRO-100 WiFi Printer, Photo Paper for $40 After Rebate + Free Shipping

Adorama offers the Canon PIXMA PRO-100 Wireless Inkjet Photo Printer, model no. 6228B002, bundled with the Canon 13x19" Plus Semi-Gloss Photo Paper 50-Pack, model no. 1686B064, for an in-cart price of $340. This $300 mail-in rebate cuts it to $40 with free shipping. The printer features a 4800x2400 dpi maximum print resolution, up to 13x19" wide-format printing, 802.11n wireless, PictBridge compatibility, and USB. Rebate expires March 31.

Press Release: Zacuto Announces New Lens Support System For Canon CP-N and Zeiss CP Lenses

The latest product from Zacuto will grab the interests for users of Canon CN-E and Zeiss CP cine lenses. Their new custom lens support provides a solid mounting to rails that prevents the lens from twisting when used with a follow focus. The new support differs from others available thanks to its ‘hook and foot’ system that allows for rapid changes while remaining very secure.

Lens supports are an essential but often time consuming and fiddly tool in a filmmakers arsenal. The Zacuto product design team recognized this challenge and has created two new innovative, quick release lens supports that fit seamlessly into any cinematographers workflow. The Zacuto Zeiss Lens Support and Canon Lens Support are fast, easy, unobtrusive and best of all, require no additional work when changing lenses.

Most lens supports require a user to unscrew a stabilization rod or remove a support band in between every lens change. A customer commented to Zacuto product designer, Jens Bogehegn, that there had to be an easier way to achieve the same level of stability without all the fuss. This sparked an idea with the Zacuto design team, who then set out to create a completely new type of lens support concept.

The Zeiss and Canon Lens Supports incorporate a ‘hook and foot’ mechanism with a quick release lightweight rod mount. The hook attaches to your rods and the foot to your lens. The two click together and then separate with the standard movement of a lens change. This innovation is completely unique to the market.

“The beauty of this new lens support design is that it behaves as if there’s nothing on the lens. You can change lenses and there’s nothing getting in the way.” – Jens Bogehegn

The Zacuto Zeiss Lens Support for CP.2 lenses and Canon Lens Support for cinema and compact primes are available for purchase now. Visit the Zacuto website to purchase, watch videos and discover more about these unique products from the design team at Zacuto. Also available through any Zacuto dealer.

New Samyang 10mm f/2.8 ED AS NCS CS Lens for Canon

We previously reported that Samyang was going to announce a new lens but no one knew exactly what it would be. People speculated that it would be a 35mm lens with auto-focus but that was shot down on Samyang Asia.

The new lens that was announced by Samyang was the release of their new 10mm f/2.8 ED AS NCS CS Lens for Canon and it is now available for pre-order on B&H Photo with a price tag of $529.00. The lens is scheduled to ship on March 25. Since there was no mention or talk of the rumored auto-focus, we'll have to keep hoping and dreaming that one day, they will add auto-focus into their lenses.

From Samyang:
The prototype version of the Samyang 10mm f/2.8 was first presented at Photokina 2012. Since then, intensive work to improve the lens and to achieve the highest possible optical quality while reducing its footprint. The result of this work is presented today lens Samyang 10mm 1:2.8 ED AS NCS CS, which in terms of performance and capabilities can successfully compete with the best wide-angle designs available on the market.

Samyang 10mm 1:2.8 ED AS NCS CS is a great tool to photograph interiors, architecture and landscapes. It offers an exceptionally wide field of view, ranging 109.5 degree and linear imaging performance. It features a wide f/2.8 aperture for shooting in low light conditions. It can therefore be successfully used in sports photography and reportage. The optical design of the lens consists of 14 elements divided into 10 groups, which include 2 AS aspherical lenses and one ED glass with a very low coefficient of dispersion. Also, the lens has gained a permanent hood to allow for its compact dimensions and to reduce weight by almost 160 grams from the prototype stage.

Samyang 10mm 1:2.8 ED AS NCS CS is the first lens produced by Samyang Optics, which uses nano-crystalline anti-reflective coating. It is characterized by lower reflectance than the shell (U) MC, and the process of applying for a better fit to the structure of the lens surface. The benefits of using nano-crystalline coatings are: much better light transmission, greater resistance to glare and higher contrast, which positively affects the optical resolution of the lens.
Product Highlights:
  • Canon EF Mount Lens
  • Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/22
  • 16mm (35mm Equivalent)
  • Designed for APS-C-Sized Sensors
  • One ED and Two Aspherical Elements
  • Nano Crystal Anti-Reflection Coating
  • Manual Focus Design

Samyang also released a few other lenses:

8mm f/2.8 UMC FISH-EYE II for EF-M mount – pre-order at B&H Photo for $349
8mm T3.1 Cine UMC Fish-Eye II for EF-M mountpre-order at B&H Photo for $399
12mm f/2.0 NCS CS Lens for Canon EF-M Mountpre-order at B&H Photo for $399

Nikon D4S and Lexar 400x or 1000x Memory Card Issue

Nikon USA has published details on the issue of Lexar 400x and 1000x CompactFlash memory cards having problems communicating with your Nikokn D4S and how to replace the faulty cards:

It has been reported that there are a small number of a specific type of Lexar CompactFlash® (Amazon / B&H Photo / Adorama) memory cards that may have a problem communicating with your Nikon D4S DSLR camera. This article describes how to identify the problematic cards and what to do if you have one.

Identification Instructions
  1. Remove your CF® card from your camera.
  2. Look for the serial number on the edge of your CF® card.
  3. Identify if the last six part numbers (shown highlighted by the yellow X's) contain 1 of the following 2 sequences :
    • 8BAFBE
    • 8DCB61
  4. If your CF card's serial number contains 1 of the 2 sequences listed above, you must contact LEXAR support to replace your CF® card.
  5. If your card does not contain either of the 2 sequences, then your card is fully compatible.
Replacement Instructions
  1. Please contact customer support to place an RMA for a replacement CF® card.
    • US & Canada: 1-888-747-4031
    • Freephone in the United Kingdom: +44 (0) 0800 013 7411
    • Japan: 570-12363
    • All other areas: 1-208-363-5862
  2. OR contact customer service online HERE.

Samyang to Announce 35mm Auto-Focus Lens for Canon?

Samyang (also known as Bower or Rokinon or Walimex) has teased about new lenses set to be announced on March 21st on their European Facebook page. It seems that the lens (or lenses) that Samyang is going to announce will have electronic auto-focus built-in. Samyang are known for their excellent manual lenses at very affordable prices.

SLRclub reader Komabea, spotted another bit of information on Samyang’s South Korea Facebook page, where a 35mm auto-focus lens is teased. The picture above says:
  • [Samyang is] studying cine zoom lens. There are no exact launching plan.
  • A Canon mount 35mm auto-focus lens is scheduled to be launched 1st half of 2014.
  • Mirror lens for DSLR is also scheduled to be launched 1st half~2nd half of 2014.
Looks like Samyang is also working on Cine and Mirror Lenses.

Source: CanonWatch

*UPDATE* - 3.20.2014
Samyang Asia has responded on their Facebook page with "No autofocus, autofocus is rumours, fake news."

Amazon Prime Will Raise to $99. Subscribe Now at $79.

If you have an Amazon Prime account and have not heard yet, Amazon will be increasing Prime membership for the first time in nine years starting on April 17, 2014. The new price will go up from $79 per year to $99 per year while Amazon Student goes from $39 per year to $49 per year. Prime Fresh will remain at $299 per year (available only in the Los Angeles and San Francisco, CA Metro areas).

If you have not signed up for Amazon Prime yet, now is the time to do so at the $79. You'll be charged the $99 price at your next renewal which is in 2015.
Amazon Prime and Amazon Student Prime Membership Fee Changes
For the first time since it was introduced nine years ago, the price of Prime is going up. Existing Prime members will pay $99 per year on their annual renewal date and Amazon Student members will pay $49.

The Prime Fresh membership fee will remain unchanged at $299.

If you're a current Prime or Student member, we've sent an e-mail to the address on your account with the renewal date specific to your membership.

Current members will still receive all the benefits of Amazon Prime, including unlimited FREE Two-Day Shipping for eligible purchases, unlimited streaming with Prime Instant Video, and the ability to borrow books from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.

DIY: Westcott Ice Light Using LED CREE UltraFire Flashlight and PVC

I'm sure most have heard of the Westcott Ice Light (Amazon / B&H Photo / Adorama) or seen something similar. If not, the Ice Light is a handheld LED daylight light source that offers the ability to shoot and light in tandem without the need of heavy light stands or additional mounting systems.

The biggest issue is that the Ice Light is very expensive...$500 expensive! But what if you can get an Ice Light without burning a hole in your wallet? We have a cost-effective Do-It-Yourself (DIY) alternative that would serve the same purpose as the Ice Light but at a much more affordable price.

Below is a comparison between the Westcott Ice Light and DIY Ice Light:

Lamp Type
LED Array (dimmable)
CREE LED T6 (High, Medium, Low, Strobe, SOS)
Approx. 1,000
Color Temperature
Beam Angle
72.6 degrees
up to 360 degrees
Built-In Lithium Ion 7.4v Battery or Input 100-240v AC/DC Power
Removable Lithium Ion 18650 3.7v 3000mAh Battery
Battery Life
60 mins at full power
6+ hours on full brightness
Battery Charge Time
2.5 hours
4-6 hours
Handheld with 1/4-20 inch thread (both ends)
Handheld with 1/4-20 inch thread (one end only - optional)
50,000+ hours
100,000 hours (replaceable)
Item Diameter
Item Length
17.5" (18.5" with flashlight protruding)
Item Weight
1.3 lbs.
1 lbs. (including flashlight)

As you can see, both has its pros and cons. Plus, if you're not using or ever decide you don't need the DIY Ice Light anymore, you can still use the flashlight.

Continue reading for a list of what you'll need and instructions on how to make your own DIY Ice Light. We also list some optional modifications as well as other Ice Light alternatives that we thought about.

Time to Complete: 10-15 minutes
Skill Required: Beginner
Approximate Cost: $25+

You'll need the following items: (There is another DIY on the web that uses the same parts but uses electrical tape and doesn't provide the full list of items needed - this tutorial is a complete and detailed version)
*Item names may vary depending on store.

Tip: If you can't find the 12 inch tailpiece extension but have an alternative PVC pipe, test the transparency of the pipe with a flashlight or light from your cellphone before purchasing. This is to make sure light passes through.

Every household has aluminum foil so that will cost you nothing. All the PVC parts listed above costs about $8.00 plus tax and can be purchased at your local Home Depot, Lowes or other local hardware stores that sell plumbing materials. Everything will connect to each other without the need for glue or tape but you can use them if you want for added security. There's also no need to do any cutting or buying of tools. That's the beauty of this DIY.

The most expensive part of this DIY is the flashlight as prices vary online because some sellers sell only the flashlight and some sell the flashlight with batteries and charger. The image above shows the UltraFire WF-502b taken apart and laid out.

Different flashlights vary in length as well as flashlight head diameter. You don't want to purchase a flashlight that is too long where it sticks out too much from the PVC tube or too short where it's too far in and you can't reach it. Most importantly, you don't want the diameter of the flashlight than 1.5" wide) where it won't fit inside the tube or too small (no smaller than 1.25") where it bounces around.

The 1-1/2 inch x 12 inch Polypropylene PVC Schedule 1120 Slip Joint Tailpiece Extension is where the light disperses. It includes a slip joint nut and washer. This will also help hold the 6 in. flanged strainer tailpiece in place. If it doesn't, we'll give you options below.

The 1-1/2 inch x 6 inch Polypropylene PVC Schedule 1120 Flanged Strainer Tailpiece would become the handle and where the flashlight would be inserted into.

The 1 inch PVC Slip Cap is what will hold the foil and cap the end of the 12 inch tailpiece extension.

The 1 inch x 3/4 inch PVC Schedule 40 Pressure Spigot x Slip Reducer Bushing is what will hold the foil in place and secure the slip cap to the 12 inch tailpiece extension.

The second spigot plug is placed on to the flashlight which will hold it in place inside the 6" tailpiece and to prevent the flashlight from falling out.

So lets get started.


1. You'll want to remove the slip joint nut and washer from the 12 inch tailpiece. If yours does not come with the joint nut and washer, you can purchase both for under $1 or skip to 5a for an alternative option.

2. Take the slip joint nut and washer and place it onto the the 6 inch tailpiece (slip join nut first followed by washer).

3. Insert the 6 inch tailpiece into the 12 inch tailpiece. The 6 inch should stop at a certain point.

4. Slide the washer down to prevent the 6 inch tailpiece from moving.

5. Slide the slip joint nut down and screw it back onto the 12 inch tailpiece. This will join both 12 inch and 6 inch together. It should look like a light saber/sword.
5a. If yours does not come with the washer and nut and don't want to buy it, you can securely join both tubes by wrapping the tubes with tape or glue.

6. Take a piece of aluminum foil and place it inside the 1 inch slip cap. The foil will reflect the light. There's no specific size or way of doing but you can line the inside with foil. Only issue I saw with this was that. I opted to just fold the foil down into a rectangular shape because when .

7. Take one of the 1 inch x 3/4 inch reducer bushing and slide it into slip cap. This will prevent the foil from falling out as well as attach the cap to the 12 inch tailpiece. If you want added security to ensure that it won't fall out, you can use a hot glue gun, crazy glue or tape.

8. Take the new cap and insert it into the 12 inch tailpiece end. This will complete the exterior component of the DIY Ice Light.

9. A second reducer bushing will prevent the UltraFire WF-502b CREE LED XM-L T6 Flashlight from falling out accidentally at the bottom and will keep it inside the handle. You'll want to remove the head of the flashlight and slide the flashlight through the reducer. Screw the flashlight head back on. Now slide the reducer and flashlight into the 6 inch tailpiece.

If you get the recommended model, the bottom of the flashlight will protrude a little allowing you to turn on/off the flashlight, change the battery without taking out the entire flashlight and enough to pull it out if needed.

*NOTE: Make sure you purchase the flashlight that has 5 modes: High, Medium, Low, Strobe and SOS. A slight press of the button will toggle through each setting. A full press will turn the light on/off while still keeping its previous setting. It's not a dimmer but it offers different power settings. You can also purchase a separate CREE T6 drop-in bulb that has 3 modes (High, Medium, Low) or 1 mode (High) and swap out the current bulb — make sure they're 1000 lumen. There's tutorials on the web that shows you how to modify the 5 mode circuitry if you're knowledgeable with electronics.

You can also change the click button that is on the bottom and relocate it to the handle for easy access by replacing it with a corded tailcap pressure switch.

10. COMPLETED! You now have your own Ice Light for a fraction of the cost

Here are some sample shots from a pitch black room with only the DIY Ice Light as the light source:

Canon G15
1/20 sec
ISO 1250


1. For the 12 inch tailpiece extension, you can cover half the width with black gaffers tape (Amazon / B&H Photo / Adorama) or black paper. This will prevent light spilling or lighting surrounding areas. If you wanted something that is removable, you can get another 12 inch tailpiece tube, cut it so that it snaps over the main tailpiece extension so that it snaps in place and remove it if it's not needed and cover it in black. The black tape I used is similar to painters tape (which will also work) and is a bit transparent but still blocks the light.
1a. You can use zip ties on each end and use it as a holder and find either paper or something sturdy that you can slip on and off.

If you wanted to take it one step forward in customization, you can glue/tape your printed logo and/or paint the 6 inch tailpiece (handle) and slip cap for a cleaner look.

2. If you want to connect your DIY Ice Light to a tripod or light stand that has a 1/4-20 inch thread, you can drill a hole into the top of the slip cap and screw in a 3/8-16 inch male to 1/4-20 inch female thread reducing bushing adapter for tripod (Amazon / B&H Photo / Adorama). Use hot glue or crazy glue to secure it in place.

If you want to have it on the other end, you'll have to buy a slightly bigger slip cap to go over the 6" tailpiece. My only concern is that it might not be strong enough to hold the weight because you'll need to gain access to the flash light

*NOTE: Always drill a small hole first and work your way bigger until the hole is just big enough to screw the adapter in. It's best to have the hole smaller than the adapter because it will be harder for it to fall off.

Skill Required: Beginner
Approximate Cost: $20+

This is potentially the cheapest option and requires the least amount of work out of all that is listed in this tutorial. It all depends on how great of a deal you can get a handheld rechargeable LED work light. Depending on the quality, sometimes these are not as bright. Also, if the battery dies, you'll have to stop your photo shoot, recharge and once its charged, begin where you left off (unless you buy more than one). For a diffuser, you can use wax paper and tape the outside with white masking tape, a fluorescent light cover (requires cutting) or frosted glass spray paint.

PROS: affordable; very easy; no major modding required
CONS: may not be as bright; battery not swappable; battery life may be an issue


Skill Required: Beginner
Approximate Cost: $25+

If you can't find the parts we used, you can purchase a 4 ft. T12 Polycarbonate Fluorescent Tube Protector and cut it to your preferred length. You can make 2-4 Ice Lights depending on the length you cut it. For a diffuser, you can use wax paper, tape the outside with white masking tape, fluorescent light cover or frosted glass spray paint.

This was our first option but the tube can bend and break because the thickness of the tube was too thin. We also couldn't find the proper sized PVC piece to hold the flashlight that would fit the tube protector. That is why we decided not to go this route.

PROS: affordable; very easy; you can make 2-4 Ice Lights depending on the length you want it
CONS: easy to bend and break; hard to find compatible parts (at least for us) or may require additional time and research


Skill Required: Advanced
Approximate Cost: $45+

If you're knowledgeable with electrical and wiring, you can purchase LED strips/bars and connect a DC power supply or battery unit and place it into the PVC parts. This will require soldering (wire nuts if you don't know how to solder). This was another option that we looked into but couldn't find a suitable battery source that was portable and would power the LEDs for a long period of time. The cost for this alternative can be expensive. It all depends on the price of the LEDs and the quality of it.

If you would like to go this route or just looking for reliable LEDs for projects whether its for the home or vehicle, we highly recommend Oznium and Super Bright LEDs.

PROS: customizable; your preference of battery or DC power
CONS: soldering skills required; can be expensive; finding the right LEDs and batteries

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