April 11, 2012

Two DIY Projects That Will Help You See Easier: an $8 DSLR Viewfinder + Powerful $86 Video Light

Tired of squinting at your DSRL's LCD screen?  Maybe you need some extra lighting oomph for that indoors shoot?  These two projects aim to make your no-budget existence a bit easier.  The  first is a DIY viewfinder from Knoptop and Learning DSLR Video, and the second is a big 800-watt equivalent CFL video light from IndyMogul (accompanied by a goofy short shot with it):

DSLR viewfinders can run you anywhere between $30 to almost $400.  Why spend so much when all you're doing is magnifying the LCD screen?  Dave Dugdale, of Learning DSLR Video, decided to make his version of Knoptop's DIY viewfinder (you can find Knoptop's original instruction video here, along with step by step instructions here).  Instead of using the magnifying glass the original design used, Dugdale went for a set of loupes:

Video is no longer available: vimeo.com/39603746

For Dave's full post go here.

This second project is a bit more involved, and significantly more costly -- but it could be very well worth it for folks looking to get a lot of light for cheap.  There's a lot of back and forth on the use of CFLs in filmmaking, some people swear by them, others hate them.  Luckily, you can pick up a couple of small CFL bulbs and test them out yourself, and if you like how they work you can go for this project from IndyMogul.

Considering it puts out as much light as eight 100-watt bulbs, but only uses 184-watts, you're getting  a lot of light for less energy.  And the light doesn't look half bad -- just check out the goofy short film they made using them:

Have you used CFL lights on your shoots?  Have you tried making your own viewfinder? Share below!

(And for two more DIY projects, go here)

[via Learning DSLR Video and FilmmakingIQ]

Your Comment


I have 2 CFL softboxes that I use, and (crappy as the build is) they work pretty great for me. Daylight's a little green, and tungsten's pretty pink, but I haven't had any real problems (but I like the daylight bulbs *much* better than the tungsten). And besides the power savings vs tungsten, there's also the huge benefit for daylight of not having to gel the lights (full blue cutting almost 2 stops).

April 11, 2012 at 5:33PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Kevin Marshall

I made one lcd viewfinder, but was fucking ugly! haha.
Then I found a $18 on ebay, and its amazing!

April 11, 2012 at 5:34PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I built the Knoptop viewer about a year ago. It looks a little cheesy, but it works great and has kept me from buying a "real" one so far. I think I spent $3.49 for the loupes at Harbor Freight. Had everything else.

Also, I use 4 CFLs in a 40" Brolly Box. I think it's awesome (use it mostly for talking heads and interviews). Huge source, very soft and looks good. I have a set of 5000K and a set of 3500K bulbs. They both test within 100 degrees of their rating. I just set white balance manually and haven't had any problems - either with color or banding.

April 11, 2012 at 6:53PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Nice gathering. there is more money focus on other items:)

April 12, 2012 at 12:10AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


We use CFLs on the set of a TV show we produce and don't have any trouble. We use 2 brolly boxes with a 105watt CFL in each. Judge the results for yourself at http://www.cnyflavor.com. We set custom white balance before filming.

April 12, 2012 at 2:39PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


THIS is what it's all about.
This is real, old skool, low budget film-making.
Okay, it's not going to win any awards, but this is what it was like in the olden days (say 10 or so years ago) before every geek was emptying his mother's purse or maxing out a credit card on tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment to churn out some half assed "masterpiece".

April 12, 2012 at 3:03PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Half Beard

I made the Knoptop viewfinder months ago but got so tired of the rubber bands. The viewfinder was constantly slipping around and not aligning properly. It also took too much time to take it on and off. I finally got a $30 (cowboystudio) one from online and am very happy with it.

April 12, 2012 at 3:18PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Thanks for featuring my Indy Mogul videos! (I'm a big NoFilmSchool fan.)

April 12, 2012 at 3:38PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Thanks for making and sharing that project! (likewise, I'm an Indy Mogul fan!)

April 12, 2012 at 4:07PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I shared my viewfinder build with this Vimeo video. http://vimeo.com/17144984
I reused my parents old video camera for the optics : )
It worked well until my wife bought me a Z-finder for Christmas.
I check NoFilmSchool religiously and enjoy the posts.

April 12, 2012 at 5:06PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


For a tiny bit extra I would totally go for this Vfinder:

I bought the carryspeed version when it was $10 (with free shipping) and it's great!

April 12, 2012 at 10:53PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I've used CFL's for shooting video with nikon d7000. Its great with the shutter at 30 but if you up the speed you get banding. It can be very limiting.

April 16, 2012 at 6:48PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Use nearly all daylight fluorescents (Diva style) and supplement with CFL's and umbrellas. Matches perfectly, soft and beautiful. Some trouble with green reflections in glasses(especially those with "non-reflective" coatings) But all in all I love them. Small, light, energy efficient, little to no heat, and cheap.

April 17, 2012 at 7:47AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM