How to Convert A Shoulder Pod For Digital Cameras
Here’s another weekend project that really helps keep camera steady when using large Tele Lenses Handheld. This specific project is for Canon 350d & 400d, but a simple change of the end plug will make it work with any camera that can be operated via a trigger jack.
How many people will have seen/owned a shoulder pod over the years? They first appeared in the seventies and looking through old photography books they crop up quite often (especially the wildlife, Bird, Sport sections) they are very well made. They work by pushing a spring trigger connected to a standard cable release and usually come with a fully adjustable shoulder stock and a tripod screw thread (I use my Monopod for extra stability with Bigma on as it takes some of the weight away)
When I bought my Canon 350d I decided to convert my old Kaiser so I could use it when either my Sigma 50-500mm or Canon 75/300mm lens is attached. The first conversions I made were for the Kaiser model shoulder pods, but I have also done some conversions for some random shoulder stocks.
The conversion involves removing the cable release and installing an electronic trigger inside the grip, the finished item looks like its factory fitted and takes approx. a weekend to do. As I said before feel free to use this mod as inspiration to modify any old shoulder pod to fit any camera.
Tools for the job
- Dremel Multitool or similar + Metal Cutting disk/ grinding bits
- Soldering Iron
- Pliers, Side Cutters, flat needle file, small x head screw driver, mini jewellers screwdriver, Wax Modelling tool, small artist paint brush and sheet of 6oo grade wet/dry emery paper + small plastic tub to put all the little screws etc (don’t lose them)
Super Glue, Araldite Rapid 2.part epoxy resin glue, Milliput epoxy modelling putty, solder, Humbrol Matt Black paint, few rags to clean your fingers on! (Epoxy is sticky stuff to use) you will also need a small spring for the trigger
First thing is to remove the shoulder stock from the grip, remove screw on top and set aside.
Next open grip case (2 X Head screws) careful not to lose screws and trigger and set aside.
You will see on the photo below I have used silver marker pen showing areas to cut using Dremel the best cutter for this is the flat metal disc cutter to cut slots and then remove using the grinding tool.
You may find a Dremel flexi-shaft is easier to handle these can be picked up again on Ebay for £10+ try to keep a clean tidy bench when doing the cutting etc this way you will achieve a more professional finish to the project.
(Above) The switch shows plastic sections to cutaway, take your time doing this to get a nice tidy job.
Time to chop the trigger switch up! The best switch I have found for the conversion is one made by Jianisi cost £3.75 from Ebay (China) the electronics/switch are all mounted in the front half of the plastic casing which makes the job much easier (try to get the correct switch before starting the project as other switches may not be adaptable)
1st separate the casing and make a note of the wiring before de-soldering the wires, next shorten the cable to approx. 14” long (from the plug end) and resolder to switch. The photo below shows where to cut the switch casing (take care not to cut any wires etc). You will also need to cut a small notch out of the lower side of the switch when it is inserted into the metal casing to help clear the raised screw thread mounting point (this makes more sense when you have the item in front of you).
You are left with a much smaller switch unit. Before bonding it into the grip try it out on your camera to make sure the wiring is ok.
Next using the super glue, glue the new switch into the grip, making sure you push the cable through the slot at rear of grip (see photo)
Super glue alone isn’t ideal so you can either use Araldite 2 part Epoxy glue to improve the bond or use Milliput Epoxy Putty like me and using modelling tool build up any weak points and strengthen the plastic and also fill the other holes in the grip that aren’t needed anymore (see Photo below)
(Take note of the angle, its to clear the screw mounting thread) also the cable is glued into the slot left over from where the screw in cable release went, before doing this use the Dremel to grind metal casing to remove this thread and make it smooth so it doesn’t damage the wire.
You can see the difference between standard cable release and new electronic release above, it’s quite a neat conversion.
Almost finished now! Next we have to tackle the metal trigger, this needs cutting down in length to approx 11mm so its approx 2mm off the plastic switch button. The spring which I provided needs cutting down to size to fit within the casing behind the metal trigger using the metal cutting disc in the Dremel (see photo) this is approx 7mm you may need to adjust this by either cutting more off or stretching the spring so its a nice fit.
Almost done now! It’s just a case of reassembling the Shoulder Pod and admire your handiwork!
The photo below shows the finished Shoulder Pod fitted to my Canon 350D + Sigma 50-500mm lens this set-up is great for shooting wildlife/sports and with practice you will get some cracking shots!
I hope you find this helpful and have fun doing the project!
About The Author
Brian Wardell is a bird photographer located in Scotland. (Before that he designed chocolates for Disney. You can check his Flickr stream here and his wife's cool looking Camo-macs water proofing suits here)
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