The tool I never thought I needed!
My thought on the Hollyland MARS 400s pro
Last week you saw me photograph myself and I know that some of you weren’t too excited about this. But if you look closely, there are a few things you might learn in that video and, If you look even closer you may have noticed this little device, The Hollyland MARS 400s pro, a tool I never thought I would need, and that I’ve been using quite a bit recently.
Here is a quick view of the main specs of the Hollyland MARS 400s pro:
Transmitter and Receiver Set Transmit up to 1080p60 Video
Transmit up to 400ft to RX, 300ft to App
SDI and HDMI Inputs and Outputs
L-Series Battery/USB Type-C/DC Power OLED Display, Low-Battery Warning
Extremely Low 0.1s Latency
Shoe Adapter & 1/4"-20 Mounting Thread
For more scientific, geeky reviews, there are tons of videos on the tube already! This is a wireless video transmitter, one that can help you free yourself from cables. If you wish to monitor your camera from a distance if your camera is placed at a weird angle, or if it’s hidden in a very tight space, no more composing your shots blindly with this. You can hand this to your focus puller too… if he is not far from the transmitter and if there is no obstacle in the way. The size, and low latency, make it convenient for small indie budget productions, or any kind of small video project. But is this only aimed at filmmakers and videographers? What about photographers? And that’s where personally, I was surprised. I produce videos every now and then so all the features mentioned earlier alone make it worth the purchase. But here is one other cool thing you can do with this that can save you some time on photo shoots. I usually have to show my work “live”, I have to show what I am doing during a session to a client (who can be in front of my lens), or to my team nearby. If you don't want anyone creeping over your shoulder then this tool is for you. You can simply send the feed from your computer (and show anything from your computer), or directly from your camera to another monitor.
And you know what, there is an app that can be downloaded on a tablet or phone, so you can have additional devices connected, and multiple collaborators know exactly what's going on at the same time. The App offers a few useful additional features. You can check/ set your focus (focus peaking...), fine-tune your exposition (waveform, histogram, etc...), you can use Luts, and so on... No more disturbance while you are in the zone. Recently I made a few home sessions that I called “Tiny home sessions”. I have a very small apartment. And this became very useful for these portrait sessions too. I don’t have to move from my chair anymore or leave my camera for too long (I am lazy ;) ) My model has a live view of my camera thanks to this and we can both stay in place and correct little details without having me showing the back of my camera or her coming to me to see the last photos we shot. A real-time-saver!
I talked about this in my last video, I also place my camera in strange places for photography. Although some of the apps that I use are very helpful, they sometimes have a visible delay that can get in the way from time to time. So of course you won’t be able to trigger your camera but you will have little to no delay in real-time while you are photographing. Look at the ceiling!
Now let's talk about the things I don’t like about the Mars 400s pro. To be honest these are minor things. The way you plug & connect this device is crucial, nothing can be in the way, I advise you to have this be the first device your camera is connected to. This is if you want the best performance out of the Mars 400s pro. Another thing interesting is that there is no "pass-thru", with the Mars 400s pro. So you can’t connect your camera to this and then connect it to something else afterward, in an external video recorder for example. You can of course do the opposite, connect an external recorder like the ATOMOS Ninja V and then to the Mars 400s pro transmitter. The problem when connecting things this way is that by having the Ninja V in-between a delay in your signal is to be expected on the monitor you are sending this to. Like I said earlier this has to be the first thing your camera is plugged into if you want to get the best performance out of it. So if you are using an external recorder, the delay will make it difficult for your focus puller to do his job. Especially for moving subjects or for precise focus at wide apertures. If you are using an external recorder there will be a few situations where this setup won’t work for you. If you are not using one, then the announced 0.1s delay on the website is pretty accurate, and there should be no problem! Now is it a deal-breaker? I don't think it is, it all comes down to your use and the type of work you do. The look is somewhat special, it comes straight from the ’80s, personally, I don’t really care this is very subjective. I like the fact that it doesn’t eat too much space vertically. I would have loved a carrying case with this, this would have been a lovely addition to the unit, but here I am nitpicking. The last thing I will point out is the battery indicator in volts, some will find this bizarre and would have preferred a diagram or percentage, but so far it hasn’t bothered me much. And this is all I can say about the Hollyland Mars 400s pro because when you look at the price, it makes it hard to complain. At 699 euros in Europe, for what this has to offer, it is a bargain. Of course, it is still an investment, and like any tool out there you have to justify its use. Because it’s affordable, doesn’t mean you have to buy it. If you look at any other video transmitters out there, very few propose this kind of performance at this price. And if you are looking for a Zero delay signal then