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Why would you ever need to level your camera? Isn’t correcting out-of-kilter shots what photo editing software is made for? I can think of at least two good reasons: One, you’re shooting in film and straightening a crooked shot is a much more involved process; or two, you’re taking video and don’t even want to think about rotating the frame in software.

Slide Opteka’s triple-axis spirit level into your camera’s hot shoe and you can level your camera from left to right and back to front. You use the third axis when you’re shooting with the camera on its side in portrait orientation. Opteka molds the housing from clear acrylic and fills the bubble vials with a contrasting green fluid for easy visibility.

Be careful when you’re buying this level’ they sell two different models depending on whether your camera has a normal or reverse hot shoe. The stated list price is an insanely high $39, but you can find it for anywhere between $4 and $15 before shipping, depending on where you look.

Hot Shoe Level [Opteka]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]

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12 Responses to Are Your Pictures On The Level?

  1. ToolGuyd says:

    I ordered mine from Dealextreme: http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.2341 . I figured that one <$5 imported level is as good as the next. It was less than $3 with free shipping.

    There are also many, many 2-axis and 3-axis bubble spirit levels on ebay, also with free shipping.

    This is one of those things that are hugely overpriced. If I were making money from my landscape photos, then yes, I might pony up the $32 for Manfrotto's version.

  2. Joshua says:

    Getting it correct out of the camera is nice. While you can correct the horizon level in post processing you lose time and image resolution in the process.

    I’ve done photography and videography and having a level is indeed important for quality photos.

  3. Pete D says:

    Many people like these levels. I don’t.

    In my film days, level horizons were critical to me. I dislike the hotshoe levels because they are vulnerable perched up there atop the camera, easy to lose, and generally not all that accurate or sensitive. My solution at the time was to put a Johnson cross-check level on the back of the camera with double stick tape.

    With a dSLR, most of my camera back is occupied with an LCD, so I have no surface to stick a level to. Also, one of my interests now is stiched panoramics, which present an even bigger leveling challenge, which really can’t be dealt with effectively by a hot shoe level. You need to rotate the camera around a level base plane: you need a leveled “turn table.”

    As far as level horizons, I use the electronic grids in the viewfinder. It is not ideal, but it works pretty well. For the pano stitching stuff, I use the trusty cross-check level on the rotation base (which sits on top of the tripod head).

    Level is good. Levels are a pain.

  4. paanta says:

    You really need the camera level if you want to shoot panoramas on a tripod. It’s also real helpful if you’re doing work that doesn’t like an uneven or cropped photo (matching it to a 3D model in a computer, for example)

  5. Chris says:

    Oooooooor you could use a tripod, most of which have built-in levels. And any mildly serious photographer is going to do that anyway.

    This seems like a gimmick more than a practical tool, especially since most cameras that have hot shoes are also SLRs, which encourage you to look through the eyepiece to frame a shot. When you’re looking through the eyepiece, you can’t see the hot shoe.

    Furthermore, if you can’t judge horizontal with a reasonable degree of accuracy (subject, of course, to the limitation that the horizon is almost never flat and level in the first place), you probably aren’t taking photos worth looking at in the first place.


  6. BJN says:

    Correcting level via image processing reduces image quality, so it’s best practice to get the shot right even with a digital camera. These levels are intended for tripod shooting, and even if the tripod is level, that doesn’t mean the camera on the tripod head is level. Many tripod heads lack a level (more important than one on the tripod itself) and even if they have one it may not be convenient to see with the camera attached. I have a couple of these and don’t use them often. However sometimes hotshoe levels are the best way to go.

    Any mildly serious photographer will have a few camera supports, and not all of them will sport a useful level. Framing via a DSLR viewfinder never preempts using a camera support. And getting a nicely framed image is hardly the same skill set as judging a degree or less error in camera level. The real skill set here is taking the time to check level if the shot allows. With many DSLR viewfinders the the view isn’t very big or bright, so fine alignment of a shot can be difficult.

  7. JeffD says:

    Wait for a sale on Meritline. You can snag these for 99 cents on sale, plus free shipping.

    I use a level when I’m up on tripod taking sustained landscape shots.

  8. Bill says:

    I think in this day and age that cameras should have a built in level.

  9. A.Crush says:

    There are cameras with built-in levels, but it’s kind of gimmicy, not to mention how much it sucks when the level goes or dries out.

    Best bet would be a digital version built-in, though it’s questionable if that would be good either, since the sensor could become damaged or go out over time.

    As a photographer who still shoots with a film SLR, I can’t say I’ve had any trouble with images not being level..and that was well before digital editing to correct such errors.

    Still, a plain 3-axis spirit level looks cool for shop use or just to have, and for 99 cents, what the heck.

  10. Slow Joe Crow says:

    These things have been around for years, and while they might be useful for cheap tripods, my heavy duty Bogen/Manfrotto tripod has level vials built right into the 3 axis tripod head, so why bother?

  11. SuperJdynamite says:

    I have a small level for a camera that has no viewfinder (long story). I prefer the single bubble type — the round kind with a slightly domed top. They allow you to check level on all axis at once.

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