So the goal was to modify this Steadicam Smoothee for lightweight cameras, but it was surprising to see it fly my Canon 5D Mark II + 50mm F/1.4 Lens. Getting back to the real reason for the mod, I tested out a smaller setup with the GH2 + 20mm Lens (total 1.2lbs). It took about 6.8oz of counterweight, but she balances just fine. In fact, I really think Tiffen should offer something like this for all the new smaller lightweight cameras coming out. If they can keep the price about the same, they'd make quite an impact. There's some additional information in the video about the Quick Release mount and Counterweight attachment.
Yup, within the first few minutes the Steadicam Smoothee walked through the door it was laying helplessly in pieces on my workbench. As I suspected, it's quite easy to modify this little stabilizer. With a quick release adapter, a top stage that can be fine tuned Left/Right & Forward/Back for easy balance, and one of the smoothest Gimbals on the market, i'm calling this the 'Cheesycam Baby Merlin'. If you haven't seen how smooth the Gimbal is, check out the earlier video (here).
The original Steadicam Merlin will run you about $800 dollars (click here to see), and I know there's a ton of people who want something similar for their GH2 or Sony NEX5n cameras. With this DIY, you can have just about the same features for 1/5th the price! Here's how I went about the mod.
Peel Back the sticker at the base and you'll find a few small screws. Remove the metal plates inside so you can drill through the base.
I reassembled the base (without the metal plates) and then drilled through the center (almost center - oops). Using a 3/8" Drill Bit, I was able to stuff a 1/4 x 20 coupler perfectly inside.
On the underside of the coupler, I added a washer and 1/4x20 screw to keep it from pulling through the top. On top I added my weight bracket. You could use just about anything here, and my counterweight was at 13.6 oz. which is needed to counter balance the 5D Mark II + 50mm F/1.4 (2.6lbs total).
If you want to build your own counterbalance that can swing left to right, and allow you to adjust weights up or down, check out this little mock-up using basic off the shelf parts (below). An Eye Bolt will be at the top of your counterweight setup (attached to the base of the Smoothee). A threaded coupler will allow you to attach a long all-thread rod. You can use heavy washers on the rod and a pass-through thumb knob at the bottom. You'll probably need a second thumb knob above the washers to clamp them down. If you need to make it less bottom heavy adjust the weights upwards. If you need to make it more bottom heavy, adjust the weights downwards.
Click image for larger view
Or you could also start with one of these slotted metal Dual Camera brackets to build up your swinging counterweight system.
Dual Metal Camera Bracket
Not really a cost saving idea, but If you really wanted that finished look like mine has, then here's where I cannablized the lower counterweight bracket from.
Opteka Video Camera Stabilizer
For the Quick Release plate, I used a hacksaw to cut straight across and filed it down flat.
Drilled a hole down the middle of the QR plate, and added a screw underneath. I had to trim a bit underside to get the screw to fit.
There you go! A modified Steadicam Smoothee made into the Cheesycam Baby Merlin. A nice stabilizer with an adjustable top stage, a Quick release mount, Fine Tuning knobs for quick balance, and adjustable weights underneath with movement to counterbalance uneven weight.
Originally modified to use with my Sony HX9V or Canon S100, but sturdy enough to rock my Canon 5D Mark II + 50mm F/1.4 (2.6lbs.) This is a no-brainer awesome Stabilizer for all kinds of smaller cameras like the Micro Four Thirds, or Sony NEX5n / NEX-7 type cameras. Right now these little Smoothee stabilizers are on sale (click here).
I want to say when these things were first released they were over $200 dollars. Ridiculous pricing if all you plan to fly is a cell phone. They have since dropped down in price, and while they are listed at about $180 dollars elsewhere, this month they're on sale at B&H (click here). Not bad if you could possibly do much more with it.
[Update] here's the video
With one of the smoothest Gimbals on any stabilizer ever, I decided to pick one up and see if it can be pushed to carry much more than a small GoPro. So far the Gimbal is made with a metal bearing, and the frame is mostly a lightweight metal. If it's possible to modify the frame to add more weights, then you're looking at an ultra smooth Gimbal on a Merlin-like stabilizer for almost 5 times cheaper than the Merlin itself.
When it comes to mounting accessories, it gets quite annoying when things start rotating around. Normally I use a rubber / neoprene washer under my hotshoe mounts, but for larger areas you can use something like Cork. I don't really like the look of cork, so I went searching for another option. Here I ran into these inexpensive Neoprene adhesive sheets.
They are available in different sizes, but the ones I purchased come in 7" x 3.5". Very thin foam / rubbery material that cuts easy with plain scissors. If there are holes that need to be punched, I just used a sharp blade to trace it out. Placing this on something like the JuicedLink Bracket allows me to mount a quick release base plate adapter without having it shift around so much. I plan on using the material on my Glidecam / Flycam stages and Camera Crane as well.
These Neoprene sheets are normally used to silence (hunting) Bows, and are also available in much thicker padded versions and some with a Felt fabric overlay. Good for other DIY projects like PVC sliders.
Neoprene Peel Stick Padded Adhesive Sheets
I once had an idea about hard mounting a Bike seat in a wagon to tow a Steadicam camera operator around using a bike (slow speed of course), but I never could find the right platform to pull it off. Today Jerry shares a find on some Marine Grade aluminum folding carts that could be used for a variety of things besides just hauling gear.
The heavy duty folding Aluminum cart's large 20" airless, foam-filled rubber tires are designed for easy maneuverability and stability on rough or thorny terrain as well as on steep grades, and will never go flat. The cart is designed with a capacity of 5.75 cu ft moving up to 330 lbs. If you want a fully enclosed unit, there is an optional gate. If you plan to tow the cart with a bike, there's also a trailer hitch available. This might be my solution. [Thanks Jerry]
So you want to move your flash off camera? Sure you can use inexpensive wireless triggers, but the biggest drawback to moving a flash off camera, is losing ETTL communication and High Speed Sync. Unless of course you're shelling out some serious cash for a wireless remote system like Radio Poppers to supports this. YouTube member Matthewrichey created a video showing you how to take basic Cat5 cables and connectors to modify those short off camera flash cables giving them variable length.
Although he took the time to make a video showing you what the end result could look like, this is not his original idea. You'll find people were doing this several years ago, and there's some instructional step by step info over at DIYPhotography.net (here).
Some event Photographers run with a Flash on top of a Monopod, so they can bring it up high or move it around before snapping a picture. To keep communication between the camera so you can adjust flash compensation, this technique would require several feet of cable. If you're not the DIY type, you could just check out some of the existing 33ft (10 meter) long cords available for not much more than $30 bucks, saving you from buying an expensive set of Radio Poppers (and not having to worry about batteries for the triggers).
The Sony NEX5n has proved to be a decent little camera especially in low light situations. I tried out the NEX5n briefly but the changing very basic settings through the software menu was a bit annoying. I prefer to shoot with cameras that have quick dials and buttons to change ISO, Aperture, and shutter. So I thought i'd wait out for the NEX-7. I was really interested in getting my hands on a Sony NEX-7, but the problems with production had first delayed, and now limited the amount of units to ever hit retail stores. So far it seems the only way to grab one is through the Marked Up eBay Auctions (here).
Anyone shooting with this camera yet? I've only seen photo and video samples which look really good, and like the Micro Four Thirds cameras, the fact that you can adapt your Nikon or Canon lenses is always a plus. There are some expensive solutions to controlling aperture on Canon's electronic EF lenses, or simple adapters like the Fotodiox with it's own built in Aperture iris. Something i'm looking in to if I can get my hands on an NEX-7.
In case you didn't catch the announcement, Cinevate is offering 30% off all Slider Models until February 8th. Find all the models and pricing options through the banner below. Just be sure to the coupon code 'SLDSALE' when checking out.