Glidecam

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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 theĀ  base and you'll find a few small screws. Remove the metal plates inside so you can drill through the base.

Steadicam-Smoothee-Mod (1 of 17)IMG_0939

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.

Steadicam-Smoothee-Mod (4 of 17)Steadicam-Smoothee-Mod (6 of 17)

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).

Steadicam-Smoothee-Mod (7 of 17)Steadicam-Smoothee-Mod (8 of 17)

DIY TIP
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.

Adjustable-Counterweight-DIY-Baby-Merlin-Stabilizer
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 Camera Bracket
find-price-button 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 Steadicam Stabilizer
find-price-button Opteka Video Camera Stabilizer

For the Quick Release plate, I used a hacksaw to cut straight across and filed it down flat.

Steadicam-Smoothee-Mod (11 of 17)Steadicam-Smoothee-Mod (12 of 17)

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.

Steadicam-Smoothee-Mod (13 of 17)Steadicam-Smoothee-Mod (15 of 17)

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.

Steadicam-Smoothee-Mod (16 of 17)

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).

GoPro-Steadicam-Smoothee-DIY-Steadicam
find-price-button Steadicam Smoothee for GoPro and iPhone

Steadicam-Merlin
find-price-button Original (more expensive) Steadicam Merlin Camera Stabilizer

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steady-dragon-stabilizer

There's a million different little stabilizers on the market, but about a month ago (maybe a bit longer), the Steady Dragon brand upgraded the Gimbal to a universal joint. This type of gimbal provides the maximum amount of range compared to the little Ball-and-Socket type like found in the Hague MMC. The Steady Dragon seems to have all the right parts with front and rear counterweights, side to side weights, and adjustment of the camera forward and back.

camera-plate-adjustment

With the optional camera plate, you can also add side to side from the top stage. A Tripod mount is also available so you can dock your camera. There's ways to create your own stabilizer with U-Joint from a Traxxas RC, but If you're not the DIY type, this little stabilizer looks like a good start for small cameras and under a hundred bucks. The Steady Dragon states it's rated to balance cameras just around 3 lbs and you can find some demo videos following the link (click here).

steady-dragon-stabilizer-imagetripod-bracket-steadydragon
find-price-button Steady Dragon Video Camera Stabilizer Streadicam

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The Skyler MiniCam has been a work in progress floating around the Internet for a very long time, but this is the first time i've seen it available on eBay. A clever little stabilizer which stands on it's own like a tripod, looks to have great build quality, and very simple fine tuning knobs. A 1/4-20 thread under the stabilizer allows you to mount it on a Monopod so that you can don't need to dismount your camera.

Skyler MiniCam stabilizerSkycam MiniCam Stabilizer

Unfortunately the asking price of over $620 dollars is a big umm..'heck no' for me. It's too bad they couldn't get the Skyler under the $200 dollar price tag, I think it could be a hit. I guess if you want to compare the price to an $800 dollar Steadicam Merlin, it's not looking so bad, but there's so many more stabilizer options now for under $300 dollars. If you're still curious, there's some additional demo videos of the Skyler MiniCam stabilizer in use over at the auction page (click here).

Skyler MiniCam StabilizerSkyler Mini Camera Stabilizer
find-price-button Skyler Mini DSLR Video Camera Stabilizer Steadicam

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Steadicam-Merlin-Pilot-Vest-Fix

Preparing for a last minute shoot today, I found my Steadicam Merlin Vest had cracked on the upper chest piece. Crap. The quick fix for me today was to use the top portion of the Konova Vest and mate it with the Steadicam Merlin Arm (which is held on with the waist area). There was a bit of hackery, drilling, and modding, but it managed to all come together in the end. The reason I needed to stick with the Steadicam ISO Arm is because the rig I had already built up was fairly lightweight. The Konova requires a good payload to be effective, but the Steadicam arm can be dialed to fly lighter sleds. So for today's shoot i'm Frankenstein-ed out with a vest that consists of a Konova Chest Piece, Steadicam Arm, and Glidecam sled...

Steadicam Vest Konova Glidecam Stabilizer Fix Repair

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Flycam Nano DSLR Video Body Stabilizer

Is it me or is this something new from Flycam? I don't remember seeing something exactly like this before in their product line. It's a new body vest support for those Flycam DSLR Stabilizers. It doesn't look like your typical spring loaded isoelastic stabilizer arm, so it may not be used for walking or running shots. It looks like it's just a system to help carry the weight, like the Body Pod system available from Glidecam (found here) - only it looks better.

Body Pod Style Stabilizer
(Above) Typical 'Body Pod' type stabilizer support

The new Flycam Body Vest / Stabilizer Arm can be adjusted up/down, left/right, and angled in just about any fashion you can think of. The different joints in the arm can be locked in place, but I wonder if it can still be used and redirect some of that weight if it's left fairly loose.

Flycam Body Vest

So far it's only available as a combo with a Flycam, but it doesn't look extremely complicated if it's a DIY build you're looking to tackle. Found below (click here)

Flycam DSLR Vest Stabilizer
find-price-button Flycam DSLR Nano Body Vest Stabilizer

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Wondlan's sporting a new Carbon Fiber Video camera Stabilizer and Vimeo member LJ Lee has a nice little review. I like the fact that it can be extended long enough to be used as a short monopod, something the Glidecam stabilizers won't do. It also has a ready quick release system to get the camera off. The top stage has all the adjustments for front / back / left / right to find the center of balance, but the lower sled doesn't look wide enough to prevent the common twisting motion.

Most Steadicam type stabilizer have a long bottom sled which increases the area for the turning axis (something like that). If you have all of the weight too close to the center of the post, it can easily drift, twitch, or jerk while walking. The handle looks a little small also, something that might be a comfort concern for those with large hands. There isn't a whole lot of sample footage in the video, but for the small movements it seems to work pretty well. Of course there's a lot of practice and skill involved to pull off good footage too. [Thanks LJ] The Wondlan Carbon Stabilizer is already available following the link (click here).

wondlan-carbon-stabilizer
find-price-button Wondlan Carbon DSLR Video Camera Steadicam Stabilizer

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Another Hollywood Ultralight turns up on auction. This ultralight stabilizer is a discontinued product, but works like a mini Glidecam (as seen in the video demonstration above). It can support cameras of up to 4lbs, but with all the new GF3 like cameras with HD video, it's too bad they don't start making these things again. eBay auction found (click here)

Screen shot 2011-09-11 at 11.16.41 AM
find-price-button Hollywood Lite VS1 mini Video Camera Stabilizer

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(Above) Video was just for fun, don't take it seriously

I've probably tested more stabilizers than the Brady Bunch Family has fingers and toes (combined). Not everything makes it on the blog, because it just ends up as wasted sapce. Now i'm not saying some of these stabilizers 'won't fly'. What I look into and weigh in on is Stabilizer vs. Price. With enough muddling around (a few days and a few modifications), you can probably get some decent shots with most stabilizers.

Since I just posted about questions on other Random stabilizers I don't think is worth the asking price, here's another one for you - not to consider. Besides looking quite odd, the current asking price is several times that of other stabilizers which are easier to fly and faster to balance. The handle has shock absorption, the stage can be positioned forward/back, and the weight can be shifted left/right. The odd color choice and design might have been based on old Buck Rogers technology. You would think the tripod stand base design would work well to sit your camera down, but it acts as a counterweight. If you are required to shift that weight to an angle, it will no longer sit as a tripod and just topple over.

The video demo was shot just for fun, and it was the first time out with it. It's definitely not easy to fly. I don't agree on the price tag running several hundreds of dollars while there are already existing units on the market that are much cheaper and already have proven results. If they dropped this down to about $80 dollars, it might be worth considering for those on a budget and a lack of aesthetic appeal. There is also a low mode version, and a kit that doubles as both low mode and tripod base mode found on eBay (click here).

dslr-stabilizer
find-price-button DV Stabilizer Tripod Base Low Mode

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A closer look at the Konova video camera Stabilizer Vest and Arm. Let's start here. Pricing? Not very competitive. Everyone knows about my Hybrid setup using the Steadicam Merlin Vest / Arm + Glidecam HD4000. This hybrid setup works extremely well and you can probably put one together yourself for around $2300 or so. The Konova Stabilizer system will still run you over $3K. But if you wanted to compare apples to apples, this is more similar to Steadicam's Pilot system which sells for about the same price.

Pricing aside, what does it have to offer? The larger stabilizer should hold 10lbs on the top fairly easy. That's a bit more than the weight a Glidecam HD4000 is rated at. The unit is all metal, lightweight, and gimbal is very smooth. The top stage adjusts forward/back/left/right to center your camera. To balance the entire stabilizer, the Gimbal can be positioned further up or down the post.

The arm is huge and very well made. It can be positioned either left or right side by flipping the mounting bracket. It can definitely carry some heavy weight, but isn't designed to be fine tuned for light weight setups. (The Merlin vest can be tuned for light camera setups). The Padded Vest is very lightweight, easy to slip on/off and adjust various ways for comfort. From an operator's point of view, the Konova arm is much easier to place into the vest system than a Steadicam Merlin Vest (I just leave the Merlin Arm on all the time) and also easier to remove when breaking down. The stabilizer comes with a stand adapter (attaches to a light stand) to dock the stabilizer when not in use.

Let's talk cons. Well price is one. There are already so many other options on the market with either the same price or cheaper. Unless they can bring the price down, it's going to be a tough market to crack. It offers nothing different than what is already available. This unit is wired, but is missing HDMI. HDMI seems to be a growing trend not just for DSLRs, but for other popular cameras under 10lbs. (i'm going to mod this one with my own HDMI). The monitor that it comes with is outdated too, so I'll be switching that out with the SmallHD DP6. So that's it so far, and i'll be taking it out for a test as soon as I can build it up to my liking. Stay tuned.

Konova Vest Arm
Konova DSLR Video Camera Stabilizer on eBay

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