Steadicam Merlin

Videos and Articles related to the Steadicam Merlin flying camera stabilizer

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Showing up now on eBay, there is another Steadicam Merlin-esque type video camera stabilizer called the Manyan. Build quality looks pretty good and seems to hold up a decent amount of weight. Some of the video samples at the product page are over 2 years old, so it's obviously been around for a while. Anyone use this Manyan before? Check out the other images at the eBay store (Click Here).

Manyan StabilizerManyan Video Camear Steadicam
find-price-button Manyan Video Camera Stabilizer Steadicam

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YouTube member arthurwoo sends over his review of the NEW Steadicam Merlin 2. In this video he makes some very good points on Pros and Cons of the unit, and also shares with us some sample video footage from the little stabilizer. The Steadicam Merlin 2 has many new upgrades and supposedly a more robust frame than the original Steadicam Merlin. For about $800 dollars, you can find out more about the Steadicam Merlin 2 at the B&H product page (Click Here).

Steadicam-Merlin-2-Video-Samples-Review
find-price-button Steadicam Merlin 2 Video Camera Stabilizer

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Home for the day, so I decided to see if I had the skills to fly the Skyler MiniCam Video Camera Stabilizer while riding a Gyro-Stabilized Motorized UniCycle called the SoloWheel (found here on eBay).

Skyler-MiniCam  Solo Wheel Steadicam Segway Self Balancing Gryo Stabilized

Just in case something disastrous were to happen, I felt comfortable trying this test out with Canon's latest EOS T4i (not the 5D Mark III) and was a good excuse to see how the Auto Focus would work with the Sigma 20mm F/1.8.

Canon T4i VariAngle LCD  simga-20mm

Besides not being a very skilled SoloWheel rider, the breeze against the Vari-Angle LCD threw the little Skyler off balance. So it wasn't a truly successful test, but at least I didn't eat pavement...

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Nick Bicanic from http://www.purposelabs.com does a better job than I did with his DIY Steadicam Smoothee (a.k.a Baby Merlin) by shaving down the entire platform to get a perfect fit for his quick release adapter [Thanks Nick]. That little bit of effort definitely makes it look much more solid mounting platform than adding a quick release on top of the stock mini quick release plate.

baby_merlin_shaved

Notes:

I drilled two holes by eye to match the threaded holes on an MH621 Giotto I had lying around. Both are 1/4"/20 - note that the front hole on the giotto as stock is not threaded. So for those of you who don't have tap/die kits - you'll have to use another method. (you could mount with the 3/8" and a 1/4" but I didn't want to take off that much material.

Actually i was originally gonna shave it totally flat but then I realised that the way it's built that might not work (e.g. it could no longer be screwed together. You can see on the picture how far I decided to go.

This is clearly a one-way street 😉 - because if you screw it up you gotta buy another one..ha

That said - I got it right by eye first time - the only extra thing is a washer - see the second picture:

http://www.purposelabs.com/baby_merlin_washers.jpg

(one washer sanded down to fit) the reason for the washer is to tighten the bottom bracket of the quick release - otherwise the thin plastic would flex.

End result is awesome. Btw I didn't use washers at the bottom to spread the load because the bolts sit right on top of the plastic crossbeams themselves.

Here's a picture of how it sits together - very tight and solid.
http://www.purposelabs.com/baby_merlin_lookin_pro.jpg

btw not a lot of clearance down there - so I used hex button bolts.

Tools/hardware needed beyond the usual tools for the original mod are pretty much just those two bolts. (dremel + drill does the rest). Only tricky part is threading the baseplate if it isn't already done

baby_merlin_lookin_pro

If you guys aren't familiar with this project, it's basically taking the cheap Steadicam Smoothee (originally for GoPro or iPhone) and modifying it to fly other cameras like a Canon DSLR. The Smoothee provides you with fine tuning knobs to help get you balanced much like the $800 dollar Steadicam Merlin. You can find the details on that DIY Steadicam project here: http://cheesycam.com/diy-steadicam-smoothee-mod-cheesycam-baby-merlin/

gopro-steadicam-smoothee
find-price-button Steadicam Smoothee Stabilizer

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This video is complete rambling about different feature sets of a few 'Small Camera stabilizers' I use. I have quite a few very large ones as well, but for now i'm just touching on these specifically because they are so close in what audience they are intended for. The three small stabilizers i'm showing are the Flycam Nano, the Glidecam HD1000, and the Skyler MiniCam (new and old). If you're not interested in knowing about the differences of such products, I suggests you skip this video since it's quite lengthy.

I'll start by saying that it's possible to get excellent results from ALL of these stabilizers. Don't be fooled to thinking you'll be achieving excellent results on the first day, even if you wanted to spend thousands of dollars on high end gear. With any stabilizer, it will require practice, practice, and even more practice. This video will probably generate more questions, but hopefully it's an insight of the different things to look for when shopping for a stabilizer.

Flycam:
The Flycam Nano does not have the best fit and finish as the other stabilizers, so obviously it will be much cheaper. It also does not carry the fine tuning knobs of a Glidecam HD series stabilizer. The Flycam Nano does not come with any type of Quick release system to make packing up and re-balancing more convenient.

Flycam-Nano
find-price-button Flycam Nano Video Camera Stabilizer

Glidecam: The Glidecam HD1000 has a quick release system, fine tuning knobs, and has better overall build quality and aesthetics. The quick release system will help you remove your camera from the stabilizer when you need to pack up, and makes it easy to get the camera back in the right spot for rebalancing. The fine tuning knobs help get very accurate alignment.
Note: Recently Glidecam released an XR version of their stabilizers which is cheaper, but will lack the QR plate and fine tuning knobs. (click here to see Glidecam XR-1000 via eBay)

Glidecam-HD-1000
find-price-button Glidecam HD1000 Small Video Camera Stabilizer

Skyler MiniCam: The Skyler MiniCam is the most expensive of these three small stabilizers. It's also the smallest and lightest, but yet can still fly just as much weight. You can remove all of the parts from the Skyler for travel and set it back up without having to rebalance. Everything falls perfectly in alignment. It also offers a quick release stage - not only for packing up, but it can be used to move your camera to a tripod, slider, cage, rig, etc with the included 'mounting base plate'. The design of the lower sled makes it easy to adjust up and down for weight compensation, and does not have the same potential to shift (like the Glidecam and Flycam models). Build quality is top notch.

Skyler-MiniCam
find-price-button Skyler MiniCam Video Camera Stabilizer Kit

If you're just starting out, doing it as a hobby, or just curious about flying camera movements you could start on the lower end. The actual practice of flying a stabilizer is more important than the stabilizer itself. Sell it off later when you're ready to upgrade or try renting one for a weekend to see if it's something you're interested in, and how often you think you'll be using it. If you're already flying a stabilizer and need more of the convenience of fine tuning knobs, quick release plates, compact for travel, and ease of rebalance, then look for the higher end models that offer some of those features like the Glidecam HD or Skyler Minicam.

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The Lensse DSLRPro Stabilizer has been around for possibly a few months now, and it is the latest version camera stabilizer in their product line. Here's some footage with a Canon T2i. Lensse uses a custom low friction brass gimbal in their stabilizers, and it doesn't have quite the range of motion as a Steadicam Smoothee or Steadicam Merlin.

dslrpro gimbal

The top stage of the Lensse doesn't provide you with many options for fine tuning knobs but you can slide the camera forward and back. It's not real clear in the product description or photos, but there seems to be an adjustment to shift the gimbal left/right. When not in use, the stabilizer folds down for traveling. Still with a demo video like this, it shows that it can be fairly capable. Lensse makes a variety of different sized stabilizers for different sized cameras. (Click here for Lensse DSLR Video Camera Stabilizers)

Lensse DSLRProLensse Stabilizer Video CameraLensse-DSLRPro-Demo
find-price-button Lensse DSLR Video Camera Stabilizers

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Opteka throws in a new Video Camera stabilizer with a fully adjustable top stage and upgraded 3 axis gimbal. Looks pretty similar to the Steadicam Merlin. The lower weights (stainless steel?) look almost exactly like the ones used in a real Steadicam Merlin (seen here), and the specs say it can handle up to 5lbs of camera.

Unlike the Merlin, it does not appear to fold up, but adds an adjustable front counterbalance weight. Of course nobody should expect the build quality to be up to par with a real Steadicam Merlin, but how well will this new stabilizer actually perform? The Steadicam Merlin will run you about $800 dollars (click here), and the new Opteka SteadyVid Pro runs just under $180 (click here).

Opteka SteadyVid ProOpteka Stabilizer Pro
find-price-button Opteka SteadyVid Pro Video Stabilizer

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The GH2 or other small video cameras are very lightweight and the selection for a quality stabilizer are few. Lately, there's been some interest around modifying a Steadicam Smoothee to work with such light cameras. I was able to modify one successfully, but I never got around to showing it's full capabilities. So it's great to see other examples out there, and here's one of the best videos i've seen so far about a modified Smoothee (a.k.a Baby Merlin) with a GH2 camera from Vimeo member MKVideoFilms.

If you want to find out how to modify your own, there's an article posted here: http://cheesycam.com/diy-steadicam-smoothee-mod-cheesycam-baby-merlin/

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