Steadicam

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Guess what came in the mail recently? It's that cheap video stabilizer load vest I posted about a few weeks ago. I've had a bit of time with the gear, and as with any product there's Pros and Cons.

Cheap Stabilizer Vest Cheesycam

Pros:
The cheap vest is a combination of snap buckles and velcro, while the Steadicam Merlin vest is based on just velcro. Constantly readjusting the velcro on the Steadicam Merlin vest causes the vest to wear out, not to mention it's a bitch for hangnails. I've already had to replace the velcro on my Steadicam Vest, but there is also a 'buckle upgrade kit' (seen here) I will probably do the next time I need repairs. I've been using the Steadicam Vest for a long time, and I find that the Cheap Vest is more comfortable than the Steadicam Merlin vest.

Single Arm Vest

Cons:
The cheap vest I received came with a few scratches on the paint. Only slight blemishes, and nothing compared to how my Steadicam Vest looks like today. The Steadicam Merlin vest can be dialed down to fly light camera stabilizers. The ISO arm on the cheap vest requires a heavier load than the Steadicam. When flying just my 5D + Glidecam HD4000, the setup was not heavy enough to bounce the arm. I ended up adding some addition weight on the stabilizer setup for the cheap arm to work better.

scratch 1 cheap vestscratch 2 cheap vest

It's no Steadicam Killer, but the Cheap Vest has really good build quality for the price. I find it more comfortable than the Steadicam Vest and it works to carry your Flycam or Glidecam Stabilizers. If you're planning on flying a very light setup, this vest will not operate as smooth as the Steadicam Merlin Vest. The ISO arm of the cheap vest requires a bit more weight to put the proper tension on the spring. Below is a video showing pretty much the exact same vest setup from YouTube member Kirk Saber, along with his example footage from the vest system.

If you look carefully, you can see the bounce in his step due to the spring tension requiring more weight. The Steadicam Merlin Vest is a dual arm setup, while the cheap vest is only a single ISO arm. The Steadicam Merlin vest runs almost $1600 and the Cheap Vest runs for just under $400 dollars. There's a new listing in which they are also offering a Carbon stabilizer as part of a bundled package via eBay (Click Here).

Vest_1Vest_2vest+stabilizer
find-price-button Budget Single ISO Arm Camera Stabilizer Load Vest

Steadicam Merlin Vest
find-price-button Steadicam Merlin Vest Arm

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Less than a year ago, Wondlan introduced a few hand held carbon fiber stabilizers. Since the release, it was short of showcasing excellent examples of the stabilizers in use, so it was hard to tell if it was the actual unit or operator experience. Here's one video that shows some pretty fluid movements and also a short balancing tutorial with one of the Wondlan stabilizers. Besides the light weight Carbon Fiber, certain models of the Wondlan Stabilizer can telescope fairly tall to be used as a short monopod when you're not flying around.

Wondlan Carbon StabilizerWondlan Stabilizer Leopard Carbon
find-price-button Wondlan Carbon Video Camera Stabilizer

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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/

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find-price-button Steadicam Smoothee Stabilizer

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Running around with a Steadicam is possible, but besides tiring out the operator, it's also hard to get rid of that stomping movement. Roller Blades are clever, but it's not something that will travel through grass or gravel. The more popular solution for fast movements with a Steadicam is the Segway (as seen above). A big issue with a Segway (besides cost) is being able to transport this to your location. It's not something you can just throw in the trunk of your car.


Self Balancing Gryo Stabilized - Solo Wheel

So for those who don't plan on spending serious cash on a Segway, check out the new Solo Wheel. It's a self balancing gyro stabilized electric unicycle-like transport that works much the same as a Segway except it's extremely portable.

It can climb fairly steep grades, hit speeds of 10mph, travel a distance of 15-20 miles, and weighs only about 26lbs. Seems very agile, and it would be very interesting to see some Steadicam footage from something like this, but comes in at an $1800 dollar price tag. You can find some additional information on the product page. (click here for Solo Wheel on eBay)

Solo Wheel Steadicam Segway Self Balancing Gryo Stabilized
find-price-button Solo Wheel Self Balancing Gryo Stabilized Wheel

Also available via Amazon ((click here)

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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

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It was only a couple of weeks ago I posted information on how to modify a Steadicam Smoothee, essentially making it a mini Steadicam Merlin stabilizer (a.k.a Baby Merlin). If you have a small camera, and you're a fan of the Merlin steadicam, this mod will come in at about 1/5th the price. In the past few days i've received some comments about successful modifications and am just waiting to see some of those results.

Today I just happened upon Vimeo member dhardjono with a recent video posted showing a modified Steadicam Smoothee and a GH2 camera. I happened upon it, because i've been wanting to get a certain lens for a while, and in this video the Rokinon 7.5mm Fisheye (found here) was used on the GH2. Results are pretty impressive already removing harsh vibrations and quick jerking movements, but i'm sure with more practice, the results will be solid. If you want to build your own, I have my article posted here: http://cheesycam.com/diy-steadicam-smoothee-mod-cheesycam-baby-merlin/

The Steadicam Smoothee stabilizer is currently on sale until the end of the month following the link (click here).

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

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