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.
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.
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.
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).
Budget Single ISO Arm Camera Stabilizer Load Vest