DSLR Video Stabilizer – BlackBird

There's plenty of stabilizers on the market in all different shapes and sizes, but finding one to support up to 8lbs. of weight narrows the playing field. Now when you're talking about finding a portable lightweight stabilizer + carry 8lbs. the list gets even smaller. The Steadicam Merlin is one of the best performing portable stabilizers i've used, but has specs to support only up to 5lbs for about $800 dollars, the Glidecam 2000 up to 6lbs, and The Glidecam 4000 can support up to 10lbs for about $550.

The Blackbird stabilizer from Camera Motion Research is said to support up to 8lbs, is cheaper in price, and less than half the weight and size (making great for traveling) compared to the Glidecam HD4000. The Gimbal handle design with universal joint is found on other stabilizers, but this is the largest one i've seen. How well does it perform? Well, there's videos of this stabilizer flying a Sony EX1 so any DSLR should be a breeze. Just by looking at the build quality, there's quite a bit of thought placed into every detail about how this thing works. The stage has a quick release system, can be adjusted forward / back, and left / right with fine tuning knobs. The weights on the bottom are mounted to an adjustable post with clear markings for easy repositioning if you have to take the unit apart. (I often use nail polish on my Glidecam posts to make sure I can line things back up) One interesting feature addresses problems with what most people have issues with (stabilizer roll). By adjusting friction into the Gimbal it keeps the stabilizer horizon more consistent.

Here's a great little review from Vimeo member Firewerkz Films

If you understand stabilizers, how they work, this one is clearly made to address all concerns for getting the camera quickly balanced, easy to fly, and travel light. I'll be putting it together and testing it out later this week, but so far it looks like a great little product. I'll have part #2 of this review up soon.

blackbird-stabilizer
find-price-button Camera Motion Research BlackBird Stabilizer







30 thoughts on “DSLR Video Stabilizer – BlackBird

  1. Emm

    Post author

    @Paul H - I don't think there's any stabilizer you can just grab and go. Experience and practice will make any stabilizer a breeze to work with. The Merlin was one of my earliest stabilizers, and although I love the build quality of Steadicam and the size of the Merlin, the Blackbird is far superior. Yeah I said it, they'll hate me now, but it's true. The BlackBird has so many more options to getting a camera balanced you can't miss. The friction on BlackBird can also be adjusted to prevent that swaying.

    BlackBird, Merlin, or Glidecam? The Glidecam stuff definitely can't be compacted as small as a Merlin, but I find the Glidecam's (or flycam nano) easier to manage, but that could again be preference.

  2. Paul H

    Emm, how would you rate the blackbird vs a Glidecam HD2000? I've been wanting a stabilizer to use during weddings, and I rented a Merlin a few months ago and fought with it for hours and hours and could not balance it properly. As far as quality of stability and ease of use to balance, which way should I go?

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  4. Andrew

    @Emm - im using a T3i or canon 600D, can this blackbird support this, say with a battery grip too, and do you know where i can get one here in singapore, Thanks! Morepower to you,

  5. Emm

    Post author

    @relliot - I took it for a test drive today. For first time shooters, the adjustable friction on the bearing is a nice touch. This was something that the Merlin had issues with and why I suggest 'loading' up the Glidecam to it's max weight. Heavier loads keeps the bearing from going wild, but this unit allows you to adjust the bearing friction without a heavy load. I'll post more information soon after my tests.

  6. relliot

    Ok does that change if I'm shooting with a t2i? either a 50mm or 18-55?

    Also, I noticed the blackbird had "steadier" sample videos posted online than the flycam. Is that mostly because of technique or the actual steadicam? I will save and spring for the blackbird if it means better video. Thanks emm.

  7. Emm

    Post author

    @relliot - Putting together a top 10 would be difficult since they are all dependent on weight. Cheapest, try the Flycam Nano. Unless you are using too much weight, then you have to consider the next one up.

  8. relliot

    So I was looking at a MMC Hague for my wallet's sake, but I'm realizing that my technique will be terrible to start out with, and I want decent results at the start too. Someone tell me the cheapest stabilizer that's WORTH buying?

    I know cheap isn't the best characteristic to make a stabilizer purchase, I wish cheesycam would issue a top ten rating or point system or something!

    Great info otherwise!

    Thanks.

  9. Emm

    Post author

    @Paul - A 60D with a Battery Grip might be pushing the Nano a bit. I would definitely say it would work with just the body, but the grip adds height from the Gimbal. That little bit of height adds an enormous amount of weight to have to counter. I'm going to test out the BB today.

  10. Emm

    Post author

    @Filips - For that type of weight, I'm happy with the Flycam Nano. I'm haven't seen any great footage with a U-Flycam (yet).

  11. @Emm have you tried U-flycam? I know it can only handle 3.5lbs so it's a bit off topic for this article, but it's a lot cheaper. 3.5lbs is still enough to hold Canon 60d (1.5lbs) + tokina 11-16mm (1.2lbs) I was going to purchase it, but wanted to find some decent info and haven't found anything about it on your blog.

  12. @Nikita
    i can't show you a picture, but i just take off the grip&Gimbal and i take the horizontal bar out. that gives me 3 compact sections:

    1. the head attached to the bow and stand,
    2. the gimbal and the weights
    3. the 2 bars (vertical and horizontal with screws)

    since my photobag is curved at the top it fits nicely the curvature of the bow.

    I don't take any padding with me, since the blackbird is very sturdy and very well built.

    @Emm thank you. it was fairly easy to walk around with the 20mm 1.8 from Sigma. my arm takes the shocks.

  13. Emm

    Post author

    @jason - There's a limit to how much the gimbal can actually handle before it 'snaps'! There's also the size of the entire unit. The longer the unit the more weight can be countered. The shorter the weight, the harder.

  14. jason

    Wonder why a certain steadicam rigs can only handle a certain amount of weight? Can't you just add weight to counter balance the heavier cameras?

    I've also heard it's better to hold the center of gravity point for control, the area below the gimbal. Something you can't do with merlin style rigs.

  15. Emm

    Post author

    @Nikita - I guess it would be compact in my case. LOL. I normally travel with three pieces of rolling luggage. Glidecams, Sliders, Several Camera bodies, Lenses, Audio, Lighting, etc. If you've had to pack an HD4000, this one is super lightweight compared to it. I'll have to see how the BlackBird holds up though.

  16. Emm

    Post author

    @Chris - I haven't used it, but have seen it. It can hold a decent amount weight and should work with that setup you're talking about.

  17. @Daniel Kunz I own BlackBird too and it's great. Don't think that's it's really quick to set up (every zoom motion needs resetting), but the main question is how do you make it compact? Can you show your photobag setup please?

  18. Chris

    Hey Emm,

    Just a little diversion here.
    I use a 701hdv head on my manfrotto carbon sticks for video. I do a lot of travelling with it and i sometimes find it a little too heavy/bulky to carry around some times.
    Just wondering if you've used the Manfrotto 700RC2 Mini Video Fluid Head?

    I usually rock a t2i/battery grip and either the tamron 18-270 or 30 1.4 and maybe a sennheiser g2 transmitter.

    Any good?

    Cheers

  19. Emm

    Post author

    @Daniel Kunz - Awesome example of how to use a stabilizer. Worked great for that type of video.

  20. been using this for quite some time and i have to say that it is very quick to set up for different Cameras and lenses. it is very compact (i can take it with me in my Photobag) and it stabilizes incredibly well: http://vimeo.com/20110467 (password: crunch) i can really recommend this steadycam setup. Works very well for my 5D + 24-70 + Rode Videomic

  21. Emm

    Post author

    @Allen H. - For new flyers who require a stabilizer to support more weight, this one has all the fine tuning adjustments. I'm going to set it up today.

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