First off, sorry on this one. This little stabilizer was a tough one to talk about. There's so many different features on this stabilizer, it's mind blowing. I had to totally skip any mention about balancing it and just spent several minutes going over the different parts. If you want to learn about balancing, the BlackBird comes with an instructional DVD as well as a full booklet with lots of pretty pictures. It almost doesn't matter where you start by placing your camera, you'll always have more than enough lateral to compensate and center the camera to balance. Weather has been very spotty here and i've been caught up with other projects to really get something good online about this one.
In any case, here's a quick look and a few first time samples. There's no denying the resemblance of the design to other stabilizers on the market, but of the ones I've used (and i've used quite a few), none of them has as many different options or features as this. One thing I mention most on this blog about stabilizers, is that I find stabilizers work best when they are 'loaded up' to their max weight. This stabilizer has even been specifically designed to balance both super light and heavier cameras by adding in the Gimbal extension. Dropping the Gimbal allows the stabilizer to become extremely 'less bottom heavy', thus able to support light weight cameras. The unique 'adjustable friction gimbal' also adds to that same purpose. It's well designed, fairly priced against it's competitors, but definitely the most fully featured of the bunch all similar to this design. You might also want to check out the other video demo in this article: http://cheesycam.com/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.
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.