Cameras are getting smaller and lighter. People are attempting to fly GoPro's and iPhones on Steadicams. For lightweight cameras including Sony's A55, Panasonic GH2's, or Canon T2is, here's a simple DIY DSLR Steadicam (merlin style) stabilizer idea from Vimeo member KFLeung. There isn't much tooling required, it's more of an assembly of readily available pieces which combined provides you with a framework, gimbal handle, and counterweight for a camera Stabilizer. Starting with an inexpensive Flip Flash Bracket. These brackets are made for photographers to mount a Flash above the camera. When the camera is rotated in either landscape or portrait position, you can flip the flash so it still remains above the camera (i.e. to bounce light from a ceiling). This video is actually about 3 years old, but there are still several people using this method with good results.
KFLeung's first test video posted after the build
The Gimbal (handle) is based on a mini tripod with ball head so that it swivels freely. Getting a good fluid mini tripod is key to having smooth movements.
A really simple method to creating a 3 axis Gimbal Handle most people don't think about is to literally take a mini ball head and throw it on top of a Barska Handgrip. This setup adds some size, but is extremely comfortable and acts as a decently effective Gimbal Handle system. (I can see many of your minds already at work with that idea...)
The arch design of the bracket gives space for your hand to work, while providing an area to mount a counterweight below. At this area, you can use simple Fender Washers like most Hague or Indiehardware stabilizers. When you're done, the stabilizer folds into a small form factor.
Aaron of Winnipeg shows us how he mods the IndieHardware Video Camera stabilizer. This is one of the cheapest stabilizers I've reviewed on this blog that was able to balance a 5D Mark II + Sigma 20mm Lens. That's about all I was willing to push, but Aaron's managed to practically double that up while still using the stock Gimbal. The mods to add a Lilliput 7" monitor to the little stabilizer allows Aaron to add more weight to the top with a T2i + Battery Grip and 17-55mm F/2.8 IS lens (nice lens). He's also added a new handle which is one of the most common complaints on this particular stabilizer, replacing it with one from an old Flash Bracket . The video is a bit long, but all good information, so stick through it and hopefully get some ideas. Also note that the IndieHardware stabilizer is always in and out of stock, but you can check current pricing and if it's available below.
Vimeo member Carl throws up a demo video with the Canon T2i on Hague MMC video stabilizer. Something i've shown a while so nothing new there. Jump on over to 2:18 in the video and you find out how Carl balances the GoPro and iPhone properly. I've always said if your camera is too light for the stabilizer, you need to add weight to the top. Carl achieves this by adding a small Manfrotto tripod which works well for weight and adds the function of a quick release adapter. Now that the GoPro has an LCD BacPac, we could start seeing more GoPro Flying. Watch out Tiffen Smoothee, the cheaper Hague MMC with some small mods can easily balance a Flip, GoPro, iPhone and more...[Thanks Carl]
Now Carl does an excellent job with the Hague MMC, but i've used this stabilizer before and there's other (better and cheaper) options. The Hague is higher priced than the IndieHardware which I reviewed against the Hague MMC not so long ago. You can definitely save a few clams if you considered the IndieHardware over the Hague for your lightweight cameras.
If you're really interested in flying a GoPro, you should also check out another version of these type of stabilizers from Lensse. Probably just as good if not better than the rest with a price that sits in between. There's also a smaller version offered by Lensse dedicated to small Cell Phones (iPhones) or PDA's. Right now Lensse is trying to grab some marketshare and some items are being auctioned off starting at .99 cents. These small stabilizers already designed to work with an iPhone without any further modification, just might be good enough for the GoPro too. A deal hard to pass up..
I've talked about this particular video camera stabilizer before, and have been suggesting it to many people. In my older posts i've always shown demo videos of other people using this Flycam Nano stabilizer. This time around, i'm actually doing the demo. It's an affordable stabilizer with a Gimbal bearing handle that has more range of motion than the Hague MMC or IndieHardware. It's more expensive than the IndieHardware and about the same price of the Hague (if not cheaper) depending on where you live and shipping costs. It can also carry much more weight than both the Hague MMC and IndieHardware stabilizer. The design is similar to the Glidecam series of stabilizers, and it's possible it can carry the same weight as the Glidecam HD1000 which is 3 times the price.
Flycam Nano next to Glidecam HD4000
The Flycam Nano is a cheaper stabilizer not only because it's coming from overseas manufacturing, but also because it doesn't spend on fancy aesthetics. The weights used on the sled (lower tray) of the stabilizer are just large washers with a wing-nut and bolt combo. The finish of the whole unit looks like it's some type of hard flat black paint as opposed to higher end units that use a flat black anodizing process. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing that feels like plastic. It appears to be an all metal rig. Unlike the the Glidecam HD1000 there are also no simple fine tuning knobs. To balance this stabilizer, you'll need to loosen all the thumb screws, shift the plates, recheck and try again if it's still off. With any stabilizer, this could be a time consuming and frustrating process especially for those who aren't familiar with balancing a stabilizer. For myself who has balanced many other stabilizers, it took me less than a minute. Of course, the first time I balanced a Glidecam it literally took me several hours. I've learned to understand what to look for when balancing my cameras, and practice makes perfect.
I'm very impressed with this stabilizer and the amount of weight it can carry. I'm only using 5 of the weights on each side and the unit shipped with 10 on each side. With the amount of weight I have on there now, it doesn't feel like the unit is struggling. I'm flying the Canon 60D with a Sigma 20mm Prime lens. The Flycam Nano I ordered also came with several extra parts including extra rubber feet and wing nuts. It was packaged nicely in a box of solid foam with cut outs. There are a few parts on the unit i'm planning to upgrade like the screws that hold the weights, and changing out the wing nuts to fancier clamp knobs. There's also a small hex screw that holds the top stage to the post that seems to work it's way loose after a while. A simple lock washer will prevent this from coming loose. It also lacks any type of quick release system to remove your camera when traveling. I'll be placing a Quick release adapter to the top of this unit.
Minimal Parts for easy Travel
It's super compact and if you decide to take it apart will fit into a small bag. It's a really fun stabilizer, and i'm hoping to shoot something worth watching. If you have any questions for me at this point, leave them in the comments section. You can also check out the earlier related posts showing more examples of the Flycam Nano in use.
Thanks to Motegi for sharing a DIY handle upgrade to the IndieHardware Stabilizer. You can catch more of the DIY photos over at the Flickr found here. I did a brief overview of this stabilizer found at this article: http://cheesycam.com/first-attempt-indiehardware-stabilizer/, and like most others, wasn't happy about the stock short handle. The shorter handle actually felt like it had limited range of motion compared to the Hague MMC, but really the range is about the same. Motegi took a simple Jump Rope handle, and added this to the IndieHardware. Since the jump rope handle already has an included bearing, this actually helps improve stabilizing some additional axis movements. This looks like a nice OEM fit that would improve the handling quite a bit. Great job on the upgrade, thanks for sharing Motegi.
One thing that I was completely confused about, was that I didn't see more than one DSLR camera carrying person in this video. WT? That's like twilight zone type weird for any event. Or maybe my eyes were just forced elsewhere in the video, I just missed it. If you're still undecided on a stabilizer or are looking into the IndieHardware Video Stabilizer, check out the footage above. To me it looks like it could be just slightly off weight, but a really good first test for sooooo much walking in the heat. Thanks Benson.
As soon as I announced I was going to test the Glidecam HD1000, many people have been leaving me messages waiting. So here's my quick run through, i'm sure you all know how to assemble and balance these things. There's already plenty of video tutorials on balancing, so i'm just going to show you sample use of the HD1000. Thanks for my sister-in-law for allowing me to chase her around while she (not very skilled) rides a skateboard around to show fast moving shots. Yes I was lightly jogging with the Glidecam HD1000 and Canon 5D Mark II + Sigma 20mm F/1.8.
I did a demo of the Glidecam 2000 Pro, and now I normally fly the Glidecam HD4000 which is a beast, but truly a top performer when loaded up. I love the Glidecam HD4000, but sometimes it's a bit overkill. The way I have the Glidecam HD4000 setup, I wouldn't want to run that way without my Steadicam Merlin Vest. So I wanted to really push the smallest Glidecam to see how much weight it can carry. It can balance the 5D Mark II + Sigma 20mm F/1.8 using all the available weights (compact mode). If you extend the base further down, you can shift the center of balance making it more bottom heavy and possibly add-on a very small LED light or Sennheiser MKE400 microphone.
Can you fly with LED light, Microphone, and Zoom H4n + Canon T2i + wide prime lens? Don't quote me on this! I've flown the Glidecam 2000 pro, the HD4000, and now the HD1000. The gimbal handle on the Glidecam stabilizers are very very strong and very fluid even when loaded up. In fact, I think they fly better when they are pushed to their weight capacity limits. Although they won't suggest this I really think you can further 'modify' this unit to accept even more weights at the bottom and really fly a heavy setup with accessories. Yes you can easily move up to the HD2000 or HD4000, but i'm looking for the most compact video stabilizer solution possible. So if it's possible to really load up this HD1000 then i'll be stoked, because you can see how nice and tiny this thing is, making it perfect for travel and tight locations.
Again, this is a bit more pricey than those other stabilizers i've shown, but it's really the best bang for your buck. Most people either don't like flying footage, or don't shoot enough of flying footage to justify the price. If you really like the look, want or need something super fast to balance, you can get away with the HD1000. If you'll be adding some further accessories and added weight this will push you to the HD2000 at least. So don't quote me on the HD1000 being able to handle everything, this is something i'm still working on, and hopefully i'll demo that soon. Glidecam makes great stabilizers. If you've been following my videos, I started with my DIY stabilizer, moved to the Steadicam JR., then to the Steadicam Merlin, tested the Glidecam 2000 Pro, Hague MMC, IndieHardware Stabilizer, Glidecam HD4000, and now Glidecam HD1000. I've tried many and i'm very satisfied with the quality, price point, and fast balance design of the Glidecam HD stabilizers. (HD version! Not Pro models, those kinda suck to balance).
NOTE: Besides being able to carry more weight, the handle has a much broader range of movement. You'll notice several 'Tilt' shots in this video as I point downwards going down the stairs, or point downwards at the skateboard. This type of Gimbal handle also allows for shots pointing upwards or sideways. This was one of the main reasons I left the Steadicam Merlin since it couldn't support these type of shots.
Glidecam has made it very easy to choose from 3 different DSLR stabilizers depending on your needs. I'm not an expert, you should always consult support with the respected manufacturers, but if you have any questions i'd be happy to try and answer them. Here's a link to the Glidecam HD1000 if anyone is interested in dishing out a paycheck to grab one.
If you are planning to balance heavier setups, you can find more information about the other Glidecam HD series stabilizer, how much weight each stabilizer can carry, along with prices following the links below.
I'm not going to show off any fancy video making skills. This review is mainly to compare the IndieHardware Stabilizer vs. The Hague MMC. This is my first attempt at balancing the IndieHardware Video Cameara Stabilizer. I was able to balance this thing fairly quickly. I might not have it dead on, but it is possible to balance a Canon 7D + Sigma 20mm or even a Canon 5D Mark II + Sigma 20mm. I tried this same setup over on a Hague MMC, it just couldn't handle it.
click images to find prices
The limited range of movement in the handle is going to prevent you from performing hardcore running shots, but for very smooth patient walking movements, the handle works. The Hague also suffers from a limited range of movement (they have almost the same design), but the Hague MMC has a longer handle. Having a longer handle 'appears' to have more range. It's like when kids cut the stick shift in their car, same stick shift, but feels like you're throwing it shorter when changing gears.
There seems to be 2 different versions of this stabilizer, so make sure you contact the seller to be clear about what camera you are trying to balance. The one I have has support for 2 weight stacks. There is another one that has only 1 weight stack similar to the Hague. I guess this is for really light camcorders. More weights means you can support a heavier camera. Can you just add more weights to a Hague? Not really, the IndieHardware gimbal is larger than the Hague which means it can balance and control that weight much better too.
This isn't a Steadicam Merlin or Glidecam HD, but the price isn't $400-$800 dollars either. If you're work consists of only a small percent of 'Steadicam' type shots, and you're not ready to invest into something expensive, you might want to try this one over the Hague.
Excuses, Excuses. Sorry everyone, I'm not happy with this review, and i'll do a better job next time. I end up trying to do this piece by piece, in the middle of the night, or out in a parking lot. Quality is poor, but I've been getting alot of comments about this particular stabilizer so I wanted to get something out to those who have been waiting.
If you care to know what my 5 hour per day / 160 mile round trip driving adventures are like, check out this old video below.
You might have seen a few of my other videos talking about how i'm always fighting traffic. I have about an 80 mile commute (one way) I drive pretty much everyday from Brentwood to Redwood City. This is some random photos I took coming home one day. Excuse the dirty windshield, but maybe you'll get an idea of the drive I take to get home.
Redwood City to Brentwood
10 Different Freeways (& a couple of Back streets)
Approx. 2.5 hour drive
Approx 80 miles
About 2300 photos (smallest JPEG)
Edited in Sony Vegas
Shot on Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 50mm F/1.8
Wow pretty overwhelming day already. Just received the Tiffen Steady Stick and the Glidecam HD1000 I posted about earlier. The Steady Stick isn't really anything fancy and pretty straight forward about how it works. I will run through some of the details of their build quality and features a little. The Glidecam HD1000 is really the one I want to dig into. It's much more expensive and quite large than say a Hague or IndieHardware (which i'm reviewing today), but it's just another option in the line of moving DSLR stabilizers I wanted to share with everyone. Hopefully i'll get these video reviews knocked out soon enough.