Tag Archives: Steadicam Merlin

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Let me start by saying I do own a Steadicam Merlin Vest and the Glidecam HD4000 stabilizer. These are two high quality pieces of gear that will give excellent results, but total over $2100+ US dollars. If you can afford this combination, you won't be disappointed with the results.

For those who can't afford such equipment, I have had the opportunity to try several different more affordable vest systems and posted a video about this (below) along with an Arm/Vest I recommend for budget shooters.

So If you are a budget filmmaker, this more affordable Vest/Arm with Stabilizer Combination that can work just as well as some of the more expensive kits out there. The dual ISO arm vest is easy to get in and out of, easy to adjust to fit, and the arm has a quick release system and can be found bundled with the Wieldy Carbon Fiber Stabilizer (Wieldy review found here). Below is a sample video of the Dual ISO Arm and Vest with Wieldy Stabilizer flying a BlackMagic Cinema Camera.

Even with the additional weight of the BMCC, the stabilizer works great. This has been one of the best alternative Vest/Stabilizer bundles i've used that can deliver results similar to my $2100+ US dollar setup, and the kit is often found for around $800. You can find this Dual Arm Vest + Stabilizer via eBay (click here)

Wieldy Vest Dual Arm Stabilizer Steadicam Vest
find-price-button Video Camera Steadycam Dual Arm Stabilizer Load Vest

The vest is very helpful for longer video shots, but is not required. You can always purchase the vest at a later time and just start with the Wieldy Carbon Fiber hand held stabilizer. I have additional information and sample video footage shot with a Wieldy (found here). So if you are just looking for the Hand Held stabilizer, that can be found via eBay (Click Here).

Wieldy Iron Triangle DV Pro StabilizerWieldy Stabilizer Cheesycam
find-price-button Wieldy DV Pro Iron Triangle Stabilizer

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133 Comments

I have used and abused my Steadicam Merlin Vest over the years, and although the ISO Arm has lasted me this long, the actual worn vest has slowly been degrading. I love the Steadicam Merlin Vest, and highly recommend the performance it gives, but even at $1500 dollars for the vest only (seen here) this is considered the low end of Steadicam's Stabilizer Vests. There are other more professional Steadicam vests, but obviously much more expensive. While I continued patch-work on my Steadicam system, I took the time to test a few other vests on the market.

Steadicam Merlin Vest Plastic Chest PlateSteadicam Wieldy Stabilizer Vest Konova Budget-3
Plastic Chest Plate Cracked on my Steadicam Merlin Vest

Build quality on the few aftermarket Stabilizer Vests i've tried over the years were good, in fact many of the worn vests I thought to be more comfortable and better designed than the Steadicam Merlin Vest. The only problem was that each ISO arm on the vests seemed to require a decent amount of weight to work smoothly. The springs were basically 'too strong' to fly your basic Glidecam HD4000 and DSLR Camera. In order to work properly the stabilizer should float in the air and the ISO arm should be very flexible and responsive to movement.

Steadicam Wieldy Stabilizer Vest Konova Budget-8
Current Stabilizer Vest Collection

My most recent Video Camera Stabilizer Vest arrived, and i'm finally happy to find something that performs extremely smooth under a lightweight stabilizer such as the new Carbon Fiber Wieldy.

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find-price-button Wieldy Arm & Vest with Carbon Fiber Stabilizer

For this new vest that i've purchased, the dual arms can be dialed down to fly an average DSLR lightweight setup, or dialed to support a heavier payload. The ISO arm is responsive, reduces movement that would normally transfer to the stabilizer, and allows the stabilizer to just float. I'm not a fan of a few aesthetic pieces such as the bright blue locking knobs and metal chest plate, but overall the build quality on the vest is good, lightweight, and comfortable.

The length can be quickly adjusted with a simple pull-pin, something the Steadicam Merlin vest does not offer. The Dual ISO arm can be repositioned on the left/right side, or removed completely very very easily. To attempt this with the Steadicam Vest requires more time and more effort. The buckles allow you to get in and out without having to lose your personal fitting.

Steadicam Wieldy Stabilizer Vest Konova Budget-6Steadicam Wieldy Stabilizer Vest Konova Budget-5
Metal Plate, Quick Adjustment, Quick Release Arm, Reverse Mount

I purchased this Dual ISO Arm Stabilizer Vest with the brand logo Wieldy, but has since undergone various name changes. The common one found (at time of writing) is under the brand 'CAME' (terrible name). If you're planning to use this vest under a Glidecam or Flycam, the post diameter is just a bit small. You would need to find a way to increase the diameter a bit for a snug fit with the Glidecam or Flycam handle.

Steadicam Wieldy Stabilizer Vest Konova Budget-9Steadicam Wieldy Stabilizer Vest Konova Budget-10
Wieldy Handle Diameter vs. Glidecam Handle Diameter


Sample flight with BlackMagic Cinema Camera

At about $600-$700 dollars this vest is still not considered 'cheap or affordable', but in terms of the performance versus a $1500 dollar Steadicam Merlin Vest (seen here), it's a highly recommended alternative that i'm very pleased with. This dual arm vest is also found bundled with a Wieldy DV Pro Carbon Fiber stabilizer, which is a great combination for DSLR Video. You can find this Dual Arm Vest + Stabilizer via eBay (click here)

Wieldy Vest Dual Arm Stabilizer Steadicam Vest
find-price-button Video Camera Steadycam Dual Arm Stabilizer Load Vest

The vest is very helpful for longer video shots, but is not required. You can always purchase the vest at a later time and just start with the Wieldy Carbon Fiber hand held stabilizer. I have additional information and sample video footage shot with a Wieldy (found here). So if you are just looking for the Hand Held stabilizer, that can be found via eBay (Click Here).

Wieldy Iron Triangle DV Pro StabilizerWieldy Stabilizer Cheesycam
find-price-button Wieldy DV Pro Iron Triangle Stabilizer

Wieldy Stabilizers Currently Available on eBay



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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).

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find-price-button Steadicam Merlin 2 Video Camera Stabilizer

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Here's a helpful video showing some balancing techniques with the Opteka SteadyVid Pro camera stabilizer from YouTube member videotestground. Looks like he's able to get it dialed in pretty good. Just want to remind people that these stabilizers won't make you a perfect operator overnight. That comes from knowing what to look for when balancing, and months of practice practice practice. [Thanks Vedran].

You can find the Opteka SteadyVid Pro via Amazon (click here).
Opteka SteadyVid Pro
find-price-button Opteka SteadyVid PRO Video Stabilizer- via Amazon

And for International shipping, it can also eBay (click here)
Opteka SteadyVid Pro
find-price-button Opteka SteadyVid PRO Video Stabilizer- via eBay

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Today I decided to try and balance the Canon 5D Mark III with a Sigma 20mm F/1.8 lens on the Skyler MiniCam. Sorry I don't have any interesting test footage right now, but i'll be shooting something later on today (which is why i'm balancing it). Still very happy I was able to find one of these units used at an affordable price. The form factor is much smaller (and better looking) than the Glidecam HD1000 or even Flycam Nano. Still it can fly just as much weight as either of them. The fine tuning knobs makes it easy to balance, and the tripod design lets you set it down on a flat surface. Can't do that with a Merlin.

You don't need this particular stabilizer to get good results, and i'm able to achieve just as good results from the Flycam Nano or any Glidecam Stabilizer. The benefits to this Skyler MiniCam is it's sex appeal, small form factor, and fine tuning knobs. I personally think it looks 100 times better than the Nano. If it were priced more competitively, this could really sweep the market. Unfortunately at a retail price of $600 dollars, it's targeted to the audience that might be shopping for something as compact as the $800 dollar Steadicam Merlin.

It's not all about running around fast. We use stabilizers to add slow camera movements and eliminate handheld shakes. It's a fast way to get some dynamic camera footage without having to setup sliders and cranes. Here's a few seconds or raw footage from the Canon 5D Mark III with Sigma 20mm on the Skyler MiniCam.

The guys did a good job using very cheap household flood lights for the back lighting, and in the front we used a very cheap DJ Pinspot LED light and balanced the cameras at 6000K (it was very blue). The 100 watt flood light bulbs run about $5 dollars each and were put on a dimmer switch. The DJ Pinspot LED light is used to create a very tight spotlight and we got it on sale for about $35 dollars.

skyler-mini-stabilizerskyler-mini-stabilizer-bag
find-price-button Skyler Mini Video Camera Stabilizer

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find-price-button 100w Outdoor Flood Light

DJ-Pinspot
find-price-button DJ LED Pinspot Lighting

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The Lensse DSLRPro Stabilizer has been around for possibly a few months now, and it is the latest version camera stabilizer in their product line. Here's some footage with a Canon T2i. Lensse uses a custom low friction brass gimbal in their stabilizers, and it doesn't have quite the range of motion as a Steadicam Smoothee or Steadicam Merlin.

dslrpro gimbal

The top stage of the Lensse doesn't provide you with many options for fine tuning knobs but you can slide the camera forward and back. It's not real clear in the product description or photos, but there seems to be an adjustment to shift the gimbal left/right. When not in use, the stabilizer folds down for traveling. Still with a demo video like this, it shows that it can be fairly capable. Lensse makes a variety of different sized stabilizers for different sized cameras. (Click here for Lensse DSLR Video Camera Stabilizers)

Lensse DSLRProLensse Stabilizer Video CameraLensse-DSLRPro-Demo
find-price-button Lensse DSLR Video Camera Stabilizers

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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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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).

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find-price-button Steadicam Smoothee for GoPro and iPhone

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Starting with a basic Ladder Hanging Bracket found at Home Depot, Vimeo member StudioAmarelo was able to create this DIY Steadicam. The Gimbal is based on WSClater's Traxxas U-joint design. From there it's a matter of placing weights in the right spot. You can find some additional information at the video link (here). [Thanks Garrick]

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