sony NEX7

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Yup, within the first few minutes the Steadicam Smoothee walked through the door it was laying helplessly in pieces on my workbench. As I suspected, it's quite easy to modify this little stabilizer. With a quick release adapter, a top stage that can be fine tuned Left/Right & Forward/Back for easy balance, and one of the smoothest Gimbals on the market, i'm calling this the 'Cheesycam Baby Merlin'. If you haven't seen how smooth the Gimbal is, check out the earlier video (here).

The original Steadicam Merlin will run you about $800 dollars (click here to see), and I know there's a ton of people who want something similar for their GH2 or Sony NEX5n cameras. With this DIY, you can have just about the same features for 1/5th the price! Here's how I went about the mod.

Peel Back the sticker at theĀ  base and you'll find a few small screws. Remove the metal plates inside so you can drill through the base.

Steadicam-Smoothee-Mod (1 of 17)IMG_0939

I reassembled the base (without the metal plates) and then drilled through the center (almost center - oops). Using a 3/8" Drill Bit, I was able to stuff a 1/4 x 20 coupler perfectly inside.

Steadicam-Smoothee-Mod (4 of 17)Steadicam-Smoothee-Mod (6 of 17)

On the underside of the coupler, I added a washer and 1/4x20 screw to keep it from pulling through the top. On top I added my weight bracket. You could use just about anything here, and my counterweight was at 13.6 oz. which is needed to counter balance the 5D Mark II + 50mm F/1.4 (2.6lbs total).

Steadicam-Smoothee-Mod (7 of 17)Steadicam-Smoothee-Mod (8 of 17)

DIY TIP
If you want to build your own counterbalance that can swing left to right, and allow you to adjust weights up or down, check out this little mock-up using basic off the shelf parts (below). An Eye Bolt will be at the top of your counterweight setup (attached to the base of the Smoothee). A threaded coupler will allow you to attach a long all-thread rod. You can use heavy washers on the rod and a pass-through thumb knob at the bottom. You'll probably need a second thumb knob above the washers to clamp them down. If you need to make it less bottom heavy adjust the weights upwards. If you need to make it more bottom heavy, adjust the weights downwards.

Adjustable-Counterweight-DIY-Baby-Merlin-Stabilizer
Click image for larger view

Or you could also start with one of these slotted metal Dual Camera brackets to build up your swinging counterweight system.
Dual Camera Bracket
find-price-button Dual Metal Camera Bracket

Not really a cost saving idea, but If you really wanted that finished look like mine has, then here's where I cannablized the lower counterweight bracket from.
Opteka Steadicam Stabilizer
find-price-button Opteka Video Camera Stabilizer

For the Quick Release plate, I used a hacksaw to cut straight across and filed it down flat.

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Drilled a hole down the middle of the QR plate, and added a screw underneath. I had to trim a bit underside to get the screw to fit.

Steadicam-Smoothee-Mod (13 of 17)Steadicam-Smoothee-Mod (15 of 17)

There you go! A modified Steadicam Smoothee made into the Cheesycam Baby Merlin. A nice stabilizer with an adjustable top stage, a Quick release mount, Fine Tuning knobs for quick balance, and adjustable weights underneath with movement to counterbalance uneven weight.

Steadicam-Smoothee-Mod (16 of 17)

Originally modified to use with my Sony HX9V or Canon S100, but sturdy enough to rock my Canon 5D Mark II + 50mm F/1.4 (2.6lbs.) This is a no-brainer awesome Stabilizer for all kinds of smaller cameras like the Micro Four Thirds, or Sony NEX5n / NEX-7 type cameras. Right now these little Smoothee stabilizers are on sale (click here).

GoPro-Steadicam-Smoothee-DIY-Steadicam
find-price-button Steadicam Smoothee for GoPro and iPhone

Steadicam-Merlin
find-price-button Original (more expensive) Steadicam Merlin Camera Stabilizer

7 Comments

Sony-NEX-7-Camera

The Sony NEX5n has proved to be a decent little camera especially in low light situations. I tried out the NEX5n briefly but the changing very basic settings through the software menu was a bit annoying. I prefer to shoot with cameras that have quick dials and buttons to change ISO, Aperture, and shutter. So I thought i'd wait out for the NEX-7. I was really interested in getting my hands on a Sony NEX-7, but the problems with production had first delayed, and now limited the amount of units to ever hit retail stores. So far it seems the only way to grab one is through the Marked Up eBay Auctions (here).

Anyone shooting with this camera yet? I've only seen photo and video samples which look really good, and like the Micro Four Thirds cameras, the fact that you can adapt your Nikon or Canon lenses is always a plus. There are some expensive solutions to controlling aperture on Canon's electronic EF lenses, or simple adapters like the Fotodiox with it's own built in Aperture iris. Something i'm looking in to if I can get my hands on an NEX-7.

Fotodiox-adapterclickless-iris-aperture-fotodiox-canon-ef-nex7clickless-iris
find-price-button Fotodiox Pro Lens Mount Adapter with Built-in Aperture iris

2 Comments

Big news for Sony shooters. The long awaited Sony NEX7 is available after some production delays. The Sony NEX-5n is still getting rave reviews for it's video quality, so it would be interesting to see how the NEX-7 will be performing as well. The listing might not be updated, but the email I received says the (black) Body is available now at B&H (click here).

Sony NEX-7
find-price-button Sony NEX7 (Black) Body