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Z-Cage

A Cinematography Buyers
Guide for HDSLR Users


Part 4 - Steadicam™ & Stabilizers

Part 1 of 4 - LCD Viewfinder Loupes
Part 2 of 4 - Follow Focus Units
Part 3 of 3 - Mobile / Shoulder Supports
Part 4 of 4 - Steadicams / Stabilizers (x)
Part 5 of 5 - Electronic Viewfinders
Part 6 of 6 - The Gear in my Bag

Steadicams

In part 3 we covered many of the different shoulder and run'n'gun supports that are available for HDSLR users. These supports are critical to getting stable video while maintaining mobility, but they're not designed to give you steady video WHILE moving. That's were a steadicam comes in. Actually, Steadicam is a trademarked brand name owned by Tiffen, who purchased the Steadicam brand a few years ago. Steadicam is not alone in this space as you'll see below, but most people, even in the industry, call all of these type of products steadicams, so who are we to try to change the world.

A Steadicam or steadicam-like device work on the simple principle of balance or counter-balance. The idea is to isolate the operator's movements from the camera, allowing the camera to seemingly float even when the camera operator is walking or even running. Steadicams range in price from a few hundred dollars up to well over $10,000 depending on model and additional features.

Don't confuse a steadicam with a camera or lens stabilization system. Those systems are designed to minimize camera vibrations or slight movements when hand holding a camera. They do not compensate for anything but the smallest of movements.

The list below contains most of the more affordable and popular models of camera stabilization systems. I have not included professional models designed for broadcast film or movie cameras. For the most part, if it's price above $5,000 I decided not to include it here.

Tiffen Steadicam Merlin ($849)

Model: Merlin
Available from B&H Photo

The Steadicam Merlin is half the weight and four times as stable as the original Steadicam, JR. Yet, it can move as smoothly as the big $60,000 rigs used in Hollywood.

The Merlin let's you "fly" wherever the scene takes you--up and down steps, indoors and outside, through crowds--almost anywhere, with precise, elegant control and ease. Its quick release mount lets you instantly swap camera connections between your Merlin and any tripod.

Merlin's design significantly reduces fatigue. So lightweight, it weighs less than a can of soda. With a compact DV, balanced and ready to go, the Merlin weighs about two pounds. Its rigid construction permits longer focal lengths than ever imaginable with a hand-held stabilizer.

Merlin's unique dual extended weight system greatly increases inertial stability. And its counterbalancing weight can be precisely adjusted to balance cameras from 0.5 to 5 lbs.

The new patent-pending "Folding-Caliper"™ hinge allows instant fold-up, perfect for shoulder-mounted shooting, and just as quickly, returns precisely for hand-held camera work.

Steadicam Pilot ($2695 and up)

Model: PILOT-ABS, PILOT-AAS, and PILOT-VLS
Available from B&H Photo

The Steadicam Pilot is designed with a lightweight Iso-elastic Arm and ultra low profile vest, lightweight sled with CarbonLite expandable post, upgradeable color 3.5" LCD Monitor, low mass gimbal and offers advanced features/benefits with low cost for the Video Professional.

The Iso-Elastic™ arm is a two-section, articulated, design that can be adjusted while supporting the camera. With this patented, unique design, the Steadicam operator can smoothly and effortlessly raise or lower the arm throughout its 28 inch boom range. The iso-elastic arm is also non-reactive – improving vertical stability and control in all operating conditions, from lock-offs to fast running shots over rough terrain.

The 3.5" LCD monitor is standard and provides good contrast from dark to light situations. The monitor weight and location on the sled assures the operator perfect balance and ease of operation. Utilizing a proven Low Mass Gimbal the operator has the ability to capture the fluid movement that only Steadicam can provide. No-tools precision camera stage establishes a solid base for the camera and facilitates smooth adjustment ease from side to side plus fore and aft. The monitor is upgradeable to a 5.8" - 16:9 version.

The Carbonlite expandable post and interface to the stage form a solid bond to assure no jitter in the picture as the operator captures those unique scenes. The stage plate is indexed so that the camera can be re-moved and re-mounted without the need to re-adjust the balance. The stage can be easily accessorized with focus motor mount, additional connectors or dovetail type camera plate.

The sled boasts a true three axis gimbal and is equipped with counter weights for balance and positionable monitor, gimbal and battery mounts. Counterweights are provided for balance

The Pilot sled compacts down by removing the lower cross tube.

The Pilot's ultra lightweight, low profile vest is designed to provide complete comfort and functionality for extended productions and long continuous shots. No-tools adjustments make it easy to adjust on the "fly".

Glidecam

Glidecam HD-1000 Hand-Held Stabilizer($399)

Model: HD-1000
Available from Amazon
Available from B&H Photo

The Glidecam HD-1000 is designed for cameras up to 3lbs and offers advanced features and a degree of sophistication never before seen in a line of Hand-held Camera Stabilizers.

With the Glidecam HD-Series hand-held Stabilizers your camcorder seems to float, always balanced, isolated from your hands undesirable motions. Now you are free to move with your camera - panning, tilting, booming or running without any camera instability or shake.

The Glidecam HD-Series works so well that it allows you to shoot incredibly smooth and graceful shots even while going to extremes like running up and down stairs or traveling over rugged terrain. And when it comes to normal shooting, like walking or moving the camera slowly around someone, the results are equally magical.

Specifications

  • Designed for compact, low profile cameras weighing up to 3 pounds.
  • X,Y Head Dimensions: 6.25" x 3.25" x 1.00"
  • Base Platform Dimensions: shortest—10.25" x 3.25" Longest—13.00â€� x 3.25
  • Central Support Post: .750" diameter
  • 12" tall in shortest mode
  • 16" tall in longest mode
  • Weight: 1.907 pounds without counter weight plates.
  • Each Custom Counter Weight Plate averages .180 pounds.
  • The Glidecam HD-1000 includes 8 custom counter weight plates.
  • 8 counter weight plates = 1.44 pounds
  • Camera Plate has 1/4" mounting holes
  • Made in USA.

Glidecam HD-2000 Hand-Held Stabilizer ($499)

Model: HD-2000
On Sale at Amazon
On Sale at B&H Photo

The Glidecam HD-2000 is designed for cameras that weigh from 2 to 6lbs and offers advanced features and a degree of sophistication never before seen in a line of Hand-held Camera Stabilizers.

With the Glidecam HD-Series hand-held Stabilizers your camcorder seems to float, always balanced, isolated from your hands undesirable motions. Now you are free to move with your camera - panning, tilting, booming or running without any camera instability or shake.

The Glidecam HD-Series works so well that it allows you to shoot incredibly smooth and graceful shots even while going to extremes like running up and down stairs or traveling over rugged terrain. And when it comes to normal shooting, like walking or moving the camera slowly around someone, the results are equally magical.

Specifications

  • Designed for compact, low profile cameras weighing from 2 to 6 pounds.
  • X,Y Head Dimensions: 7.50" x 4.125" x 1.00"v
  • Base Platform Dimensions: shortest—11.50" x 4.00" Longest—15.00" x 4.00â€�
  • Central Support Post: 1.00" diameter
  • 15" tall in shortest mode
  • 22" tall in longest mode
  • Weight: 2.537 pounds without counter weight plates.
  • Each Custom Counter Weight Plate averages .272 pounds.
  • The Glidecam HD-2000 includes 12 custom counter weight plates.
  • 12 counter weight plates = 3.264 pounds
  • Camera Plate has 1/4" mounting holes
  • Made in USA.

Glidecam HD-4000 Hand-Held Stabilizer ($599)

Model: HD-4000
On Sale at Amazon
On Sale at B&H Photo

The Glidecam HD-4000 is designed for cameras that weigh from 4 to 10lbs and offers advanced features and a degree of sophistication never before seen in a line of Hand-held Camera Stabilizers.

With the Glidecam HD-Series hand-held Stabilizers your camcorder seems to float, always balanced, isolated from your hands undesirable motions. Now you are free to move with your camera - panning, tilting, booming or running without any camera instability or shake.

The Glidecam HD-Series works so well that it allows you to shoot incredibly smooth and graceful shots even while going to extremes like running up and down stairs or traveling over rugged terrain. And when it comes to normal shooting, like walking or moving the camera slowly around someone, the results are equally magical.

Specifications

  • Designed for compact and full size cameras weighing from 4 to 10 pounds.
  • X,Y Head Dimensions: 8.750" x 5.00" x 1.00"
  • Base Platform Dimensions: shortest—13.75" x 4.75" Longest—18.25" x 4.75"
  • Central Support Post: 1.00" diameter
  • 20" tall in shortest mode
  • 28" tall in longest mode
  • Weight: 3.315 pounds without counter weight plates.
  • Each Custom Counter Weight Plate averages .272 pounds.
  • The Glidecam HD-4000 includes 12 custom counter weight plates.
  • 12 counter weight plates = 3.264 pounds
  • Camera Plate has 1/4" & 3/8"mounting holes
  • Made in USA.

Poor Man's Steadicam

Website: http://steadycam.org/

If you have the inclination and time and an extra monopod lying around you might enjoy trying to make your own 'steadicam.' While it won't be easily adjustable and it may not fly perfectly, it will cost you less than $20 - assuming you already have a monopod. If you prefer you can buy one already made for $39

There is another product on the market called the Flycam, however I have not read anything good about the product and hesitate to list it. From what I can tell the product ships from India and I have not yet found an official website for the company. Cinecity as well as sellers on eBay sell the product, however it's a crap shoot as to whether or not the products really work.



Part 1 of 3 - LCD Viewfinder Loupes
Part 2 of 3 - Follow Focus Units
Part 3 of 3 - Mobile / Shoulder Supports
Part 4 of 4 - Steadicams / Stabilizers (x)
Part 5 of 5 - Electronic Viewfinders
Part 6 of 6 - The Gear in my Bag

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