When I started to get serious about photography I had to keep reminding myself that spending more money doesn't make you a better photographer, and
the same holds true in the world of cinematography. Use what you have, stop worrying about what you don't, and get out there and shoot. While I
don't always practice this mantra I have tried my best to spend money only on tools that are essential. It was with this frugal mind set that
interested me in wanting to test out and share my thoughts on the newly released Habbycam SD Camera Brace.
Once you start shooting video with a Canon 7D or 5DMKII you'll quickly realize the need for some sort of camera support. Tripods work well
when you don't need to physically move and monopods do a decent job of providing stability in a pinch. But when it's time to follow the
action there's nothing like having shoulder support to to stabilize your video footage, offset some of the weight from your arm to your
shoulder, and to help carry some of the needed accessories such as a wireless mic receiver and/or audio recorder.
If you have shopped around for a shoulder rig, you probably already know that most models start at around $600 and quickly go up from
there. Even basic setups like the RedRock Micro eyeSpy Standard DSLR Rig start at over $800, so when I heard about the new Habbycam SD
camera support and saw that it was selling for just $249 I was very intrigued. Of course $249 is only a value if the camera support
actually does what you need it to do. That's what we'll find out in this review.
Hands-on with the Habbycam
The name "Habbycam" seems more fitting for a product sold by Toys R Us than one marketed to cinematographers, and their
website, while clean, also makes the product look less than professional. Yet, despite this fact, I really wanted to know
whether the Habbycam would actually be a product I could recommend to videographers who might otherwise pass on the idea of
spending $500 / $600 or more on a shoulder support. I contacted the company about getting a loaner to test for a couple of weeks
and within a few days I had the Habbycam available to review.
Despite my initial skepticism I was pleasantly surprised at the strength and the well thought-out design of the Habbycam, especially for a
rig in this price range. Similar to other, more expensive, rigs the Habbycam is adjustable using simple-to-turn knobs. The only part of the
setup that requires a tool (allen wrench, included) is the initial placement of the middle support, which can either stay centered on the
shoulder rest or slid left or right. This adjustment allows you to position the center support to accommodate the use a camera's swing-out
LCD display or rear-facing viewfinder or display.
The red aluminum camera platform (shown to the left) mounts to the stainless steel support by way of a aluminum plate and knob. Tighten the knob to secure
it to the support or loosen it to adjust the platform forward or backward along the support. This fore/aft adjustment allows the Habbycam
to accommodate up to mid-size camcorders or DSLR's with longer lenses.
The platform also sports a 1/4-20" screw for connecting to a camera or QR plate and in front of that a small anti-twist screw that keeps
traditional camcorders from rotating on the platform. Since DSLR's lack this receptacle, and the platform doesn't have any kind of
anti-skid base, you may find yourself straightening the camera's aim from time to time. I would like to see the Habbycam outfitted with
a rubberized skid plate in the future. With this, a longer 1/4-20" screw will be needed.
The handle grip attaches to the front of the Habbycam by screwing it into the recessed 1/4-20" mount. While not adjustable, it's very
comfortable to hold thanks to the angle that it connects at as well as the texture of the handle itself. I can't imagine losing it but
if you do it's nice to know that Habbycam only charge $30 for a replacement - an item that other companies would charge $80 or $90 for.
The shoulder pad on the Habbycam is a lot nicer than a user would expect to find on a shoulder rig in this price range. The shoulder pad
is made of metal with a 3/4" foam pad below it. The top of the shoulder pad also features eighteen (yes, 18) 1/4-20 threaded
holes that allow you to mount accessories such as microphone, wireless receivers, audio recorders, and more. I imagine that the 1/4-20 threads
could also be used to mount weights to the back of the shoulder pad to help provide counter-weight for the camera.
After putting it all together - which took all of about 4 minutes without instructions - it was time to mount the camera to the rig.
I decided to test out the Habbycam with the Canon EOS 7D and the rather large 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens. Together they weigh just shy of 5
lbs - nowhere near the 20 lb limit of the Habbycam.
I slid the Habbycam platform forward on the steel brace in order to position the
camera's LCD display away from my face. This allowed room to attach the Zacuto Z-Finder, a 3x loupe that snaps onto the back of the camera
and turns the LCD display into a jumbo viewfinder. With the rig on my shoulder, my eye in the Zacuto viewfinder, and my right hand
around the grip, I was able to keep the camera very stable even at full telephoto, which on the Canon EOS 7D equates to a 320mm focal
length. My left hand was free to reach over to start & stop recording or to control the focus or zoom rings.
When using a DSLR with the Habbycam you'll need to adjust the steel center brace to position it the left of the shoulder pad.
This positions the camera's rear LCD display in front of you.
If you were mounting a traditional camcorder with a flip-out LCD you would instead keep the brace centered on the shoulder pad
or even just to the right of it depending on the size of the camcorder.
I also found that when mounting the camera directly to the Habbycam platform, the Z-Finder was properly positioned, however when I first
connected a Manfrotto 577 Rapid Connect Adapter and them slid my camera onto the platform, the Z-Finder was positioned a bit too far
to the right for comfortable use. If Habbycam could add about 1/2" to the center bracket, the one that connects the steel brace to
the shoulder pad, it would be better suited to accept a wider variety of camera QR mounts.
As mentioned earlier in this review the shoulder pad has tons of 1/4-20 threads that will accept a wide-variety of accessories.
This would allow the connection of a Zoom H4n to the back side of the shoulder pad, a wireless audio receiver to
the top of the shoulder pad, while a boom microphone could be mounted to the camera's hot-shoe and used as a second audio source to record
ambient sound, as well as to help with syncing during the editing process.
When I first heard of the Habbycam Shoulder Rig I initially chuckled. What a silly name for a product that's geared toward semi-professionals.
And after seeing the glitzy nature of their website, I almost walked away from the idea of getting a review unit. I am glad I didn't. The
Habbycam has an almost perfect design for those that have no plans to outfit their HDSLR with a matte box and follow focus, both of which
would not directly mount to the Habbycam - at least not without some creative configurations.
The Habbycam is very lightweight, yet feels very solid. The center brace had no problems supporting the 7D and 70-200mm lens,
the handle was much higher quality than I expected, and the metal shoulder pad with 3/4" padding and loads of 1/4-20 threads all help
to make the Habbycam one of the best bargains in shoulder rigs.
Much to my surprise I also love the one-handle design. When I first started looking for a shoulder support I thought I wanted a two handle
system, but after using the Habbycam I really found the single center-handle design to be more practical. It makes it easy to keep the rig
balanced with one hand, which leaves the other hand available to pull focus, start/stop recording, or even to switch hands when the weight
of the rig gets tiring. As with most shoulder rigs under $1500 the Habbycam does not offer a rear counter-balance weight. This means that
your arm will have to support the entire weight of the camera and lens. Even with your elbow in against your body, supporting 5 lbs for a
continuous period of time gets tiring. Thanks to the metal shoulder pad and its 1/4-20 threads I imagine it would be easy to screw in a few
connectors to allow weight to be added to the back of the rig - thus helping to shift the balance of the weight to your shoulder. Unfortunately,
I didn't have the unit long enough to test out any counter-weight options.
If I were to change anything on the Habbycam it would be to make the center brace black instead of silver. I feel that the silver color
really cheapens the look of the product and would make me feel a bit more self-conscious using this for professional purposes. The red
platform and connector also bothers me, but mainly because the center brace is silver. If the center brace were black, the red would look
like a nice accent, instead of helping the rig look more like a toy. I would also widen the mount that connects the center brace to the
shoulder pad. This would allow more flexibility when positioning a camera who's viewfinder is located behind the camera.
The Habbycam takes just a minute or two to break down and will fit into most camera bags without problems. Personally, I prefer to keep
it all connected since the rig is so lightweight, even if that means it won't fit into my gear bag. Only when traveling would I bother
breaking it down. The dimensions of the rig is 24" x 5" x 7" and it weighs 3 lbs.
So in conclusion... Yes, I highly recommend the Habbycam to any videographer who doesn't require the ability to mount a matte box or follow
focus unit. If you have a basic rail system already you can mount it to the Habbycam, which then provides the ability to add a matte box
and follow focus unit, but I believe the Habbycam wasn't really designed for those users. Instead it seems more at home helping
videographers who feel little need for those accessories, and who would rather not spend $600 + on a shoulder rig.
I just discovered that Adorama is selling the Habbycam and has them in-stock. So now you can either purchase the Habbycam direct or from
Adorama. When you make the purchase from Adorama we get a small percentage of the sale as a finders fee. This helps us to
keep new reviews coming and is greatly appreciated.
Video Demonstration (Same as video on top of page)
The Habbycam was sent to us for the purpose of this review. The unit was in-house for approximately two weeks and has been sent back to the company.
Our views and opinions are based on our findings during testing and not based on whether we get the review unit from the manufacturer or purchase
it from a retailer.
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