Early Review: Ikan Flyweight Camcorder Shoulder Rig - ELE-FLWCAM at DVinfo.net

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Old November 27th, 2013, 05:17 PM   #1
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Early Review: Ikan Flyweight Camcorder Shoulder Rig - ELE-FLWCAM

I haven't written a review of a product in quite some time, and this isn't as in-depth as I've done in the past, but if you're considering this product, please read on. I hope you find it helpful.

I ordered one of these to prep for a multi-hour shoot I have coming up and for which I knew a tripod, or even a monpod, simply wouldn't work. I'll be using a Panasonic HMC-150 and will need to be mobile, following people around in relatively cramped quarters.

The item arrived within 48 hours of ordering. (Kudos to B&H for that). Almost upon arrival, I opened the box, perused the parts, and checked out the Quick Start Guide.
Here are my reactions:

This was relatively easy. Parts were of the high-quality I'd expect from Ikan, and fit together well. (I already own one of their studio-quality prompters, and found the quality of that to be excellent).

Included are 2 thin, self-adhesive cork strips for placement on the baseplate before attaching a camera. I put those on so that the adhesive would stick in its' entirety to the metal baseplate and none of the extra holes in the baseplate would be covered.

Simple enough. The tumb-screws with the pull-to-rotate feature are great, in fact necessary, because when positioning the front 12" rod, the hand grips, and the baseplate/carriage, some components can get so close the "pull-to-rotate" feature is absolutely necessary. I first found these on a Manfrotto monopod a few years back and fell in love with them.

I haven't made any horizontal or vertical adjustments to the baseplate yet, but hope to update this review once I do. The unit comes with the Allen wrenches to do that.

Each hand-grip has a 1/4" hole in the bottom to allow for attaching accessories. They're a nice touch, but I can't help but wonder if added weight up front beneath the hand grips will quickly become tiresome while shooting.

Each thumbscrew crossblock/"locking block" also has a threaded 1/4" hole located just above the hand grips for attaching accessories. Also a nice touch, but also raising the same concern about front-end weight.

The first thing I noticed was that the instructions for "Mounting Your Camera" seem wrong. The instructions state to "...Loosen the thumb screw and slide out one of the 12" rods...". Well, there's only one 12" rod; the others are 18". No big deal, and certainly easy enough to figure out, but it's one of those tiny things that starts to erode confidence in a product, particularly when it's right out of the box.

The second thing that I was surporised at is that there is no spring-loaded pin to keep a camera, or at least a video camera, aligned forward. The unit comes with a 1/4" thrumb screw to attach a camera to the baseplate, but there's no spring-loaded pin. I've never liked that arrangement, as the camera always, always, always finds a way to loosen and/or twist, even if only from minor expansion/contraction due to changes in temperature.

I'd feel much more comfortable with a spring loaded pin and thicker cork, or better yet, rubber, between the camera and the baseplate.

Personally, I don't like the "loud yellow" on the hand grips, but I can live with that.

I haven't tried attaching one yet, but the handles/hand grips seem too short to conveniently place a zoom/focus/iris control. I hope to use a Varizoom VZ-ROCK PZFI unit, but the grips look too short. (Again, I hope to update this once I've tried that out).

I'm still not sure I like the idea of a weight bag. At the moment, I'm using an Anton Bauer Elipz battery mounted underneath my HMC-150, which raises the height of the camera and puts considerable weight towards the front-half of the unit. I expect to move that to the rear plate of the padded shoulder mount, which may well negate the need for the weight bag. (If I find I need the weight bag, I intend to use small, split-shot from a fishing store, in order to make small adjustments as necessary).

On the front plate of the padded shoulder mount there are 6 holes, presumably for mounting accessories, but none of them are 1/4" and none of them are threaded. Additionally, 4 of those holes are covered; 2 by either velcro or velcro-like strips, and 2 by the padded "pocket" into which the bottom edge of the plate slips.

I may be jumping the gun on this because I haven't yet moved my Elipz battery to the rear plate of the padded shoulder mount, but a nice feature, or at least an option I'd seriously consider buying, is what I'll call a "belly boom", i.e. a rod and belt with a cup to help support the camera. (I know that may not look "professional", but if a light and/or monitor and/or wireless unit are added to the camera, the concern of front-end weight raises it's ugly little head again). Having some extra support for an extended shoot seems like it would be helpful. (As discouraging as it is, I'll admit that I'm "getting up there" in age, and my arms and upper body simply aren't as durable and flexible as they used to be, so every ounce of weight is a concern).

I've also been looking for a more-portable prompter, and have found the Ikan PT-Elite UL, which uses a very similar baseplate/carriage, and may, in fact be the same one as used for this Flyweight Shoulder Rig. If that's the case, this baseplate could serve double duty for shoots that don't require the Flyweight Shoulder Rig but do need a prompter. If that turns out to be the case, I'm hoping I'll be able to purchase the parts for the PT-Elite UL without having to purchase another baseplate. That would lower the $$$ I'd have to shell-out for the PT-Elite UL prompter).

Thus far, I don't see a reason to return this unit. While I now have to find some properly-sized bag in which to carry it around, it has shortcomings, and, frankly, strikes me as something that was designed by engineers rather than experienced shooters or, at least shooters looking to save as much time as possible.

I'm presently inclined to keep it, (though I'm slightly disappointed in the shortcomings and wish Ikan had solicited input before putting this on the market). I really expected just a bit more from them.

Despite my inclination to keep this unit, I'm not so impressed with it that I'd be willing to recommend it, at least not until after those weaknesses and hoped-for options are addressed.

Hope this helps.
Our actions are based on our own experience and knowledge. Thus, no one is ever totally right, nor totally wrong. We simply act from what we "know" to be true, based on that experience and knowledge. Beyond that, we pose questions to others.
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Old November 28th, 2013, 12:37 PM   #2
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UPDATE: Early Review: Ikan Flyweight Camcorder Shoulder Rig - ELE-FLWCAM

Today I moved my Anton Bauer Elipz battery to the rear-most metal plate, i.e. the "mounting plate", on the padded shoulder mount.
That helped considerably with my concern about front-end weight, but it wasn't without noticing other things I'd call shortfalls.

That metal plate has 6 holes (3 pairs of 2) in it, drilled in pairs, and without threads, but are large enough for a 1/4" mounting screw to pass through. To mount the Elipz battery, I borrowed a 1/4" tripod mounting screw from a Manfrotto 501PL QR plate. Unfortunately, the design of the metal plates that comprise the foundation of the padded shoulder mount is such that that 1/4" screw is too long to fit between 2 of the plates. This forced me to use the lower/rear/bottom-most set of holes. (Not at all unworkable, but yet another little annoyance).

Additionally, the battery had to be offset slightly because none of those 6 holes are centered in that rear-most plate. The actual mounting plate on the piece that rests on my shoulder sits slightly higher than the metal foundation-piece, and is separated from it by some metal spacers. If that space were bigger by about 1/4 to 3/8 inch, I think I would have been able to use any of the 6 holes. However, it just wouldn't work.

I also noticed that the Elipz was entirely too easy to move/twist, so cork or rubber mounting strips are needed on that rear-most mounting plate.

I also attached a Varizoom PZFI remote controller, and, while it fit around the hand-grip, there wasn't enough room for me to firmly grasp the hand grip. As I suspected, the hand grips, or at least the one on the right, should be longer. (For my hands, another 2-3 inches would probably do it). I suppose this could be remedied by an aftermarket option, such as an extension that screws into the bottom of the grips that come with the unit, but that would mean making an additional purchase and delivery. (I wonder if grips that telescope from the top might be a more elegant solution).

Now that I'm aware of the shortcomings I've already listed, I still think I'll keep this unit, primarily because I absolutely hate the hassle of returning something. However, my reluctance to actually recommend this unit seems to grow stronger each time I try to do something new with it. My sense at this point is that this unit isn't quite ready for use "right out of the box", at least not for my intentions,
Our actions are based on our own experience and knowledge. Thus, no one is ever totally right, nor totally wrong. We simply act from what we "know" to be true, based on that experience and knowledge. Beyond that, we pose questions to others.
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