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Old November 21st, 2008, 01:29 PM   #1
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EX-1 with Merlin or SteadiCam Pilot?

Hi there,

I like shooting handheld, but I do find it hard after a while, so I've started fantasizing about something that would help. On my wish-list... something that's:
- not too big and cumbersome
- not too expensive

I like the look of the Merlin, but it seems to me the EX-1 might be too heavy (I have an external mic, an RF mic, and a sony w.a. lens attached). Is the Merlin able to handle the weight of an EX-1? People on other threads (on other forums) have said the weight and heft of the EX-1 throws the Merlin off and it's unusable; others have said that if you add a metal plate here, or a weight there, it's fine.

I like the look of the SteadiCam Pilot too. Yes, it's verging on the cumbersome, from the looks of the pix of seen, but this may be the price you pay for nice smooth tracking shots. Again, from the pix I've seen, it looks like they've got a monitor and extra batteries attached... I'll live with my EX's lcd, so I don't think I need either of those add-ons.

Is anyone on this forum familiar with both of these items, or something else like them?

Thanks, Malcolm
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Old November 21st, 2008, 03:44 PM   #2
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Off the top of my head Merlin is about $800 US (but close to $2600 with vest and arm) whereas Pilot is around $3500 I believe.

You should add GlideCam 4000 about $400 or closer to $1000 with vest an arm.

There's also SteadyTracker Extreme for under $300.

I've heard Merlin is cutting it close as far as max weight but I understand some have gotten it to work with EX1 and Tiffen has a user recommended setup for it. SteadyTracker only has slightly higher max weight but is not a gimbal system. GlideCam 2000 is cutting it close on max weight too.

I'm looking at these too. I think posting here is more appropriate than in the stabilizer section since it certainly seems the EX1 falls into a "rare in between" weight class being in the 6.5 - 8 LB area depending on battery and other hook ups.
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Old November 21st, 2008, 03:55 PM   #3
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I'd thought I'd post links from DVInfo Sponsor B&H for these items for those also doing research.

Merlin
Steadicam | Merlin Camera Stabilizing System - with | MERLIN

Merlin with vest & arm
Steadicam | Merlin Camera Stabilizing System - with Arm and Vest

GlideCam 4000
Glidecam | 4000 PRO Camcorder Stabilizing System | GL4000 | B&H

GlideCam 4000 with vest & arm
Glidecam | Smooth Shooter Support System Kit | B&H Photo Video

SteadyTrackerExtreme
NetMarket | 210039 SteadyTracker Xtreme | 5046 | B&H Photo Video

SteadiCam Pilot
Steadicam | Pilot-NCO Camera Stablization System | PILOT-NCO

I do wish there were more hardware trade shows. Stabilizers are almost like shoes. What's perfect for one person may be a horrible "fit" for another. How can one try by reading a spec sheet and any number of people are likely to have very divergent and contrary opinions.
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Old November 21st, 2008, 04:05 PM   #4
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Craig, thank you for all the links.
Like you I felt that this question fairly EX-1 specific. I had read some posts on the Stabilizer site you mentioned, though, which is why I hadn't asked about the Glidecam (people seemed to feel Glidecam hasn't kept up with the times; their arm technology in particular isn't as good as SteadiCam's).
By the way, someone on one of the other sites mentioned that Phil Bloom uses a Merlin, so I'm hoping he weighs in.
Malcolm
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Old November 21st, 2008, 04:27 PM   #5
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Merlin is listed as just over 5lb payload or 7.5lb with vest and arm.
Their "cookbook" doesn't show the EX1
Welcome to Tiffen - Steadicam Merlin Cookbook Settings
BUT
when you add the user submitted settings (look at 2nd from last at bottom of the page)
Welcome to Tiffen - Steadicam Merlin Cookbook Settings
it does (with the smaller BP-30 battery).

BTW I was researching all this today so it's quite coincidental that you posted. I looked through the DVInfo stabilizer section and I just wasn't convinced I'd get enough answers specific to the EX1. All the more reason why specs aren't adequate. I wish there were some trade show where I could try this on and run around a hall.

GlideCam might be "clunky" but there just doesn't seem to be many options for a camera in this weight class. Of course when you get in to the Pilot price range there are more options but then you're dealing with expensive systems trying to handle a "light weight" camera.

My understanding is that Phil Bloom used the Merlin with vest and arm (but his blog seems to be down at the moment).
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Old November 21st, 2008, 04:46 PM   #6
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I've heard some people mention this
Steadicam made in Italy - Sanda100
but it's apparently not yet available (nor is their english translation).

(edit)
. . . and my email to them bounced.
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Old November 21st, 2008, 05:15 PM   #7
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Let's throw this into the mix since it can handle up to 8 lbs
VariZoom Flowpod at $460
VariZoom | Flowpod Stabilizer System | VZ-FP | B&H Photo Video

Verizom with vest at about $1800
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...od_Stblzr.html

Sorry to keep adding but I want to be thorough.
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Old November 21st, 2008, 06:28 PM   #8
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Anyone familiar with the Ind!Cam PILOT 214 ($2500)? It can handle a 2-14 lb payload.

indicam.com - Home
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Old November 21st, 2008, 06:38 PM   #9
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Terry Thompson produces a fine piece of gear. While it does not have all of the bells and whistles of the Steadicam Pilot the Indicam is made with quality and from everything I've heard, produces quality images with lots of practice of course. It's a nice way to get into a stabilizer for a good price.
Terry posts here quite often, look him up.

Don
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Old November 22nd, 2008, 05:05 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malcolm Hamilton View Post
Hi there,

I like shooting handheld, but I do find it hard after a while, so I've started fantasizing about something that would help. On my wish-list... something that's:
- not too big and cumbersome
- not too expensive

I like the look of the Merlin, but it seems to me the EX-1 might be too heavy (I have an external mic, an RF mic, and a sony w.a. lens attached). Is the Merlin able to handle the weight of an EX-1? People on other threads (on other forums) have said the weight and heft of the EX-1 throws the Merlin off and it's unusable; others have said that if you add a metal plate here, or a weight there, it's fine.

Is anyone on this forum familiar with both of these items, or something else like them?

Thanks, Malcolm
Malcolm, the way you phrase it, it sounds like you're looking for a device that would somehow alleviate the stress of working handheld, but most systems you're looking at are either just as stressfull or worse, as far as I know. And they are definitely not meant for long periods of shooting. They are designed to produce steadicam-type shots, that is their main objective. They are not made to facilitate handheld shooting.
I worked with the Z1 in combination with the Merlin and was not able to produce shots longer than give or take a minute. I will not even try putting my EX1 on the Merlin unless I'm looking to self-inflict... The vest and arm would work well, I guess, but it's 'big and cumbersome'.
I have a Varizoom LSP shoulderbrace that works very well with my Z1 and I expect it do the same with my EX1. It's foldable, flexible (many adjustment points for a custom fit), light and I used it for for hours on end with relative ease.

If you're looking at, quote: 'something that would help my handheld shooting because it's hard sometimes...' get a shoulderbrace, not a steadicam-type device.
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Old November 22nd, 2008, 09:21 AM   #11
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EX1 on merlin

Just tried out Merlin's user cookbook settings,works for me!of course no accesories and standard accu!But EX1 too hevy for longer steadicam shots.With vest and arm ,i think works quiet well.

Best regards

Raul
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Old November 22nd, 2008, 09:43 AM   #12
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The Steadicam Pilot would be the perfect rig for the EX1. Obviously coming from a full-size rig I see this with different eyes, but I have a tough time thinking of the Pilot as "cumbersome" and is going to be the smoothest and best way to stabilize an EX1. With supplied weight kit you can easily customize even a bare EX1 to hit the "sweet spot" of the stabilizer.

As Jeroen brought up, however, this is assuming you actually want a camera stabilizer and not just something to relieve the awkward handheld configuration of the EX1. Malcolm, your initial post hints at a shoulder-mounted and counterweighted support rather than an actual stabilizer, as working with that neither feels like nor produces images like handheld. Stabilizers also have a lengthy learning curve; most people who try them for the first time feel that their handheld footage was actually easier to watch! With a lot of practice however, it's a whole different animal.

If you haven't already seen it, you might get some use out of my review of the pilot, right here at DVi. I had a Canon A1 onboard which is not dissimilar from an EX1--you'd just have a few less weights on the top of the rig.

The next best rig would be a Merlin with vest and arm, although I think it would restrict the accessories that you might add to an EX1. I too would not recommend flying the EX1 on a Merlin in handheld mode except for shots that required that sort of mobility, or for operators who have Popeye-size forearms...!

As far as the other rigs and manufacturers mentioned--I would be more likely to dismiss many of them as "cumbersome" and in some instances less effective, than suggest that they are simply missing "bells and whistles". However there are some good budget choices in there as well.
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Old November 22nd, 2008, 11:52 AM   #13
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Charles, nice article on the Pilot.

Recently a friend gave me a "Hollywood Lite" without instruction manual or DVD. Your article and the great video helped answer many of my questions.

I appreciate training videos with a sense of humor...
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Old November 22nd, 2008, 12:32 PM   #14
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With my typical clients/shoots a vest may not be practical due to combination of budget and/or time. I'd certainly like the vest option if the client/budget called for it though.

Here's my own dilemma based on the above:

Merlin many not handle EX1 without vest but don't know for sure. Raul have you tried sled only? Is it practical for short shots (walking for 5 minutes for example)?
GlideCam 4000 would be give me both sled only and vest option as needed.
SteadyTrackerExtreme seems to be a low budget sled only solution but I have no idea if it's at all practical for EX1.
Flowpod supposedly can handle 8 lbs and has a vest option.
Sanda100 - seems to be MIA but looks like that would present a sled only option
IndieCam - doesn't have specs for sled only by the kit looks very much like Glidecam 4000

I wish Tiffen had something like a "Merlin Pro" between Merlin and Pilot. What I'd really like to see is a sled only option in an 8-10 lbs camera range and does seem that Glidecam 4000 is the most flexible option. I've used Glidecam 2000 both sled and vest and found it very "clunky" to set up (and my be related to Malcolm's comments about the arm technology too when I used it with the vest). I wish I could test SteadyTrackerExtreme since it seems like a cheap "throwaway" option when I need to do such a shot in hurry (which is often my situation with my clients). Flowpod might work.

Sorry about thinking out loud. So skipping the vest has anybody tried the above sled only options?
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Old November 22nd, 2008, 01:51 PM   #15
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8 to 10 lbs is way too heavy for a handheld stabilizer, it's just not practical. Even with a reasonable weight on a handheld, even a 5 minute walking shot would not be "short" by most people's standards, that is actually quite a long shot at that point in terms of fatigue.

The upper limit of the Merlin's weight capacity with metal gimbal is really all that is practical for handheld stabilizer work, and that only for short bursts.
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