Unimpressed with Steadicam JR at DVinfo.net

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Old June 19th, 2004, 05:57 PM   #1
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Unimpressed with Steadicam JR

Well having spent much of today setting up a new Steadicam JR I can't say I'm impressed. I managed to balance it OK; it will sit level and I can move it from side to side without the bottom swinging out. The problem is that it doesn't stay like that, going out of balance after a very short period of use.

This is because the top hinge (connecting the stage to the upper spar) doesn't stay in place - it lifts a little, causing the stage to tip forward. I can keep correcting it but it would be intensely annoying to have to keep doing so.

Has anyone else had this problem and is there any way of resolving it?
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Old June 19th, 2004, 06:47 PM   #2
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Sounds like you need to talk with our resident expert Charles Papert. He's on here often answering questions - if he doesn't reply to this thread I'd post a message directly to him. Nice guy...very experienced with various "steadicam" issues.

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Old June 20th, 2004, 11:40 AM   #3
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Yes, I've seem some of Charles' Steadicam work, and if I remember correctly he does own, but no longer uses, a JR.

I've been looking further into this today. Another significant part of my problem is that there is play between the gimbal and the stage - just one one side, where the position indicator is. Not a lot, but no doubt enough to throw it completely off balance very easily. I can eliminate this play by sqeezing the top and bottom of the stage together with my hand, but not otherwise. I've also found that if all of the screws on the stage are as tight as they will go, the left/right adjustment becomes very difficult to move and sticks at the front.

So, whilst I'm sure the top end Steadicams are high quality products, I have found the JR to be quite the opposite. Maybe I was just unlucky with this particular one, I don't know.

Anyway, I'm now looking further into the Glidecam 2000 with the forearm brace as an alternative, reading through old posts here. I can cope with the greater strain on my arm if the thing is of good quality and stays balanced.
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Old June 20th, 2004, 01:35 PM   #4
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Hi Pat, I thought I responded to this but perhaps I got distracted and didn't finish/send it!

It sounds like you got a bad one. Can you return it, or did you buy it used? If you are out of store warranty but still under manufacturer's, definitely contact Tiffen. These problems are not normal.

I'd give the system another try once you get these issues resolved. It works well.

There are some rumors about a new version within the next year, but it's too early to speculate about release dates.
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Old June 20th, 2004, 06:34 PM   #5
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Yes Charles, I probably can return it - I just bought it new from B&H, although I don't suppose that returns overseas are as straightforward as in the same country.

I'm sure you're right that the system works well under normal circumstances, but I've been somewhat put off by the quality of the JR. Also, I've just read an earlier post here about someone else who had exactly the same problem with the top hinge that I did - in addition to the problem I have with play in the gimbal fixing (which I think is responsible for most of my stability problems).

So, I'm investigating the Glidecam 2000 in the hope that it will be better quality (I believe the construction is aluminium). I was also looking at the Hollywood Lite Ultra-Lite system which has the gimbal directly under the weight of the camera as with the JR, until I read here that the build quality isn't up to much.

I guess I'll just put this down to experience and move on.
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Old June 20th, 2004, 08:48 PM   #6
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Pat, a great deal of what you will get out of these lower priced rigs depends on your expectations, and what camera you are flying. Anything bigger than a PDX10/TRV950, and you are in trouble. A couple years ago, I spoke with a rep from Tiffen, and he told me flat out that the JR is not to be used with the Sony VX2K or PD150 (at that time), and certainly no way a Canon XL1. I know they now sell a "kit" to make the JR usable with the larger cameras, but I seriously doubt that it works as claimed. And the amount of weight you will be placing on your wrist and forarms would bring tears to a pipefitter.

The sad truth about these low end stabilizers is that they require the patience of Job and a weight-lifters frame to produce only modiocre results. However, if you are only looking for some ad lib sort of movement to your projects, you can get reasonable results. But if you are serious about well rehearsed and repeatable moves, you are in for disappointment. Switching to Glidecam will be yet another waste of money.

I would seriously suggest you contact B&H about a refund. They are a reputable company, and usually quite good about returns.

Just my tupence.

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Old June 21st, 2004, 05:19 AM   #7
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It sounds as though that is the same problem I have been having with the JR when using a PD150. As most people seem to agree the camera is just too heavy for the stage, it is almost impossible to use for more than a couple of minutes before having to stop and make adjustments. I have lots of shots where the camera has tipped forward and almost bumped into the monitor. I don't think that Steadicam/Tiffen should be selling for use with cameras as heavy as the PD150 it's really not very practical.
I'm of to Optex today with the JR and PD150 to see if they can get it to work the way I think it should. Will let you know what happens.


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Old June 21st, 2004, 08:40 AM   #8
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Re: Unimpressed with Steadicam JR

<<<-- Originally posted by Pat Chaney :
This is because the top hinge (connecting the stage to the upper spar) doesn't stay in place - it lifts a little, causing the stage to tip forward. I can keep correcting it but it would be intensely annoying to have to keep doing so.

Has anyone else had this problem and is there any way of resolving it? -->>>

Just a few comments questions---without anything mounted to the JR--when you open up the JR fully and level/flatten the stage from the upper spar hinge[for operation]--there should be a nice solid snap/click when it is "locked" into place.

It should then require substantial effort to collapse/fold the stage at the upper spar for storage.

[If it is too loose--then there may be a problem or defect.]

Do you have your camera mounted too far foward?
--and then compensating by adjusting the micro adjustment knobs?

Because if it is too front heavy--the stage can tip forward like that.

If you watch the video that comes with the JR--you'll realize that they are demo-ing it with cameras that are every bit as heavy as today's cameras if not more---and you can see that the thing does work. Ideally--you want to set up the JR with a camera that is more or less neutral front and back with respect to the tripod mounting hole.

[My stupid Hitachi has the tripod mounting hole all the way in the back and towards the right--causing me all kinds of pain to balance.]

It just take some experimenting and time to get it right. Don't give up--the results are worth it.

Since I don't have a PDX-10--but heard that it is front heavy--try the heavier battery---it should then make the camera a bit easier to balance.

Good luck and watch the video again!
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Old June 21st, 2004, 12:39 PM   #9
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Thanks for all the feedback, it's very useful.

Wayne - as I mentioned before the JR didn't live up to my expectations in terms of quality, regardless of whether this particular one is faulty (and I'm sure it is). I wasn't expecting the finest engineering in the world, and I realise that you pay for the design as well as the manufacturing materials, but I thought it was far too plasticy for the price.

I don't believe that the PDX10 is too heavy for it though - I can get the bottom to swing down in around a second, as per the video - without any weights added to the base.

I know that you're not a big fan of the low end Glidecams, and I'm sure that the 2000 does have its limitations. However they are widely praised here (the Glidecams, not their limitations). One half of me is inclined to give it a try, and the other to heed your (implied) advice and go for something like the V8 and do the job properly. I need to give that more thought, and overcome my reluctance to walk around looking like Robocop.

Nick - you're the third person I've heard of now with the 'tipping forward' problem. I think the upper hinge is just too flimsy for the job. I'd be interested in how you get on with Optex.

John - there is a sort of snap when the upper spar hinge clicks into place, but I don't think it is snappy enough. I suspect it would wear over time in any case, and I'm surprised that they didn't put a lock/release mechanism on the hinge. The camera can't be too far forward as it will balance fine for as long as I care to hold it - until I try and move it. As I said, a combination of the upper hinge moving slightly and play in one side of the gimbal mount.

I do have the heavy QM91 battery on the PDX10 already, and the only place it will balance on the stage is using hole number 1, right at the front. And yes, I have watched the video (very useful, even if he does apparently get a haircut half way through) and the camera in the demo does indeed look rather heavy.

I don't doubt that this thing works under normal circumstances. I'm just reluctant to get a direct replacement because of my experience with quality to date.

But thanks for all the suggestions - they are much appreciated.
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Old June 21st, 2004, 05:24 PM   #10
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Having been to Optex with the JR and PD150 the system is much better now. It appears that it was missing a locking plate that screws into the bottom of the stage which limits movement once a decent balance had been achieved (reduced movement between handle/gimble and the stage). More importantly they have tightened many of the hinges and it is now far more stable and less wobbly but the for and aft camera shake is still there. I believe it is because the lens overhangs the front of the stage putting too much stress of the plastic join to the handle assembly.
There is a more noticable snap as you unfold each hinge now they are tighter. The guy I spoke to at Optex said that some people actually super glue the hinge joints open to get extra stability but at the expense of warranty and portability.

I shall try moving the camera back a hole but last time I did that it was too heavy at the back and the weights available could not counter balance enough, I now have some AAA batteries taped together that I can add using velcro but it is now getting seriously heavy!!!!
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Old June 22nd, 2004, 02:24 AM   #11
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This is exactly the problem I had with my JR. I drilled a small hole to the top of the stage and pushed in an additional screw so the stage will sit firmly in the the rails inside. I had already invalidated my warranty by the various modifications anyway, so drilling another hole wasn't an issue. But that fixed the problem. You can see the scew from this picture, it's slightly to the right from the brass release knob.

I'm flying a JVC HD10 (without the XLR adapter) with it which is pretty much on the limits the JR can handle. Just don't let the camera nosedive!
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Old June 22nd, 2004, 06:57 AM   #12
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Good to hear that you've had some success with your problem Nick. I know the locking plate you mean, I had to tighten the screws on mine - although it didn't entirely eliminate the movement. What concerns me more is that the UK distributor is aware of people using superglue on the hinges. That points very clearly to either a design or manufacturing tolerance problem. Good luck with your battery taping exercise!

Sten - what exactly is that you have fixed to the stage there?
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Old June 22nd, 2004, 07:56 AM   #13
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I know this thread is probably mostly dead, but I just wanted to say that I've used a JR with cameras above the official weight limit on several occasions and never encountered either of the problems mentioned in this forum. It is entirely possible that the die molds for the plastic components have gone out of tolerance over time and have not been replaced, but my personal experience the JR's has been overwhelmingly positive, even when over loading the rig with heavier cameras.
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Old June 22nd, 2004, 01:16 PM   #14
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Yes, reported experience here does seem to be mostly positive. It was largely on that basis that I bought the JR in the first place.
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Old June 22nd, 2004, 02:11 PM   #15
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Perhaps Alden could post some footage from his experiences with the JR?
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