Steadicam Zephyr-upgrade changes at DVinfo.net

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Old October 6th, 2010, 10:14 AM   #1
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Steadicam Zephyr-upgrade changes

Just about to head into the wonderful world of Steadicam and Tiffen Australia just contacted me re: a slight delay in delivery of my Zephyr kit. It will now land here end of October. The reason for the delay is good news for me though, and anyone else who was wondering if their full size HD camera might be teetering on the edge of the Zephyr's specs. Not sure if you've heard this news elsewhere but here is a an extract from the email.

"I spoke to Frank Rush who runs Steadicam in Burbank to find out how the new Zephyrs are going in production. There are a couple of upgrades and a gratifying backorder list that mean we are looking at the end of October before delivery - I thought I should let you know and explain why.

Firstly, the designers have up-spec'd the payload capacity of the arm to 24lb (11kg) to give the Zephyr a wider payload range and, just as importantly, to increase the camera payload when the new Tango is operated with the Zephyr. You probably know that Tango currently only operates with Zephyr. The second upgrade was based on a decision to design a vest specifically for the Zephyr rather than simply adapt an existing vest. Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown and Head of Design, Rob Orf and his team are over the moon with the results - and not only because of Zephyr's typically precise and smooth 'Steadicam' operation, but also the speed and ease of control and adjustment the new design permits"
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Old October 7th, 2010, 01:16 AM   #2
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thks for the info. I just heard that the Flyer would be discontinued. Looks like the Zephyr is the replacement while the Scout is to fill in the gap between. The Zephyr is about USD1000 more than the Flyer LE while the Scout is about USD1000 less.

Now I wonder when the scout would be available for shipping.
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Old October 8th, 2010, 09:33 PM   #3
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Scout looks to have specs similar to the Flyer LE...with the Pilot bottom stage.
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Old October 12th, 2010, 04:02 AM   #4
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veeeeeeeery interesting.
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Old October 12th, 2010, 04:25 AM   #5
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Yes Joe, I think a clever move by Steadicam. Maybe they thought people buying this are probably not going to be running mainly DSLRs, therefore the cameras are likely to be larger, therefore we better make sure the specs can handle a wider weight range and the set-up variations that occur with adding wide angles, nanoflashes, monitors etc. Hey, you're only across the Tasman, maybe you can borrow mine for a spin one weekend!
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Old October 12th, 2010, 05:38 AM   #6
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haha might be an idea.. the old Pilot is just getting to small for most things now days.. its either Zephyr or go a bit more and buy an Archer2.. which is the way i really want to go.
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Old October 12th, 2010, 07:45 AM   #7
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My opinion:

For a low-end stabilizer with with a vest and arm, the Steadicam brand dominates. This includes the Pilot, Flyer, Scout, and Zephyr. Other brands make less expensive rigs, but nothing comes close to Steadicam quality here.

For hand-held stabilizers, Steadicam no longer dominates. The Merlin must compete with the CMR Blackbird, which is less expensive and seems to be in the same league quality wise.

For high-end stabilizers, Steadicam no longer dominates. PRO-GPI, XCS, MK-V, and others are very competitive.

The Archer2 only goes up to 26 pounds, which is not enough for many RED One configurations. For the price of an Archer2, you can buy a used full-size rig that goes well over 50 pounds camera load. You can also buy a new ActionCam stabilizer for much less than the cost of an Archer2, and the ActionCam goes up to 50 pounds.

Just my 2 cents. Your mileage may vary.
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Old October 12th, 2010, 08:56 AM   #8
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Thanks Dave,

Having nil, zilch, zero experience with stabilzers (until mine arrives in 2 weeks)
I can blissfully plead ignorance on all that but I'm sure you're right. The research process was long, hard and a little confusing until I finally settled on the Zephyr, which fortunately up-spec'd after I'd paid for it.
Whether I'm right or wrong time will tell but in everything I buy I always try to go for future-proofing, value for money, but most of all quality machines that do what they're supposed to.

Are you sure the Archer 2 only has a 26 lb. payload capacity or am I reading you wrong? That would seem odd for a unit that costs 3 times the Zephyr, which now takes up to 24lb.payload
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Old October 12th, 2010, 09:18 AM   #9
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Archer 2 Comparison Chart

Archer2 - G40 arm - 26 pound max load

Archer2S - G50 arm - 30 pound max load
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Old October 12th, 2010, 11:03 AM   #10
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It seems like there's little doubt now that the Zephyr will actually be the best bang for the buck in this weight range. That's a lot of weight for the product niche it occupies!
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Old October 12th, 2010, 12:11 PM   #11
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Dave:

The G40 has been discontinued--every model of Archer ships with a G50 now, which has 10 lbs more lift capacity (i.e. 40 lbs vs 50 lbs). While they are still spec'ing the payload at 30 lbs, I don't believe the sled weighs 20 lbs--probably more like 15 at most--so you should be able to squeak up to 35 lbs on a currently shipping Archer. That's plenty for a RED setup unless equipped with unusual components (anamorphic lens, 3D, seat for the director etc). Note that the "proper" Steadicam configuration of the RED would require a clip-on mattebox, powering from the sled and recording to CF cards; with a badly equipped version that includes baseplate, 4 steel 19mm rods, battery and hard drive cage plus battery, you can certainly move the payload beyond 35 lbs but you have literally gained no utility out of the system in the meantime.
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Old October 12th, 2010, 12:15 PM   #12
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Yes, the Zephyr has a great cost/weight ratio, but if 24 pounds isn't enough then you're still screwed.

Here's my take. Again, this is just my personal opinion, others may vary.

For event videography, student films, and other relatively low budget stuff, a smaller camera is often more than adequate, so the Pilot usually works fine. For these types of productions, it's usually better to spend more money on lighting and other things than on the camera.

As soon as you want to do something more professional, then you're bound to run into the RED One. Since this is a modular camera, it's easy to have RED One configurations that weigh 40 pounds or more.

So my opinion is sort of polarized, with a wide gap between normal lower budget requirements and a big rig that can truly support the RED One.
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Old October 12th, 2010, 12:19 PM   #13
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Charles, how much does the "seat for the director" weigh? (LOL)

Seriously, how much do you think a "proper" Steadicam configuration of the RED would weigh? If I had light rails, focus, iris, CF module, wireless video, and power cables, could this squeeze onto a Zephyr, or is a G-50 type rig mandatory?

Price-wise, I'm assuming a used big rig would be better than a new Archer - yes? Also, could there be other things about the Archer that limit the max weight besides the arm (e.g. the gimbal)?
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Old October 12th, 2010, 01:45 PM   #14
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Hi Dave:

My personal best with a pretty loaded down RED was 31lbs INCLUDING sled, that being my Nimblecam which weighs in around 11 lbs with SD monitor. You've probably seen that picture before but I'll link for others: Nimblecam/RED 1, Nimblecam/RED 2

Setup consisted of:

REDOne with short RED zoom
Preston single channel for focus (box with blue tape under the lens)
Preston zoom controller (front box on top of camera; rocker is red button on gimbal)
Decimator downconverter for my SD monitor (red box on top of camera)
Clockit for sync purposes (under Decimator)
RED drive (mounted vertically under monitor)
Camwave HD transmitter (very bottom of sled)
RED battery (replacing my own, via v-mount to Anton Bauer adaptor plate).
RED to Steadicam power cable; extended length hard drive cable

That's a full setup but I excluded any possible "fat". I removed rods and metal cheeseplates from the top of the camera and velcroed a simple plastic plate to the top to hold the three components up there (once again velcro is my friend). Configuring the various masses around the sled took a LOT of trial and error. The key was to move things (hard drive, transmitter) that would normally be mounted up top to the bottom of the sled, as that reduced the need to add more counterweight below.

Even with everything powered off a single RED brick, I was able to shoot for around 40 minutes straight on this concert shoot before having to swap batteries.

Moral of the story--RED is a 10 lb camera; there's no need for it to weigh four times as much in Steadicam configuration. Having the right parts to keep it from going overboard (I'm talking to you, RED baseplates, cheeseplates and battery cage) is the key. Unfortunately most privately owned RED's are saddled with those parts as they are inexpensive to buy. If one is going to be working with RED a lot, investing in the appropriate bits and pieces to make it work may result in being able to afford a rig that has a lower weight capacity but is better quality than the alternative.
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Old October 12th, 2010, 03:35 PM   #15
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I've heard that digital cameras in general, and RED in particular, have problems with IR sensitivity, which can change blacks to browns under daylight. DPs also like to use polarizers, grads, and attenuators in exterior shots. So it seems a matte box with a couple of filters would be something people would want outside.

But even so, since your build was only 20 pounds (without the sled), it sounds like a light weight matte box plus a couple of filters and CF rods may come in under 24 pounds, especially if you swap the RED drive for a CF module.

I get your point. It may be less expensive to invest in a bunch of light weight RED accessories that enable a lower priced rig like the Zephyr.

Food for thought...
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