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Old July 13th, 2007, 11:51 AM   #1
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XHA1 and Steadicam Merlin

I just replaced my Glidecam setup with a Merlin and all I can say is wow.

The attention to detail in everything from the packaging right down to the precision engineering of this device is inspiring. This is a company who cares about their customers and wants to enable them as best they can.

While I struggled to balance the Glidecam to the point where it was basically impractical for me to use it, the Merlin, once it's set up, is good to go everytime bar a few minor adjustments.

The design is beautiful. The DVD is packed with useful information and techniques. The carrying case is exquisite.

The fact that one of the main techniques is to control the Merlin with two hands (both taking some of the weight of the Merlin and camera) means less fatigue. The one-handed method (regarding absorbing weight) of the Glidecam made it very difficult to operate with pain in both my wrist and back.

The Merlin is much lighter than the Glidecam, making it more desireable to use more frequently. It folds down into a tiny size that is lighter and smaller than my monopod!

It took me about 15 minutes tops to balance the XHA1 perfectly. It's very important that you read the manual along with watching the video for a complete understanding. The user's cookbook settings on the Tiffen site were right on and made the whole thing very easy.

The only reason that I can see why anyone would have trouble balancing the XHA1 is that they don't completely understand the concept of balance with these kinds of stabilizing devices. All I can say is read and re-read the manual, watch the DVD a bunch of times and you will eventually get it. In particular, make sure you measure the arc size accurately. You can see by the diagram in the manual exactly where you should be measuring from and to.

I'm off on a camping trip with my wife for the weekend so I'll try to get some shots and post later.

All in all I am thrilled with my purchase. Again, I'm blown away with the quality and ease of use. I'd recommend this unit to anyone.
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Old July 13th, 2007, 11:58 AM   #2
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Hey Steven... thanks for the great write up on your initial experiences with the Merlin and A1. I have been pondering about purchasing the Merlin for quite some time... but have been worried the extra weight for handheld shots would become tiresome and too overwhelming for constant shooting.

Do you have any initials thought as far as the overall fatigue from the added weight? Would love to hear any thoughts. Thanks!
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Old July 13th, 2007, 03:27 PM   #3
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I have been using the Merlin for over a year now. The fatigue is definitely there, but it is so worth it. You pick and choose spots where you use it, so it's not like you have it on all day.

With the Xh-A1 it is a little over 10 pounds combined weight.

The cool thing about it is that you can very quickly slip it off the merlin and slide it onto a tripod without removing any plates.

I couldn't be happier with it.
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Old July 13th, 2007, 03:45 PM   #4
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Does it perform well for walking shots where a dolly is impractical?
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Old July 13th, 2007, 03:47 PM   #5
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Absolutely. That's one of the biggest reasons to get one of these puppies.
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Old July 13th, 2007, 04:45 PM   #6
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The only real weaknesses I find are:

1)The steadicam does not like wind...at all. If it is windy, I keep it on the sidelines.

2)It is not a replacement for a controlled, smooth dolly. The steadicam works best when following active, moving objects. When you move it around with inanimate objects, it is much easier to detect the lack of steadiness.
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Old July 13th, 2007, 04:45 PM   #7
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Steve, is this the one you're referring to?:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...on_System.html
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Old July 13th, 2007, 05:57 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Kamerman View Post
Steve, is this the one you're referring to?:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...on_System.html
Yes, that is the Merlin.
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Old July 13th, 2007, 11:04 PM   #9
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Great Device

Hello,

First, allow me to say thank you to everyone, especially Steven, for continuously posting great information on this website. It has given me such insight and depth to so many issues with cameras and devices. Thank you.

Secondly, I have owned the Steadicam Merlin now for 6 months now and everyone here is absolutely correct. Ease of use from setup, to vast informational DVD and booklet, to terms of service are second to none. When I received my first Merlin, the pressure screw that folds the center calipers was faulty, it literally fell off, Im assuming a rare event seeing as the whether here was about -5 windchill. I called Tiffen that evening, and by morning a Tiffen rep had contacted me, and B&H sent me a replacement. I couldnt be happier.

You know, I actually shot an entire wedding with the Merlin, both indoors and outdoors recently. Most video professionals would consider this to be a bold move, however once you feel comfortable using both hands as a stabilizer and as a pan/tilt/boom mechanism, even the wind will have difficulty de-stabilizing your camera. Wind can be a cruel factor, especially when severe, however this can be altered with practice. I held the Merlin with a Sony HDR-HC1 attached for 8 hours straight that day! And I loved every steady shot, as did my customers.

(I know, due to Stevens posts I am soon converting to the Canon XH-A1 and will really have to get used to the extra weight in hand from the camera, but Im ready for the challenge!)

Thank you, have fun making steady shots with the Merlin, and God Bless.

Last edited by Danny Hidalgo; July 13th, 2007 at 11:49 PM.
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Old August 3rd, 2007, 10:10 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steven Dempsey View Post
I just replaced my Glidecam setup with a Merlin and all I can say is wow.

The fact that one of the main techniques is to control the Merlin with two hands (both taking some of the weight of the Merlin and camera) means less fatigue. .
I'm not sure I understand how this works - where do you put your other hand and how do you pan & tilt with the Merlin (I wish they had a video on the site to show this).
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Old August 3rd, 2007, 10:39 PM   #11
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBQRDMgo53I

and more in the "Related" tab on the right side.

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Old August 3rd, 2007, 11:07 PM   #12
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Is the XH A1 with the Canon mounting plate too heavy for this? I think the plate adds about a pound or so. Can you add counterweight to the bottom of the Merlin to make up for added weight?
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Old August 3rd, 2007, 11:37 PM   #13
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It will be too heavy. Max. camera weight is 5 lbs. It comes with a dovetail plate and a quick release tripod adaptor plate.
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Old August 4th, 2007, 10:45 AM   #14
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While there are new possibilities for "overloading" the Merlin since the metal gimbal/extra weight kit is now or close to shipping, it will be tempting to start adding accessories and flying heavier cameras just because the system is rated for it. Arm fatigue will be a definite factor, and the reality of Steadicam is that fatigue shows up in the actual photography as a loss of smoothness. Mostly this is because when one of your arms is about to fall off your shoulder it's nearly impossible to exert the kind of feather-light, delicate touch required from the other hand--your nervous system just doesn't work that way.

For those serious about flying the heavy cameras, the new Merlin arm/vest combo is going to be a real treat. Certainly it comes with a price tag but you get an awful lot for the money, and for those who appreciate the fit and finish of the Merlin itself, you will be delighted with the precision and performance of this setup and what it will bring to your work.

Paul, if you haven't gotten the answer to your question yet via the video or elsewhere, the hand that controls the guide above the gimbal (pan and tilt) encircles the hand doing the heavy lifting and the lower few fingers support that hand from below, spreading the lift somewhat between both hands. The thumb and index finger remain free to work the guide.
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Old August 4th, 2007, 12:27 PM   #15
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There is an extra weight kit? That would be good. The problem with Canon's quick release plate is that you have to remove the 1/4" threaded receptacle plate that comes on the camera and attach the bracke that slides onto the quick release plate. Then you can put the proper plate from whatever tripod you're using onto the bottom of the quick release plate. I have to do that, otherwise I couldn't use the camera on bigger tripods with a 'prompter, because bigger tripods have the standard 3/8" screw. It would be a pain to have to take off the quick release adapter with its 4 screws. Life would be simpler if the 1/3" chip cameras would adhere to the 3/8" standard in this area instead of the 1/4" standard for still cameras.
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