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Old October 19th, 2010, 09:46 AM   #1
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Steadicam questions

I'm about to buy a form of Steadicam, and within my budget seems to be the MERLIN (around 600), and FLYCAM 3000/5000 (around 200 on ebay, seems to originate in India).

Going by price, it looks like the Merlin is the best bet - and no doubt I can save a couple of hundred buying second hand.

Just wondering what some of you guys use for your smooth tracking and swooping shots?

Bearing in mind I have not used a stabiliser before and have a limited budget, what rig would you recommend for good results? What benefits are gained by investing more money in a vest etc?

Something that supports cameras such as the Canon XH-A1 and 5/7D would be required.
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Old October 19th, 2010, 11:35 AM   #2
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Don't forget the blackbird stabiliser, what I read here is that it's easier to use for persons new to steadicam.

Flycam is not up to the same standards as the merlin or Blackbird.
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Old October 19th, 2010, 11:50 AM   #3
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Thanks, I'll have a look at the Blackbird.

Found this article as well:-

Robin Schmidt, Director, Editor and DSLR mentalist – GLIDECAM 2000 vs STEADICAM MERLIN – WHICH ONE TO BUY?

I'm now seriously considering the Glidecam 2000, which is around half the price of the Merlin.

Chances are I will be starting out with a stabiliser on my (not exactly lightweight) Canon XH-A1S, and then using the same rig for the much lighter 5/7D DSLR. Thoughts on this from anyone with experience in stabilisers for both these cameras much appreciated.
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Old October 19th, 2010, 01:19 PM   #4
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Without being 100% sure, I think you will have a problem with your arm if you use Glidecam without a vest. I am saying "not sure" because in the beginning we had Glidecam 4000 without the vest, and it was deadly! -:) Not sure if 2000 is lighter, but I doubt it.

Still, I prefer Varizoom's Flowpod over Merlin. It may be a beast to master, but the results are better than the ones I have seen from Merlin. Plus, although tiresome, it's much more comfortable than Glidecam without vest. And of course Flowpod has the advantage of very easy calibration compared to Glidecam and also it's a monopod, which is an insane feature!

Of course if you take Glidecam 2000 with full vest, arm etc, it's the best and most expensive option of all three.
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Last edited by Dimitris Mantalias; October 19th, 2010 at 01:20 PM. Reason: grammar
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Old October 19th, 2010, 01:29 PM   #5
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I'm not saying the Merlin (which I have for a 7D) is best for your needs but bear in mind the handle with it's gymbal is, by design, directly in line with the weight above it so it's much less traumatic on the wrist than stabilisers where this is not the case (e.g. Glidecams I think). So if you want to keep things simple and light/no vest then that's worth remembering.

The thing the Merlin is no good at is if there is any breeze - you'll need a heavier rig to help overcome that.

Many good reports on the Blackbird.

With all of them you'll need lots of practice to produce anything half way decent, but some say the Blackbird is more forgiving than the Merlin on that one.

These are my thoughts from what I've read and done with my Merlin since I got it a few months ago. There are many on here who have much more experience than me at flying these things who you can learn from. Good luck!
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Old October 19th, 2010, 02:25 PM   #6
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Thanks for the replies.

Yes I'm looking for something fairly simple to operate at the moment, with quick assembly/disassembly at weddings. I think just the basic stabiliser at this point, without need for vest or arm. I appreciate some rigs will cause more wrist stress etc than others, though I don't intend to run around with it all day.
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Old October 19th, 2010, 02:46 PM   #7
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I've been shooting with a Varizoom Flowpod for years and I love it. I used it on all of the samples on my website. I did make some modifications to it though, as I was not completely happy with the original setup.

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Old October 20th, 2010, 02:50 PM   #8
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I had the Glidcam 4000 and it worked very well with the 7D. But I then bought the 2000 and love it soooo much more. It's light and easy to pack and it's easier to go through crowds like cocktail hour and dancing. I learned with about 2-3 hours of solid practice. Yes it can be tiresome on the wrist, but I can do an entire first dance with it, no problem. I'd like to try the blackbird thou.

Side note: I don't do any working out on my arms. I should thou.
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Old October 21st, 2010, 06:33 AM   #9
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you'll have to have a strong arm to hold the XH-A1 on any stabilizer without a vest - you can do it but it ain't easy.

Merlin or Blackbird is my vote
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Old October 24th, 2010, 02:09 AM   #10
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I used merlin for 2 years and was very happy with it. Purchased a glidecam and couldnt be any happier. It works more like a proper steadicam. Looks better too!

I chose the merlin in the first place because of 2 main reasons: light and portable for travelling.

Thr glidecam is heavier but its ok now with the dslr, i dont think i can stand holding it hand held with my xh-a1 before we switched to dslr last year. The glidecam can be dismantled which works great for plane travel.

I vote glidecam :)
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Old October 24th, 2010, 04:34 PM   #11
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Coming from someone who has owned both the FLYCAM and MERLIN.... No question, MERLIN. The engineering, build quality, ability to dynamically balance, to the fact that the paint doesn't flake off.
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Old October 24th, 2010, 04:36 PM   #12
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... Also the Merlin can be upgraded with an arm and vest as funds become available... then when even more funds become available you can buy just the Steadicam Pilot sled and now you have two units.
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Old October 24th, 2010, 04:49 PM   #13
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Quote:
... Also the Merlin can be upgraded with an arm and vest as funds become available...
I thought the same applies for the blackbird.
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Old October 24th, 2010, 05:26 PM   #14
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it probably does... I'm comparing the FLYCAM and the MERLIN... I don't know anything about the BLACKBIRD. Answering the original question that was posed. :)
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Old October 29th, 2010, 06:13 AM   #15
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I just bought a Merlin about three weeks ago, after considering both Glidecam and Merlin. The cams I have that I want to fly are the 5D, T2i, and maybe my A1s. My first impression of the Merlin was how well-machined it is - this is one precision instrument! After learning how to balance from scratch - which took a few days for all my cams - I have shot footage with the 5D and kit lens (24-105mm) and the T2i with kit lens (18-55mm). I'm also using a Manfrotto QR plate, which adds some weight. Overall, the 5D kit is really heavy, but when balanced makes really great footage and because of the weight is more stable in wind than the T2i. The T2i is great because it's much lighter overall, much easier to use for longer periods. I have not flown the XH-A1s yet, but I'm sure it's comparable to the 5D in weight on the Merlin - it would be really heavy and only good for short periods.

As for footage, here's my take - I think the Merlin can make beautiful Steadicam shots - IF you plan your shot and execute it as planned. Trying to just shoot free-form for long periods doesn't work as well. The better you get at it the better your footage will be, but again, planning your shot and practicing a couple of times first will help you get more usable footage than just walking around with it.

My number one reason for staying away from the Glidecam is reading all of the horror stories about how difficult it is to keep balanced, and the gimble/handle being off to the side rather than directly underneath the weight of the camera. If you use it for any length of time with a heavy camera kit, it's going to be much harder on your wrist than having the weight underneath, and lots of people with the Glidecam have made that observation.

Both systems will allow smooth shots with practice, but considering the weight of the Merlin vs. the weight of the Glidecam, the Merlin wins easily - and weight is VERY important if you're not going to get the additional vest/support system.
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