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Old November 25th, 2010, 04:27 PM   #1
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Which Camcorder Stabilizing System for XH A1

I'm looking to buy a steady cam for my XH A1. The main area I work in is weddings. I want to make improvement and feel this will be a great addition to my company.
I also use a manoffrot tryopid and very important for me to be able to switch for my new steady cam to my tripod quickly!

The problem I'm having is deciding which system to go with...I've done allot of research and my head is a bit recked with overload of information.

the products currently under my consideration are

Glidecam 4000 PRO Camcorder Stabilizing System GL4000 B&H Photo

although this doesn't come with a quick release plate (maybe I can buy this as an extra?)

VariZoom Flowpod Stabilizer System VZ-FP B&H Photo Video

I'm reluctant about this product as I've heard nothing on line about it?

Steadicam Merlin Camera Stabilizing System MERLIN B&H Photo

This product also doesn't seem to have a quick release system either?In the Tiffen product description the accessory tripod mounting plate comes now as standard. Is the tripod mounting plate and quick release system two different things?

There are a few aspects that will help me make my final decision ....

The easy of use switching between my tripod and the steady cam.

Which camera give the best hollywood movie steady cam effect.

Which is the least intrusive (I don't want to be lugging around masses amounts of metal!)

Final which one is easy to master? I'm concerned about the merlin because its seems more than a little fiddly. Also I've ready allot of comments about the weight of the XH A1 been borderline! I don't use accessories at the moment (and don't really plan to for weddings) but I do use the heavier battery pack.

As you can see lots to consider and I want to make the right decision as my company is small and really still in the start up stages...no room for financial error. Any advice or comment would very welcomed!
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Old November 25th, 2010, 05:23 PM   #2
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Hi Ana

Firstly with an XH-A1 you will need a vest and arm unless you are an incredibily strong woman!!

Handheld stabilizers are fine to mount a DSLR or handycam on but once you camera goes over the 1kg mark you WILL need a vest and arm rig !!

Probably the most "decent" setup is the Steadicam Flyer LE or similar. That was out of my price range in Australia (over $12K!!!) so I current have a highly modified Indian Flycam which does the same job but needs extensive mods to it first...it won't work out of the box!!!

Also bear in mind that it's quite hard to just "swop over" ..you need to get into a vest, mount the camera, make sure it's balanced so it's usually more than just "click and go" For this reason I only use my rig on the photoshoot which gives me time to get it setup after the ceremony while the group photos are being done.

If you want an instant changeover situation then I would rather look at using the handheld Merlin (Blackbird is also good and cheaper) and buy yourself a Canon 7D so you can simply pick up the rig and shoot when necessary.

Chris
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Old November 25th, 2010, 06:41 PM   #3
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Hi Chris,

Thanks for the detailed response. Am I right in say that you don't think its possible to switch my XH A1 from the hand held Merlin to my tripod quickly? And that your recommending I buy the cannon 7D so that I have both cameras on the day and can switch between them both on the day?

I was hoping that it would be possible to buy a steady cam for the camera I have at the moment as I really don't have the funds to buy another camera.
I have read that the XH A1 was compatible with the Merlin but maybe its just not possible to do a quick change

Have you ever heard of this adjuster plate ....I read that it could be a possible solution but I'm not quite sure how it would work

801-7950 Tripod Adapter Plate
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Old November 25th, 2010, 07:09 PM   #4
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The XH A1 is too heavy for the Merlin...
And even if you were superwoman, you'd need a forearm brace of some sort...

The problem being, even with a forearm brace, you can't hold it long enough to get good practice...
Yes, you could use it in the park, and fly for a few minutes here and there, but how do you intend to get good without hours of practice??

You'll most likely need a vest of some sort, with an arm...Read the forums and decide the best cost/performance benefits...

As far as quickchange goes, i don't see why you can't mount your camera onto a tripod immediately??
There should be adapters that bolt onto the top of the Steadicams that allow for quick release...

Edit:
Just reading your post...
I realize that you're wanting to get better production value, but honestly, you'll be throwing away your money, or trading these items very quickly..
Seriously consider either renting, or hiring somebody to get you the B roll footage...
Essentially, that's what you're creating when flying the camera...
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Old November 25th, 2010, 09:04 PM   #5
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Hi Ana

My comment has been re-inforced by Peter!! Yes you CAN fly the camera on a Merlin in theory but seriously it's way too heavy!!! Then again you don't have to get a 7D ... the Panny GH1 is a great cam for flying and it has autofocus and no 12 minute limit. I fly my HMC72's on my rig (the camera is 3.1kg) and after a 15 minute shoot I'm tired (and that's with a vest!!!)

You also don't have to get a DSLR ...plenty of smaller HD camcorders will also work if you want to fly handheld. The Blackbird is around the US$400 price tag so add a GH1 or HD camcorder (even used) and you can be up and running for maybe under $1K !!!

Another option to get creative shots is to try a Figg Rig ... you have 2 grips to hold..it's still heavy but more manageable ... shots will not be as creative as a "steadycam" but still nice!!

Chris
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Old November 25th, 2010, 11:29 PM   #6
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I fly a GH1 on a Merlin - usually with the Panasonic 20mm 1.7 lens. It's light enough to hold for a long time, but sometimes I wish the GH1 were actually a little heavier, I suspect that would make it a little more stable and give it better balance.

The GH2 is available now (theoretically at least... the stores don't seem to have it yet), and some say it's better in low light than the GH1.
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Old November 26th, 2010, 05:48 AM   #7
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I used to fly an XH-A1 on a Merlin & it is very hard work on your arm & rest of your body. I also found the Merlin rather sensitive & twitchy except in short doses (maybe my strength just wasn't up to it?). It is so much easier flying a Steadicam with an arm & vest.

If you are looking to get smoother handheld camerawork then I would recommend a DV Multirig Pro DV MultiRig this works fine with the XH-A1 & combines the stability of a shoulder-mount rig & courtesy of the shock absorbing support pod takes a lot of the bumps when walking. It's not quite the floaty look of a Steadicam but is much smoother than any other form of handheld shot.

Last edited by Nigel Barker; November 26th, 2010 at 11:34 PM.
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Old November 26th, 2010, 08:50 AM   #8
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I'll 2nd the DVMultirig.
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Old November 26th, 2010, 11:35 AM   #9
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Thanks everyone for the all the different advice

Having researched the options and equipment I think the DV MultiRig might be the most sensible option for now. Simply because of budget limitations. It looks like a good stabilization system that can interchange with my tripod quickly...

On the down side it won't give me that really steady cam fly effect I'm itching for :(
All the advice I've been given so far is to purchase another lighter camera and then a mount this to a Merlin or something similar.

As I don't own a decent DLSR camera for photography maybe next year I'll shop for one that I can use as my fly and backup camera. Which DLSR would ye recommend to use as a good fly accompaniment to my XH A1 while also been a excellent DSLR for photography. I know the GH1 has been mentioned but in your opinions is this really the best for both jobs?

Also any suggestions on where is best to purchase a DV MultiRig. I would love to buy second hand if possible but nothing on ebay at the moment. I know that I can buy directly form here new Dvtec Store

Thanks again for all the help... I very nearly bought the Merlin thinking yea I am supper woman! But it would have been a mistake. My only problem is as a woman I now want everything! We should never go shopping for anything :)
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Old November 26th, 2010, 01:49 PM   #10
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I wouldn't recommend the GH1 for stills. In general, I find it's colours a little displeasing, and it lacks some flash options that other DLSRs offer. Personally, I'm waiting for Nikon to release a D700 replacement that does decent HD video. Another option to consider is the Canon 5DMKII, though it might be too heavy for a Merlin, I don't know off the top of my head. It's photos blow the GH1 away, and the colours that come out of the camera are far more pleasing.
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Old November 26th, 2010, 04:48 PM   #11
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the g1 and merlin together give great shots

YouTube - Panasonic DMC-GH1 & Steadicam Merlin Test Movie

But I think I may as well try and kill two birds with the one stone when in comes to purchasing a DLSR...I'll investigate the Canon 5Ds compatibility with the Merlin and report back if I find anything out
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Old November 26th, 2010, 05:01 PM   #12
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well they defiantly work well together! Some people having great success and now I want one :)

YouTube - Steadicam Merlin & Canon 7D - 2nd Test (HD Video)

YouTube - Testing Steadicam Merlin with Canon 5d Mk II

But for the intimidate future I will have to go for the DV MultiRig so any shopping tips would be great
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Old November 26th, 2010, 07:47 PM   #13
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I just had to chime in since we used to use the XHA1 with the Merlin before we switched to 7D's. It is totally possible to use the XHA1 with the Merlin, and possible to use it without the vest/arm. I'm 6 foot and about 160-165 pounds .. not a huge guy by any means. I did just fine with the Merlin/A1 combo without a vest, even shooting entire dances with it.

Now whether or not it is right for you depends what you want, so let's answer your original questions/concerns.


-- The easy of use switching between my tripod and the steady cam.
The Merlin is perfect for this. I can switch from the Merlin to the tripod in seconds, literally. The best part is that I can switch back to the Merlin and be ready to shoot in just seconds as well. Even if your balance is off by a bit the Merlin's micro-adjust system makes it easy to get it back into balance very quickly (although normally I don't need to do this).

With the Glidecam you can also get on and off quickly with a quick-release plate, although I've heard from many users of the product that it can require a lot more time to get rebalanced. The Pilot and Flyer are easy to switch to tripod as well using the quick-release system, although you would have to keep the vest and arm attached, which you might not like. Believe it or not you can actually get into the Pilot or Flyer rig in about 3 minutes if you know what you're doing. It's not as fast as getting on the Merlin, but some people think it takes 10-15 minutes to get into a vest/arm setup and it doesn't.


-- Which camera give the best hollywood movie steady cam effect.
The Merlin is very capable in this regard as well, and the Glidecam would be comparable. Something like the Pilot or the Flyer will allow you to get certain types of shots better, but for the price and the other advantages that the Merlin offers, it's more than capable as a flying tool.


-- Which is the least intrusive (I don't want to be lugging around masses amounts of metal!)
Again, the Merlin is great. It's black and has a very small form factor. It's also really light and easy to get around without a hassle. Plus it folds up so you can really pack it up easily. Because of this it's easy for us to take with us for destination weddings. The Glidecam is larger, doesn't look as nice, is heavier, and doesn't pack up as easily or nicely. The Pilot and Flyer are both definitely more obtrusive as they have the arm assembly and the monitor and sled and so forth, although considering their abilities they are pretty compact for the money.


Some final thoughts for you. The Merlin IS harder to fly than the Glidecam or the Pilot or Flyer because you have a smaller contact surface for control. It also costs more than the Glidecam. However, we chose the Merlin because it produces great results, is really easy to transition to and from, is really easy and fast to rebalance if necessary, is very light, is nice and small and can really be versatile in many tight situations, is very compact and easy to transport and it also is a good looking piece of equipment (looks professional) .. plus Steadicam is the industry leader in these types of products, so you know you're getting quality gear.

We've had our Merlin for 2-3 years and were originally planning to upgrade to the Pilot at some point, but at this point we're probably going to be sticking with the Merlin for a while. Hope this info helps you out! d;-)
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Old November 27th, 2010, 02:25 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ana Conlon View Post
Also any suggestions on where is best to purchase a DV MultiRig. I would love to buy second hand if possible but nothing on ebay at the moment. I know that I can buy directly form here new Dvtec Store
I will be very surprised if you manage to find a second hand DV MultiRig as people who buy them tend to stick with them. You wouldn't need to trade it in to upgrade to a better version or one that is better or easier to use. You will see used Merlins for sale as people want to upgrade to a 'proper' Steadicam or find it too difficult to use. On that last point any form of Steadicam is a tool that you need to learn to use properly. It's not an instant solution like a tripod or a MultiRig. Just buying a guitar doesn't make you a guitarist & purchasing a bicycle doesn't mean that you can just get right on board & ride it.

Last edited by Nigel Barker; November 27th, 2010 at 07:20 AM.
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Old November 27th, 2010, 07:09 AM   #15
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Well Travis you've thrown a spanner into to the works now ;@)

Not really because I'm happy to hear its possible to use the Merlin with the XH A1. At the moment I do dismount my camera and hand hold it for long periods to get more creative shoots. I don't find this a strain at all. But I do understand it would be more difficult with the Merlin as I have to hold it at arms length. On the other hand I would only be doing this for short periods like parts of the photo shoot or first dance. Can I ask did you have to purchase and extra plates for the tripod to achieve the quick release? I seen it mentioned in an earlier thread ....this plate specifically

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search...er%20Plate&N=0

As Chris mentioned its probably more about skill and practice with the Merlin. I did also suspect that none of the DV MultiRig were available because people keep them! Which is also a very good sign!

PS Travis 6 foot is tall where I come from :)
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