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Old September 16th, 2002, 10:38 AM   #1
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Vallejo, California
Posts: 4,049
Cobra Crane - A user's report

After taping the photgraphers butt and back in a few weddings, I finally purchased a crane.
The Cobra Crane Backpacker from ProMax with the 3 foot extension.

At $199 plus $50 for the extension, this has got to be the least expensive crane around except for Ma's broomstick and gaffer tape.

How well is it built?

OK for $199 but maybe not good enough for your applications. It depends. Make certain it is what you want because they do not accept returns just because you don't like the merchandise!

Is it sturdy enough for the 6.5 pound limit they claim?

Not really. The 'L' brackets that hold the camera and mount the arm to the beam are really just bent pieces of 10 gage steel (about 1/8") and do bend a bit. This causes the 'Ls' to open up a bit and leaves the camera and the beam leaning. OK if you level in just one direction and don't have to pan the beam (or you have a motorized pan head that is adequate for the task). I had a PD-150 on it.

Will it shake in a breeze?
With the 3' extension, yes. Even a light breeze will move it. And the beam oscillates for quite a while after you stop a beam motion. Not so much up and down but side to side. It could use a bit of side-triangulation with a spreader and truss wires (like a sailboat mast)

What kind of tripod does it need?

Strong. No matter that the crane is balanced, there still is around 25 to 30 pounds of mass there. Moving and stopping it, not to mention supporting it, takes mass and strength. A flyweight 3 pound set of sticks won't work here. A big Sampson or Bogen (I used a 3051) is necessary.

How long does it take to learn to use it?

Get the video (included with the extension). Practice. My first use was at a Harley Davidson Police riding competition. I had to pan, tilt and crane up and down at high speeds. The competition covered an area about equal to a football field and the action ranges from a motorcyle in a tight pattern at the far corner to a motorcycle under full accelleration right past my postion. It worked out well. Considering the OTJT, I got some really usable footage.

A 9-10 foot crane is too short for covering a football field. Probably should have had a 20-30 foot crane mounted on a vehicle. No problem, right? Or maybe just 3 or 4 cranes spotted around the field.

Preparation time?

I had to add the extension and work out a mounting method for my tripod (which isn't the same one they sell for the purpose). Then I had to buy the bits and pieces for the control L extension cord. Few companies make 2.5 mm stereo mini jack extension cables so I had to buy a 1.5 to 2.5 mm adapter, a 3.5 mm extension cable and cut the male connector off the extension cable and solder on a 2.5 mm plug.

Then one has to mount the video monitor for the operator. I used a 3.9" Citizen LCD monitor which might be OK indoors but was definately a problem outdoors as I knew it would with its small viewing angle and propensity to wash out in light. I built a cardboard hood so I could see it at all.

The mount for the monitor, if is is attached to the system, must stay level when you crane up and down and still point at you when you pan with the crane. I ended up attaching the mount to the tripod head anyway. It worked out OK although I did have to contort a bit to always see it.

Final comment

I got what I paid for. It is OK and in an indoor setting, set to the side of the center-aisle door and holding a camera up over the door frame, it will be great. Everything can be placed agains the rear wall of the auditorium.
Mike Rehmus
Hey, I can see the carrot at the end of the tunnel!
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Old September 16th, 2002, 11:15 AM   #2
Obstreperous Rex
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: San Marcos, TX
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The Cobra Crane is an Eric Ortleib creation -- he's the inventor of the Steady Tracker and a heck of a nice guy to boot. ProMax is where you buy 'em, Eric's own website is

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Old September 16th, 2002, 02:12 PM   #3
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: Cleveland, Ohio
Posts: 1,933
LANC extension

You can buy 25 foot and 50 foot LANC extension cables from Studio 1 Productions ( A 25 foot cable has the correct micro jacks at both ends and will set you down $17.95 plus $5 shipping, and it will be plenty long for getting to your crane-mounted XL1.

I made this recommendation because of the reviewer's exasperation in making his own extension cable. If Chris Hurd knows of a similar product offered by a DVi Community Sponsor, be sure to pipe up, Chris.
All the best,
Robert K S

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Old September 18th, 2002, 11:17 PM   #4
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Houston, TX
Posts: 2
LANC extension & Controller

As an additional recommendation you can also get extension cables from Sign Video, (the company that makes the XLR Pro that was sold by Studio 1). They also make a series of zoom controllers that all come with a 12ft and a 25ft extension cable. The inclusion of the extra cables encouraged me to purchsase the Zoom Commander for use with a Cobra Crane that I will soon pruchase. I had the opportunity to try one a friend of mine had purchased, it's a very good controller.
Larry D. Warren
MultiMedia Productions Unlimited
Houston, TX
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Old January 23rd, 2010, 04:31 PM   #5
Major Player
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Boston
Posts: 497
Customer Service at Cobra Cranes / Steaditracker

We were doing a production scheduled in Asia and we had never used a camera crane before, so after doing some research here, we gave the CobraCrane/Steaditracker people a call and they sure were helpful answering all our newbie questions over the phone. Ok, considering my newbie questions, they had the patience of Mother Theresa....

So after several calls over a few days we purchased a crane from the Cobra Crane/Steaditracker folks and they were nice enough to ship it directly to the Asian resort we were going to be at which was somewhat off the beaten path compared to what us city slickers are accustomed to. Trying to coordinate that type of shipping when you are going to or will be in a foreign country is a logistical nightmare, so it was awesome they knew just what to do.

They tracked the shipment for us and let us know when to expect its arrival, and notified us of its arrival, all in a timely fashion.

One of the the things I noticed was there was no RCA extension adapter in the kit, nor apparently do cranes normally come with them, so a quick text to them and they agreed to let us borrow one they had laying around, and we received ii in a bit over 24 hours. Without having a remote monitor, I have no idea how you guys keep the moving subject properly framed, so we went the 7" monitor route via their "film maker kit".

With no experience whatsoever we were able to hook everything up once we had the cables and with just a few minutes of fooling around we were able to easily get nice smooth flying shots.

Now the airlines already sock it to those foolish enough to travel with anything more than a pair of Speedos, so the concept of taking an oversize crane in their nice padded heavy nylon bag as a 4th checked bag would have cost about $300 USD. After casually mentioning this, the Cobra Crane / Steaditracker people offered to have the crane picked back up at the resort and have it shipped back to them at their Asia facility which they would coordinate all for us, then they would put it in their ocean going cargo container next delivery schedule and have it arrive in San Diego, Calif. From there they would ship it to me UPS my expense.

They were ALWAYS right on the ball with answering e-mails, texts, my questions, and when it looked like I was going to go down in flames and not have all the right connector gear to make it all work, they snatched victory from the jaws of defeat for me.

Now keep in mind anytime when you deal with an Asian component of any company, you can pretty much forget about e-mails getting answered and issues resolved with any speed, so that made dealing with them all the more impressive.

Anytime I run into a company that goes that far out of their way to make sure we had a successful shoot, they deserve credit, so there you have it.
Dave -
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