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Steadicam for <$1000?


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#1 Jordan Ledy

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Posted 15 December 2008 - 09:11 PM

So christmas is coming up, and I'm thinking of treating myself to a new camera toy. I have an HVX, and I'd like something that would give me some freedom of motion that won't break my bank.

I've looked at the Steadicam Merlin, which, without the backpack and belt only costs $800, but a friend of mine advised me not to get it, as I wouldn't be able to move very quickly with it, and that ultimately I should either buy a shoulder mount, or spend the money on a 35mm lens adapter and rent a real steadicam if and when I need it.

what do you guys think? Is it worth it to invest in a cheap version Steadicam or Glidecam, or should I spend the bucks on something else and rent? -the jazzman
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 15 December 2008 - 10:32 PM

I would say cheap is cheap. . .and great steadycam, I think, is far less about the rig and far more about the operator. . . Something to think about.
Shoulder mount is very nice for the small cameras. Lens adapters, well they're alright, I prefer the Letus myself. Might be worth it to invest in lighting for under 1K though as camera equipment tends to get expensive quickly, whereas good lighting instruments can often be had used for a low cost (and much easier to fix if you happen to buy a broken one).
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#3 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 01:23 AM

I've looked at the Steadicam Merlin, which, without the backpack and belt only costs $800, but a friend of mine advised me not to get it, as I wouldn't be able to move very quickly with it

Well, you can run with it....I'm not sure how much quicker you want to go. The Merlin is a great little stabilizer, although you should make sure your camera won't be too heavy for it before you buy one.
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#4 Jordan Ledy

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 03:42 PM

Well, you can run with it....I'm not sure how much quicker you want to go. The Merlin is a great little stabilizer, although you should make sure your camera won't be too heavy for it before you buy one.


I have an HVX, which says in the specs that it is under 5 lbs without a battery, of course it needs a battery, so i'd say it's right on the border of the Merlin, which supports 5 lbs, although when I have enough cash to upgrade with the backpack and support arm, it can go up to 7.

My friend's also mentioned that to rent a steadicam, all you need is the cash for the rental, while if you want to rent a 35mm lens adapter like a Letus, you need to put down a large deposit. i don't know if that's rental house specific or general, but it's certainly a consideration.

I also think that's a good point that one can have the best steadicam rig but if you can't operate it properly it's still going to be a crappy shot. However, considering steadicam oping is a pretty steep learning curve, i want to make sure I'm setting myself up to succeed after i take the time to learn how to use it properly, instead of setting myself up for failure by buying a product that will never get the look or feel I want.

Truth is, speed is less of an issue, I just want to be able to make some smooth camera movements without laying dolly tracks and spending god-knows how much on dolly equipment.
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#5 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 03:44 PM

You can build a dolly for under $100......
As for rentals, most rental houses require insurance for any and all equipment going out, or for you to leave a deposit equal in value to the replacement cost. I don't see how this would differ if it's a steadycam rig which can run over 30G or a lens adapter which runs round 2500-6000.
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#6 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 17 December 2008 - 01:34 AM

My friend's also mentioned that to rent a steadicam, all you need is the cash for the rental, while if you want to rent a 35mm lens adapter like a Letus, you need to put down a large deposit. i don't know if that's rental house specific or general, but it's certainly a consideration.

I think your friend has been misinformed. Renting a Steadicam or lens adapter is basically the same process. You pay X amount and you use it. A lens adapter will be much cheaper to rent than a Steadicam (referring to a professional rig). But Adrian is correct about insurance, which may be where your friend is confused.
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#7 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 17 December 2008 - 01:38 AM

a steadycam rig which can run over 30G

Just for clarification, my personal rig would cost around $100k to replace, as would most professional rigs. I require at least a $100k insurance policy on every job I do. Most productions have $1,000,000.00 in coverage, so it's never been an issue. I don't know any steadicam operators who will work without an insurance cert in their hand before the job starts.
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#8 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 17 December 2008 - 07:09 AM

I had seen some of them for 'round 30, but I'm more a dolly man myself ;) (because well, I can't ever afford a steady-cam op!) As for myself, I only work without insurance for things which can be easily/cheaply replaced-- even then I have a rental agreement where production is totally responsible for any and all damages to the equipment. None of my cameras or cine lenses ever go anywhere without insurance. neither does the letus, so far no big issues with broken gear, though a lost screw here and there kind of sucks.
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