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Merlin vs other stabilizing options with GH2
  • Every once in a while I'll come across a stray Steadicam Merlin for sale on craigslist between $400-$600 range. I'm tempted, but not entirely convinced of the Merlin's compatibility with GH2? Anyone have experience with this combination? For that kind of money, should I be looking more at rig setups? I'm a mobile shooter, but once in a while I'll use a tracking dolly for pretty shots. I'm not entirely convinced on the sniper/cowboy line of rigs either. Thoughts and open discussion on this topic?

  • 27 Replies sorted by
  • If you haven't used a stabiliser before (any brand) then one thing you won't be able to do is manual focus or anything else which involves touching the camera during a shot. So you need to either live eith that or use a lens capable of AF. Whereas with a shoulder rig or dolly or whatever, you don't have that limitation.

    Apologies if you already know this, of course.

  • Merlin is best stab of it's type.

    I suggest to also look at Wondlan stabilizers.

    They have Pegasus and Ares similar to Merlin.

    We had them on deals and people who bough them had been pretty happy.

    They also have very ligh traditional stab.

    You can look at 24h deals.

  • @Vitaliy Do you know if the Wondlan may return to the deals section any time?

  • I posted them right away after asking seller.

  • For my GH1&GH2 i detached the Monitor from a very old Steadicam Merlin JR. So the system is quite light. With a 17mm Olympus 2.8, i can do even longer shots without a vest. With this Lens a manual aperture is needed. With Auto Aperture you can see the aperture steps if light changes. Anything else works great. The first scene in this video was done as described:

    For a more "steady" look, a wider lens can help. But for subjective camera its just what i need most. It took 8 times walking practice for this version (and it is still far away from what i wanted)

  • I could never make the cheap diy versions work. There was always a critical sway break. 75% of the way there is not there, steadicam has to be smooth or the viewer sees the motion break.

    if you truely want a steadicam effect, you may want to consider paying for it. If you can get by with a good handheld or shoulder with a little bit of jump here and there- it will be much cheaper.

    I had to have the real effect. I use a blackbird(which similar to merlin but easier to use and very high quality) with a merlin arm and vest. This is the only rig I am confident with that I can get the actual steadicam float consistently.

    Personally I can't use shoulderrigs unless they have a belly pad or are really well counterbalanced as you are constantly forced to push back and up with the handles as they are front heavy and want to pitch forward.

    With my blackbird/merlin arm vest, with any lens, I can put it on, balance and be ready to shoot in 5 minutes. it took practice to get there. Not just walking right, but learning how to balance, what weights to use, exc. For me, heavier rig is way easier to stabilize. I put my 5" monitor on my gh2 to make it heavy enough that it's not squirrely. I can see what's going on with the external monitor, an external monitor makes a huge difference. But once you get over a couple of camera pounds with the weight of the merlin or whatever combined... you start not wanting to do it anymore... you may be younger and stronger than me. But it can be torture, having to muscle up to hold it right, and hold it steady for looong minutes at a time.

    That's why I got the arm vest. With the vest I can shoot for a long time and get the right shot. And not care how much the rig weighs. I was able to get the arm/vest(I would not advise getting another brand of armvest for handheld) for about a grand used on ebay and 500 for the blackbird. It's a lot. But no matter what camera I go to(up to 8 lbs) in the future, I'll be using this. I want to get superb at it and invest the time and money.

    Hope this helps you navigate some of the options.

  • @Mark_the_Harp No worries, I've used the glide-cam 4000 with vest before with other cameras.

    @Vitaliy_Kiselev The Wondlan rig looks pretty good and people on PV seem generally satisfied with the product. I'll have to keep my eye out for the 24hr deals, thanks for making these deals available.

    @Gerald Nice! Did you find that getting a correct recipe for the GH1/GH2 to Merlin to be difficult? Seems like most of the complaints with the Merlin and HDSLRs is balance.

    @chauncy I do want the true steadicam effect, but I guess there's no compromise. That little jump is what kills me with shoulder rigs. I like the camera movement stylings of Freddie Wong's videos. In one of his behind the scenes videos, he was using what looked like a Manfrotto fig rig. Have you tried out anything similar to the fig rig style?

    Thanks a lot guys, can't wait to get some nice hardware for this GH2.

  • I have a glidecam hd-1000. I just got it, but it seems to be really good so far, pretty easy to balance, and very light. I know the glidecam hd series is very popular. I would reccomend the 1000, unless you are planning on flying with a complete cage and rails etc on top, the go for the 2000. The gh2 with a 14-42 only needs 1 plate on ether side to balance. lastly, they are much cheaper than steadicam merlin

  • I have a Steadicam JR rig (monitor-less version) that I have used with the 5dmk2 and now with the GH2. You have to spend more time to get the balance on the JR with the GH2 because it's so light. You want to get one without the LCD monitor built in, which are hard to find. There's one on ebay right now at 149.99 starting bid. If you can get it at that price it's a good deal.

  • I have owned a Merlin for several years now. With a DSLR it can be tricky. Most of these stabilizers were created for a video camcorder style center of gravity. The problem is that DSLR's are much more horizontally off balance, which means that depending on where the lens is, the center can be beyond the adjustment limits of the Merlin itself. It also means that DSLR's are much more susceptible to horizontal sway and roll. They can be thrown off much more quickly. One of the keys is the locking pin. You will need to insure there is no slippage by either creating a pressure gap by building up tape on both sides of the locking pin or using something like velcro.

    Ultimately, a traditional steadicam form like the entry level Pilot remains much more stable with DSLR's.

    The GH2 has less issues for balancing than the Canon cameras because it's so small and compact in general with the lenses it uses. There is therefore less horizontal sway. However, it's very lightness makes it problematic for balancing. It is almost too light in fact. Mass may be needed.

    Lastly, one of the ways in which greater horizontal flexibility can be added to both Merlin and Pilot for adjustments, as well as speeding up the mounting process is to use a Manfrotto 357 mounting plate and adapter like this: The bottom plate stays on the stabilizer and the plate is mounted horizontally (rather than vertically) across the bottom of the DSLR.

  • I bought the Flycam DSLR nano cause it is cheap and packing size is 36cm only which means you get it into a tool box for transport.

    It works well but you need a lot of practice. Adjusting the balance is very tricky cause it has no adjusting screws for fine tuning. Surprisingly it was more stable with the 5D than with the GH2. The GH2 is too light, therefore you would have to remove mostly all counterweights to get a downtime of 1,5 - 2,0 sec. This makes the whole system very "nervous".

    Instead I fixed a 10mm steel plate on top of the base plate. It adds about 450gr and makes the system with the GH2 much more stable but unfortunately more heavy too.

  • I have also operated Manfrotto modosteady, the Pegasus cam and SKIER ActingCam, and real Merlin in addition to my DIY SteadiCam. The best is Merlin after all, Modosteady is out of the question and the gimbal of Pegasus cam is not good, IMHO. ACTING CAM is not bad, I think.

  • I think you'll find your best bet is adding more mass to most of these options. Horizontal sway and roll are by far the most difficult problem.

    The 14-140 is reasonably stable when walking but the 20mm lens is real tough to get a good walk without a roll. You can put anything on the hotshoe to help give mass, I like monitor or zoom h4. It's a huge difference in killing sway.

    You can check out a thing bb has called smoothtouch- a friction adjustment on the gimbal to help reduce sway. It helps quit a bit.

  • @chauncy as I wrote I can highly recommend to put a steel plate on the base plate of the system. Putting weight on the hotshoe sets your balance point too high. I got a 10mm plate 10x16cm from a metal working company for some cans of beer ;-) It weights about 450 gram (1 lb) and you have a low center of gravity which is helpful for stability

  • Absolutely, the lower the center of gravity, the better. Hot shoe weighting is problematic and can actually cause MORE sway.

  • well I'm not using a merlin. I'm using a blackbird. Blackbird has a horizontal weight bar at its bottom, as do some other non-merlin types. So I don't think having a weight on the hotshoe is as much of an issue, they recommend that. I've seen the stability increase myself. The mounting plate area is pretty beefy as it is. So the design is significantly different from merlin.

    But I've never tried a special weighted plate. I could see how it might help with some of the light lenses. I like the monitor as weight because it's actually pretty hard to see how much your swaying with the lcd.

  • Have any of you guys tried the Konova Steadycam with the GH2 or anything?

  • @pvjames that one looks a lot like one of the wondlan models (ares, I think)

    Might be worth peeping the components (of how similar they are) and check out reviews of wondlan.

  • The Carbon Steadycam that was in the 24 hr deals looked pretty decent for it's price point.

  • I got this uvx Crossbow thing on Ebay a few years ago for $99, back when I had an HV40...I just tried it with the GH2 with 14-140mm lens and it took awhile to balance it, but its pretty good. I wouldn't show up for a paid shoot with it or you'll look like a retard and I wouldn't dare try it with my juicedlink attached for fear it would be too heavy, but all and all being the cheap bastard I am it works for me.

  • @pvjames
    I'm sure it is Wondlan Ares (I have same one) they might be resellers ...

  • Yep, it is just more pricey :-)

  • I bought a cheapo Hague stabilizer a year or so ago. I had to buy it from England, but since then, Opteka's brought out one in the States for about seventy dollars that looks almost identical. (Try Amazon) It's the same principle as the Merlin, but very stripped-down. I haven't tried it with my GH2, but I've used it a lot with my TM700 camcorder. Here's what I've learned.

    First of all, a stabilizer without a Steadicam "arm" is very. very effective. It's main job is in keeping the camera level: it moves the center of gravity to a point below the camera, and it isolates your hand and arm movement with the gimbal. Believe it or not, that's about ninety percent of where camera instability comes from in hand-held shots.

    The Steadicam "arm" mainly serves to support the weight of the camera and to absorb the shocks of your walking or running. That's very important with heavier cameras. But camcorders and DSLRs are pretty light, so your own arm strength can compensate pretty effectively. Frankly, between calibrating the stabilizer, some careful use, and the camera's own abilities to stabilize an image, you really don't need to get a full Steadicam-with-arm rig if you're using camcorders or light DSLRs.

    I recommend getting a small spirit level that you can mount in the hot shoe. They're necessary for stabilizer work.

    Cheap stabilizers present two problems with panning and tilting. Remember, the camera's balanced on a small ball. If you tilt the handle pack, the camera remains level, and if you pan left or right, the camera may remain oriented straight ahead. So you have to tilt by tilting the whole stabilizer. A for panning, I made a small wire hook that lets the camera tilt and stay level, but keeps it aiming where my hand is aiming.

  • I found this video, something new ? ... Some shooting:

    Looks interesting