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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Gadget Bag: DSLR Video Support

Gear to keep your camera steady when you’re shooting motion

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Having the ability to capture motion with your DSLR opens up the enticing world of video vignettes and clips of landscapes, wildlife and sports. In landscape photography, think of a scene with dramatic clouds and swirling winds. Leaves shimmer in the sun, grasses blow back and forth. A 10-second clip shows so much more than any single frame.

One thing that spoils such a scene is camera shake. Handholding the camera, no matter how steady you think you are, will introduce some shake to your clip. The obvious solution is to use a tripod, and to be sure, that will keep your shot steady, but it also makes it completely static. You could pan and tilt a little if you have a video fluid head, but even this is a bit limiting.

Filmmakers in Hollywood have used the term "steadycam" to refer to shots that aren't on a tripod, but are handheld with a device that reduces or eliminates the slight shakes and bounces that are inherent anytime the camera isn't anchored down. Actually, Steadicam is the name of a product that over the years has come to be used like "xerox". Today, a number of manufacturers make stabilizing devices that are useful for nature photographers. Because we use relatively lightweight DSLRs or mirrorless cameras, we can take advantage of the lightweight, portable units that are available.

Glidecam HD-2000
Stabilizer Systems
Synonymous with keeping shots perfectly stable, Tiffen's Steadicam Merlin is lightweight (weighs less than one pound) and stabilizes cameras weighing from 0.5 to 5 pounds. The Merlin has become a favorite of many DSLR filmmakers, and it's an excellent fit with most mirrorless cameras. The Folding Caliper hinge collapses the unit in half for portability when not in use. Support arms and vests are available for extended takes that are too difficult to perform manually. Estimated Street Price: $799. www.tiffen.com

The Glidecam HD-2000 is perfectly suited to DSLRs. It has three-axis gimbaled balancing and an inertial control base platform. Setting up the balance is fast and simple via fine adjustment. When balanced correctly, the camera stays perfectly steady as you shoot and move, and because it's controlled with a single handle, your other hand is free for camera operation or pushing bushes aside. Estimated Street Price: $499. www.glidecam.com

The Sachtler artemis Handheld Camera stabilizer system is a 2.2-pound, one-handed stabilizer designed for perfect balance of DSLRs weighing up to 6.6 pounds. The artemis line features a number of high-end professional tools costing several thousand dollars, but the artemis Handheld Camera system is much more affordable for nature photographers. It's machined to dampen vibrations, and all of the components are separately adjustable for best balance. You can order the unit from Sachtler directly online. List Price: Begins at $650. www.sachtler.com


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