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Gadget Bag: DSLR Video Support

Gear to keep your camera steady when you’re shooting motion
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This Article Features Photo Zoom

Redrock Micro Nano Universal Bundle; NOVOFLEX MMR uFLY

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.

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.

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.

This Article Features Photo Zoom

VariZoom FlowPod

The VariZoom FlowPod DSLR camera stabilizer system uses a handle and gimbal to reduce jarring movements for smooth panning when shooting video. In Monopod mode, the gimbal is locked, giving you a perfectly good monopod; when combined with VariZoom’s optional Low Flow kit, the FlowPod becomes well suited for working low to the ground and even macro shooting. Estimated Street Price: $398 (FlowPod); $86 (Low-Flow Kit).

The NOVOFLEX MMR uFLY and MMR BLUEBIRD combine into a highly effective stabilization kit with a variable friction ball joint and a quick-release platform. The MMR uFLY lets you hold the camera in a variety of configurations for shooting from a low or high position, and you can adjust camera position for balanced, comfortable shooting. The MMR BLUEBIRD adds a chest support and neck strap for better stability during longer video takes. It has a pair of handgrips that work with the adjustable friction MagicBall joint for aligning the camera and accessories. Estimated Street Price: $1,039 (MMR uFLY); $1,399 (MMR BLUEBIRD).

If you use a DSLR or mirrorless camera with a swiveling LCD, check out the Camtrol Prime. Its cage-free design makes it a good choice for these cameras, and it has an ergonomic handle that’s comfortable for low-angled, one-handed use. Four retractable legs and a vertical stabilizer bar give you options for positioning the camera on the ground. The Camtrol is compact, folding down to 10 inches in length. The company makes the Camtroller remote for controlling camera functions in LANC-enabled camcorders and DSLRs. List Price: $399 (Camtrol Prime); $99 (Camtroller).

Shoulder-Mount Devices
The BushHawk 320D keeps your Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax or Sony camera steady with a shoulder support system that’s reminiscent of a rifle. The device is especially useful for longer telephoto lenses. You can use the BushHawk 320D either left-handed or right-handed. List Price: $299 (Deluxe Kit); $399 (Professional Kit with quick-release system).

The Cinevate Simplis Solo is a compact and easy-to-use device. It consists of a Simplis Quick Release plate, a swiveling ¼-20 grip that attaches to the camera’s tripod mount, a shoulder stock and three lengths of Shoulder Stock rods. To make it easy to frame your shots as you move, Cinevate make a Cyclops DSLR Viewfinder that attaches to the Simplis. It’s particularly useful in bright conditions when it’s difficult to see your camera’s LCD screen. Estimated Street Price: $299 (Simplis Solo); $517 (Simplis Solo and Cyclops DSLR Viewfinder).

The ikan Shoulder Mount Deluxe kit gives you a package that features adjustable foam grips and an adjustable 3-pad shoulder mount. For comfort and stability, there’s a single static pad and two pivoting pads, and an adjustable 18-inch lateral cross bar rail for mounting accessories. You can adjust both the camera and shoulder mount forward or backward as needed. Estimated Street Price: $499.

One of the most popular steadying device makers is Redrock Micro. Known for producing fully modular systems, its Universal Bundles for DSLRs can be configured into many different rigs. The Nano Universal Bundle is lightweight, portable and effective for nature photographers. It has four basic setups: single grip, a shoulder brace and low shooting with the stripped-down Low Down configuration or the more elaborate Low Down Deluxe kit. If you want to cover all of your bases, the Complete Universal Bundle gives you enough gear to create almost every DSLR rig that Redrock Micro offers. Estimated Street Price: $1,276 (Nano Universal Bundle).

The Zacuto Striker is a gunstock-style steadying device with three points of contact: the handgrip, shoulder stock and chest. It’s light and easy to use. The Striker is eminently adjustable, as you can add other accessories to it, if you like. It attaches to your camera via a Zacuto Gorilla, and a tripod plate can be installed on the Gorilla plate for quickly switching from handheld to tripod use. Estimated Street Price $855.