This video is complete rambling about different feature sets of a few 'Small Camera stabilizers' I use. I have quite a few very large ones as well, but for now i'm just touching on these specifically because they are so close in what audience they are intended for. The three small stabilizers i'm showing are the Flycam Nano, the Glidecam HD1000, and the Skyler MiniCam (new and old). If you're not interested in knowing about the differences of such products, I suggests you skip this video since it's quite lengthy.
I'll start by saying that it's possible to get excellent results from ALL of these stabilizers. Don't be fooled to thinking you'll be achieving excellent results on the first day, even if you wanted to spend thousands of dollars on high end gear. With any stabilizer, it will require practice, practice, and even more practice. This video will probably generate more questions, but hopefully it's an insight of the different things to look for when shopping for a stabilizer.
The Flycam Nano does not have the best fit and finish as the other stabilizers, so obviously it will be much cheaper. It also does not carry the fine tuning knobs of a Glidecam HD series stabilizer. The Flycam Nano does not come with any type of Quick release system to make packing up and re-balancing more convenient.
Flycam Nano Video Camera Stabilizer
Glidecam: The Glidecam HD1000 has a quick release system, fine tuning knobs, and has better overall build quality and aesthetics. The quick release system will help you remove your camera from the stabilizer when you need to pack up, and makes it easy to get the camera back in the right spot for rebalancing. The fine tuning knobs help get very accurate alignment.
Note: Recently Glidecam released an XR version of their stabilizers which is cheaper, but will lack the QR plate and fine tuning knobs. (click here to see Glidecam XR-1000 via eBay)
Glidecam HD1000 Small Video Camera Stabilizer
Skyler MiniCam: The Skyler MiniCam is the most expensive of these three small stabilizers. It's also the smallest and lightest, but yet can still fly just as much weight. You can remove all of the parts from the Skyler for travel and set it back up without having to rebalance. Everything falls perfectly in alignment. It also offers a quick release stage - not only for packing up, but it can be used to move your camera to a tripod, slider, cage, rig, etc with the included 'mounting base plate'. The design of the lower sled makes it easy to adjust up and down for weight compensation, and does not have the same potential to shift (like the Glidecam and Flycam models). Build quality is top notch.
Skyler MiniCam Video Camera Stabilizer Kit
If you're just starting out, doing it as a hobby, or just curious about flying camera movements you could start on the lower end. The actual practice of flying a stabilizer is more important than the stabilizer itself. Sell it off later when you're ready to upgrade or try renting one for a weekend to see if it's something you're interested in, and how often you think you'll be using it. If you're already flying a stabilizer and need more of the convenience of fine tuning knobs, quick release plates, compact for travel, and ease of rebalance, then look for the higher end models that offer some of those features like the Glidecam HD or Skyler Minicam.
i really recommend you guys to AVOID flycam! my camera fall off from its base it broke my $2000 lens! the materials used to make it is dirt cheap and can be faulty especially for video production where it aint rainbow and sunshine. Its bad for long term use. Take my advice and save yourself from this awful material brand, you can thank me later.
I just received Skyler Minicam and i was worried that i will run into the same problems with balancing and max weight after reading all posts.
Yes, it can support 5lbs 6oz (Canon 7D, BattGrip w/ 6 AA, Zoom H4n w/2AA) Rod height at #8, plus 5 extra (total 15) big washers on each leg (i dont remember washer size, but it was the biggest at Menards)
It balanced easier and handles better. Adding wires or removing lens cap did not change balance at all. Its more stable.
Dont know side effects yet, as i had no real possibility to benchmark it, but the only problem im worried about is extra stress on joints. Also i have to figure out how to permanently attach washers.
Liquid Thread locker helped a lot on micro adjustment bolt, its less wobly now.
I was surprised at how small it is, and quality is really nice.
Yeah just thought something was missing on mine because I don't even have the thread to put the weight there,
Also the adjusting one at the botom where you mention you can put a monopod is different as well,
@impoze - It's just another option and not really required to balance the Skyler. I have that option on mine, but actually don't use it very much. So what do you think of the unit so far?
I just received my skyler today, and it doesnt have the extra accessory stick weight on the bottom.
if you look at their ebay auction, you also don't see it in the photos.
Modified Flycam Arm Brace with Skyler MiniCam Stabilizer » CheesyCam
@Cindy P. - The XR series lacks the quick release, fine tuning knobs, and lower sled weight adjustments. I would have gone with the HD1000.
I am new to videography and I am trying to do my research before buying product, but I need some advise on a GlideCam XR 1000 that I just purchased. I settled in the Glidecam brand due to the reviews and noted performance along with a better price point. I was confussed at which model I should purchase so I contacted one of the large camera stores and consulted them on which model for my camera. I have a Panasonic AG HMC 40 that weighs around 2.5 pounds (give or take a few ounces) and it was recommended that I purchase the Glidecam XR1000. I realize from everything I have read and watched these things are not easy to balance, but I am seriously wondering if I was sold the wrong version for the model of camera that I have. When I look at the Glidecam website they show a small compact consumer type camera on the model I have and they show the 4000 with what looks to be more like my camera looks. Did I purchase the wrong one? Can you help me out and give me your advise on the model that would better suite my camera.
@carl - True. I think it can be modified to work, but after picking up the Skyler, I sold the Arm Brace I had. LOL.
Thanks for replying to my above question.
It's great that it has a hole and fine that it is at an angle because if you look at the flycam arm brace you can move the post to various angles to fit onto the styler. In fact it would make a great video because with your DIY skills I've sure you could easily adapt it.
@carl - Yes it has a hole in the handle, but it's only half the size of the Glidecam handle. It's probably possible to attach it to a vest but the adapter would have to be at an angle.
Does the handle of the skyler have a hole in the bottom to attach an arm for a vest or the forearm support I own that I bought from the people who make the flycam in India.
Skyler MiniCam with SoloWheel Flying T4i 650D » CheesyCam
Thanks again. Love the blog, so much helpful stuff. Keep it up!
@Simon - I find it better when the post is not fully collapsed.
got the Skyler Minicam now, and I am now on the practice makes perfect regime. One quick question - is it better to have fewer weights at the bottom and a longer extension of the centre column, or better to have more weight and less extension? Or does it matter?
Cool, thanks for the help
@Simon - All of these stabilizers should be able to fly that Camera + Lens, but to add a monitor is very ambitious. I don't think you'll need a monitor to start out. I would practice your movements first as this will take several weeks of learning how to walk, run, and steer.
Thanks, I am looking at flying a Canon 5D Mark 11 with a 24-70mm L 2.8 lens and I was wondering about adding a smallhd DP4 at the back of the camera for viewing? I haven't used a stabilizer before, so this theory may be over ambitious.
@Simon - I haven't tested MAX weight, but it does come with a bunch of counterweights and flies my Canon 5D Mark III with a decent lens, and still has weights left over. If I had to guess it would be around 4lbs give or take..
what is the maximum weight of camera that the skyler minicam 11 can handle? Can't find any information about this.
Nope. Cause i found it at Camera Equipment Store.
no links to your glidecam clones?
ok thanks for the tip!
@freelyradical - These stabilizers are too big for something lightweight like the iPhone. You need to look into something like the Smoothee for the iPhone (seen here).
hi emm. thanks for your review.
this may seem silly but I want to get a stabilizer for my cell phone camera (which shoots in 1080p). its 4.7 ounces. I hope to make it work using a $20 cell phone tripod mount (called istabilizer mobimount).
do you have any advice that you think i should hear before spending my savings on one of these stabilizers?
Thanks for these review, Emm.
Emm, I just found out something interesting that i found a clone of glidecam or Chinese made Glidecam.
As you can see the photos i took here :
Seems like HD1000 or HD2000.
Just bought it yesterday. Finishing wise. Some bolt and nuts aren't that good. Others are fine. and it also has micro adjustment and I only bought it in China for under $200 is a steal.
Review or Test soon!
Thanks. Will review the videos again So am I remotely close in terms of configuring the stabilizer correctly or am I over thinking the setup and adjustment?
@ScottDSLR - You've got a lot of questions, and I think you have some assumptions that are incorrect with balancing and flying a stabilizer. I would go back and look at a few Flycam and Glidecam balancing techniques on YouTube and Vimeo. Even I don't think I explain it well. My best advice is to practice for a few months. Yes, that's correct - a few months. People will assume it's something they can figure out in a weekend, but it takes several months of practice to start getting good at not just balancing, but steering, walking, running, framing, focusing, and then there's 'style'. Practice practice.
No experience with stabilizers. That's why I bought the skyler because of the control. Knew it would hard just shifting a plate around and tightening. i have nothing to compare to so don't know how easy/hard it would be with other device. I suspect it's all user error and just hands on learning.
Number of surprises for a new user:
1. No tolerance. A mm or 1 screw turn means the difference of working or not working. Like balancing a pin. If it's angled to the right a turn of the screw will have it leaning to the left. Same with forward/back and swing time.
2. You assume adjusting 1 axis at a time would work but after you adjust the side to side you have to adjust the front to back and cycle through all the controls again and again trying to get them all to be the correct value. As soon as one is correct it seems to shift another axis just a bit.
3. Even once you have it adjusted if you pick it up and move it around a bit the camera will tilt forward or back or sidewise. You cover this a bit on your video on adjusting stabilizers. I tried using a cheap c-stand to hold the stabilizer handle while I adjusted it. Much easier than on your arm. Got it perfect. Then I lifted it off by hand and again it would shift. I now try swinging the stabilizer before i take it off. Even when it's perfectly level vertical if you swing it even with a free and smooth joint, it may not come back to perfectly level. So it seems you have to adjust it with enough motion it's not just vertical due to resistance. And I discovered that's why you and others do the fast left/right and in/out type of motion to make sure the shaft isn't swinging or tilting.
4. I've set the weights so I can get an approx 2 second fall from 90 degrees with the center post set at half length. Then I just the height in mm to adjust the timings.
Just how perfect does it need to be? The answer seems to be perfect.
I would have thought there'd be engineering or procedures to make this much faster and easier. Certainly looks relatively easy from most posted videos. (Where's all the self leveling options 😉
My tip is make sure it's configured EXACTLY like you will be shooting. If your LCD is out or you calibrate it with the lens cap on (trying to protect the lens) it will be way off once you remove the lens cap. Hate to think about radical focus change from balance. The c-stand helps a lot.
Then of course when you try to use it after it's been balanced perfectly. (and i realize a lot of this is simply getting practice)
1. Whats the best way to check framing? I have the 60D with the angled lcd but will need to tape on black cardboard when using outdoors. How do you frame with lcd flush on the back for anything other than exactly eye height, especially outdoors? I'm using my LCD on the side. Wondering if it's easier keeping it flush on the back just to keep the weight more compact.
2. How loose or tight of grip do you have on the rod? Even balanced it's very easy to get the effect of being on the water with swinging or tilting. This with the Tokina 11-16. Do you just try to keep it from swinging too much? Should the only thing your other hand be doing is making sure it's pointed the right way?
3. When do you use the skyler base plate adjustments versus the added forward/back and side screwed in weights? all the docs that come with version 2 are actually for version 1 and don't cover these newer options.
Seems like some type of dampening system would be a great option. I can certainly see the need to have full float control but it would be nice to have the option of saying keep the camera pointed in the forward direction (without it rotating on it's own) and it would be nice if the side and front/back swinging was just enough to keep it level and to avoid or minimize these motions when moving.
Are the larger stabilizers (10lb limit and above) easier to balance? Do they tend to be less finicky or have more natural dampening to avoid swinging?
If you set the stabilizer to less than 2 seconds swing does than make it less finicky and more damped? What happens if you set it to take 4 seconds? My experience with this last approach it may never return to level if it's too balanced.
What's the best practice? Setting up an object and trying to walk around it? Walking with the system, running with the system while tracking someone? i assume you'd want a spotter if you were walking backwards much.
Thanks for answering these and the previous questions.
@Scott - What's your experience with Stabilizers? I don't see any of those issues with both of my Skylers. It's possible you still don't have it balanced correctly? Yes finger and thumb on rod to control steering, practice practice.
Bought a skyler and just starting to work with it. Seems like the settings are very touchy (1 screw rotation or mm shift makes a huge difference) And it seems to get a bit out of adjustment when shooting or moving camera setup. Is that normal?
What's the correct way to keep it level and pointed correctly? Slight finger and thumb on rod? Any practice tips or control tips? Thanks.
@Casey - The HD2000 would have worked fine for your setup, even if you decided to go with a 5D. If it's too light for the HD4000, you could always add some additional weight to the top with a quick release or LED light.
Hello, so I bought a GlidecamHD4000 for my T3i + Bat Pack + 24-70L. Shuld I went with hd2000? Looking to upgrade to 5dIII too
Thanks for the reply Emm!
@Albert - I have no experience with the new Flycam Carbon Stabilizers, but if you plan on trying a monitor, I would suggest you go with at least the HD2000 (or cheaper XR2000) from Glidecam.
Hey Emm, Been a long time reader.
I'm looking for a stabilizer to fly my 5D, a 50mm 1.4 or 10-20mm Sigma, and my SmallHD 5" monitor (with 2 LP-E6 batteries on the battery plate) along with a small friction arm to hold the monitor.
Do you think any of the stabilizers you previewed in this post would be sufficient for this amount of weight? All in all, its going be just around 5lbs from my guess, but I'd like to know how much buffer I can have with these stabilizers. Would adding DIY counter weights/washers as you suggest be sufficient in countering small overages in weight from the amount of weight advertised?
Do you have any experience with the Flycam CF3 or CF5? I was looking at these after you posted them on the website and they look the part, they appear to have the micro tuning knobs and a quick release plate. However I'm hesitant to jump the gun quite yet, however I do need one fairly soon.
Thanks for your time.
@LJ - Just a basic lock washer from the hardware store. Once it's sandwiched in between, it doesn't come loose. You could also try some teflon tape, or light weight thread lock (silicone stuff) found in Auto stores.
Let me just chime in with a brief assessment of the Opteka SteadyVid Pro. I received mine a couple of weeks ago and used it on a professional music video shoot.
I've never used a stabilizer before, so setting it up was a new experience for me. Based on comments I've read about balancing a steadycam, I was prepared for the worst. But much to my surprise, I was able to balance it in less than an hour.
I found an incredibly helpful YouTube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uEEdYMopzw) where the guy explains very clearly the general principles of stabilizer balancing and how each adjustment affects the weight balance. Once I understood that, it's actually quite easy to balance. The video is based on a homemade stabilizer, but it's the same as the Merlin design, and applies to the Opteka as well.
I also downloaded the manual for the Merlin, since there's really no manual to speak of with the Opteka stabilizer. The Merlin manual has a really helpful section about how to properly use a stabilizer. For example, I never knew that using a stabilizer is primarily a two-handed operation, with each hand having its own role in helping to keep the rig steady. I highly recommend reading this part of the Merlin manual.
I found that my GH2 with a 20mm pancake lens was actually too light for the Opteka stabilizer (the bottom would swing too much), so I mounted a heavy Manfrotto slider plate on the stabilizer's base, and that solved the problem instantly. Actually, I also had to put a ball-mount on the camera's hot shoe to get enough weight on top.
The micro adjustment knobs on the stabilizer base are a Godsend - I can't imagine using the stabilizer without them. On the music video shoot, I had to switch between tripod shooting and stabilizer shooting several times throughout the day, and if it weren't for the micro adjustment controls, it would've taken me forever to get the stabilizer rebalanced each time. Every time I remounted the camera on the stabilizer, the balance would be off by a hair, which is normal, but a few tweaks of the micro knobs got everything rebalanced within minutes.
I thought the stabilizer performed extremely well. You definitely need to learn how to move with it and understand how it behaves to use it effectively. Stabilizers operate on momentum, and you need to understand how to compensate for that, especially when making directional changes. This is where the Merlin manual came in really handy.
My only complaint about the Opteka unit is that the counterweights don't come in individual segments like on the Merlin. There's one large piece (that looks like it's segmented, but it's not), and a couple of smaller individual segments. Because of how the segments join, you have limited configuration options. If the weights were all supplied as smaller segments, I could've combined them in a way that would've accommodated my GH2 without having to add the Manfrotto plate. But I can understand how they probably designed it this way to keep costs down. It's definitely not a dealbreaker, and you can obviously work around it.
I have no complaints about the build quality, but I did add my own foam sleeve at the bottom of the handle. It's exposed metal at the very bottom, and after being supported by my palm for a while, it started to hurt my hand. But adding a little foam ring to it solved that.
Like I said, I've never used a stabilizer before, but the Opteka unit certainly satisfies all my needs, so far.
hi em, what type of lock washers do you use with the flycam nano? The base shift is the biggest issue i have with it and occasionally I just want to GAFF the whole thing down.
@Jerry Also - I'm guessing HD2000 at the minimum for the Black Magic.
How about without matte box, just Blackmagic & lens, >4 lbs?
@Phillip - The angle might help, but I think the post is too thick to fit into the Skyler handle. I plan on modding something myself soon.
@Jerry also - When you start talking Matte Box, I suggest going for at least the 2000 series XR, or HD.
@N.K.Osborne - The Opteka sounds good, but I have yet to see a quality video from it. I also didn't include it in this review because I consider it a different type of stabilizer. It's closer to the design of the BlackBird and Merlin, which could be in another video.
I'm still waiting for your Opteka steadyvid pro, review 🙂
Would have liked to see the Opteka Steadicam tossed in there. People seem to really like that device.
You da man! da mannn!!
And you having had a stare at the Blackmagic DCC, and estimating (shall we) a total weight of 5-6lbs including lens & matte-box complete with rails and filter, which of the above do you imagine might fly it? Any definitely not?
That was not boring at all, thanks for sharing.
The Steadicam Merlin vest comes with a bent/angled post. Would the Skyler work well with that angled post? Thanks!
@Elliot - The Skyler is the lightest and smallest. Regardless of how light it is, the technique in flying these stabilizers will wear you out quick if you dont practice often.
@robert The thing looks like it wouldn't last even a month.
You said that the flycam was available for $130 online in the video... where?!
Claude Lee Sadik
I got the Flycam Nano, and I never really liked it. There's some play between the screws/fixations. I fixed it using a piece of cardboard but there are still vibrations. It feels like the weight of the camera (550D + Sigma 10-20 f/3.5) adds some friction in the gimbal and hence is not as smooth as it could be.. The gimbal even feels not well centred!
At first I thought it was me not using it properly, but someone lend me a Glidecam HD2000 and I could feel the difference! The gimbal is much smoother, balancing is much faster... And videos were finally stable!
How much does a flycam nano weigh? (It's the lightest, I take it)
I'd like to know so that if I get it, my arm wont get tired/hurting after skiing all day with a 3-4lb T2i.
@Robert - The Merlin was designed to accept a Steadicam Vest if you need to use one. The Skyler does not have a vest. That's about the only advantage I can think of. Other than that, I feel the Skyler has more to offer and is easier to fly because of placement of your steering hand. I feel the Skyler is also less prone to light winds.
@Michael - The idea with a lower counterweight is to spread the mass outwards. They both work equally as effective, but when setting the stabilizer down, the Skyler seems to be more solid and not likely to tip over like the Glidecam.
Great info! I have recently acquired a Flycam Nano, and after a some hours of fine-tuning, it seems great for its price. I am using it with a 60D and 10-22 lens, and I've also attached a Manfrotto quick release plate which basically allows me to go from tripod to flycam (and vice versa) quite quickly. You can also remove the base easily which makes it more portable when fitting it in a case.
I would really like to see a video explaining some tips & tricks when using a stabilizer. Would really come in handy!
Does the design of the Skyler lower sled (the 3 weighted legs in triangle pattern) help it to balance better than the traditional lower sled of the HD1000?
Ahh. I stand corrected. Thanks, Emm. One last question: what would you recommend between the Merlin and the Skyler MiniCam. What advantages (if any) does the Merlin have over it?
@Tosh - On the old one, every single knob locks in place. The new version has these two counterbalance weights which does not have a way to lock, but doesn't seem to come loose.
On the Skyler will the adjustment knobs lock in place once it's balanced? If not, how easy for the knobs to loosen and go off balance?
@Robert - I think what you mean is that it comes with an 'additional' quick release adapter, but that's not something designed with the system, nor is it standard with every seller. The Glidecam and Skyler have this Quick Release as part of the design (not optional).
You can always buy a separate quick release adapter for any of these stabilizers if you need one. If you're using Manfrotto tripods, I suggest getting the Manfrotto quick release base plate (or Calumet branded one), to make moving the camera around easier.
@Scott - Yes I use them all to fly ALL my Canon bodies with general lenses. Canon 5DM2, 5DM3, 7D, 60D, T2i, T3i, etc. etc. The Skyler I have found was able to also fly the 'least' amount of weight better than the other stabilizers if you want to fly something like the GH2 or Sony NEX7.
The newer models of the Flycam Nano do come with a quick-release plate.
What's the weight range for these? Can they handle a basic HDSLR camera and Lens?