Almost no one is perfect, and you can use even the best camera, but if your hand trembles at the moment you press the shutter release, spoil the perfect shot. In the case of shooting video, the situation may turn out to be even worse - moving behind a moving object and not always managing to look underfoot, the operator, especially the inexperienced one, will inevitably provoke shaking. However, you have probably noticed that this problem is not observed among professionals.
In fact, the trick is not to work hard for a long time and work hard in a stable position, but to buy special equipment that smooths shaking for removing equipment. Such a device is called a stabilizer or steadicam.
There are many different models of stabilizers for the camera, but they are all divided into two main classes, radically different in principle of operation. Accordingly, steadicam can be either mechanical or electronic.
Mechanics, of course, appeared earlier. Mechanical steadicams are often called manual because they look like a free-floating lock for a camera with a handle. When shooting with such equipment, the operator controls not so much the camera itself as the holder. It works according to the principle of classical scales - the place for mounting the camera is always in a horizontal position, and if you sharply pull the handle, the equipment itself will return to the “correct” position, but it will do it smoothly, without blurring the picture.
A professional gyrostabilizer of this type works in all axes, which is why it is called three-axis.
Those who want to save money and just jack of all trades can make such a device even on their own.
As befits an ageless classic, the advantages of mechanical steadicam mass. Here are just a few of them:
- the mechanism is very simple, consists of a minimum of parts, therefore it is relatively inexpensive;
- mechanical steadicam does not depend on the weather in any way, it does not need to be waterproof, because it is not afraid of moisture - only the camera can withstand it;
- Such a stabilizer functions solely due to the elementary laws of physics, it basically does not have anything like a power source, and therefore it does not need recharging and can work for unlimited time.
If you already think that you are in love with this type of device, be prepared for that, then it also has significant shortcomings. Firstly, the unit must be correctly configured, otherwise instead of an ideal horizontal position, it will constantly twist your camera along one or several planes. Secondly, during sharp turns, rotating equipment can simply “not catch up” with a frame that needs to be photographed quickly, or, by inertia, first rotate more than we would like. In a word, mechanical steadicam is very simple at first glance, but you still have to get used to it.
The electronic unit operates in a completely different way - electric motors are returned to the correct position. Deviations from the correct position are determined by sensors, so that even a scarlet angular distortion, which you would not have noticed with the naked eye, will be fixed and corrected. Electronic stabilizers are divided into two-axis and three-axis, the second, of course, give a much better picture than the first.
The benefits of using electronic steadicam are obvious. First of all, it’s easy and simple to set them up, “smart” equipment itself will tell you how best it will be, whether it will be checked again correctly. Thanks to this, both photos and videos are obtained at the level of professional shooting - provided, of course, that you have a good camera and that you configured it correctly.
But here, there were some flaws. Firstly, technologically sophisticated equipment a priori cannot be cheap - that’s why it’s not worth it. Secondly, electronic steadicam works thanks to the battery, and if it is discharged, the entire unit turns into useless. Thirdly, most typical electronic stabilizers, as befits an electrical appliance, are afraid of contact with water. The instructions for them specifically indicate that they are not suitable for shooting outdoors in rainy weather.
Of course, there are waterproof models, but for the quality, as often happens, you will have to pay extra.
Of course, the best stabilizer, which would be equally good for any camera, does not exist in nature - in all cases it is necessary to adapt to the camera and the shooting features. However, under the same conditions and the same model of shooting equipment, certain steadicams will have an advantage over everyone else. In view of this, our rating will be rather conditional - none of the models presented in the list may be suitable for an individual reader. Nevertheless, these are the best or very popular models in their classes, which simply should not be ignored if they are suitable for you according to the characteristics.
- Feiyu FY-G5. While everyone criticizes Chinese goods, it is the Steadicam from the Middle Kingdom who is considered by millions of users to be the most compact among all three-axis ones - it weighs only 300 grams. By the way, it will cost a lot - about 14 thousand rubles, but it has a universal mount, where you can attach any camera.
- Dji Osmo Mobile. Another "Chinese", which is widely regarded as the best solution in terms of functionality and quality. True, it is even more expensive than the previous model - from 17 thousand rubles.
- SJCAM Gimbal. Among electronic models, it is often called the most affordable - if desired, it can be found for 10 thousand rubles with copecks. Many consider the drawback of the unit that it is suitable only for action cameras of the same manufacturer, but it’s a pleasure to manage them, because the holder has the necessary buttons that allow you not to reach for the camera.
- Xiaomi Yi. The stabilizer from the famous manufacturer attracts the attention of fans of this brand, who buy steadicam to the camera of the same company. However, it is worth noting that at a price of 15 thousand rubles, the structure is surprisingly devoid of a holder, so you will have to additionally buy a standard monopod or tripod.
- Steadicam. So, of course, you can’t do this, but enterprising Chinese decided to produce mechanical steadicam under the brand name, which is literally called that. This complicates the search for the right product, but the designated model made of aviation aluminum weighing 968 grams costs less than 3 thousand rubles, and is considered one of the best in its category.
- Beholder MS-PRO. Stabilizers for professional needs cost a lot more, but they have improved properties. About 40 thousand rubles will have to be paid for this model, but it is a combination of lightness and strength that is magnificent, rare for amateur steadicams. An aluminum unit with a modest weight of 700 grams can withstand a camera weighing up to 1.2 kilograms.
- Zhiyun Z1 Evolution. For an electronic stabilizer, it is very important to work as long as possible without additional recharging, it is this model, for 10 thousand rubles, that meets this requirement as well as possible. The battery has a good capacity of 2000 mAh, and the generous manufacturer, just in case, also added two of them to the package.
- Zhiyun Crane-M. The same manufacturer as in the previous case, but a different model. This steadicam, for 20 thousand rubles, is often called the best for small cameras in the weight range of 125-650 grams, it is also often used to stabilize smartphones.
In this case, the supplier also decided to put two batteries in the box at once, and the life of each of them on a single charge is estimated at 12 hours on average.
How to choose?
When purchasing a stabilizer for a video camera, you need to understand that the existing variety of models is not just like that, and it’s impossible to choose the conditional best instance among them. It all depends on what kind of needs you get for steadicam. From the foregoing, it could be concluded that for professional video shooting, electronic steadicams seem more relevant, in general, this is true - it is easier and easier to set up.
However, even this criterion is highly dependent on the situation, and if you do not shoot any action at its epicenter, then mechanics may well be enough.
In any case, the choice should be guided by very specific criteria, which we will consider in more detail.
- Which camera (mirrorless or mirror) is suitable for this model. The connection of the steadicam with the camera itself should be as reliable as possible, ensuring that the shooting equipment does not detach from the holder at a sharp turn. At the same time, some stabilizers are produced with an eye to a specific camera model - they provide better grip, but will not work with alternative equipment. Most of the models on the market have a standard connector and are suitable for all cameras.
- Dimensions A stabilizer is hardly needed at home - this is equipment that they take with them on business trips, trips, and trips. Because compactness for such an aggregate is undoubtedly a big plus. Paradoxically, it is small steadicams that are usually more technologically advanced, if only because the mechanics are always too big, but they have no additional functions.
- Permissible load. Cameras can vary significantly in weight - all sorts of GoPro fit easily in the palm of your hand and weigh accordingly, and professional cameras do not always fit on the shoulder of a strong man. Obviously, the steadicam should be chosen taking into account that he was able to support the weight of the shooting equipment that they want to fix on it.
- Weight. In most cases, the steadicam with the camera attached to it is held on an outstretched arm. This position of the hand is largely unnatural, the limb may get tired even if you do not hold anything in it. If the equipment is also heavy, it’s simply not possible to remove it without respite for too long, and sometimes it is simply criminal to interrupt. For this reason, lightweight steadicam models are valued higher - the hand gets tired less of them.
- Operating time without recharging. This criterion is relevant only when choosing electronic steadicam, since mechanics do not have a power source at all, and therefore are able to “tear” any electronic competitor. By saving on a battery with a small capacity, you risk being in a situation where there is a stabilizer, but you can’t use it.
Consumers often wonder about which model to choose for SLR and mirrorless types of cameras. In this sense, there is no fundamental difference - focus only on those criteria that are listed above.
How to do it yourself?
Probably, such a person has not yet been born who would, at home, with his own hands, design an electronic stabilizer. Nevertheless, the design of its mechanical counterpart and the principle of its operation are so simple that the task no longer looks insoluble. Diligent homemade steadicam, done diligently, is unlikely to be much worse than inexpensive Chinese models, but will cost a mere penny. At the same time, it should be understood that you still should not expect a stunning result from such artisanal products, because it makes sense to further process the video through video editors.
Theoretically, you can experiment with any materials at hand, but in most cases a reliable and durable unit is assembled, of course, from metal. It is noted that the simplest mechanical stabilizers give a better result with an increase in mass, therefore it is hardly necessary to rely on the fact that the final product turns out to be light.
From metal blanks, horizontal and vertical strips should be made. Rigidity is mandatory for both - swinging weights should not swing the horizontal bar to which they are suspended, and the vertical bar must successfully resist torsion and bending. They are interconnected by a screw connection, designed so that it is possible to change the angle between them easily and without additional tools, unscrewing and screwing up the individual parts again. The camera will be mounted on a vertical bar. The device must be configured according to the usual bubble level, or, if the shooting equipment is able to do so, according to its sensors.
The length of the horizontal bar is needed as much as possible - the farther the opposing weights suspended at the edges of the bar, from each other, the better stabilization. Moreover, fragments of the stabilizer should not fall into the frame even at the minimum focal length, and this imposes certain restrictions on the maximum permissible length of the structure. The problem could be solved by lengthening the vertical bar with a higher camera mount point, but this would make the design too cumbersome.
As weights, you can use any small, but rather heavy items, including ordinary plastic bottles filled with sand. The exact mass of weights that will ensure reliable and high-quality stabilization can only be determined empirically - too much depends on the weight and dimensions of the camera, as well as on the length of the horizontal bar and even the shape of the weights themselves. In homemade designs for cameras weighing about 500-600 grams, a homemade stabilizer with weights can easily weigh more than a kilogram.
For the sake of ease of use, handles, which can be purchased at a small price, are bolted to the structure in different places. Where exactly to place them, in what quantity (for one hand or for two), depends only on the flight of the designer’s imagination and the features of his camera, including its dimensions and weight. At the same time, before final assembly, you need to make sure that even with a minimum focal length, the handle does not fall into the frame.
Many self-taught designers note that correctly made rigid inertial steadicam turns out to be more practical and reliable than inexpensive pendulum models from the store. With the correct calculation of the dimensions and weight of the steadicam, the camera will give a normal picture, even if the operator runs over bumps. At the same time, the control of the structure is extremely simple - when strengthening the shaking, the handle must be squeezed harder, and when it is reduced, the grip can be weakened.
On how to choose steadicam, see below.