A morning running amok in a warehouse!

Just a quick post to say I’ve had a very useful and instructive morning over at the offices and warehouse of Keene Electronics who are based near me in Derbyshire, where the kind folks who run the company let me try out various bits of stabilisation gear for the video book I’m currently writing. (Many thanks Adam and Alan!)

The length of their warehouse was just the right length for seeing how well different items of stabilisation kit work with light (Olympus E-PL1) and heavy (Canon 5mk2) cameras, including while running.

Very instructive to be able to get my hands on the gear, and have a play with it, even briefly. Some products like the Manfrotto Modosteady are clearly intended for CSCs and small cameras rather than HDSLRs (max load weight is 750g) and others like the Seagull Shoulder Support are designed for rather sturdier loads.

In practice, I’d say that stabilising unwanted camera motion while running is a tough call for any piece of stabilisation gear – that’s perhaps why (Hollywood) industry standard Steadicams cost so much. And that it’s easier to stabilise a very lightweight camera than a heavier one. But both the Modosteady and Seagull also had surprising extra uses – the Modosteady seems very good in the shoulder steadying position (just using the support as a 3rd point of contact) for interview use – it’s possible to have the camera far enough offset that the interviewee can talk naturally to you as a camera operator without staring down the barrel of the lens like a news presenter, and you can still see the LCD screen to see what you’re recording.

And the Seagull Shoulder Support is highly configurable to allow use in a range of different positions. The most stable one I found was for low level shooting, where the ability to configure it so that one hand is on a handle above the camera, and one on the base plate behind the camera allowed for counterbalancing pressure which kept it surprisingly still. The indented (thumb grip) foam covering on the various handles was also very ergonomic, and felt good in the hands. It’ll be interesting to see how that compares with the Camcaddie from PhotoJojo when Royal Mail finally release it from customs to me!

I also had a brief play with the Seagull viewing loupe, and there’s a few things that (for me) make it far superior to the Hoodman I currently own (and don’t really use!). It’s attachment actually works (score 1) and comes as part of the package (score another 1). Despite it’s connection to the camera being based on a removable adhesive strip, it didn’t fall off in practice (once I’d removed the plastic semi-adhesive LCDscreen protector on my camera!). And moderate “persuasion” correctly unclipped the quick release rather than the adhesive failing to stay attached.(Further point to Seagull). Obviously, I’d want to test this longer term to know how well it survives in the mountains, but for a quick indoors test, the signs are very good.

The 3x magnifier in the loupe also comes as standard, and makes a big different to clarity of view, as does the large soft plastic eyecup (score another to Seagull)- which is designed for use regardless of whether you wear specs or not. It still suffers from the same ergonomic issue of not being able to place the camera far enough away from your head during interviews, but that’s perhaps more of an issue of HDSLR ergonomics in general than the viewing loupe’s design. (Oh and it’s cheaper than the Hoodman by the time you’ve added the optional holding strap, eyecup and upgraded to the 3x magnification option!) Final score – Seagull 5, Hoodman 0… (even if they have a funky logo!)