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Pilot or Flyer or Scout - help me decide


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#1 Nigel Barker

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 03:56 AM

I would welcome some discussion & advice as to which lightweight Steadicam I should buy. I have some experience with a Merlin but my eyes were opened by a 2-day Steadicam workshop I recently attended & I can really see me using a lightweight Steadicam in our business (I am not looking to become a freelance operator). Amongst other work we shoot vacation properties for rent & also properties for sale. A lot of the shots for which we currently use a Glidetrack or tripod & dolly I think we can do quicker & easier with a Steadicam not to mention adding some nice camera moves that will add extra pizzazz to the videos. The cameras we currently use are Canon XH-A1 & Canon 5D Mk II but we are getting a Canon XF305 in a couple of weeks & will be purchasing a Panasonic AG-AF101 when they start shipping. I have decided to buy a Steadicam but am having some difficulty in deciding exactly which model.

The obvious & cheapest choice is a Pilot. All of the cameras that we own or will be using soon are under 10lbs so it would be suitable. However for a bit more money (OK quite a lot more but say 50-75% more) I can buy a used Flyer or even a new Scout when they are shipping (next month allegedly). I have used a prototype Scout & it was great but so was the Pilot. The model that I liked best was the Zephyr but that will be out of my price range. If I could find a used Pilot at a good price I would go for that for as & when I want to upgrade I can probably sell it for pretty much what I paid. I wonder if I wouldn't be better investing in a larger model up front. I am not quite sure how to compare the Flyer & the Scout as while the Flyer is still on the price list the specifications of the Scout are very similar.

So what do others think? Help me pend my money.

Cheers

Nigel
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#2 Alfeo Dixon SOC

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 10:09 AM

I assume you are squeezing the aperture down like an asphinkster... (sorry, couldn't resist)

but really, if your not planing to mount motors for iris and focus, then your good with the smaller rigs. I would stretch for the Flyer at least, that way you'll be able to get more use out of it down the road or resale.
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#3 James Davis

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 12:11 PM

I assume you are squeezing the aperture down like an asphinkster... (sorry, couldn't resist)

but really, if your not planing to mount motors for iris and focus, then your good with the smaller rigs. I would stretch for the Flyer at least, that way you'll be able to get more use out of it down the road or resale.



Flyer all the way, at least then you have SOME scope for slightly larger cameras in the future, however if you can plump for the few extra pounds, I tried a zephyr at a recent UK Tango Demo, and it is substantially better, you get a bit of extra weight capacity, more control over the inertia (the adjustable rails at the bottom), and especially the vest....
I categorically hate the flyer vest, its awful, sorry Tiffen, but it sucked big time, and I was glad when you brought out the zephyr you took some cues from the larger rig vests, and scaled down the design for a lighter rig, massive improvement, the arm didn't really feel any better or worse than the flyer arm, no perceivable difference that I could notice, but if came down to a choice between the flyer/pilot/scout then for me it would be flyer everytime, that gimbal and arm make all the difference when it comes to getting the smoothest possible shots.
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#4 Mark Schlicher

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 02:02 PM

You're obviously taking a thoughtful approach, and the answer becomes "it depends".

Will you soon need the flexibility of flying a variety of cameras, including some larger (or more tricked-out) ones?
Flyer or Scout

Do you care most about the ease of dynamic balancing, flexible monitor placement and control of pan inertia?
Pilot or Scout

Price the main consideration?
Used Pilot, Used Flyer, Used Flyer LE, new Pilot

Resale value in a couple of years if you upgrade?
my guess would be Pilot or Scout (but they all will hold value better than any knockoff brand)

I don't see any advantage of the Flyer LE over the Scout, given the Scout's pricing and features (plus its design advances). OTOH, if you can get a good deal on a used Flyer LE, you can get essentially similar capability for potentially less.


All else being equal, if it were me, I'd spend a little more to get a Flyer or Scout, due to the increased weight capacity and the much better vest, and bigger arm.

These are just some of the considerations. Given your market, any one of these rigs should do the job nicely.
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#5 Joe Lawry

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 07:27 PM

Buy the rig with the largest weight capacity that you can afford. Stretch your budget if you have too..

you'll forever be wanting more weight capacity with any of the lower rigs period

Edited by Joe Lawry, 23 November 2010 - 07:27 PM.

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#6 Mark Schlicher

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Posted 23 November 2010 - 09:00 PM

Not a big fan of the Flyer vest either (I'm awkwardly-sized between standard and compact vest) and curious to see how the Zephyr vest stacks up.

Just from reading it seems like the Scout keeps the Flyer's weight capacity and general capabilities, but adds a Pilot-like ability to tweak db and inertia. Is the Scout arm basically a Flyer arm or a different design?
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#7 Brian Freesh

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Posted 24 November 2010 - 12:39 AM

Just wanted to defend the Flyer vest, it's my favorite of all the Steadicam brand vests I've ever worn (All of the current line, many of the older ones). James, it may suck for you, and that's fine, just don't want people thinking it sucks for everyone.
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#8 James Davis

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Posted 24 November 2010 - 10:21 PM

Personally I really like the LX vest, and the ultra 2 vest fits nicely as well, to me the new vest on the zephyr feels pretty much like a scaled down and lightened up LX vest, which is great for me. My main issue with the flyer vest was I found when getting close to the maximum weight capacity, the waist belt had to be cranked down really tight to prevent twisting and movement of the vest during fast moves and/or running shots, I also disliked the lack of bracing along the side of the hip spar, the straps weren't located nicely with those nubbins that you get on the ultra/LX/zephyr vest, I really like the solid feel this gives to the straps, effectively bracing them in position.
Sure the flyer vest is comfortable, and softer overall, but this also effects performance in my opinion, the other thing that really bugs me is being without ratchets, sometimes its nice to crank down the straps on the vest tighter for a more precise feel for some shots, and with a normal ratchet based vest you can just pop the ratchet after you've put the rig down afterwards and relax for a bit before you need to go again, whereas with the flyer you have to mess around with all the velcro and then make sure you get it adjusted back correctly before the next take....with ratchets you just re-seat your vest on your body, flip the ratchets and go.
Call me lazy, but I just love the convenience, and its one less thing to think about when shooting, after demoing a zephyr a little while back, in my opinion the whole package is a cut above the flyer by some margin, and well worth stretching to if you are already considering a flyer, if not secondhand flyers are the next best thing you should be looking at, or flyer LE's as the other guys said, but try a zephyr before you buy anything, well worth a look.

Regards
James

P.S. as Brian said, vests can be a very personal thing, what works for me might be crap for you, and vice versa, try as much as you can before you invest your money or anything, see if you can get to a demo if possible and try several in one hit, or if a local hire house will be willing to oblige.
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#9 Nick Tsamandanis

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 01:56 AM

I use the Flyer vest with my Pilot, and I love it. Yes ratchets would be nice, but it does get the job done. Can't fault my Clipper's LX vest.
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#10 Nigel Barker

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 07:08 AM

Thanks for all the help & suggestions. I don't seem any nearer to making a decision yet but it's nice to hear the pros & cons of different models argued.

If money were no object I would buy the Zephyr not least because I loved the vest which just seemed more workmanlike & fitted better than the softer Pilot vest. I haven't seen or used a Flyer LE so don't even know what the the arm & vest is like although I have found a couple of used Flyer LEs that I shall probably take a look at & see how they feel. One of these would cost me about 80% more than a used Pilot that I also have my eye on but then for only a few hundred more I could buy a new Scout (when it ships) although then I am getting up to about 2X the cost of the used Pilot.

Would the Scout be better long term? I think that it has the same arm as the Zephyr. The Flyer LE is still in the Tiffen price list at $7995 right between the Scout ($6995) & Zephyr ($8995). In comparison the entry-level Pilot configuration is $4095. There are second-hand Flyer LEs about so they can be found cheaper than a Scout but would that mean that I am buying in to old technology?
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#11 Blair Phillips

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 12:11 PM

My 2 cents: you will never regret having excess payload capacity. Twice last night alone I had a conversation something like this

Director/DP/Producer: you're a steadicam op?

Me: ya, I am looking to build my demo reel and develop my skills. I have a steadicam flyer LE. What are you shooting on?

Dir...: awesome! we are shooting red

Me: (nervously) How many attachments to the Red body do you have...like matte box, battery etc?

Dir: ...why?

MORALE OF THE STORY - you can always add more weight to a camera if it is to light for your rig, but you cannot always take weight away. If you know you are going to buy a rig, err on the side higher payloads when ever you can afford it! Between the scout and Zephyr, I would bite the $2k bullet for an extra six pounds of capacity.

Edited by Blair Phillips, 26 November 2010 - 12:20 PM.

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#12 Erik Brul

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 06:46 PM

To remind you all again about netto weight capacity:

10LBS for Pilot
15LBS for (old) Flyer
18LBS for Scout
19LBS for Flyer LE
20LBS for Zephyr. NOT 24LBS, look at the specs, the arm can handle 24LBS. Then minus the approx 4LBS Sled weight and you have 20LBS left for the Camera + extra's..

Erik
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#13 Mark Schlicher

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 09:37 PM

Eric,

I looked at the specs just now...

"• 30lb (13.6kg) lift capacity no-tools (24lb (11kg) payload capacity)"

Traditionally Tiffen's "payload" spec has meant camera and AKS ...in other words, if they are allowing for 6 lbs for sled, monitor and battery, then that would leave 24lbs for camera/AKS.

It would be great if Peter A could weigh in to confirm what exactly the 24lb spec means...

I also believe that the latest Flyer LE's had a slight payload bump to 20 lbs...?
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#14 Charles Papert

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 10:17 PM

My 2 cents: you will never regret having excess payload capacity. Twice last night alone I had a conversation something like this

Director/DP/Producer: you're a steadicam op?

Me: ya, I am looking to build my demo reel and develop my skills. I have a steadicam flyer LE. What are you shooting on?

Dir...: awesome! we are shooting red

Me: (nervously) How many attachments to the Red body do you have...like matte box, battery etc?

Dir: ...why?

MORALE OF THE STORY - you can always add more weight to a camera if it is too light for your rig, but you cannot always take weight away. If you know you are going to buy a rig, err on the side higher payloads when ever you can afford it! Between the scout and Zephyr, I would bite the $2k bullet for an extra six pounds of capacity.


Always better to buy a bigger rig, but it's even more cost-effective to equip yourself with cables to be able to power cameras off the sled (ideally both). A RED power cable ($290 from Tiffen, good grief, Terry West would make you one for under $200) will allow you to fly without that 2lb battery up top--and if your sled is v-mount (or you have appropriate adaptors), you can power your whole rig off their batteries and avoid running cycles on your own.
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#15 Erik Brul

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Posted 26 November 2010 - 10:34 PM

I looked at the specs just now...
"• 30lb (13.6kg) lift capacity no-tools (24lb (11kg) payload capacity)"
I also believe that the latest Flyer LE's had a slight payload bump to 20 lbs...?


Well, first of all, that is the difference between the internet page information about the Zephyr and the Zephyr PDF price document information. But in these PDF documents, they talk about a 24LBS and 30LBS payload for the arm. In the Literature document they mentioned the 20LBS camera payload also.

But the arm seems still almost 100% the same as the Flyer LE arm which was indeed slighty upgraded for that 20LBS. Don't forget that it's not just the arm, the gimbal is a very important part in the weight possibilities. The Scout has the same arm as the LE also the same gimbal. Because you cannot mount a second battery, the payload is max 18LBS. The Zephyr gimbal is a huge toolfree upgraded gimbal and don't forget, this gimbal is able to handle the Tango..

I think they mixed up some text information also. That 30LBS is also exactly the same info about the Archer 2 Sled information. The Archer 2 Sled (read: gimbal) is rated for 30LBS, 13.6KG. This is only in combination with the G50 arm.

But the big differences sofar are:

- The Zephyr vest is a big upgrade with ratches
- Dropin stage with 2 videolines (including HD/SDI) + 2 powerin/outputs standard.
- 2 seperate rods for faster dynamic balance.

But you can only mount 1 battery below and not 2 as with the Flyer LE. More weight below makes it possible (within limits) to have a bigger payload on the topstage. In the future they will add a optional second battery mount but at the IBC all Tiffen guys including Garrett himself didn't had any idea how that second mount would look :) Or they all didn't want to tell me ;)

There is a nice video on vimeo 'Steadicam’s New Zephyr and Scout - Part 1 on 10.8.10' and part 2 also where Peter is talking 2 hours about
steadicam in general. He mentioned the Pilot, the Scout, the Zephyr and the Archer 2. He explained the payload differences, interesting says 'approx 15LBS for the Scout' and 'approx 22LBS for the Zephyr'. So, some final answers from the Tiffen people would be nice :)
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