I have been reading trough a lot of posts, so I will try not to be repetitive. I am a cinematography student from germany in his 5th year and just getting interested in the topic, have
experience in handling all kind of cameras of course (35, 16, Red, Alexa, DSLR, BMCC, EX3 etc.) but no experience what so ever handling any kind of stabilizing equipment.
I understand that I would be good to read some books, take a workshop (or several) to aquire some basic knowledge and getting closer to the topic. I am planing to do that (just ordered the Steadicam Operator's Handbook). But in the meantime, steadicam workshops in germany are a little rare, I love to research about a possible model for me to get in the future (I tend to do that with all my equipment as many others do, too i guess). So you understand, I would like to work my way into it smoothly, learn, do student projects, learn, not necessarily jump fully into it as a fulltime career plan (So, I know it is too early but I would like to ask your advise anyway). I would like to get some help about what things to consider..or better, which things to take more in consideration than others, not generally ("search button"). I will get more specific.
First thing for me was the amount of weight I can fly and the money I think I could invest right now....that lead to (still thinking about it) the Zephyr. Some good comments about it in the forum. Although I'm convinced that new cameras in the future will tend to be lighter than the actual Alexa (Amira, F5/55, Epic, C500 and their successors) I feel uncomfortable about the actual Alexa reaching easily the limits of that system (going along with powering issues due to the electronics inside the pole of the Zephyr, right). Since there is no way to update the Zephyr I also understand that it is a system one would buy and then sell to update (good Idea or not, seems to sell quite well). Also, I don't like the fact that the Zephyr is made in the US which makes service and maintainance more complicated for me (If somebody knows how far the service of german distributor betz-tools goes, I would like to hear about that). It has a front mount. Opinions about front or back mount seam to depend a lot on personal taste?
That lead me to swiss actioncam. They offer the Raptor system for a similar price. It flies more weight (up to 38lbs with additional spring set, suppose one can change them himself?). I understood that It has no electronics in the pole so you can run any kind of cable through it. It is modular and updatable. It has a back mount vest. It is made in Switzerland, just about 3 hours from my city.
Then again, there is nothing to be found about that system in this forum (almost) or the entire Internet. I don't know to what extend it is considered professional. If somebody has some experience with that system I would love to hear about it (especially regarding my consideration points). Maybe some folks from europe know about or have tried it?
So, I already hid some questions in the text:)
I would like to know from you how important you value your brands being in the states for service. I supposed that the lack of information about the actioncam products is partly due to that (and It's pretty new?)
I would like to know what you think how important is how much weight the system can fly in terms of qualitiy. I suppose that, although I can fly an all-equipt Alexa with the Actioncam Raptor, I will experience some limitations in comparison with bigger systems (Pro ect., you guys often recommand looking for a used "big" system instead of buying a cheap new one). I also spoke with a co-student who has owned a pilot, owns an archer know and told me to stay away from "no-names". Obviously there can be great differences in all parts of the system but how can I identify bad quality? Even trying it out I can't since I'm a newbee...and then maybe it's the workshop:)
I would like to know if you think my considerations make sense or if I'm missing some big part of the picture.
Curt Schaller is the man to talk to for workshops in Germany. Betz Tools also offer workshops but I don't know if it's more than once a year. Their workshop could maybe provide you with more than one system since they sell and service Tiffen, ProGpi and their own sled the Rig. You are saying that you study cinematography in film school? A thing you should not leave out in thinking about starting a career in Steadicam is that it will take quite a lot of time to get to a point where you can operate properly and it might interfere with your future work as a DP. I know there are some people who are DP's as well as Steadicam operators such as Charles Papert or Ruben Sluijter but as I understand it they started as operators and moved on to DP later on. I'm not sure if you can become a good operator as a side project to being a DP as main job in the future.
I got some advise from a steadicam operator that has worked several years with the actioncam system (Rebel Elite Pro)
and wanted to share that with you:
"The system works but as you improve you will notice things that hold you back as an operator. The gimbal for instance....it's sub par compared to the more expensive gimbals but this is one part you don't want to skimp on. I just got a used xcs gimbal and the difference is astounding! Also, the center post on action sled is not center ground (like a rifle would be).....Greg at xcs said because of this you can never obtain a good dynamic balance. I have never been able to get good dynamic balance (spins flat, horizon stays true) with action sled because gimbal is not centered. (Pan bearing needs to be centered precisely to get dynamic).
Of course you might have better customer service since you're in Europe but in the end you will not want to stay with that system long. Do yourself a favor, try several rigs .....note the quality, especially in gimbal. If I could go back I would have spent more on a better rig initially, but didn't know any better.....please learn from my mistake."
He also told me that he didn't want to be unfair to the actioncam system or bashing the brand, that his problems could be in parts due to the inferior support for actioncam in the US than in Europe.
I personally didn't think it was unfair to rate the actioncam products inferior to systems like xcs or pro..actioncam is selling in a completely diferent price range
(Zephyr, L'aigle, Glidecam etc.) where they maybe deserve their place, still don't know nothing so I cannot judge. Also, this is just the opinion of one
person, maybe other people have to share different opinions.
For me the interesting part was that maybe (tell me if I'm wrong) in that price range one has to decide if they want to be able to fly i.e. an Alexa and live with
the spedific limitation of the actioncam system or buy, let's say a Zephyr, get better overall quality and accept the limitations
of that particular system (to be able fo fly only lighter camera systems).
I suppose going up the price range (Artemis, Archer, very(?) old bigger gear) one will have to make fewer trade-offs?
just saw that of course the Rebel Elite Pro is a lot more expensive than the Raptor, closer to the Archer in price than the Zephyr.
Just found an entirely diferent opintion:
I use my Actioncam for almost 4 years in Russia
It is worth every cent I put in it. I'm agree with Joshua. Just want to add the notes of the ability of any upgrade. You can use the RebelPro, and upgrade it to RebelElit with minimum money wasting.
You can't compare it with Archer, reasonable to compare it with Ultra and PRO, Klassen but it is the HiEnd, not the Archer segment. The quality is the best.
My 2 cents
just my 2cents about the action cam: The Raptor is far better then a zephyr, it´s about the class of a archer. IMHO Max Volokh is not exaggerating, when he compares the elite with the top rigs out there. I know, action products is not as popular then others, but they produce some of the finest rigs. You don´t live far away from action products headquarter. You should just go there one day and test it yourself. From Stuttgart it should not be longer then a 3 hour drive.
Edited by Marc R. Berger, 10 November 2013 - 04:49 PM.
Hi Tilman, you should try them all. That´s the best advice I can give you. Some of your questions will be immediately answered. Archer 2 is a great rig. The Raptor is much cheaper, more versatile if it comes to modularity, and a great rig. Compared to those rigs, the Zephyr is another class. I don´t want to say something bad about the Zephyr, because a lot of people like it and work well with it, but 100% sure you would like to change a Zephyr much earlier for a bigger rig then a raptor. I don´t have problems to obtain dynamic balance with the Raptor. My gimbal works fine, and yes there are for sure better gimbals, but they cost nearly as much as the whole raptor. So, this said, the Raptor is not for the one who looks for the highest end rig at any price, it´s just simply one of the best rigs IMHO if it comes to low end in price and high end in quality. BTW if I would not have the raptor I would go for Eric´s actioncam rig. You are so well located. Just make some appointments at Sachtler, Betz tools and actioncam. I strongly recommend you to visit a workshop and then to compare personally the rigs at a nearby dealer. Every cent you invest in a workshop is well invested, but you can throw a lot of money out of the window by buying a rig by it´s description.
Edited by Marc R. Berger, 11 November 2013 - 03:56 PM.