In last month's Gear & Now, we described how some camera support manufacturers are making "tripods" that do not have three legs—maybe one, or sometimes none. Today's solutions for mounting a camcorder in creative and unusual positions are more practical and popular than what we've seen in the past.
But before we get started with Part Two, here are two quick updates on products mentioned in previous columns: As we suspected, there's now a new version of the gorrillapod, as well as new features and enhancements in the Monsterpod lineup discussed last month. They bring a few more options to pro videographers for either digital still or digital video camera placement and support. In addition, Manfrotto has unveiled a transport bag for the Fig Rig, another "legless" camera support system described previously in Gear & Now. The new bag protects the rig itself, its clamps, and many accessories.
Now, in Part Two of our report, we take a look at some other new camera support options, most of which have at least one leg.
In the case of the new EgripZ camera support from Anton/Bauer, "wings" might be a better term than "legs." With this unique new handheld support system, videographers can shoot easily (with cameras weighing up to about six lb.) at eye level, but also at very high or rather low angles.
The EgripZ has two flexible pistol grips that flare out, wing-like, from underneath a 1/4-20 threaded mounting platform. The device itself also can be mounted to another camera support, such as a monopod, and weighs just 12 oz., so it's not a significant addition to the overall weight on the camera operator. It's priced around $100.
EgripZ's fully flexible core can be shaped around the camera to fit the shot; its malleable polymer handles make the camera itself easier and more comfortable to hold on hot sweaty shoots. Some use it with just one hand gripping a "wing" while the other handle lies against their opposite shoulder or against their other arm (which is on the camera zoom or some other control). High-angle shots are really much more steady and achievable with two hands.
The support itself is part of Anton/Bauer's new ElipZ integrated system, which includes new power, lighting, and support solutions.
Volcanoes is the current buzzword from Vitec/Gitzo, regarding its new GM2940 Basalt monopod. Basalt, a lightweight black volcanic rock, is combined with other substances, then melted at a high temperature into a very strong fiber, part of the multi-layer composite tubing from which the GM2940 is built.
The new monopod is rated for cameras up to about 11 lb. and has an effective shooting range of from about 20" high to over 60". It is priced around $160.
Also a part of Gitzo's basalt-based lineup are tripods—yes, real three-legged tripods! The new GT2940LVL and GT2940L models offer what Gitzo calls "Eye Level" shooting capability. The idea is for the tripod to hold a camera easily at eye level without having to extend the center column, which often lessens the support's overall sturdiness and rigidity.
Both the GT2940LVL Leveling Basalt Tripod and the GT2940L Basalt Long Tripod are four-sectioned, rapid-column tripods, reaching to maximum heights of 58.26" and 71", respectively. The Leveling Tripod folds to about 22"; it weighs 4.1 lbs. The Long Tripod also folds to 22" but weighs less (3.72 lbs). Both can support cameras up to 15.4 lb.
Gitzo also has a new lightweight fluid head available for handheld DV camcorders (up to about nine pounds). It's made from a lightweight techno-polymer material and weighs in at just 1.19 lb. In addition to the familiar quick-release camera plate with triple safety device, the head features smooth, fluid operation and separate pan-and-tilt controls, as well as a fully adjustable counter-balance system.
Davis & Sanford
Davis & Sanford (part of the Tiffen group), meanwhile, has upped the features on its Steady Stick monopod-type device, designed for camcorders up to 30 lb. The Steady Stick itself weighs just under two pounds.
Available in Compact and Professional versions or with camera-specific mounting plates, the Steady Stick is made from heavy-duty aluminum, with padded holster, belts, and handle. Prices start at around $180 for the basic version.
The Sprinter II ENG series from Miller is a top-notch but somewhat pricey camera support solution. The ENG models are available in carbon-fiber or alloy tubing and in two-stage or single-stage configurations. The sticks themselves weigh anywhere from around five to more than seven pounds, and can support cameras up to nearly 100 lb. (which is considerably more support than most of us need).
Whatever your camera's actual weight, you can easily adjust and then lock both stages of the two-stage Sprinter II tripod with one hand, using the handy side-action leg locks for fast set-ups and take-downs on location.
And there's a flexible, inline carry handle or carrying strap, positioned for safe and balanced carriage of the Sprinter with any of the compatible 100mm ENG heads, such as Miller's Arrow30, Arrow ENG, or Arrow HD head.
Selectable pan-and-tilt positions, adjustable counterbalances, spreaders, and an illuminated leveling bubble are among the features available. As mentioned, a complete kit can be costly: some $4,500 for the Arrow 30 head, 1537 tripod, Sprinter II spreader, and case.
The Prompter People
A much less expensive, and therefore less-feature-packed, camera support package is new from The Prompter People.
It's called the HD (for heavy-duty, not high-definition) Tripod, and it's available as a kit that includes two-stage aluminum alloy legs for supporting cameras up to 30 lb. The legs themselves weigh about 12 lb.
The kit also includes a fluid cartridge-equipped tripod head with twist-knob friction controls, pan-and-tilt locks, and a quick-release mounting plate and carrying bag.
Before we wrap up, there is a new two-appendage camera support that bears mentioning, just in case neither the one- nor three-leg approach suits your style. Aviator, from VariZoom, is a new wearable camera support and stabilizer system, for cameras weighing from 5 to 15 lb.
VariZoom has significantly enhanced its FlowTech Gimbal mechanism for more comfortable operation. The company has added a new extension grip and provided a place for zoom control. The Aviator vest features a nicely contoured chest pad, torso-gripping four-point buckle system, and a height-adjustable chest plate.
Widescreen and HD-savvy, the system includes a switchable 7" 4:3/16:9 NTSC/PAL color LCD monitor and a Li-Ion battery with LED capacity indicator (V-lock, AB, and NP1 mounts are available upon request at no additional charge). The monitor and batteries serve as counterweight for vertical balance, and their positions can be adjusted for fine-tuning, but altogether the system adds up to almost 17 lb (without camera).
The Aviator system retails for $4,500; again, this is a significant investment, but solid, secure, and creatively flexible camera support gear is one of the keys to engaging videography. One, two, or three legs—they can all be good, in the right hands.