Stabilizer Roundup: 14 Tripods, Rigs and Gimbals to Steady Your Hand
September 28, 2015
The development of photography is intimately bound with the development of support gear (those camera obscura were back-breaking). And while tripod technology doesn’t advance at the pace of Moore’s Law, incremental improvements continue. What’s more, the era of DSLR and mirrorless filmmaking has ushered in a surge of innovation around camera gimbals, as sophisticated electronics bring formerly difficult—or downright impossible—handheld shots into the reach of first-time and independent filmmakers.
Benro S7 Video Tripod Kit
The S7 kit includes a video head with a 75mm bowl adapter and a flat base for mounting on sliders and jibs. It offers a four-step counterbalance to keep heavy gear (up to 15.4 pounds) properly aligned. You can dial in resistance for both panning and tilting motions so you can achieve the desired amount of tension for a given camera movement. The included panning handle can be mounted on either side of the head, which has a tilt range of -50 through +90 degrees and a bubble level. The S7 tripod has a maximum height of 63 inches and a minimum height of 11 inches. The feet use interchangeable rubber or spiked inserts. The aluminum version of the tripod weighs in at 8.5 pounds, while the carbon fiber edition sheds a pound.
Libec Allex H+S Kit
The Allex is the transformer of tripod kits, delivering both a conventional pan-and-tilt fluid head and a slider in one modular package. The Allex kit includes a 75mm aluminum bowl tripod with three leg sections and a mid-level spreader that telescopes out to the full width. You can extend the Allex to 59 inches or collapse it to 23.5 inches. The head supports payloads up to 9 pounds, can pan in a full 360 degrees and tilt at a +90/-80 degree angle with a handle that can be attached to rosette adapters on either the left or right side of the head. It has an integrated LED-illuminated bubble level too. The final piece of the kit is a 28-inch slider with eight ball bearings to allow for gentle movement across the rail.
Davis and Sanford Traverse Carbon TR654C-36
An economical option for still photographers, the Traverse has four leg sections and three independent leg angles for composing your shot. The legs sport foam grips and the rubberized feet have interchangeable spikes for securing the tripod on rougher ground. The center post has a hook for hanging extra weight—you can remove it entirely and replace it with a shorter center post (included) if you’re shooting close to the ground. The Traverse ships with an Arca-Swiss quick release plate and can bear a 12-pound load. It offers a maximum height of 65 inches, a minimum height of 9 inches and folds down to 18.5-inches.
Manfrotto 190 Go!
The new aluminum-based 190 Go! is the lightest and most compact member of Manfrotto’s 190 series—and judging by the punctuation, the most excitable too. It’s also the first with twist leg locks that let you open or close all sections of the tripod at once with a single turn of your wrist. The 190 Go! weighs 3.75 pounds, extends to 57.48 inches and collapses down to 17.7 inches when it’s time to pack up and go. It employs Manfrotto’s 90-degree center column, which can be lifted out of the tripod’s top casting and swung into the horizontal position without removing either the tripod head or camera. There are four leg angle options and an Easy Link attachment that lets you connect accessories, like LED lights, that have a 3/8-inch male adapter.
When the going gets tough, or wet, Sirui’s W-2204 can keep you going. A series of waterproof rings keeps water from seeping into the tripod’s legs. According to Sirui, the tripod is built from many of the same waterproof and leak-proof materials used in the automotive industry. The tripod’s rubber feet can be swapped out for stainless steel spikes and one leg can be detached as a monopod. There’s a hook beneath the center column for a weight bag for extra stability and a bubble level on the tripod head to guide alignment. The W-2204 extends to 70.9 inches and folds down to 20.5 inches. It can keep up to 39.7 pounds of gear aloft but, thanks to its carbon fiber build, only weighs 3.7 pounds.
Tripods have many virtues, but a sharp sense of style isn’t usually one of them. MeFoto’s RoadTrip injects a bit of panache into the category with a build-your-own option that lets you customize your model with interchangeable colored legs, heads, shoulders and center columns. You have 12 colors to choose from that can be used in up to 792 combinations—enough to satisfy even the most eclectic tastes. No matter your color, the RoadTrip extends up to 61.6 inches and can keep 17.6 pounds of camera and lens in the air. It has two leg angle positions and a recessed center column hook for adding stabilizing weights. The aluminum version weighs 3.6 pounds while the carbon fiber edition weighs 3.1 pounds. The RoadTrip has a removable leg that you can combine with the center column to form a monopod, and a colorful one at that.
Vanguard VEO 265
The VEO 265 tripod features a rapid column rotation that lets you quickly fold up the tripod when it’s time to hit the road. It offers adjustable leg locks with three different angles and five leg sections with a max height of 59 inches. The tripod ships with a ball head and an Arca-Swiss-compatible quick release plate and interchangeable feet (rubber or spikes). An included adapter lets you collapse the tripod down to 7.3 inches for macro shots or unusual angles. The VEO 265 can support up to 17.6 pounds of camera gear.
Really Right Stuff TVC-34
The big challenge in using the TVC-34 isn’t carrying the 4.4-pound carbon fiber tripod around, but finding enough gear that can actually make it break a sweat. The TVC-34 can hold up to 50 pounds of gear and has the highest stiffness-to-load ratio of any of the company’s carbon fiber tripods. You can extend the TVC-34 to 58.4 inches tall or contract it down to 3.9 inches. It folds up into a carry-on friendly 21.2 inches. It uses Really Right Stuff’s 100mm video bowl adapter and leveling base accessories.
Rigs & Gimbals
The BeeWorks BW05 is a lightweight, three-axis stabilizer that’s just as easily mounted to a wall or tabletop as it is placed in the hands of a camera operator. It features internal HDMI cabling so you can feed camera video to a separate monitor mounted to the handlebars. It’s light, too, at just over 4 pounds, and can mount mirrorless cameras like the Panasonic GH4 or Sony’s A7 series. The BW05 kit includes a stand, handlebar, mini ball head monitor mount, battery and charger. The optional $999 Kinetic remote lets you control the BW05 through gestures when the gimbal isn’t in your hands, wirelessly transmitting your motion to the BW05. You can even adjust the sensitivity of the BW05 gimbal to your Kinetic remote movements to mimic the impact of heavier or ?lighter cameras.
DJI Ronin M
The Ronin M is a slimmed down, less-expensive and more approachable version of the original Ronin. It weighs just 5 pounds—half the weight of the original—but can support cameras up to 8 pounds, thanks to a new magnesium frame. You mount your DSLR or video camera and the gimbal balances itself, ensuring that your camera stays steady even as you move about. The M offers three shooting positions—briefcase, upright and underslung—for framing a variety of shots plus a silent mode that reduces the sound of the motors when you need to go stealth. The M’s settings can be remotely adjusted via Bluetooth and a mobile device. The battery is good for up to six hours of use. When you’re done, you can twist off the top handles to shrink down the M for transport.
Freefly Systems MōVI with Mimic
Freefly’s MVI M10 and M5 gimbals are among the most sophisticated you can operate, so it’s perhaps no surprise that the company’s next move took aim at simplifying the popular product. The new Mimic controller, available either as a free firmware upgrade to the existing MōVI controller or as kit with wireless transmitter and carbon fiber handlebars, lets a second operator remotely control a MōVI with just their movements. Rather than move the camera through a joystick or knobs, the Mimic instantly translates your movement into camera movement, positioning the MōVI-mounted camera in whatever direction you desire. It can communicate via line of sight with a MōVI from up to 1,200 feet away.
The Valos is a three-axis gimbal that can keep up to 13 pounds of camera gear stabilized thanks to its four motors. It draws power from a single V-mount battery and thanks to its integrated power distribution system, it can power your camera and other accessories as well. Thanks to built-in Bluetooth, the Valos can be remotely controlled from Android or iOS devices and it ships with a wireless remote control as well. A fully loaded, ready-to-film Valos weighs 9.26 pounds.
Zacuto Universal Indie Recoil Rigs
Want to position your DSLR or mirrorless camera like an ENG camera? Zacuto’s Universal Indie Recoil properly balances the camera for shoulder-fired shooting. The Indie Recoil rig is built around the VCT Universal baseplate with a built-in shoulder pad and removable, extendable 6.5-inch iris rods. It includes a quick-release riser to lift your camera up to accommodate a matte box. The rig features a fully articulating hand grip with space to add Zacuto’s Tornado grip (pictured here but sold separately). A half-cage rail sports plenty of accessory mounts and connects to the baseplate via a 3-inch Z-rail. A monitor and/or EVF, pictured here, are sold separately.
With a name like “Solo” this Steadicam might be mistaken for a one-trick pony, but in fact, it’s two products in one—a traditional Steadicam that can be used with an optional sled, arm and vest, or a monopod that telescopes out to shoulder length. The Solo features an adjustable three-axis gimbal, weighs 4.3 pounds and supports up to 10 pound of camera gear. You can balance the Solo in Steadicam-mode at any length, so you can extend the stabilizer high over your head for difficult angles or bring it close to the ground and skim the floor.