Rigs for stabilizing your camera when shooting video come in a variety of shapes and sizes these days, but most of them still feel pretty big and clunky. Some seriously look like somebody got drunk and decided to have a go at their kid’s Erector set. (That is, if kids still play with Erector sets these days.)
Along with creating a rather obtrusive presence—exactly the wrong thing you want to present if you’re trying to shoot stealthy “guerilla” video with your HD-DSLR—camera rigs are a pain to travel with since they need to be broken down to fit in your bag. It’s a necessary evil of course, since finding a way to steady wobbly HD footage is essential to DSLR filmmaking.
Zacuto has been one of the leading manufacturers of camera rigs and they’ve also been on the cutting edge for creating discreet, run-and-gun-style stabilizing kits. The company’s stripped down Striker and Target Shooter kits have been popular with video journalists and guerilla filmmakers for a few years now. But while those two products, which use a basic “gunstock” brace design, are lightweight and portable, they are comprised of various parts, and require some level of disassembly for traveling.
Zacuto’s latest run-and-gun rigs, the Enforcer and the Marauder, add a new wrinkle to portability: They’re foldable. I recently got a chance to try out the folding Marauder, which is the larger of the two and includes an adjustable handgrip along with the gunstock brace (the Enforcer has no handgrip), and was quite smitten with the design.
I was also pleased with how effective it was in steadying the two cameras I shot video with: the tiny Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera (which PDN also reviewed recently) and a bigger Canon EOS 6D DSLR. The Marauder does have an Erector-set-vibe to it, but it’s really akin to a Transformers toy because there’s more to it than meets the eye.
HOLD ‘EM AND FOLD ‘EM
Zacuto claims that the Marauder, when folded up, is small enough to fit in your back pocket but I think that’s a stretch. (Unless you’re wearing giant overalls.) It’s quite compact though, and it’ll easily fit in most camera bags, even when not folded.
When folded up, you’d hardly know what this strange, metal thing is for, which adds to its discreet appeal but might get you stopped at airport security. “Is that a giant pair of brass knuckles in your bag, sir?”
Zacuto includes a helpful, illustrated instruction sheet with the Marauder, and it takes just a few minutes to set up. The rig comes with Zacuto’s Gorilla Plate, which you screw to the bottom of your camera’s tripod mount and attach to the Marauder. A screwdriver and an Allen wrench to adjust the gunstock are the only tools you’ll need to assemble this rig. Otherwise, you unlock and adjust the Marauder with several red levers and switches.
Once I got it unfurled, I intuitively was able to figure out how to use it: Grab on to the handgrip; put the gunstock to your chest; and aim the camera where you want to shoot video. Ideally, I’d recommend using the rig with one of Zacuto’s Z-Finder optical viewfinders attached to the LCD screen of your camera, to help you frame your shots when shooting in bright light. You can set the Marauder’s camera support into two positions: one to bring your camera close to your face for use with a Z-Finder, and one further out, when framing a scene using the LCD screen on the back of the camera.
RUNNING AND GUNNING
Though it has a minimalist style, you still get multiple points of contact with the Marauder—the gunstock against your chest, your hand on the grip and your other hand on the camera—to create a steady and stabilized fit. I was able to freely and steadily pan with my camera; quickly follow subject matter without bobbing the camera up and down; and hold the entire contraption comfortably still during somewhat lengthy shoots.
Depending on what camera and lens you’re using, however, your arm will start to get tired with this one-arm setup after a while. With the 12.5-ounce Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera and the relatively lightweight Panasonic 14-45mm lens attached, this wasn’t a problem. When I tried the rig with the Canon 6D and a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens attached though, my arm grew fatigued after about 15 minutes of shooting. Many larger rigs use two handgrips and a balancing weight for this very reason but the trade-off, of course, is that they’re much bigger and clunkier devices.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you’re running and gunning on short video shoots, the highly portable Marauder is a great stabilizing tool for your compact camera or HD-DSLR. While a more polycarbonate build to this metal rig would make it lighter, it would also feel flimsier and, likely, be more prone to shake. With the Marauder, Zacuto’s created a serious product, which, despite its strange look when folded up, was quite effective in keeping my HD video looking rock steady.
Pros: Innovative fold-up design is portable and discreet; multiple points of contact produce a comfortable and steady fit; quick to set up
Cons: Your arm might get tired holding this setup during long shoots; strange design could get you stopped at airport security