Wednesday, July 21, 2010

MiniDV Stabilizer Review - from Balvanz Enterprises

If you've been following my videos, you probably know that I have been using the MiniDV Stabilizer (previously the MiniDV Steadycam) from Balvanz Enterprises in my videos to create smooth camera movement which resembles Hollywood movies.

The MiniDV Stabilizer is exactly what it sounds like. It's a camcorder stabilizer that works best with small camcorders like MiniDV Camcorders. It supports camcorders ranging from 1 pound to 2 and a Quarter pounds. Although the maximum and minimum weight limits can easily be pushed above and below the advertised limit with the right weight settings and modifications. Right now I'm using a Canon HV30 on my MiniDV Stabilizer, which balances greatly because it weighs just above 1 pound.  It is great for DSLRs or HD-DSLRS too. Although, before I had my HV30, I used to be using a JVC Everio flash memory camcorder which only weighs a few ounces. That was a challenge to balance on the MiniDV Stabilizer.

All camcorder stabilizers basically work the same. They involve a process of balancing your camcorder on the stabilizer, by accurately positioning the camcorder and placing the correct amount of counterweights on the bottom to compensate for the camera weight. A more in depth tutorial on balancing your MiniDV Stabilizer can be found here. To balance my JVC Everio I actually needed to add weight into the top mount bracket because the camera was so light, but after a lot of trial and error, I got it. As I said before, if your camera is at least 1 pound, then balancing should be very easy.

The MiniDV Stabilizer is a great and very handy little accessory. It is one of the cheapest camcorder stabilizers on the market actually. It only costs about $99, and it actually creates very smooth movement, unlike many other cheap stabilizers. It isn't as good as a professional Steadicam such as the Steadicam Merlin or Steadicam Pilot, but you wouldn't expect it to be since those range from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars. If you balance the MiniDV Stabilizer JUST RIGHT, then in my opinion, the footage becomes comparable to a GLIDECAM. Although not many videos online show the stabilizer at perfect balance or with its full potential.

The MiniDV Stabilizer is designed pretty well too. It's made out of metal, not sure what kind though so excuse my ignorance in that department. It's very sturdy, and it's also very very easy to modify and accessorize. The head area is detachable from the pole and camera mount plate, so you can extend the MiniDV Stabilizer with the help of the 3 inch extension kit, which allows you to surpass the weight limit and bring it up to about 3 pounds. The MiniDV Stabilizer has a flat bottom, so you could put it on a table and use it as a tabletop tripod (although you can't change the head angle like a tripod). The key piece in the stabilizer that helps keep it steady is the gimbal handle.

There are a few cons with the MiniDV Stabilizer though. One thing that bothers me is that getting low angles can be a little bit tough, because the top of the gimbal can bump the bottom of the camera mounting plate when trying to get low angles. This is because there isn't much space in between the mounting plate and the gimbal. It's not a big problem, but it can be annoying at times. The solution to this low angle problem would be to crouch down or turn the MiniDV stabilizer 90 degrees to the side to get a low angle.
The only other con with it is that the paint on the center pole seems a bit cheap, and starts to peel off after alot of contact. This doesn't affect performance, but it's a slight problem.

I would have liked it if the stabilizer was extend-able without having to buy the extension kit, and it would be great if you could change the position of the gimbal along the center pole. But, with those problems aside, the MiniDV Stabilizer is a great product for the price, and a great product overall! I recommend it to anyone who wants to get smooth camera movement without having to spend too much money.

The MiniDV Stabilizer gets a score of:

8 out of 10

To see videos made with the MiniDV Stabilizer, go to my Youtube channel, balvanzenterprises.com, or watch my demo reel on the top left of this page which shows some stabilizer footage.

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