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Steadicam Merlin 2 Camera Stabilizing System

B&H # STM2S Mfr # MERLIN2
In Stock
Free Expedited Shipping
You Pay: $399.00
Product Highlights
  • For Small Cameras Up to 5 lb
  • Create Smooth, Elegant Shots on the Fly
  • Rigid Camera Plate
  • Multi-Angle Viewable Level
  • Larger Easily Adjustable Knobs
  • Secure Gimbal Lock for Precise Tuning

The lightweight Steadicam Merlin 2 Camera Stabilizing System lets you go where the scene takes you--up or down steps, indoors and out, through crowds--almost without limitation. The Merlin 2 weighs just 1.4 lb and can handle cameras up to 5 lb in weight. It gives you precise, elegant control for dramatic, professional you-are-there footage. The quick-release mount lets you instantly switch between your stabilizer and any tripod. This system utilizes a metal gimbal for smooth camera movement. Designed by Garrett Brown, this model outperforms the original Merlin.

The robust stage design features a rigid camera plate, multi-angle viewable level, and larger easily adjustable knobs for secure camera mounting and ease of use
A secure gimbal lock allows for precise tuning
The lens platform adjusts to various heights and angles to help support longer lenses and camera bodies
The ergonomic handle affords a comfortable grip for hours without undue fatigue for either right- or left-handed users
All parts are stainless steel, aluminum or brass for corrosion resistance
Dovetail plate and gimbal are retrofittable with original Steadicam Merlin
Top dovetail plate has been designed to clear battery doors on most DSLR cameras
Secure metal interconnect to Merlin arm post
Sleek new black and stainless steel styling
Construction Stainless steel, aluminum or brass
Load Capacity 5 lb (2.27 kg)
Vest Optional
Arm Optional
Head Assembly/Top Stage Gimbal with Camera Mount
Quick Release Yes
Dovetail Plate Yes
Gimbal Metal Gimbal
Monitor None
Battery None
Battery Mount N/A
Optional Accessories Vest and Arm
Weight 1.4 lb (0.64 kg)
Steadicam Merlin 2 Camera Stabilizing System
  • Base Unit
  • Removable Dovetail Plate
  • Folding Counterweight with Platform
  • Start Weight
  • 6 x Middle Weights
  • 2 x Finish Weights
  • Camera Mounting Screw
  • Locating Pin
  • Tripod Adapter Plate
  • Gimbal Handle
  • Instructional DVD
  • Carrying Case
  • 1-Year Parts/90-Day Labor Warranty
  • REVIEW SNAPSHOT®

    by PowerReviews
    SteadicamMerlin 2 Camera Stabilizing System
     
    4.2

    (based on 76 reviews)

    Ratings Distribution

    • 5 Stars

       

      (38)

    • 4 Stars

       

      (25)

    • 3 Stars

       

      (7)

    • 2 Stars

       

      (3)

    • 1 Stars

       

      (3)

    88%

    of respondents would recommend this to a friend.

    Pros

    • Compact (53)
    • Professional quality (49)
    • Lightweight (43)
    • Improves performance (39)
    • Highly compatible (16)

    Cons

    • Limited compatibility (5)
    • Poor design (4)
    • Poor performance (4)
    • Pricey / poor value (4)

    Best Uses

    • Independent films (43)
    • Complex projects (27)
    • Home movies (20)
    • In the studio (16)
    • Weddings (10)
      • Reviewer Profile:
      • Business owner (27), Professional artist (24), Enthusiast (16), Pro photographer (5), Film student (3)
      • Was this a gift?:
      • No (64)

    Most Liked Positive Review

     

    Good product, understand limitations

    Pros:
    • Compact design when folded
    • Good trim controls for fine adjustments
    • Flies well when balanced properly

    Cons:
    • Wish there was some indicator to...Read complete review

    Pros:
    • Compact design when folded
    • Good trim controls for fine adjustments
    • Flies well when balanced properly

    Cons:
    • Wish there was some indicator to measure degree increments when adjusting distance between upper and lower spar
    • Locking knobs don't seem to actually lock the spars
    • Training material is for the first Merlin and appears dated (even if still applicable/accurate), with changes to the new Merlin recorded over the top. Would be nice if they updated it for modern DSLR users, along with the cookbook.

    It's an involved process, but I did not find this as difficult/impossible to balance as some other people have found it. Granted, I spent a week watching videos and reading up on common problems people face with the merlin, but it's all straight forward if you have a good understanding of the things you have control over and how it affects the balance.

    A crude guide for people who are planning on buying this and want to be prepared (more helpful than "read the manual" or "watch the dvd"):

    If you can figure out if you're top-heavy or bottom-heavy, you'll be able to adjust to balance it properly. If you don't do this, you can spend an eternity arbitrarily adjusting things without making progress.

    At times it can be hard to tell one apart from the other. If it's top-heavy, your camera will always want to topple over and fine adjustments on the trim will have a dramatic affect. If it's bottom-heavy, your trim adjustments will have less of an affect and you'll notice boating/swinging when moving around.

    To get a feel for each, I recommend you try out the two extremes: add all the weights, extend the spar as wide as it will go and balance your camera. Move it around and you'll see the extreme of bottom-heaviness. Now try top-heaviness by adding few weights, decreasing the gap between the spars and try to balance the camera. Notice how it topples over no matter what you do?

    From here it's pretty straight forward. Weigh your camera/lens combination, add the correct amount of weight as advised in the manual. Look at comparable setups in the online cookbook and see their weight setup. Adding more to the front increases inertia. You won't have to change the weights unless you add or change something on your camera. You can experiment with different weights, but otherwise can put this from your mind.

    Start with both trim rollers in the middle of the platform. Place the camera on the stage. Handle gross balancing by moving the camera forward/back on the stage and adjusting the distance between the spars. Changing one will affect the other, so always alternate between the two and make changes to suit.

    Use your trim rollers to handle side-to-side and fine-tune forward-to-back balance. Consider selecting a different stage hole if the trim is far off centre. Check your drop time, again doing gross adjustments to top/bottom heaviness by changing the distance of the spars (make sure to move the camera on the stage to suit, and retrim).

    Once you have it pretty close, test the footage. Too much 'flightiness' probably means you're top-heavy. Too much boating/pendulum swing and you're bottom heavy. Watch the corners of the screen for the most acceleration/pronounced affect. Make fine adjustments to the Z (you can rotate the gimbal fixture clockwise/counterclockwise in increments when you press in the button) to tweak top/bottom heaviness. These are very fine adjustments and won't really affect your trim. Try and get your gross balancing as close as possible to the right balance before using your trim.

    It takes practice but gets easier each time you do it. From here, understand there are limitations to how sensitive this stabilisation system is. Don't rely on it to do all the work for you. It's not perfect; far from it, but it's a tool that will allow you to do your job. Plan your movements and learn to operate it in a manner that counters the way it will behave. If it's very windy, try operate it in a way that you have your back to the wind to act as a windshield and strafe instead of moving forward. If the flip-out screen acts as a sail and catches the wind, correct its rotation with a gentle squeeze of your operating hand and subtle guiding to the correct orientation with your fingers.

    VS

    Most Liked Negative Review

     

    Feels a bit like a beta release still

    On the one hand, a good revision of an amazing device; and on the other many rough edges still remain.There are many differences between what is seen in the DVD and how the thing...Read complete review

    On the one hand, a good revision of an amazing device; and on the other many rough edges still remain.There are many differences between what is seen in the DVD and how the thing looks now. There are annoying illogicalities (for example, the gimble thread works in the opposite direction to how it's described, and its net effect is not described.) But the biggest problem is that the much-referred-to "Merlin 2 Cookbook" ......doesn't have any settings in it. There is no handy calculator like for the Merlin 1. Merlin 2 has been out for over 6 months now, so there's no excuse for this. It means you have to spend hours, starting from scratch with your camera.On the product I received, the stage "trim" wheels are extremely difficult to move; I think it may have to go back to the factory. The velcro doesn't hold the handle properly and the little plastic device on which to rest the lens has already had some issues. The rest of it feels nice and solid.In case it helps anyone, dismount your radio mike receiver if you have one atop your camera, and move it down to the bottom weights area. To mount it is difficult, but I discovered that an old DVD or CD will actually fit beautifully between the weights and provide something to attach it to.

    Reviewed by 76 customers

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    5.0

    WAY BETTER THAN OTHER STEADICAMS

    By Ramos Valencia

    from Los Angeles CA

    About Me Business Owner, Professional Artist

    Verified Buyer

    Pros

    • Compact Design
    • Easy To Use
    • Improves Performance
    • Lightweight

    Cons

      Best Uses

        Comments about Steadicam Merlin 2 Camera Stabilizing System:

        Setup is way easier and you dont need tools. The most important thing is that the main weight it on top of your hand instead of other stedicams like the glide-cam where the camera is infront of the hand so im sure if you look into ergonomics, it makes way more sense and its easier to have the weight on top of your hand, and thus it makes it easier to use and you dont get tired that fast. I love the fine tuning metals on top that make it way easier to do a fine balance while you are in set.

        Great buy!

        • Was this a gift?:
        • No

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        5.0

        merlin 2

        By stevo

        from florida

        About Me Professional Artist

        Verified Buyer

        Pros

        • Compact Design
        • Easy To Use
        • Highly Compatible
        • Improves Performance
        • Lightweight
        • Professional Quality

        Cons

          Best Uses

          • Complex Projects
          • Home Movies
          • Independent Films
          • In The Studio

          Comments about Steadicam Merlin 2 Camera Stabilizing System:

          I use this with my canon 5dmll and 16-35 ef lens. It works great just takes a little practice. I use two hands to help guide the camera. the set up is easy I use hole N, one mid and finish weight on the front, and 3 mid one finish on the end.and the #7 on the plate. You can find lots of setups just google merlin 2 cook book. When not in use it folds up small and stays true to the settings.

          • Was this a gift?:
          • No

          Share this review

           
          4.0

          Portable and works great

          By M

          from Los Angeles

          Comments about Steadicam Merlin 2 Camera Stabilizing System:

          High quality build. The balancing is difficult. Needs many hours of practice to fly this thing properly. The breakdown of the product is easy and the nice case is very convenient.

          Share this review

           
          5.0

          Most Excellent

          By G

          from Washington

          Comments about Steadicam Merlin 2 Camera Stabilizing System:

          Surprisingly easy to set up and get going, thanks to the extensive (and surprisingly comedic) manual/operation video. Works well with a T2i and 24-105mm L lens, even though it's not designed for DSLR's.

          My one gripe is that the Velcro stripe on the handle, which attaches to the bottom of the stage, came off of the handle. Not a hard fix by any means, but in the video Mr. Brown informs you that if the handle is loose in the case it could twist and potentially break the gimbal. I wasn't transporting it when that happened, but if I had I'd be liable even though it wasn't my fault. Just watch out!

          Share this review

           
          4.0

          The adjustment knobs sold it for me

          By Andy

          from Amarillo, Texas

          About Me Hobbyist

          Verified Buyer

          Pros

          • Compact Design
          • Improves Performance
          • Lightweight
          • Professional Quality

          Cons

            Best Uses

            • Independent Films

            Comments about Steadicam Merlin 2 Camera Stabilizing System:

            I went back and forth over many different types and models of stabilizing systems and decided to spring for the name brand that started it all. The two things that drove my decision was the placement under the camera and the micro-adjust knobs.
            Placing the handle under the camera puts your hand under the center of gravity. This means all the weight, it's not really that heavy, is going straight down rather than twisting forward placing more strain on your wrist. I like this.
            The other feature is the adjustment knobs to tilt up/down and side-to-side. They work well, except the back one that centers the weight left to right is very poorly labeled. After several weeks I'm still not sure which way to spin the knob to balance it. They work well, though, and are crucial to getting the thing set up.
            Overall, it is a well-made piece of equipment. It takes a lot of study and practice to get it right. Even then, you still need to fiddle with it every time you use it. If you're getting one, just go ahead and get a quick-release mount for it. I bought one to match my tripod, so my camera can go quickly from one to the other with minimal readjustment.
            I'd love to see an actual electronic DSLR gimbal become affordable. I might even buy a high-quality mirror less to mount on it when that time comes. For now, I'm putting the time in to learn to use this.

            • Was this a gift?:
            • No

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            4.0

            Super Steady

            By georgewuzheer

            from Naples, FL

            About Me Hobbyist

            Verified Buyer

            Pros

            • Compact Design

            Cons

              Best Uses

              • Complex Projects
              • Home Movies

              Comments about Steadicam Merlin 2 Camera Stabilizing System:

              One of the best systems of it's size when it comes to results, but setup can be a pain. Superb build quality. Folds away to a tiny size.

              • Was this a gift?:
              • No

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              4.0

              I know my camcorder's large

              By Bill

              from Walnut Creek, CA

              About Me Hobbyist

              Verified Buyer

              Pros

              • Compact Design
              • Improves Performance
              • Professional Quality

              Cons

                Best Uses

                • Complex Projects
                • Psas For Non-profits

                Comments about Steadicam Merlin 2 Camera Stabilizing System:

                I take my hobby pretty seriously. I use a Sony NEX-EA50UH. With the high capacity NP-F970 and the stock lens it all still comes in under the 7.5 pound advertised payload and many of the tutorial videos showed HDR-FX1/HVR-Z1, and similarly sized Panasonic and Canon camcorders.

                It took a decent amount of effort (and sore arms and wrist, but I was finally able to get the counterbalancing done.

                The resulting captured video is great and will nicely augment the video captured by my HDR-FX1.

                Be sure to watch ALL the video instructions on the included DVD for balancing. I think they are all available at the product web site at Tiffen. The case is functional - does what it is supposed to do, but there is no extra room for much... And everything needs to be broken down (rather than left when set for use), so you get to go through the balancing act every time you use this stabilizer.

                The adhesive holding the velcro to the handle has already allowed the velcro to peel off the handle. Probably because holding it so long while trying to balance it caused enough heat-buildup from my hands to "melt" the adhesive.

                I may break down and get a proper c-stand for the "docking bracket" accessory, though I have not used it in the field yet and it is entirely possible the tripod plate on a decent tripod may be enough. Because of the weight, I got the vest system, too - that review is not included here.

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                • No

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                (3 of 3 customers found this review helpful)

                 
                1.0

                Piece of Junk

                By E the doc guy.

                from Philadelphia PA

                About Me Professional Artist

                Verified Reviewer

                Pros

                • Compact Design
                • Lightweight

                Cons

                • Lacks Functionality
                • Poor Design
                • Poor Performance

                Best Uses

                  Comments about Steadicam Merlin 2 Camera Stabilizing System:

                  I shoot everything from weddings, to documentaries and was super excited to try this out. Let me just say when it's properly balanced it works great. the problem is KEEPING it balanced. I've owned and operated a glidecam and am very familiar with steadicams and balancing. The mere fact that you can't even set the Merlin down without having to rebalance it makes it useless to me. You simply lose too much time in adjusting/rebalancing it constantly. Add onto that, that the instructional dvd is clearly the dvd made for the Merlin 1 with poor overdubs to explain features found on the Merlin 2. For Tiffen/Steadicam to be the 'premier' name in stablizers this one missed the mark....badly. Lucky for me I got it on sale and not when they were charging $[$]for it.

                  • Was this a gift?:
                  • No

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                  5.0

                  Nice Build Quality

                  By Kev

                  from San Francisco

                  Verified Buyer

                  Pros

                  • Compact Design
                  • Professional Quality

                  Cons

                    Best Uses

                      Comments about Steadicam Merlin 2 Camera Stabilizing System:

                      Excellent Build Quality; I was quite impressed with the build quality alone. Takes some time to learn and balance but there are plenty of resources provided for you by the Manufacturer to refine your skill with this stabilizer.

                      You have to take time and learn really how to get it balanced correctly first and how to operate it second . After some time you will feel more comfortable don't be intimidated by the process.

                      I'm using this stabilizer with a 5D Mark III ; I like how versatile it is and you can use it to shoot in many different situations.

                      • Was this a gift?:
                      • No

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                      5.0

                      Amazing results at very convenient price

                      By ntranq

                      from New York City

                      About Me Professional Artist

                      Verified Buyer

                      Pros

                      • Compact Design
                      • Easy To Use
                      • Highly Compatible
                      • Improves Performance
                      • Lightweight
                      • Professional Quality

                      Cons

                        Best Uses

                        • Independent Films

                        Comments about Steadicam Merlin 2 Camera Stabilizing System:

                        I have a DSLR Canon 70D and after just one day of trying to balance it I could take it on a job. The Merlin is easy to balance, very easy to carry around and works wonders. I highly recommend it.

                        • Was this a gift?:
                        • No

                        Share this review

                         
                        3.0

                        Difficult to set up

                        By Chris

                        from Tokyo, Japan

                        About Me Business Owner

                        Verified Buyer

                        Pros

                        • Professional Quality

                        Cons

                          Best Uses

                          • Complex Projects
                          • Independent Films
                          • In The Studio

                          Comments about Steadicam Merlin 2 Camera Stabilizing System:

                          I think there's nothing wrong with the rig. However the learning curve is too steep and the set up time is too extensive.

                          Honestly, for the work I'm doing, YT production with Gh3 mainly, I am better off with a mono pad.

                          This unit is extremely hard to set it up right. And keep in mind you can't focus or zoom or adjust the viewer in anyway once it's set up.

                          Expect weeks of training to master this unit.

                          But once you master it, you will get some amazing footages.

                          • Was this a gift?:
                          • No

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                          (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

                           
                          4.0

                          Love it even more than the original

                          By Christa

                          from Sacramento, CA

                          About Me Business Owner, Professional Artist

                          Verified Buyer

                          Pros

                          • Compact Design
                          • Highly Compatible
                          • Lightweight
                          • Professional Quality

                          Cons

                            Best Uses

                            • Complex Projects
                            • Home Movies
                            • Independent Films

                            Comments about Steadicam Merlin 2 Camera Stabilizing System:

                            I rented the original Merlin for the first time last year for a wedding and loved it. It took a little practice but I mastered it quite well during my 5 day rental. The second time I rented it for a promotional video, and there were so many issues with it I had to rush order a replacement Merlin (not Merlin's fault, lack of rental maintenance). The replacement was better but it also had an issue that was a bit of a pain (again, lack of proper maintenance).

                            I loved using the Merlin but didn't want to deal with any mishaps again so I purchased my own! The Merlin 2 is fancier than the original and I'm really impressed with it (grippier rubber, easier to collapse, better handle)

                            Pros:
                            -The Merlin produces amazing video!
                            -Support foot for longer lenses works great on my 24-105 and stops it from zooming when I have the camera tilted down. This was a problem on the Merlin 1
                            -The manual is really thorough
                            -The cookbook is awesome if your camera/lens is listed. I setup my 60D freakishly fast (but setting up my 6D was the opposite experience)
                            -Nicely made case for storing everything

                            Cons:
                            -If you're a visual learner, get ready to have a little cry when you see this manual.

                            -The DVD was hard for me to watch because it's long, you have to use it with the manual and its appearance is old fashioned. I would prefer a quick start video (online) stating the principals of how the balance works, how many weights to use, and what order to start setting it up, the end. I'm sure the video is wonderful for many people but it just wasn't my speed.

                            -It would be nice if Merlin would take the time to figure out the settings for very common setups and give us the settings for at least a few cameras, in the manual. I find it a little surprising that you have to depend on the setting submissions of other users on the Cookbook to avoid setting it up from scratch.

                            -The mounting screw requires a coin or screwdriver to tighten/loosen. I never have coins on me so I keep a coin in my gear bag just for setting up the Merlin. A D ring would be a handy alternative.

                            -The screw is just begging to get lost. While they do give you a backup, having the ability to screw it through the mounting plate, or some sort of magical screw-keeper on the Merlin would be great. I'm always worried about losing that thing!

                            -You can't store it in the case unless you take off all the weights first. I never use the case for this reason. It's faster to put it in my gear bag and leave it setup. The case is also kind of bulky. I'd love to see a smaller case in the shape of the Merlin that lets you keep the weights on.

                            Overall, would I recommend the Merlin 2? Absolutely! Would I buy it again? You bet! The Merlin 2 provides a professional Hollywood steadicam look for a minimal cost. It's beautifully designed, it's small and easy to setup after you know what your settings are. The Merlin 2 is always in my gear bag.

                            • Was this a gift?:
                            • No

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                            (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

                             
                            5.0

                            Far better than flycam design!

                            By The F Man

                            from Los Angeles

                            Comments about Steadicam Merlin 2 Camera Stabilizing System:

                            First of all these gadgets are instruments. So for example if you can't play guitar, buying an expensive guitar will not make you a guitarist. This goes for these steady systems too. You have know how to balance it, you have to know how to operate it and you have to understand physics.

                            I used to use flycam besides getting the job done with it, it was very problematic. First of all that design was terribly tiring on my wrist. In 3 minutes I was feeling the need to set it down. And when I set it down it would be out of balance again. The only positive side to that design is fly-low mode. Other than that it is not comparable to Merlin 2.

                            Merlin 2 is a lot complicated and it requires you to read the manual or watch the DVD before you can operate it.

                            I used Merlin 2 on a 10 hour shoot day. No wrist problems, no arm problems, nothing. As if this thing was a part of me. It is amazingly easy to operate and very forgiving.

                            I read that it is bad on windy areas. And half of my shoot was outside and yes it was windy and when hold Merlin 2 with one hand it would turn with the wind… which I though was quite normal. And as soon as you use your thumb or other hand to guide wind didn't matter at all.

                            In conclusion:
                            PROS:
                            - Very light
                            - Very Ergonomic
                            - Very Easy to setup
                            - Very easy to operate
                            - Very easy to store
                            - DVD teaches you everything you need to know
                            - Flies beautifully
                            - Comes with a tripod adapter and a very nice bag

                            Cons
                            - the paint easily gets scratched. After 2-3 times of unmounting and mounting the camera the plate was scratched already.

                            Result: Amazing!

                            Share this review

                             
                            4.0

                            Great product, Requires Patience

                            By Kyle MADLAW

                            from Savannah, GA

                            About Me Business Owner, Professional Artist

                            Verified Buyer

                            Pros

                            • Compact Design
                            • High Build Quality
                            • Improves Performance
                            • Lightweight
                            • Professional Quality

                            Cons

                            • Large Learning Curve
                            • Not Easy To Set Up

                            Best Uses

                            • B-Roll
                            • Corporate video
                            • Independent Films

                            Comments about Steadicam Merlin 2 Camera Stabilizing System:

                            This is not a plug and play piece of equipment. It took hours upon hours to set up and learn to use properly. That said, once you figure it out, the footage is remarkably better than handheld and adds a professional value to your work.

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                            • No

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                            (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

                             
                            4.0

                            Does the job!

                            By FATV

                            from Fitchburg, MA

                            About Me Public Access Director

                            Verified Buyer

                            Pros

                            • Compact Design
                            • Lightweight
                            • Professional Quality

                            Cons

                            • Steep learning curve

                            Best Uses

                            • Independent Films

                            Comments about Steadicam Merlin 2 Camera Stabilizing System:

                            We are an Access TV facility with some members who are into filmmaking and documentaries. Price had kept us away from camera stabilization systems but now, with cameras getting smaller, we decided to give the Merlin 2 a shot. I had no previous experience with any counterweight stabilization product. As some of the reviews have indicated...yes, there is a set-up challenge. But the instructions and the included video were good guides. It took about an hour for me to get the proper balance for my Panasonic X900 camera. But now that I know the process, I think I could setup another camera in a lot less time. As for operation, it does take practice but I finally had that "Aha" moment. As we say in New England, it's "wicked cool". Well worth the money.

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                            • No

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                            (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

                             
                            5.0

                            Master the learning curve and go!

                            By grelenco

                            from Colorado Springs, CO

                            About Me Business Owner

                            Verified Buyer

                            Pros

                            • Affordable Comparatively
                            • Improves Performance
                            • Professional Quality
                            • Solid Steady Video

                            Cons

                            • Can get heavy
                            • Has A Learning Curve

                            Best Uses

                            • Real Estate Walk-thrus

                            Comments about Steadicam Merlin 2 Camera Stabilizing System:

                            Using this with Canon 60D and Tokina 11-16 F2.8 lens.

                            I was a bit concerned about reviews about how difficult the Merlin2 was to configure, but I went for it anyway. There's no question...this is not a 'pull it out of the box and use it' product. My advice? WATCH THE CD. READ THE MANUAL. The instructions are excellent, easy to understand and comprehensive. It definitely took me several hours of tweaking to get things balanced right. But once I did, it's set. Don't have to do that every time. Just minor tweaks each time you use it.

                            Using it also requires practice. Again, the first thing you shoot with this is not going to be perfect. Will it be better than non-stabilized video? Absolutely. But there is a learning curve to getting great video as well. I've been working at this for over a week now and I'm better than I was at first but still have a ways to go.

                            Invest time into this and you will be rewarded. Definitely not for people who want it to just work out of the box. Like any high end piece of equipment, the more you use it the better it gets.

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                            • No

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                            (4 of 4 customers found this review helpful)

                             
                            5.0

                            The Merlin 2 Experience After 2 Months

                            By Michel

                            from Tulsa, OK

                            About Me Business Owner, Hobbyist

                            Verified Buyer

                            Pros

                            • Compact Design
                            • Highly Compatible
                            • Improves Performance
                            • Lightweight
                            • Professional Quality

                            Cons

                            • Requires practice

                            Best Uses

                            • Home Movies
                            • Independent Films
                            • In The Studio
                            • Moving Camera

                            Comments about Steadicam Merlin 2 Camera Stabilizing System:

                            Before getting the Merlin 2, I tried out different options borrowing a Glidecam, a Blackbird and the Merlin. The easiest rig to use, was the Blackbird. The learning curves for the Merlin and Glidecam are steeper. The Glidecam strained my wrist, so I dropped it as a handheld option: having your hand under the center of mass as for the Blackbird and Merlin clearly makes them easier on the hand and make these two better suited for handheld in my opinion. (Many Glidecam users are stating it is not a problem for them, so maybe I simply need more weight training.) With a few hours of experimentation, I started to better control the Merlin. I needed something to travel with, and to have a minimum weight and volume, so the Merlin ended up as my favorite. With the recent price drop of the Merlin 2 from $[$]+ down to around $[$]I did not hesitate (I even got the $350 Xmas price :-) ). Now after 2 months experience, I am extremely happy with my choice. The only irritation is that the Velcro kept falling off. Tiffen should not have put such a cheap flimsy strap onto what otherwise is an extremely well engineered device. My solution was to fix the Velcro's with nylon fishing line (and some scraping and glue). Since this is on the handle, it has no effect on the balance or anything else of importance. The balancing is not difficult (providing you are not shooting for dynamic balance), providing you do the adjustments in small steps. The important lesson I learned though is that when the manual says the Merlin works best with a drop time of 1 second, it really is what you should try to achieve. I initially was shooting for 2 to 3 seconds drop time, because I had seen too many pendulum movies, but that was a big mistake. With so slow drop times, it is very difficult to keep the rig level, and even if you are very careful not to "over compensate" the rig is "oversensitive" and you get erratic disturbing mini-pans, and my rig also tended to slowly drift counterclockwise (with my camera and mic: I first thought it was the gimbal, but I now think this tendency was a combination of camera geometry and the extremely small forces required to accelerate a "perfectly balanced" (virtually no bottom heaviness) rig). With a drop time of 1 second, (and after a lot of practice) the rig behaves very well for me. As many have pointed out before, wind is a problem, but you cannot have it both ways: both something you can travel with and actually use handheld without exhausting your hand, AND something that stands it's grounds in a storm... because it is so heavy.One thing I wish was better covered though is how to get the rig into dynamic balance. There is a spreadsheet for the previous version of the Merlin, but a thorough explanation would have saved users a lot of time. The key with dynamic balance, is that if you manage to get such balance, the rig will not suffer from rocking during (and after) a (fast) pan. The relationship between static and dynamic balance is straight forward. Static balance is simply that the center of gravity (CG: in practice the center of mass) of the device (plus camera) is at the origin of the gimbal. In this case, when the device is at rest, all the forces imposed by the mass distribution is balanced out and it will stay at rest. In practice as mentioned above, it is easier to operate when the CG is shifted slightly below that point (bottom heavy) so a drop of the spar takes around a second.The trouble is that when the rig is not at rest (even when it is in static balance) and you do a fast pan, the rig may start to behave like a drunk rocking chair. The reason is an unbalance of forces due to the rotation. Dynamic balance implies that when there is rotation along some axis (going through the origin of the gimbal) the forces required for the inward (towards the axis of rotation) acceleration of all masses, are perfectly balanced out; i.e. the net force on the axis (relative the reaction point) is zero. (For every virtual mass point, an inward force towards the axis of rotation is required to bend the mass away from the straight path the mass would otherwise take if no force was acting on it: the centripetal force.) If the device does not have dynamic balance, when it is rotated (panned) it will rock indicative of the combination of the "centrifugal" imbalance and the skewness in how you applied the "panning force": the latter is important to remember since you are a part of the equations. So how do you get the Merlin 2 into dynamic balance ? On symmetric rigs, where one can change the position of masses (e.g., a battery) horizontally without changing the vertical distance to the origin of the gimbal, Jerry Holway's "A Dynamic Balance Primer" will get you there. For the Merlin 2, however the only fore-aft movement independent of the vertical distance to the origin of the gimbal is the fore-aft movement of the camera. When you change the angle between the spars, you are changing both the vertical and horizontal distances to the gimbal origin from the weight at the end of the lower spar. Therefore, trying to use "intuitive theoretical physics" can make your head explode. Below is my "trial and error try it all" approach.For the Merlin 2, the first thing to ensure is that the weight at the end of the lower spar sits on the opposite side of the vertical rotation axis to the front. This excludes using the rig with the larger spar angles. This may require more weight on the lower spar depending on camera/mic weight (and I wish the rig came with some smaller weights to make this easier: you can improvise or get a machine shop to make some 1/2 or 1/3 size weights).The second thing to do is to figure out the range of spar angles that still allows you to get the rig into static balance. Notice the number of turns on the spar knob for the window, and also the interdependent number of turns (position) you used on the guide ring. Take your time: this is your window of opportunity that hopefully exist for your setup.Start with everything at the midpoint of this window. Do a large number of pans trying your best to apply a "symmetric force". (If you practice a bit, you can let the rig spin around and around by alternating the hand on the handle. When you do it that way, even a slow pan will work to highlight the dynamic imbalance: I found this to be the easiest way to get reproducible results.) Look for a reproducible rocking pattern: did the nose go up or down first ? If there is no reproducibility you are applying skewed forces that are not triggering a clean pan: the results are useless. Now change the spar angle in small steps systematically in one direction. For every step redo the panning experiments. Are there any systematics in the change of behavior ? Repeat through the entire window in both directions. Write down the results at every step: do not think you have found the solution before you have seen the entire window. If you are patient, you will find the most steady combination of settings that fit your camera/mic and just as important: how the behavior change as you change the angle: invaluable knowledge if you use different accessories on the rig and often need to do major rebalancing.For my rig (weight of cam/mic just below a kilo), I ended up with a situation were the rig became very very much easier to control with no rocking chair tendency during pans. It has been a true wah wah woo.The Merlin 2 has given us the possibility of pro looking video from a moving handheld camera, and it is so light you can take the camera and rig with you everywhere (and it does not need batteries or complex electronics, servos or gyroscopes) so thanks goes to Garret Brown for this great invention: simplicity, performance and practicality on steroids (only a master camera man could have designed this) for those willing to take the effort required to operate it. Now, we are only waiting for Blackmagic's next version of their pocket camera (a crop factor of 2 (slightly bigger sensor giving a wider angle range on the Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm lens) and a 4:2:2 60fps codec additional option would make this pro video quality camera a multipurpose killer camera at an unbeatable price point). The Merlin 2 and the Blackmagic pocket camera can become a match made in heaven. Then the obligatory question: would you recommend this product to a friend ? For a device like the Merlin 2, that is like asking if you want to recommend a Stradivarius to a friend. If the friend plays the violin well, or is willing to learn; no doubt. But if he/she just want to annoy the neighbor with some jamming, it would be a waste of money. You also have intermediate settings. If someone need a stabilizer to get ok handheld video tomorrow, get the Blackbird. However, if you have a passion of telling stories through videography and are willing go through the learning phase of the Merlin 2, I think this mini-Steadicam will become a invaluable tool you will always bring with you.

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                            5.0

                            fun system

                            By Etta Jay

                            from Berkeley, CA

                            About Me Professional Artist

                            Verified Buyer

                            Pros

                            • Compact Design
                            • Improves Performance
                            • Lightweight
                            • Professional Quality

                            Cons

                              Best Uses

                              • Complex Projects
                              • Home Movies
                              • Independent Films

                              Comments about Steadicam Merlin 2 Camera Stabilizing System:

                              Was concerned about the set-up being difficult, and certainly it was not easy, but follow the instructions, consult forums for specific guidelines for your particular camera and lens, and then have fun tweaking it to perfection.
                              The DVD/booklet together are good tools for setting up the Steadicam directly from the box.
                              Love the result, very smooth. Gonna take some practice to get used to handling it.

                              note: with Canon 7D on top, the thing is very heavy. Hoping to find/construct a low-cost vest to hold the weight. Good for short use with lots of breaks between takes.

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                              (3 of 10 customers found this review helpful)

                               
                              1.0

                              READ THE REVIEWS FIRST

                              By Bruce

                              from New Jersey

                              About Me Hobbyist

                              Pros

                                Cons

                                • Poor Performance

                                Best Uses

                                  Comments about Steadicam Merlin 2 Camera Stabilizing System:

                                  I wish I had read the con reviews. This product is not worth the money. It takes hours to setup and the instructions and vides do not answer the obvious questions on how to correct a particular problem. The camera rocks like it is on a ship. There is noting steady about this Steadicam.

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                                  (3 of 6 customers found this review helpful)

                                   
                                  1.0

                                  Unless you have a physics degree...

                                  By Chris

                                  from Los Angeles

                                  Comments about Steadicam Merlin 2 Camera Stabilizing System:

                                  I'm a smart and very patient man but I found the Merlin 2 to be impossible to set up and, subsequently, returned it.

                                  Despite following the accompanying instruction book and video, and the few thoughtful videos on YouTube, I couldn't balance this with my GH3 (w/ a 12-35mm lense) to save my life. I worked with it for roughly twelve hours over two days, time I needed for shooting not setting up gear. The times I came close to having it balanced still weren't consistent enough to put it to use. Moreover, even if I did balance it with one lense I couldn't bare to think how long it would take to sort out with a different lense, filter, etc..

                                  Unless you have a physics degree and an inordinate amount of time to spend setting this up, there's no way I would recommend this.

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