Friday, June 15, 2012

Glidecam HD-1000 Review

The last few weeks I've had the good fortune of trying out a couple of newer versions of things I already own; specifically the LansBaby Composer, and now the Glidecam HD-1000 [$389.00]

I bought a Glidecam 1000 Pro over ten years ago, so it's interesting to see what's the same, and what's been improved when comparing it to one of their latest stabilizers.

The old 1000 Pro is looking a little rough, 
particularly with it's washers rather than nicely machined base and weights. 
Note too: the sled on the 1000 is not the original!

The gimbal, which is perhaps the most important moving part, appears to be little changed. Maybe it's different internally, but it's hard to tell; it seems to work the same way. What has changed is almost every other part of the device. The arm that attaches the handle to the gimbal is a solid machined piece, rather than a strip of bent metal. The foot and weights are also now nicely machined, not simply a bent metal plate and washers.

The gimbal is similar, but the arm that attaches the handle has changed significantly

The camera cart at the top still uses the same mutli-hole design, with a simple bolt being used to attach the camera to the camera plate. What has changed is that the cart now includes a mechanism for sliding the top plate (and the camera) left and right, and forward and back. This makes it much easier to get the stabilizer balanced and is a huge step forward from the model I have.

The Glidecam came packed in a peanut filled box, in five foam-wrapped packages. Assembly was reasonably quick and easy. The enclosed booklet seems to show you the steps to assemble the device clearly, but I was completely flummoxed by the fact that the camera plate was already attached to the top, and I couldn't figure out how to detach it! That took several more minutes than it should have (you unscrew and then pull out the screws at the outer four edges of the sled.) There were a couple of other places where I didn't completely understand the written descriptions, so while the booklet is large and appears to be thorough, I think it could be clearer.

The most noticeable difference; the "foot" and weights!

Balancing a Glidecam
Do I need to explain what a "Steadicam" is? Probably not. But with the use of the gimbal and handle, and the weights and arm, the motion of the camera is smoothed or dampened. You should be careful to read the instructions carefully; I think a lot of beginners make the mistake of putting too much weight on the bottom of the stabilizer. On the other hand, I do think mass is important to the operation of these devices, and a very light camera with light counter balance can actually be a problem when moving about because the camera moves too much.

You can't really see the controls in this shot, but the most important difference
is that now it's much easier to adjust the center-point of the camera on the camera cart

Another thing to watch out for when balancing the camera; make sure you do it with the camera configured the way you plan to use it! Don't make the mistake I made at first of balancing the camera without the flip-out LCD panel in the operating position, rather than in the closed position!

Also, if you're using this with a DSLR, you'll want to avoid using zoom lenses that change their center of mass when zooming - you'll have to rebalance every time you change the focal length of the lens!

The Glidecam HD-1000 is a big step foreword from the Glidecam of ten years ago. It's better machined and easier to balance. The latter reason is why I'd consider replacing my 1000 Pro. However, once the camera is actually balanced, the operation and performance are essentially the same. The only thing you really need to think about is; if you're planning to do a lot of shooting with these kinds of stabilizers, maybe you need to get something with a vest so your arm doesn't get too tired!

Note: The review unit was loaned by B & H Photo Video.

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