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Hand-held gimbal for stills with long lenses?

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Post Options Post Options   Quote balacau Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Hand-held gimbal for stills with long lenses?
    Posted: 21 July 2018 at 22:27
I was recently on a boat trip off the south coast of Wales doing some seal spotting. Saw plenty up fairly close and it was well worth the trip, lovely weather too which always helps!

Anyway I was talking to someone today in the area where I live who was using a hand-held gimbal for their Canon DSLR. Although it only had a 24-70mm F2.8 zoom mounted on it, it did make me think perhaps such a device would be handy for stills photography as well; albeit with longer lenses?

Certainly taking pictures from a boat that's moving around from its own wake and rolling with the swells can be quite a challenge. Now if you add a long lens to that, it can get alot harder. Plus the a-mount in-body stabilisation system isn't entirely effective with longer lenses anyway (something like the 500mm F8 Sony/Minolta mirror lens I'd imagine). So would such a device help with that scenario or are there better ways to get sharp images of say a seal or a cliff-dwelling/diving bird short of using a drone (which wouldn't be permitted anyway)? I've always wanted to get some pictures of Puffins and they do visit the south Welsh coast on occasion but a 300mm lens wouldn't be anywhere near long enough and trying to get a sharp image with a 500mm lens without some assistance probably won't work so well either.

Any advice out there?

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Miranda F View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Miranda F Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 July 2018 at 09:47
Maybe what you're looking for is a steadycam mounting as used in the cine industry. There are two version of this that I've heard of - a powered one with motors to stabilise the whole camera, and a dumb one which uses a weight below the camera to keep it stable.

You can get a feel for what the latter will do if you attach a collapsed monopod or short heavy tripod underneath the camera and hold it loosely in your fingers around the mounting point, so the tripod can swing about. The mass of the tripod tends to keep the camera still even if your body moves. If you use a long lens, you need to push the tripod forwards so the centre of mass of the whole lot is in the right place.

I used this trick in film days before steadyshot came out, but I guess there's probably somebody making a dedicated version now ...

If you want a long focal length, the mirror lenses are ideal here because they are short and light. I've used the Tamron 500mm this way, but not the Minolta (which usefully has AF)
Miranda F & Sensorex, Sony A58, 5d, Dynax 4, 5, 60, 500si/600si/700si/800si, various Sony & Minolta lenses, several Tamrons, lots of MF primes and *far* too many old film cameras . . .
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SnowFella View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote SnowFella Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 July 2018 at 10:09
Think you will find that any gimbal or powered stabilized rig that can handle a long heavy lens to be a "kidney and your firstborn" kinda deal when it comes to prize!

Think your best bet, mind you I only have a few whale/dolphin watch cruises as experience, is to keep your shutter speed up and try to use your upper body as a gimbal of sorts. Last one I did I anchored myself to a railing using a leg wrapped through it and used my upper body to try and stabilize the view through the lens as the boat rolled in the swell.
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whiteheat View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote whiteheat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 July 2018 at 12:30
If you've got somewhere in the vicinity of $700 USD, the Ronin-S is the latest and greatest at that price point:

https://www.dpreview.com/news/1548685047/dji-announces-price-and-delivery-date-for-ronin-s-single-handed-gimbal
Nothing is as it first appears.
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balacau View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote balacau Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 July 2018 at 17:37
Thank you all for the informative and thought-provoking replies.

When I first considered the idea of a hand-held gimbal, I did a google image search and ignored the prices. There's certainly no shortage of designs out there for various sized cameras (more than one camera in some instances) but I noticed that most lenses were not exactly large ones (and the Minolta/Sony 500mm F8 mirror lens isn't exactly huge dimensionally).

Miranda F

You mentioning the idea of loosely holding a collapsed monopod or compact tripod to get the feel of such a system really has some merit to it, I was wondering if indeed this might be the solution. It would save money by utilising gear I already have as well as having a tripod available for things like low light shots as well. Nice one. Yes I too am glad the Sony 500mm F8 has AF, something which my larger Sigma 600mm F8 does not, for the focal length you get these lenses are quite amazing really. I never did understand why Sony stopped making that lens. Thank you for your suggestion.


SnowFella

Using my body as a gimbal sounds intriguing really but I can see where you are going with this. I too don't get to do these kinds of pictures much really so have limited experience but I do know that for most shots a 300mm lens just isn't enough. A mirror lens would be great for low weight and compact size, but you need decent light to get the best out of them. I can ignore the donut bokeh really and with water in the background, it can add some extra sparkle.


whiteheat

I only wish I had that kind of funding immediately available! I started looking for options of a hand-held gimbal without considering the prices attached to them. And when I finally looked at the price side of things, my jaw literally fell through the floor. I can imagine the motorised ones or the setups that can carry more than a single DSLR body would be quite expensive, just not quite that much!

Thank you all once again. Hopefully it won't be too long before I get to put some of these ideas into practice.
Understanding is a 3-edged sword. Your side, their side and the truth.
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