I recently picked up a Steadicam Merlin secondhand from Craiglist and finally got the chance this past weekend to get some real practice in. I mounted a Canon 7D with a 17-40mm f4L lens which is the widest lens I currently have. I'd like to eventually get something wider like a 14mm prime since the crop factor on the 7D makes the 17mm about 27mm.
Because of the added weight of the 17-40 zoom lens to the 7D, balancing the camera on a Steadicam Merlin is a bit tricky. This is the configuration I used:
Canon 7D iso 200 1/50@ f4
17-40mm f4L lens
B&W UV Haze Filter
Zacuto Z finder mounting bracket (w/o the viewfinder)
Manfrotto 577 quick release plate
Mount Hole: H
Stage Mark: -2
Front: 1 Finish Weight
Lower: 4 mid, 1 finish weight
Arc Size: 1/2 turn back from full extension
Canon 7D / Steadicam Merlin Test Flight from Todd Mizomi on Vimeo.
Learned a lot on this practice run:
Need to learn to walk more fluidly to smooth out the bumps in the footage.
The slightest breeze can make it sway. Might need to adjust the weights, maybe adding a mid or start weight to the front.
I tend to lower my hands as I walk forward - I have to work on keeping the Merlin at eye level so I can see what the heck I'm shooting. I also need to be careful not to bump the lower spar when going down stairs and have the Merlin trimmed nose down.
I seriously need to work out more - The only reason I put music on this video was to hide my huffing and puffing towards the end as I climbed the stairs to the lookout. I think I will have to limit the use of the Merlin to short clips. Steadicam does make a vest and arm system for the Merlin, but with that costing over $1000, I'll have to stick with handholding it for now.
I also have an older version of a Glidecam 4000 which I might try out with the 7D next time. In preliminary tests, I've found that it is not as susceptible to wind. The trade-off is that it is harder to fine tune and it is a bit heavier than the Merlin.