I'm looking around for a stabiliser for when I;m walking around and considering the above brands.
But I dont know which one I should go for. Also, what would be the best way to pull focus etc. And would buying a vest to help with the weight of the stabiliser be a good buy?
Well, I'm a real Steadicam® snob, but all of the stabilizers work basically the same way. However, the real Steadicams certainly come with a premium price... but they also have premium features. If you plan to be a very regular user, then I'd say go for the "real deal." If it is something you only anticipate using every now and then, then one of the better "Clonecams" is probably more than sufficient.
There's a knockoff brand made in Argentina that gets rave reviews at a fraction of the price of a real Steadicam. I can't recall the name, but they sell a lot of them via eBay.
You didn't say what camera you use (or more importantly, what it weighs) which makes all the difference in the world. Only if you have a very lightweight camera would you be better off going with a vestless arrangement (Steadicam Merlin or such). If your camera weighs more than a few pounds and you plan on doing shots more than a minute or so, then a vest/arm is pretty much a necessity.
Focus pulling is done one of three ways: 1) You'd use a video camera that can autofocus. 2) If using a cine camera, you use a remote followfocus unit that your AC uses to pull focus. Or 3), you don't pull focus at all. Focus pulling isn't needed on probably half or more Steadicam shots. Since Steadicam shots are usually wider focal lengths (I personally usually Steadicam with either a 28mm or 35mm prime, but sometimes as wide as even 18mm), the depths-of-field are pretty deep at those lengths... especially if you stop down any. As long as your shot is blocked with your talent staying in a relatively consistent range, you might not need to pull focus at all.
I used to Steadi a lot, but since my birthdays hit the half-century mark, I don't as much any more... my back's just not up to it. I've been through four Steadicam rigs, I probably need to sell my current one as it is overkill for the C300 I primarily shoot with now.
Also, sounds like you haven't done it before. As easy as they try to make it look, Steadicamming is not a take-it-out-of-the-box and get-great-shots-right-away thing. It takes work, a lot of practice practice practice, and (ideally) even training (in a perfect world). I hacked around at it (probably a couple of years or more) before I considered myself a decently proficient operator.
There are usually quite a few rigs for sale in the classifieds section of the Steadicam Operators Association website.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Hi Todd, thanks so much for your detailed response!!
I own a SONY NEX VG20, hopefully going to upgrade to a Canon C100.
My SONY is very light, but I'm not strong at all. I have used a loan Merlin Stedicam before and found it to be very heavy.
Ohhhh no, I know they aren't easy to use all right!! But I'm willing to learn because I love the technique.
I think the Merlin would fly a C100, but only if it is absolutely stripped (and absolutely no accessories, rods, matte box, or anything else) and you are not using an overly-heavy lens. It'd likely work, but it's pushing the limit. Anything even a tiny bit heavier than that and you'd need a bigger rig than the Merlin. I've never tried it with a rig that small, but I don't think a Merlin would fly my C300, which is probably about the same weight as the C100. I think the C300 body only weighs four pounds, but I have some lenses that weight that much or more by themselves. It'd just depend on how you have the body configured to know if it is within the Merlin's payload limit or not.
And yes, sounds like you'd definitely want a vest/arm.
Depending on what/how you are planning to shoot, you might consider one of the new stabilized gimbals (like the Movi or one of its many clones) instead of a Steadicam.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.