The Blackbird Camera Stabilizer Review

Cheaper than the Glidecam HD2000 and better made.

Testimonial-david-d

I need to get a DSLR stabilizer with a gimbal type device to take me from point at A to point B within a scene or just being able to orbit around something is a very smooth fashion.

With The Blackbird stabilizer I have done a lot of running, walking, circling, following, walking along side, walking backwards, crane up, crane down over the last month or so. I even worked on a promotional piece for a local photographer where I used it.

My Experience Level

While watching my b-roll, I want to make sure you understand my experience level using these devices is pretty low, I only have a couple of months of use with them. So keep in mind while watching this review, that I am not an expert at this at all.

One of the things I struggled with the GlideCam HD2000 that I review a year ago was getting horizontal swaying, on this Blackbird unit I seem to get less on that, now that could be because I am getting better that this, or it could be that the Blackbird designed better with their SmoothTouch Friction Adjuster. If I were to guess it is because I am learning how to use my guiding or steering hand better.

So some of you might be asking what one of these devices can do for you. Here is a quick comparison what a DSLR stabilizer with a gimbal can do. First off we have a handheld shot with nothing but the camera and the lens, you can see each bumpy step I take, next up we Manfrotto Fig Rig you can see it is an improvement but still not super smooth, next up you have the Blackbird which is the smoothest. Now remember I am not that good at this yet and you can expect similar results to mine on your first start time out. If want to see what I pro can do with one of these type of device you need to check out Devin Graham channel, the guy is amazing! I hope to be that good some day.

Price

It seems that the gimbal type of stabilizers basically come in two price ranges, the $100-$400 range and the $400 to $800 range. So the basic Blackbird system is $470 is competing with GlideCam and Merlin SteadyCam devices that are well built. It is slightly cheaper than the Glidecam and much less than the Merlin.

From CMR Camera Motion Research comes in two models 2050A for around $670 and the BB100 for around $470.

The Full Kit has the exact same stabilizer as the Basic.  But the Full Kit adds 4 accessories which are:
1) Case with die-cut foam
2) Universal docking bracket
3) Tripod quick change adapter
4) Resting stand

Lens and Camera Used

Now I have been using this with my Tamron 24mm-70mm with VC turned on. I’m sure the VC is helping get smoother shots, and 24mm on my full frame Canon 5D Mark III is wide enough for most of the stuff I have used it for.

Another reason you want to use wide angle lenses is you can’t see the screen because of sunlight or passing in and out of shade quickly. Sometimes you just have to point it in the general direction of your talent because you are too busy walking on rocks and can’t look at the screen.

I like using my Manfrotto quick release plates because they are on everything I have, my tripod, monopod, slider so I can quickly move my camera to each device. Luckily there is enough travel on this axis to place it in such away that I can actually release the lever.

Construction

I really like all the attention to detail on this device, it is really well built.

The unit stays in balance from day to day really quite well. I put it in the trunk of my car and drove on rough roads and when I mounted the camera using the quick release plate  it was still balanced just like when I left it, I know others have complained that the cheaper models go out of balance quite easily. For me speed is everything if you want to just pull it out of your car and start using it.

The weights are easy to change out compared to the Glidecam but you really have to tighten them down hard or they will fall off.

Comparing the weight:

  • Glidecam at 2.54 lbs.
  • Blackbird is 2.4 lbs.
  • Merlin is 1.4 lbs.

You can’t set it down flat like the Glidecam but it does have a kickstand, which might be a better idea, however you have to remember to retract the kickstand when you use it which I have forgotten to do a couple of times, but you remember quickly when you see it is front heavy.

I really like how to use the bubbles on the forward and aft, that is sweet and speeds up the process. I really like having that especially with light stand mount, it makes balancing so much faster.

I like what the camera mounting plate is made out of, which is a synthetic rubber with great resistance to oil and other chemicals and has a wide temperature operating range.  It compresses slightly and provides good compression locking.

I am not a fan of how big the bag is, I like things to be small simple and light weight, not sure I would want to pack this for a plane trip.

Operation

I like using the bar to tilt up and tilt down, with the “C” shaped devices like the Merlin your fingers just can’t get enough torque to tilt quickly. I think the manual talks about doing it this way, but I like doing it this way better.

I had pretty good success turning it up side down to get really low shots and then flipping them in post.

I even gave it to my friend Dave who had never used a stabilizer before and you can see by his first attempt that he didn’t do that bad.

You can rest it on the horizontal weight bar and get some nice low steady shots that way, which you can not get on a Merlin.

How how well does it work, well I will let my images that I have been showing speak for themselves.

So is this the DSLR stabilizer with a gimbal for me? Given how well it is made, I think it is actually worth the money for the basic BB100 version, the Glidecam HD2000 is actually more expensive and not as well built. But $470 is still a ton of money for most of us. Oh, I am having a hard time deciding which one to buy, this one, or one of the cheaper models that might go out of balance quicker and not as well made. It might be like a tripod purchase were you save up for it since it will last a long time instead of buying a cheaper one that disappoints, and you end up buying the more expensive one later anyway.

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The Blackbird

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