I’ve recently discovered these Scotty Makes Stuff Z-axis Stabilizers that help eliminate the 4th-axis “bounce” when walking with a stabilized camera or 3-axis stabilizer like the Ronin S. While very affordable and well-engineered, these lightweight stabilizing grips really do make a huge difference!
With all the stabilized cameras, lenses and 3-axis stabilized gimbals on the market today, the one missing element from all is the 4th-axis (Z-axis) that helps reduce the “bounce” you can typically get when walking with the camera/stabilizer in your hands. Even with extreme caution, you may end up with a resulting shot that feels like you’re in a boat and the floating sensation can make your viewers a bit seasick. Traditional Steadicam operators have used a 4th-axis stabilizing arm attached to their vest for years to obtain a truly fluid motion when in motion, but those aren’t always feasible (or affordable) for the average/casual run-n-gun shooter.
I first learned about the Scotty Makes Stuff products through social media ads, and to be honest, the low price point made me really skeptical (as I am of most social media ads). But after seeing a few comments and images from people who seemed to be legit, I contacted them for more info. Their online support desk was really helpful and knowledgeable so I ordered my first kit, the MicroPro 2 (along with the weight kit and a couple other accessories that would allow me to mount the GoPro Hero10 Black to it. To my surprise, I thought that shipping to the US from Australia was going to take forever, but I received my order quicker than another item I bought off Amazon Prime on the same day!
(base price $59 USD)
When you receive the product, you can tell that it’s custom made on a 3D printer – which may explain why the costs are kept low, but the quality of the design itself and the thought on user accessibility is definitely planned-out. It was fairly intuitive to set up and assemble the additional accessories to make it work with my GoPro. For my purposes, I bought more than what I thought I might need be sure I didn’t have to add anything extra to make it all work. In reality, all I really needed was the counterweight kit and the GoPro mount.
Applying a few adjustments on the tension controls, and I was ready to run my initial tests. Since I hadn’t had any extensive experience using a Z-axis stabilizer before, I just did the obvious thing and give it a “shake test”. You see people do these in YouTube videos all the time and it can look impressive, but it’s harder to control the actual camera motion than it appears and takes a bit of practice learning how to handle your rig for the smoothest result possible.
So of course, in true novice fashion, I thought I’d give it an extreme conditions test right off the bat and decided I’d tackle a bunch of stairs and our suspension bridge to the orchard on my small farm. Just clomping down the stairs and over the bouncy bridge like the clumsy farmer that I am, I first did the pass with the GoPro shorty handle and then a second pass with the MP2. I posted my results on YouTube right afterwards and shared it with the SMS folks online, and now they’re using it as a demo video on their website.
Now I didn’t really try hard to be steady on either pass, as you can tell (even hearing me clomping in my boots across the bridge) but the difference is pretty impressive for an initial test!
Further testing in similar fashion yielded similar results and only better when a little care is giving while moving and being conscious of how you’re gripping the handle and keeping your arm steady.
As you can see in the following video, I tried to use this in regular daily activities walking around our farm and wasn’t going for a studio “cinematic” production, so it’s a little crude. Even so, I think the results have been pretty promising and I’ll definitely put some time into refining my skills in using the MP2.
AirFlo M Duo
I was so impressed with the MP2 that I ordered a basic AirFlo M Duo stabilizer to use with my Ronin S and see how it worked with a heavier setup. I know that we’ve had issues using the Ronin in various shoots and not having smooth Z-axis control. We’ve considered getting a vest/arm but it’s so cumbersome for quick casual shoots that the two-handle adapter on the Ronin would have to suffice. Until I ordered the AirFlo M Duo, that is.
The kit arrived in about a week from ordering – just like the first order, and again, the product is still 3D printed but really well made and designed for ease of operation. It was fairly easy to set up and get dialed in, but getting used to handling it will take some practice! It feels a bit top-heavy and leans forward (by design to eliminate forward/backward “sway”) but once you get a feel for it, it feels more natural to handle than just the two-handle rigid grip alone.
It does take a bit of practice to truly get the feel of this setup, but I’m hopeful in time to master it properly. Even my initial tests have shown marked improvement over a rigid grip on the Ronin S.
I did a similar test as I did above with the Micro Pro 2, but using the Canon 6D MkII with the 24-70 zoom AF/IS lens at approx. 65mm with full auto. I was paying more attention to the stabilization than the camera settings unfortunately, so some clips are a bit out of focus. The motion was the most critical for me to compare in these tests.
As you can see, this makes a big difference in just general motion for the average run-n-gun shooter, so with a bit of practice and fine-tuning of the hardware, I’m sure you could get some really smooth footage in your shots. And the price really can’t be beat!
For more info on Scotty Makes Stuff products, visit their website at: ScottyMakesStuff.com