Lite 'n Go camcorder stabiliser review
Recent followers of my blog will know that I recently bought myself a Glidecam X-22 stabilisation system and have embarked on a journey to acquire the skills of camera stabiliser operation.
For those who are not familiar with the story of camera stabilisers, it all began when Garrett Brown devised a system in the 70’s that later became known as Steadicam™. Indeed Steadicam™ is a trademarked name, and not as some people think a generic term. Hence the ™.
In fact so all encompassing is the ™ aspect of Steadicam™ that woe betide anyone who tried to make a similar system in the 70’s, 80’s or early 90’s, since the patents, rightly, were defended with broad aplomb. Not even Panavision could escape when they tried to copy the Steadicam™ system with their own Panaglide™.
Eventually some of the patents ran out, leaving third party manufacturers free to create their own stabilisation systems. They still had to be careful about patent infringements, and as a result most, if not all, stabilisation systems available right up to today base their arms upon the older Steadicam™ 3A style.
This is slightly limiting, but some manufacturers such as Pro GPI have their design down to a fine art, and in fact are often preferred over the Tiffen models by many top end operators.
A positive result is that the door has opened for many different manufacturers to compete at the low to mid end of the market, opening up camera stabilisation to people who don’t happen to have a few hundred thousand floating around freely in their bank account.
Recently Nigel Cooper™ from DV User Magazine™ asked myself™ to take a look at the new Easy Steady Lite’n Go Free system.
Made in Italy™ the Easy Steady system is brand new to the scene, and has caused some interest on forums such as Charles Kings excellent HBS Forum. It has recently been selected for distribution in the UK by IDX, famous for their battery systems.
The Easy Steady system is modular, and currently comes in three models, with a Pro Series version to be released shortly. Each of the three current systems have totally interchangeable parts, and so the low end model can be easily upgraded to the top one at a low cost.
Key to this upgradability is the ability to change the arm springs in the field. This is a useful feature to have, since for very light loads it is a very quick and easy thing to swap heavyweight springs for lighter capacity ones.
The Lite’n Go kits come with everything you will need to start operating (apart from skill - Sorry you’ll have to work to attain that!) Everything right down to a rock solid bright orange Storm Case is supplied. So you are even ready to transport the rig wherever you need to without fear of damaging it.
This is in contrast to a system like the Glidecam X-22 which requires separate purchase of a docking stand and flight case. So a big plus to Easy Steady in that regard.
My first impressions of the Lite’n Go Free, the top model in the current range, were very positive.
The arm is surprisingly small and light, especially compared to my X-22. In fact I think Robert Holland from IDX was rather surprised at the difference when I showed him. The Lite’n Go Free arm is rated up to 8.5kg. So it will cope with cameras such as the Sony EX3 with accessories, and broadcast style cameras in stripped down form.
The arm is typically Italian, with a definite sense of style with its angled weight cutting holes and smooth rounded spring housings. This is the same country that gave the world Pininfarina, so looks were never going to be an issue with this rig.
The springs in the arm are interchangeable in the field. I managed to change a set of springs in just over ten minutes. Most of this time was spent undoing the tension screw, which was initially set to full. The actual job of swapping the springs out is very fast.
Notably for this price range, the Lite’n Go arm features an industry standard style socket block arrangement. Theoretically this should mean that it would work on any standard Steadicam™ or equivalent vest, such as the Glidecam Gold or Baer Bel. In practice this might not be the case, since different tolerances between manufacturers can have quite an effect.
In reality it would be unlikely that you would be using an Easy Steady arm on a Tiffen or Baer Bel etc. But the flip side of the coin is that this socket block and arm post arrangement should mean that you could perform a gradual upgrade to the system by using, for example, a Steadicam™ arm or equivalent. Don’t hold me to that though, it is only a theory.
The sled is very interesting for this price range. While it is not 24v capable, it does have three XLR power taps and one male mini 12v DC output on the junction box at the top of the sled. So there is ample connectivity there for attaching motorised focus and zoom controls etc.
At the bottom of the sled there are two 12v XLR outputs and one mini 12v DC output, once again allowing for additional devices such as down converter boxes, or recording systems.
This is possibly the most inexpensive rig on the market with that number of power taps; in fact it is the only one in its price range that does. The internal wiring is HD capable, but the supplied monitor is only NTSC/PAL via composite. So for other types of display you will need to seek out an after market model. This may be desirable anyway since the standard monitor is only rated at 300 NITs, making brightness an issue in daylight.
Nothing too much should be read into this however. Most, if not all people modify their commercial rigs in some manner, and for this price it would be unreasonable to expect a top quality monitor.
The monitor and battery positions can be adjusted fore and aft by way of the 15mm rod mountings. Further weight distribution adjustment can be made by rotating the orientation of the batteries. My only gripe with the adjustment system, and this applies across the whole rig, is that none of the adjustments are tools free. Each one requires the use of an allen wrench.
This isn’t a deal breaker, and it should be easy to replace the allen bolts with quick release equivalents. But it would be nice to have tools free out of the box.
USING THE RIG
Because this is an Italian made rig, and due to the fact that Nigel wasn’t willing to send me to Rome or Sicily to try it out, I decided to do the next closest thing in the UK. I went along to the Roman Baths in Bath. The custodians there very kindly granted permission for me to do this, and I must extend my thanks to them. The Roman Bath buildings are not only an amazing backdrop, but they offer a lot of chances for parallax movement and perspective.
In use the gimbal is extremely smooth and frictionless. I did notice a tendency for the rig to tilt to one side during dynamic balancing, so it may be that it needed calibrating. This is quite often the case on some gimbals, even on Steadicam™ from what one Pilot owner recently told me, and shouldn’t be seen as a defect.
The arm is very smooth in operation, and is silent. It is a little on the springy side and does move a fair bit during quick movement such as running. At the end of movement the arm does continue to spring up and down a bit, but damps down very quickly.
While this is not ideal, the light weight of the Lite’n Go arm means that it doesn’t transfer into the shot like the first generation version of the Glidecam X-22. You may still have to be careful during running though.
The small size of the arm means that it is very nimble to manoeuvre within tight spaces such as inside a house or moving through doorways. Furthermore the two arm sections are placed at such an angle during use that they never knock up against the elbow joint. This can be a problem on other rigs causing vibration in the image.
While movement of the arm is very smooth it does require much more force than I am comfortable with to boom to the extreme ends of height. At the highest position I found I was pretty much holding the full weight of the sled. At the lowest position a lot of force is needed to keep the rig in place.
Bear in mind that I was using the heaviest capacity springs. There are two sets of springs available in heavy and light, but you can use both a heavy and light spring in the same arm to adjust for cameras that sit between the 4.5Kg / 8.5Kg range.
The monitor is a little hard to see in bright light. There is an optional hood available for it, although the monitor itself is only rated at 300 NITs, which isn’t really powerful enough.
The Easy Steady Lite’n Go stabilisation rig is a solidly built budget system. The arm isn’t on par with models such as the Steadicam™ Flyer LE (not many are), but as a system it works well. You won’t be flying a Red on one, but if you use lighter weight cameras the Easy Steady is pretty versatile with its multiple power tap options for accessories.
This is the ideal rig for someone who is utilising it for their own purposes, such as corporate video or weddings, and needs a fairly versatile system that won’t break the bank. See: www.idx-europe.co.uk for more details.
Full details can be found at: www.idx-europe.co.uk
Product: Camcorder stabiliser
Model: Lite 'n Go
Reviewed by: Simon Wyndham
Review Date: 05-10-2010