Small, light and easy to use, 3-axis brushless gimbals are the videographers latest weapon. We check out the Came-TV Single and find out just how steady it can make your footage.
Three axis gimbals seem to be everywhere at the moment, but it you don’t know what they do, then they are the latest way to stabilise your camera for video. The three axis are the raw, pitch and yaw, each of which is controlled by a brushless motor. These motors react against any slight movements to help stabilise the camera, resulting in smooth movements. Some 3-axis gimbal stabilisers are two handled affairs, such as the DJI Ronin, but recently single handed devices have arrived on the scene, the latest of which is the Came-TV Single.
In may respects the Came-TV Single operates much like the other 3-axis gimbal stabilisers on the market, though the key difference is that the Single has 32-bit encoders built directly in with each motor. This allows them to accurately remember and their position and make any corrections very quickly and accurately. It also means that the power to the motors can be controlled so that it is only used when really needed, which means excellent battery life.
The battery is built-in to the handle, and a single charge is quoted as offering up to 20 hours of use. I took it away for a weekend and the battery lasted for a few days, although I wasn’t counting the hours, the quoted time would seem to be accurate.
Externally the battery handle is extremely simple. A power button turns the Single on or off, whilst tapping this button, 1,2 or 3 times switches between the different modes. The first of these is a Follow mode. As you move the handgrip the camera will follow your movement, making it a great mode for recreating POV shots, or for when following action. The second mode keeps the camera perfectly level, keeping the roll and pitch movements locked, but still allow the yaw movements to follow. This results in the camera keeping perfectly level with the horizon, but still following any side to side movements on the handle. The final mode keeps all of axis locked in position. The camera keeps its orientation, and level, regardless of any movements to the handgrip. This mode is particulalrly impressive and if you want to keep everything perectly steady, and is great for impromtu interviews and shots with characters talking to camera.
On the bottom of the device is a tripod thread, which opens up the posibbilities for mounting the Single on a monopod for very high sweeping shots that look like they have been shot on a jib or crane. Alternatively some users have mounted moose bars, transforming the Single in to a two handed, but even steadier unit.
Finally there is an accessory thread on the side of handle. Some users will opt to use an articulated arm here to mount a light, or a monitor, but we added a Lanparte LANC controller to start and stop recording of the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, without having to take our hand away from the handgrip.
In it design it is very straightforward to operate. The device is said to be able to hold a load of up to 1.2KG, which is about right from what we have found during testing. Loaded with a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema camera and a Panasonic 7-14mm lens, it was easy to balance this combination. A Sony A7R and a 24-70mm f/4 Zeiss lens was also able to balance, though the size of the lens, rather than the weight, was the defining factor here, and something to consider. Ideally you want to be using the gimbal with a lightweight wideangle fixed lens for best results.
Balancing the camera can be a little fiddly, but the process itself is very straightforward. The key is to try and balance one axis at a time and then lock each position. Once everything is roughly balanced you can go back and tweak it for perfection. If I had one improvement that I would advise Came-TV to make it would be to add a screw thread micro adjustments for all of the axis, like they have on the height adjustment. This would add a great deal of preciscion and make to easier to precisely dial in measurements as you changed between cameras.
Once set up the Single is easy to use. If you are fairly light on your feet you can walk and shoot with virtually a completely fluid movement. You can see how we faired walking at a moderate speed across some pretty bumpy moorland, and even whilst clambering up and down rocks and boulders. By selecting mode two you can keep the camera very low to the ground and create low-angle sweeping movements. The device enables even those with very little expereince create films that have the kind of camera movements that would usually require an extremely skilled operator or hugely expensive equipment. Watch the (very) short film that we made to see what you can do.
There was a few times when we pushed the gimbal too far, and then the motors do seem to judder a little. When this happens I found that a tweak of the balancing solved the problem, which was our rather than the Came-TV Single.
There is a USB socket on the handle of the Single that allows users to use a software program to tweak the encoders and the way that the various motors react. Came-TV recommend that these are left untouched, in their default settings, though more advanced operaters may wish to tweak away. Personally I had to problem with the default setup and I wouldn’t advise anyone rush in and change anything.
It may not be the cheapest way to stabilise your camera, but the Came-TV single is certainly effective and it can make even the most unsteady cameraman acheive very professional results.
Many thanks to UK distributor CineGear Pro for the loan of this review sample