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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Balancing the NEX-FS100 on the Steadicam Merlin

The last few weeks I received a lot of questions about the two Steadicam videos you can see below. One of them was if I used the Steadicam Merlin Arm & Vest - which I did not use for these videos - and the other one was which setup I used for the Steadicam Merlin.

Please note: I haven't been able to fly the new Steadicam Merlin 2 myself with the FS100, but I think these settings will also apply for the new version.

This is why I decided to post them here and hopefully give you a good starting point in balancing your Sony NEX-FS100 on the Merlin. It's very important to use these settings in combination with the camera configuration I've used. If you use a different lens or even an other battery, it can throw of your balance completely and you might nog be able to balance it properly, using these settings.

I chose this camera and lens configuration especially for use on the Steadicam Merlin. Because the 16mm pancake lens is very light weight and has auto iris and focus capabilities, it makes it an ideal partner for the camera and Merlin. Also the ability to put on the VCL-ECU ultra wide converter (I always like the ultra wide look on a Steadicam) makes it a great choice. Please be aware that you will loose the ability to put a ND filter on front, when using the wide converter. To compensate, I work with a slightly higher shutter speed and close the iris a bit more. I don't really need DOF when flying the camera.

Here's my camera configuration for the Steadicam Merlin. The total camera weight is 2.1 kg (4.6 lbs)
Camera: NEX-FS100
Lens: E-mount 16mm f2.8 pancake
Lens Attachments: VCL-ECU1 ultra wide converter

Battery: NP-F770
Note: top handle and microphone are attached to the camera, but the side grip is removed. 
And here are the settings from the Merlin.
Arc Size: approximately 32 cm  (12.6 inch)
Z-Turns: -2 , two threads are showing above the Guide Ring
Mounting hole: C

Gezornenplatz: yes
Forward Position: 1 finish weight
Lower Position: 1 start, 4 mid and 1 finish weight
Stage position: 0
Click here for more information about the Steadicam Merlin
NEX-FS100 on the Steadicam Merlin

Z-Turns - click to enlarge picture
Arc Size - click to enlarge picture
Good luck in balancing everything and please post you thoughts, comments and results. Happy flying!


  1. Awesome! Thanks for sharing. Great lens recommendation - I was looking at the 16mm Emount, and now I am sold, although it looks a little soft and bloomy here, I am guessing that was stylistic choice.

  2. I added a little bit of dream look to the footage in the first video. The second video is straight from the camera and haven't been altered in any way. Have fun with the lens, I'm sure you will like it!

  3. Hi Derran, would you think its possible to use the Merlin Steadicam with the standard kit lens? And if so, would you have tips as to what weights etctera to use?
    Looks like you are doing a wonderful job with the pancake lens but I need to start with the kit lens first. No money left.

  4. Hi, it should be possible but it will be near the maximum of what the Merlin can fly. So I think you should start with using all the weights at the bottom and one finish weight at the front and opening up the spar completely. Then hopefully the Merlin will be to much bottom heavy. From this point you can either start taking a weight off from the bottom and adjust the spar accordingly.
    Also, I would like to suggest to disconnect the side grip from the camera and choose a different mounting hole on the cheese plate. Good luck and hopefully you will be able to find a good balance point. Please post it here if you found it!

  5. I tried yogur settings but is not working, there are two nuts underneath

  6. Hi Just wondering, how did the camera go with the 'wobbles' - where u able to get it to a satisfactory level of dynamic moment? zero wobbles when coming to a stand still?

    The reason why I am asking is because I am going on a shoot in two weeks time and have to hire a camera which can give depth of field for interview style shots and also light enough to use on my Steadicam Merlin. And cause I already have a Sony HVR -Z5 I thought the FS100 would be a good camera to compliment it and also might be better for Steadicam as its lighter... The other option to the FS100 is a Canon 5DMkIII. Any thoughts?

    I have used this Merlin with a bigger Sony HVR-Z5, and found it really difficult to get satisfactory dynamic moment - 0. VERY FRUSTRATING!!!! :) <-- here is an example with a couple of steadicam shots..... had to do a number of takes and pick the best for each shot and as u can see, I was moving pretty slow and still had to really support the camera with my hand on the gimble to control the dynamic moment.

    yet obviously on a smaller Canon D500 dslr, get really good dynamic moment of 0. - obviously the Merlin isnt suitable for heavier cameras.

    Joel :)