Just curious if anyone has experience with some cheaper steadicams, like sub 50 dollars. I saw some on amazon. Anyone have any suggestions?
I would say this depends entirely on the size and weight of camera you intend to use. I bought a U-Flycam from EBay for £100 ($160) and struggled no end to get it to work. Getting these things balanced correctly, I found, was a nightmare and not worth the time and effort for the results I was getting. I was using a Canon XM2 MiniDV camera at the time which was just too heavy to be effective. If you were using a small, lightweight camcorder you'd probably get better results but if you're using a DSLR then you will probably struggle. You'd be better off doing the shot hand-held then stabilising in post. I use Prodad Mercalli in Sony Vegas and that does a great job. I've managed to make some pretty shaky hand-held stuff look like a decent Steadycam shot. If, however, you want to go down the Steadycam route I would suggest that you avoid anything at this price level and remember that these things take a while to get used to; a good Steadycam operator is worth their weight in gold.
Honestly, if your budget for a stabilizer is under $50, you may as well build your own. The sub-$50 gear is going to be pretty much crap.
Remember that every stabilizer out there works on this basic premise: It's easier to hold something heavy steady than something very light. A stabilizer is basically going to be a pole, a handgrip and some weights.More expensive units are going to have sliding plates and sliding heads to allow you to get better balance, and maybe a nice gimbaled handgrip on the side. The really really cheap gear isn't going to have any of those amenities--which means, at that point, you really should build your own.
I built my own steady cam from the tutorial below. I have problems getting it balanced and found I need a lot more washers to offset the weight of the camera. Still, I only spent about $30 on it and had to order special parts from ebay using (of all things) parts for remote control cars. Overall it was a good investment in time and money. However, the learning curve is a little steep but I imagine it would be for anything new requiring balancing skills. Didn't just hop on a two wheel bike and take off down the road afterall.
And you might want to consider this route too. I built one of these and it works fantastic! Really cuts down on hand held cameraman shake.
I also build that same DIY one using PVC from Frugal Filmaker (the cage style one in the second video Stormy posted) and indeed, it does work great.
FWIW, looks like TubeTape has a the CobraCrane SteadyTracker UltraLite on sale for about $65 USD. No idea how good it actually is though:
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