we've tried the merlin, pilot, flyer, and now the zephyr. across the line, the zephyr has got to be the easiest to setup, the most versatile unit to adjust in the field, the smoothest balanced, and a whole lotta fun.
just to demonstrate how much fun it is, at the end of this clip we tried no hands operating and we were all so surprised with how smooth those shots came out.
there is a disclaimer on this clip - it was super windy while we were shooting but we didn't have another time to shoot, so we made the best of it. if you like these results, i imagine i could have gotten more out of it had the wind not been so strong.
i often fly the flyer with a canon 7d and a 14mm rectilinear. the 14mm has a very short hyperfocal distance, so it is great for moving shots and keeping everyting in focus, and i love the look of the distortion versus a 16-35. on a 7d, with the crop, it isn't too too wide either, which is perfect. around the camera there is a cinevate cage and mattebox, used to provide protection for the camera, lets you rest the unit upside down (if you don't have a stand) and add some extra weight. the zephyr test featured the same configuration to really see how it would compare.
a couple big improvements to the zephyr for those of us who are dSLR shooters;
// the gimbal handle now offers tool-less adjustment.
// the gimbal handle also has straight edges on on opposing sides (which is part of the tango compatibility) and when using the zephyr alone allows you to feel where straight is
// the stage and base of the sled have a ton more power options (not something that a dSLR shooter will take as much advantage of unless you get into adding follow focus units and such)
// the biggest plus, and why i want a zephyr so much, is how the base of the sled accepts the same weights as the merlin and how it now adjusts. the post that holds the monitor and a second one that holds the battery can be unlocked and slid fore and aft, which allows you to quickly and easily achieve dynamic balance like never before on a rig this size. by adding the weights to the base i can make the rig heavier (more inertia, my personal preference for operating).
being that we are shooting dSLR, we only have one monitor live at a time, so we have to choose the one on the sled or the LCD on the camera. i choose the camera LCD (much to tiffen's dismay due to proper operating procedure) but when shooting live events i find it easier to check focus and see what is about to happen when i am looking up. it certainly does make it a challenge and you need to feel the rig more when you can't see the LCD (which you will see in some shots in the clip).
with these weights on the bottom, if you also choose to use the dSLR LCD, you could get away by removing the monitor as well as the battery plate and using just the weights as your counter balance. what that means is potentially tiffen could release a dSLR version without these components and sell it for less. i'm going to pitch that to them, but who knows if that will want to go that route as they strongly advise using the monitor on the sled when operating.
as of now, the zephyr would be my unit of choice. no MSRP has been announced and i don't have any indication where it will end up, though after using it i would have to assume it would be above the flyer and below the archer.
this test footage included about 10 minutes of setup out of the box. thanks to tiffen for letting me borrow one of the two units in existence to do some testing. this is footage from the first flight.
thanks to the rayjoyce team for acting as both a model and providing bts coverage for me.
music is 'michigan' by derby licensed through withetiquette.com