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Camera Center of Gravity for Steadicam - Can anyone make sense of this?
  • Greetings all! This is my first post. Hopefully of many.

    I recently purchased a Merlin Steadicam 2 and, as I was warned, it is EXTREMELY difficult to balance. I found an online excel formula that will tell you the precise calibration of every adjustment, to achieve perfect balance, so long as you know the exact Weight of your camera with all items attached (which I do, since I bought a digital scale) and the Center of Gravity measurements of the camera. This is where things get confusing for me. Here is how the people at Merlin Steadicam (Tiffen) instruct you to determine this Center of Gravity measurement:

    "Measure vert. c.g. distance from plane of camera base to point on side of camera where camera could balance lying sideways on the tip of your finger. If there are no flat surfaces on either side of your camera, this plane may also be discovered by pointing the camera straight up and balancing the rear surface of the battery (if flat) on your fingertip at the point where the camera can almost be balanced. Likewise if your lens shade is hard, this plane can be discovered with the camera standing vertically on its lens, and balanced on a round pen lying between the lens and your table. Then measure the perpendicular distance to the plane of the camera’s base. This is the camera vertical c.g. distance."


    Can anyone help me translate that into something my feeble brain can understand? If anyone owns a Merlin Steadicam or can help me figure out how to measure the center of gravity I would be very appreciative. Not to mention so would many new Merlin users!

    My camera is a Canon T3i. The lens is an EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II Autofocus. I have attached a Vello-BG-C5 Battery Grip with two LP-E8 batteries, and a Hoya - 58mm UV filter. The weight is 2.36 lbs.

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  • Forget the cookbook, and go read the Merlin 2 manual. It describes in great detail how to achieve balance. You won't be doing any measuring of distances to find the center of gravity. By seeing which way the Merlin falls and how quickly, you'll know which way the center of gravity needs to be moved.

  • I would forget the cookbook too. Which camera are they basing this algorithm on? Each camera and lens setup will have a slightly different center of gravity. There is no exact formula that will work on all platforms.

  • use a pencil - try to balance the camera on the pencil. Where it's balanced is the center. do both pitch and yaw.

  • Thanks guys for the replies. I have tried the "pencil method" and I have followed the manual exactly (at least I think I have). But this "perfect balance" still eludes me! This is why I was eager to use the formula. I suppose I should keep playing around with the adjustments until I start to sense where the best balance is. But having tried this for two months now I seems to be at a loss. I was really hoping to try the formula's adjustment recommendations.

    I wonder if my center of gravity is too high since I am using a battery grip. However, other Canon users have an attached battery grip and seem to have balanced the Merlin just fine.

    Oh well...I'll keep updating this thread as I learn more or discover what I've been doing wrong. "Never give up! Never surrender!"