Camera support accessories are all the rage ever since the HDSLR revolution. There’s just so many brands and configurations out there.
The options to mix and match products from different brands adds a whole new meaning to the term ‘customisation’. The challenge lies in making them all work together seamlessly.
Two brands stand out in the world of camera support: Zacuto and RedRock Micro. The crème de la crème- reliable, rugged, stylish and… expensive, as would be expected of quality products.
Newcomer Ikan is a relatively new contender in the HDSLR accessory market. Ikan’s products are priced lower than its competitors.
One of Ikan’s retail strategy is to offer thoughtful, complete packages which include most of the accessories for the basic film maker. If you’re not much into shopping, Ikan gives you a shortcut, just grab one of their bundles.
The Shoulder Mount Complete arrived in the nick of time for our HDSLR Week workshop. We had limited time to put them together for the next session. Maybe it was well designed; we managed to assemble the package in under half an hour. The manual was not very detailed but both my students managed to fit them all together and strap on two different cameras for testing.
Strong, rugged & durable
This feature make the Ikan Shoulder Mount stand out from the competition. It’s industry standard sized rods (and most parts) are made of machined aluminum. It can take lots of punishment compared to the more popular carbon fiber rods. Plus, they come in cool, elegant black!
More friction would be nice
The first issue I have with the rig was the difficulty in fitting a camera onboard. The screw holding our Panasonic AF101 in place needed a lot of tightening. Tightening the screw to hold our heavy AF 101 camera required brute strength to lock the camera on the baseplate.
One screw to hold them all
That’s the next issue: Keeping the camera from doing an accidental pan on the baseplate. Since there was only 1 screw to hold the camera, it was bound to come loose and swing around. There was no locking pin to keep the camera pointing directly forwards. Strapping on a HDSLR with follow focus, matte box and a monitor would be risky business.
Get a grip, really!
Now come my gripe with the handlebars. The foamy material on the handlebars don’t strike me as rugged. I’m not sure it’ll last long under the stress of daily film making use. The diameter for the handlebars is narrow so I don’t feel very secure holding it. Furthermore, they are not as rubberized as I’d like them to be. When I’m holding up all that weight, I want my handlebars to have lots of friction upon contact with my hands.
The worse part are the levers that tighten the handlebars to the horizontal rod. One has to exert a lot of pressure to tighten the handlebars in place. The contact that clamps down the handlebars to the horizontal rod doesn’t have enough friction between them.
Elegant, practical shoulder pad
The shoulder pad itself is good stuff but it’s a little heavy. The padding underneath is very comfortable and well thought out. The shoulder pad is also a cheese plate, giving you the flexibility to attach a wide range of accessories onto it. This is good especially since the pair of rods supporting the camera can’t extend beyond the shoulder pad. Not so good, as adding counterweights becomes a hassle.
Fluid, comfortable to hold follow focus ring
It is actually very fluid as the ring is turned. There is an easy to reach, no-tools needed knob that lets you increase or decrease tension. Cinematographers (and focus pullers) using heavier lenses will appreciate this. The material (acrylic?) used to coat the focus ring itself is non-slip and feels good to touch. Spending lots of time pulling focus with this baby will be less of a chore!
Adjustable gears VS fixed lens gears
Ikan’s adjustable lens gears lets you tighten or loosen its lens gear according to the diameter of your lens. Unlike its competitors, where each of your lens must have the correct lens gear attached. In the long run you spend less on lens gears since Ikan’s one size fits all. You don’t have to shop for the exact lens gear either. All 10 of your lenses can share the one adjustable lens gear.
However, a variable lens gear means you’ve got to remove and reattach the lens gear, adjust it to fit onto the next lens and this takes time. The other disadvantage is the lens gear doesn’t go around the lens smoothly. The part where it meets with the tightening knob is slightly elevated which can mess up your focusing when that part revolves towards your follow focus.
When I want my equipment locked in place, I don’t want to expend a lot of effort to do it. Ikan’s thumbscrews take a lot of strength to tighten. The part I’ll be in contact with most are the handlebars. They don’t feel rubbery (of course, since it’s foam material); I’d prefer it to have a more non-slip feel since my camera & accessories are going to be heavy. Heavy it is, especially the shoulder pad.
In contrast, they are heavy for good reason- they are machined aluminum and they are sturdy. The shoulder pad itself is comfortable and has an integrated cheeseplate to attach more accessories.
The great thing about the Ikan Shoulder Mount Complete/Deluxe is the price. It’s affordable for both novice and professional film makers. Wedding and Event HDSLR videographers who has just entered the market would be attracted to it’s complete package and price tag.