You’ve got your camcorder or DSLR charged up and ready to go. You’re looking for some DV action. You want to travel light but you’ve got a choice to make. Should you shoot hand held? Obviously the lightest way to go, but do you want to trade off convenience for shakier shots? If you have a monopod you could gain a bit more stability while not adding too much to the load but one leg is nowhere near as stable as three. You could grab your tripod; that would give you the most stability, but the weight and bulk factor has just gone up considerably. So much for lightweight – and stable – runnin’ and gunnin’, right? Not necessarily. If you want to get on location quickly, travel light and still have a high degree of both stability and versatility then you may want to have a look at the Camtrol Quadpod Prime or Grand stabilizer.
According to its website, the Camtrol is “the first customizable ergonomic hand held action and movement stabilizing platform for DV/DSLR cameras with free angle LCD displays.” The Camtrol Quad is so versatile that you can do almost any configuration imaginable. Check out their website for a demo. One of the features we loved is using it like a telescope to look over the heads in a crowd. The Quad is used often for skiing, snowboarding and skateboarding shots. It consists of a highly stable platform perched atop four independently retractable legs with cushioned, shock absorbing feet and a fully articulating stabilizer bar/handle setup.
The Camtrol comes in two flavors. The Camtrol Prime is suited for cameras measuring up to 3.75 inches in height, and the Camtrol Grand fits cameras measuring up to 6 inches in height. Either model will hold up to 7 lbs. of camera, lenses and accessories. It’s versatility doesn’t end there, however, as configurability surely seems to have been at the forefront of Jonny Rowen’s mind as he designed the Camtrol.
The Quad Pod Skid Plate, or camera mounting platform, is topped with a cushioned pad and has several horizontal and vertical slots – or channels – for maximum centering and balancing options when attaching the camera. A thumbscrew is used from below to mount the camera to the platform and the thumbscrew itself contains a threaded port which allows the unit to be attached to a tripod, so you don’t have to scramble to remove that when you have need for a tripod shot. Each of the four rubber-cushion tipped legs may be extended or retracted independent of the others allowing for a number of different tilting options.
The stabilizer bar/handle consists of the vertical stabilizer bar, three variable locking ball joints, the action control grip and a receiver post for attaching remotes and accessories. The stabilizer bar aids in achieving proper balance and provides a secondary gripping point for two handed operation. The control grip is rightly named, with its deep finger pockets, or indentations, providing a very solid, positive anchor, for maximum grippage and optimal control over the unit’s maneuverings.
The receiver post attaches at the end of the control grip and provides a mounting point for various accessories such as the Camtroller, a wired remote control unit, and the V-Slope bracket which allows accessories to be mounted at a 45-degree angle for greater accessibility. The hollow control grip and slotted receiver post allow excess wire to be safely tucked inside the handle.
The one complaint in all this, and a minor one at that, is that the protective cable cover that covers the port in the handle where the wires exit was quite difficult to remove. We used a nail file to pry it out, and then it sailed across the desk, underscoring the fact that this procedure could easily result in a damaged finish and lost cover. A spare cover was included in the box but all this could be avoided by designing the cover with a release tab on one end and a retention tab along one side, allowing it to hinge out rather than take a flying leap across the room. Just a thought.
The real magic, however, happens with the three variable locking ball joints. Each is adjusted with an aluminum knob fitted with a rubber grip around its circumference for maximum comfort and ease of operation. A turn to the left (counter-clockwise) releases the joint and a turn to the right (clockwise) locks it up tight. Changing configurations is quick and easy with no tools required. The locking action on the ball joints is very positive and solid. Once a configuration is set it’s staying put.
The Camtrol performs as well as it looks. We loaded it up with a JVC Everio camcorder, configured it for mid-level shooting and headed outside. Upstairs and down, walking slow or fast, the results were very pleasing. We turned a few knobs and were soon getting some great ground level shots. Be sure to support the camera solidly before turning those knobs, however, as gravity will definitely come into play. A few more turns and we were shooting above the crowds. We tried configurations for self shooting, shooting around corners and more, and each setup was quick and easy. Once you adjust for the best balance for your particular camera, any way you change the angle, your original ‘balance’ stays put.
An impressive piece of equipment, the Camtrol is very well designed, with a high level of quality in its construction. Sometimes you’ll need to set up your camera on that big ‘ole tripod and pan and tilt to your heart’s content. For those other times though you might consider a Camtrol.
Construction: sturdy, lightweight aluminum; anodized to protect the finish
Supported Camera Sizes: the Prime accommodates cameras up to 3.75″ tall while the Grand allows for cameras up to 6″
Supported Camera Weight: both models support up to 7 lbs. of camera, lenses and accessories
Dimensions When Collapsed: Prime – 10″ L x 7″ W x 2 “T; Grand – 12 “L x 7” W x 2 “T
Weight: approximately 1.8 lbs.
- Maximum configurability for capturing images from multiple angles
- Configuration changes are quick, easy and solid
- Slip-proof handle
- Compact storage
- Protective cable cover hard to remove; could be easily lost
If you want compact, lightweight, stability for your next run ‘n gun-fest, the Camtrol offers all this and more.
3600 South Harbor Blvd PMB #361
Oxnard, CA 93035
$399 (Prime) $450 (Grand)
Mark Holder is a video producer and trainer.