This is one of those theoretical pieces of equipment. The theory is good, the user's interaction with it will vary. I rented for 3 days, only had about 1/2 a day to balance the camera and practice (I had worked something similar before, ~15+ years ago.) I got a Nikon D7000, with a Rhode Stereo VideoMic on top of the camera, dialed in pretty good. Then the next day, during the shoot of a mom/toddler music class (and that is some extreme, extreme pressure ;-) when I picked it up the balance wasn't quite right. I got a few moments of smooth motion, but a lot of tilting and erratic sideways motions. You not only need to practice camera moves once it is balanced, but also practice the *process* of balancing it, which I think is harder to master. And guaranteed you will have to fiddle with the balance during a shoot. Use the Tiffen/Steadicam site for additional tips and info. If Borrowlenses has the DVD as well as the manual, ask for them (though you can get the manual online and that is all I used.) You can't figure it out without them. After balancing, shift something like your lens zoom or focus, or flipping an lcd panel out, anything that changes geometry. Then practice re-balancing. For DSLRs, or anything without the second positioning pin, you definitely want to do the two pieces of gaffer tape around your camera's mounting socket (just for friction; don't put sticky-side out as if it were double-sided tape.) The camera twists loose too easily. And you'll need to crank down on the mounting screw even with the tape. If the screw slot is getting worn, be prepared to get another in time. I also made my own stand using about a 3/8" pin adapter (~ 2" long) on a light stand. It slides into the hollow Merlin handle. Nice to have after you delicately balance the Merlin, rather than laying it down on a table which doesn't give you the warm fuzzies. I also used the included "base" which you attach with 1/4 mount to something like a tripod. Then you can quickly move your camera, with attached mounting plate, between the Merlin and a different shooting setup, like a tripod, or in my case a rented Glidetrack with my tripod head attached. Rating-wise, though my results maybe warranted a 2, I know it's capable of a 5, given enough practice time.
Steadicam Merlin Camera Stabilizing System
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The Steadicam Merlin is a camera stabilizing system for small camcorders and DSLRs. Unlike a system that rests on your shoulder it's a handheld system that offers maximum portability and light weight. You hold the main grip underneath the camera and the curved, weighted design balances out the weight of the unit allowing for smooth movement.