I had my eye out for a decent camera crane with some range, i.e. 5m or more…
After some looking around and some deliberation, I decided to get the Came-TV 32.8ft crane with 10kg pan/tilt head and some accessories at $4290.-. The following review video by Neumannfilms of the lighter version of the crane (their model has singular central cables, where mine has one to the left and one to the right) helped me decide and take the plunge:
So, here’s a recap of my experience…
First a big shoutout to Daniel Rudin for helping me with this (and risking his camera)…
Delivery was kind of iffy, because Came-TV sent the crane using different carriers. So I paid taxes and fees multiple times and now have to chase down the customs guys to get part of my money back. Not too much fun, but I guess it’s ok.
The crane came in three boxes, all of which are cheapish but “good enough”, they did get banged up a little during transport from China, but it was nothing a little bit of hammer-love couldn’t fix:
As you can see, the crates are BIG, which theoretically wasn’t a surprise, but when they actually ended up in my transporter, they seemed ginormous. This is something to keep in mind when buying this baby. You will not be able to easily transport this in a normal car. The three boxes combined weigh in at around 150kg, the two big ones are around 60-70kg each, the small one is a “light” 10-20kg.
I also needed around 120kg in dumbbell weights to counterbalance the camera at the end, so your total transport should manage 300kg (~650lb for the metrically challenged). Keep this in mind when loading up your transport in order to not exceed the legal limits.
The manual is in Chinese only and seems to cover several revisions/models of the crane as well as all the possible length configurations you can use (around 3m, 5m, 7m and 10m). It was actually quite useful, even though I couldn’t read a word. The pictures are pretty explanatory and setting up the crane is not really rocket science.
Here are some stages of assembly:
The segments are actually numbered 1-7, which is really, really helpful.
Assembly took around 1hr with two people and doing it for the first time. I expect this to go down to around 45mins or maybe even 30mins if done more often and maybe with 3 people instead of two. I do not advise to try to setup the crane with only one person as some of the weights can be pretty substantial and sometimes you just need somebody to hold or secure something.
This crane is very good value for the money, however, there are (as always) some gripes, most of which can be fixed/worked around:
- They included a battery in a black metal box to power the remote head. This battery is a standard size used mainly in RC models and should NOT be charged in an enclosed space (which you do if you use their contraption. I threw that whole thing away and installed a V-Mount plate on the crane to power everything. It’s much cleaner, more standardized and you can actually swap batteries when it’s empty. This should be redesigned on their part, as their solution is actually a bit dangerous:
- The tripod has 3 spikes on the bottom which lock into holes on the dolly. This is good, however, there are some issues: If you do not want to use the dolly, you’re in trouble as there is no spreader stopping the legs from sliding out on you. Also, the spikes themselves are only held by two small screws each. Each of those screws has to hold up to 100kg of shearing force unless you turn the spike to distribute the load on both screws equally:
I’m planning to CNC some new spikes with an actual lip to replace those flimsy things (they’re also made of pretty cheap and soft aluminum). At the same time, I’ll probably weld some kind of spreader together. If I do, I’ll update this post.
The wheels on the tripod contraption cannot be locked, i.e. there is no brake system anywhere. Ok, granted, this can be solved by sand bags and wedges, but it isn’t really cool…
- The whole crane is mounted onto the tripod with a plate:
Everything is held together with ONE relatively small screw (looks like 8mm or so). I haven’t taken that piece apart yet to see whether this is some kind of ball bearing in between, but this might be an additional project for later…
- The included super cheap monitor (and the cable running from the remote head) uses standard video signals (yellow cinch). Not HDMI or SDI, which is kind of a joke, given what kind of cameras people will put on this baby. I’ll have to replace the cable with an SDI/Coax cable and the monitor is basically trash. I’ll probably go with an AC7 or D7w (or something bigger/brighter if I can afford it at some point).
- The included remote head is … ok. If you do only simple pans/tilts and position the camera well (point of mass = axis of rotation), it works. I will probably not use that head too often as I plan to put a DJI Ronin on the crane for better control/stability.
- The box for the remote head was partitioned using glued pieces of semi hard rubber material which didn’t survive sending from China to Switzerland. I had to recreate those partitions using some wood:
- If you want to mount a RED (or any other relatively heavy) camera, you’ll probably want to secure it with 2 big screws, not just one. In order to do so, you’ll have to enlarge the existing screw hole in the included base plate:
Now for the good stuff:
- Price! As previously state, the crane is very good value for money.
- The mechanical components are pretty good, the crane does not wobble or twist due to the triangular elements and feels very solid. Also 10m / 33ft is a LOT of distance and you can do some pretty awesome moves:
- The crane and head was easily able to deal with a fully decked out RED Epic on the end (with remote follow focus and remote video feed and a V-Mount battery).
- Assembly and dis-assembly of the crane is pretty straight forward and quick and can easily be done by two people.
Now for some test footage (not the most brilliant cinematography, I know). NO stabilization was applied to see the jitter introduced by the crane (very little)…