When the Steadicam Merlin was announced several years ago, I placed my order with B&H Photo Video and awaited shipment. When my order arrived, I was impressed by how much came with it: the weights, the plate, the multi-gimbled unit. My camera then was the first compact Sony HDV high definition video camera. It took a while to get the balance right, but when I saw the results, I was amazed. The Steadicam took all the unpleasant motion out of a moving videocamera. Since then, I have moved to a small Canon HD camcorder, solid state based, very light, and with it too, I found a way to add just the right amount of weight to make the unit slightly bottom heavy, which is what it is all about. Like balancing a pie pan on your finger, which works best: edges up or edges down?
When I show my Steadicam to the people who ask, I lift it up and down, back and forth, moving my hand and showing the smooth glide of the camera. I explain that I can run up stairs and it is like an angel floating up them, that I can run along a sports field and stay with my son as he runs, that I can walk along a trail and then when I come to a forked tree, pass it from one hand to the other and it appears as if one is flying along the path, flying above the branches.
Tiffen, the company that makes Steadicams, has plenty of videos that show how great they are. Many of my videos utilize my Steadicam. All the moving shots are that way. Like all good gear, there are steps up and even better items that one can get. For instance, even my Steadicam Merlin can be improved with a belt and flexible arm in front. When I was shooting the Katsucon videos on Yenra.TV, I had the privilege of speaking with Ackson Lee, a great Steadicam shooter and editor of gorgeous cosplay convention videos. He showed me how my little Steadicam fit on his belt and arm system. Going back through Ackson's videos from the past, one can see that he started with the Merlin too. When I spoke with him, he explained that the wobble was too much for him, particularly with the camera he uses (he shoots with a Canon DSLR - 60 frames a second which gives him smooth slow motion).
Nonetheless, as it is an aspirational motto of mine to use what I own, I need to use my existing equipment to the max before upgrading, and I have plenty to learn about how to make good shots.