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Those of us who shoot video with a DSLR or mirrorless cameras are always looking for the best way to stabilize our footage.
Tripods are great, however, if we want some movement in our shots, be it push-ins, pull-outs, or tracking shots, our primary options are narrowed to glidecams (handheld stabilizers) or gimbals.
But glidecams aren’t just for stabilization – they are great for a lot of creative shots as well. You can do everything from dollying in and out to fast pans and spins and more.
Regardless of the reason, the simple fact that is; if we want to get some smooth, creative and buttery shots, we’re going to have to find an external method to stabilize our camera.
This article will help you figure out the five best handheld stabilizers at five different price points. If you want to jump directly to our recommendations, you can do so by clicking this link.
However, before we get into our options, and in case you are new to the world of glidecams and stabilizers, we should make sure we know exactly what we’re buying.
So, let’s figure out how glidecams work, their pros and cons, and how they are different from the many other methods of stabilization.
What Exactly is a Glidecam?
A glidecam is a weighted stabilizer, which uses counterweights to balance the camera around a center axis.
Based on the weight of your camera and lens, weights are added to the bottom, and lengths adjusted to keep the camera still during movement.
Glidecams have no electronic parts. Instead they rely on gravity and the user for a smooth shot.
Furthermore, though Glidecam is a brand, many different companies are making their stabilizers (from Neewer to Flycam and Steadicam and more).
Therefore, for this article, I will often use glidecam to describe handheld, three-axis, stabilizers.
What is the Difference Between a Glidecam and a Gimbal?
Though both glidecams and gimbals stabilize our footage during shooting, they are quite different, and both have strengths and weaknesses.
Gimbals utilize a motor, either three or five-axis, to stabilize footage whereas a glidecam uses weights.
If you want to learn more about gimbals, you should check out our guide Best Gimbal Stabilizers For DSLR And Mirrorless Cameras.
Therefore, the gimbal will produce a more mechanical movement whereas the glidecam has more human control.
This means the glidecam requires much more practice to perfect versus a gimbal. However, it can help produce a more organic look.
Furthermore, using a glidecam enables much more control over the speed of your pans and movements.
When to Use a Glidecam Instead of a Gimbal
Many videographers express difficulty in using motorized gimbal when needing to turn.
Certain gimbals are heavy and cumbersome, so twisting motions can be awkward, and matching the motorized speed to a pan can be difficult and limiting.
Because the construction of a glidecam centers around one pole, turning a glidecam with more control, compared to a gimbal, is possible with practice.
Many videographers also appreciate the lack of electronics in handheld stabilizers.
Firstly, this means no batteries, so if you are shooting somewhere rugged that is one less thing to carry.
Secondly, electronic motors can tend to make shots look robotic. If you are looking for a more natural look, or want more control over your camera, glidecams are a great option.
Finally, it is good to use a glidecam versus a gimbal if you’re worried about moving parts or complexity. The glidecam consists of three primary pieces whereas a gimbal is significantly more intricate. More moving parts means more things can break and it is harder to fix.
How a Glidecam Works
As mentioned before, glidecam stabilizers work courtesy of gravity, using counterweights to stabilize the camera around a center axis.
There are no robotic or electronic parts in a glidecam, instead requiring the user to balance the camera on their own.
The benefits of this mean that handheld stabilizers are independent of batteries, more durable, and often cheaper than electronic gimbals.
The downside is that the work is placed on the user to balance their rig.
However, with enough practice, glidecams are an excellent way to stabilize footage, and many videographers prefer glidecams to electronic gimbals.
How to Balance a Glidecam
As the initial assembly of a glidecam can be difficult and time-consuming, I have included some tips, tricks, and instructions that should get most handheld stabilizers operational and explaining their functionality.
The below examples are from using a Glidecam 4000, though the general principles apply to all counterweighted stabilizers.
Step 1: assembling a glidecam
Though the specifics may vary between models and brands, the main steps are to attach the base platform to the telescoping pole (where the handle is located), and then attach the camera mounting platform.
Though these platforms have a camera mount, it is strongly recommended to get a quick release plate so that you can easily remove the camera after balancing.
Step 2: attach the camera and the counter-weights
Once the Glidecam is together, attach the camera to the top. Make sure all screws are tight and the clamps secured, then add weights to the base.
The general rule of thumb is that, with the camera on top, the stabilizers should take two seconds to fall to a vertical position from being held horizontally.
If it is not perfect yet, don’t worry. Smaller adjustments to quicken the fall can be made later on.
Step 3: balancing the camera by making fine adjustments
After the camera is attached, and a two-second fall counted, place the glidecam on a flat surface.
Then pick it up and see which direction it falls. On the mounting platform there will be two knobs.
One adjusts side to side movement, and one adjusts forward-backward flow.
Center the glidecam horizontally first, then center the front/back movement.
Finally, test the fall of the glidecam once again. If the weights were not entirely accurate, and the fall was too long, we can lengthen the telescoping pole slightly to quicken the fall.
And there you have it. That is how a glidecam works.
Of course, locations of knobs and parts may vary between models and brands, so be sure to reference your specific manual. Once it is balanced and weighted, you’re ready to start shooting!
How to Use a Glidecam
As already mentioned, using a glidecam style handheld stabilizer takes practice and a lot of people give up.
But it’s worth investing the time to properly learn how to use a glidecam, because it will help you get smooth footage in a lot more controlled matter than is currently possible with a gimbal.
- Use on hand to hold the handle of the glidecam, and place the other hand either underneath the glidecam or near the bottom (where the weights sits).
Don’t grab the steadicam – keep a light touch – and use your fingers to gently guide the pole every time you feel it beginning to sway too much in a direction. This way you’ll get much more control of your stabilizer.
- Bend the knee. No, I’m not talking about John Snow here. I’m talking about walking with your knees bent so that you can walk in a “springy” way.
Practice walking without your head bobbing up and down, and you’re already on your way to get great looking footage.
With these two basic things in place, you can move on to get more creative shots from your steadicam.
When to Use a Glidecam
There are many reasons you may want to use a glidecam.
Perhaps you want to get that perfect tracking shot or need to film somebody talking while walking down the street. Or maybe you want to make the next “Birdman.”
Because of the portability and ruggedness of glidecams, they are great for low budget and outdoor shooting that still requires smooth tracking shots.
Though the initial set up can be time-consuming, practice helps hasten this process, and having a quick release plate means you can have your stabilizer set-up before filming.
Though well equipped to be used outdoors, because of the free-floating nature of a glidecam, high-speed winds can spin the camera, which will take practice to control or tilt the apparatus.
All said and done, the glidecam is still an excellent option for any mobile shot and extremely useful for the “run and gun” filmmaker.
Glidecams will enable you to add a whole new degree of motion to your films, often at a very affordable price.
What To Look For When Buying a Glidecam Stabilizer
There are many different brands making handheld stabilizers, and many of these brands have long lists of products rated for different weights and sizes.
Therefore, when making your purchase, it is crucial to know the weight of your camera, including the lens, microphone, or any other attachments you will have on it.
Within the Glidecam brand itself, the choices are many.
Options range from the Glidecam HD-2000 (rated for cameras 2 to 6 pounds) to the Glidecam XR-Pro (able to take cameras up to 10 pounds) and more. Therefore, it is essential to know your specific equipment requirements.
However, Glidecam isn’t the only brand making these stabilizers now.
Companies including Yelangu, Came-TV, Neewer, and Flycam all carrying highly rated products. Luckily, this article includes five of the best handheld stabilizers for 2019.
How Your Camera And Lens Affects What Glidecam You Buy
The type of camera and lens you plan on using will affect your purchase.
Be sure to look up the weight of your camera and lenses. DSLRs and mirrorless cameras are very light, however, if you plan on using cinema cameras that may warrant a higher rated stabilizer.
For example, if you’re using a Canon 60D or Sony A6500 you should be good to go with almost all glide cams, however, the same stabilizer may not work with something like a Canon C200.
The lens and any camera accessories also affect the balancing process.
Smaller glass, such as pancake lenses like the Canon EF-S 24mm, will make the center of gravity much easier to find versus telephoto lenses.
Additionally, on-camera microphones, monitors, or cages, will affect the weight and have to be taken into account when buying and balancing.
How to Choose the Best Glidecam for Your Video Production Work
In addition to accounting for weight, your selection of a glidecam will require you know your price point and expectation.
As is the case with many things, you often get what you pay for.
Though the cheapest glidecams may work for many situations, if you plan on taking it out for some physically intensive projects, you will want to make sure you select the more durable models.
Furthermore, some of the cheaper stabilizers, though very functional, lack ergonomic features such as an adjustable handle.
Finally, the weight of the glidecam is a significant factor. Long shoots using these stabilizers can be physically demanding on the filmmaker.
If possible, it may be better to select a lighter glidecam to save yourself from physical strain in the future.
Accessories for Glidecams
Once you have your glidecam, you can start shooting. But, if you want to make your life easier, there are some accessories you may want to consider.
First off is a quick-release plate. Though technically not a must, this could be classified as near-essential.
Without a quick-release plate, you have to recenter your camera each time before shooting. A quick-release plate dramatically reduces set up time and means you can take your camera off the glidecam mid-shoot with ease.
Glidecam also makes support vests for their stabilizers. These are very expensive and typically used for cinema cameras and large rigs. But you can get cheaper alternatives like this great vest from FLYCAM, we found on Amazon.
In shooting with a DSLR or mirrorless camera you should be good to go without this.
Another recommended piece of equipment, however, is a bag for your stabilizer.
As glidecams are so adept at “run and gun” filmmaking, a good backpack or carrying case is worth looking into so you can easily take your stabilizer out into the field.
Many models come with a case, which is something to consider, but backpacks and carrying cases can be bought separately.
The Five Best Recommended Handheld Glidecam Stabilizers
Below you’ll find what we consider to be the five best glidecams on the market today – from the budget-friendly option to the expensive professional option with lots of features.
1. The Raleno Handheld Stabilizer S60N – Best Bang For Your Buck
Weight Limit: Cameras Weighing up to 6.6 lbs. or 3 kilograms.
- Shortest Height: 41.5 cm (16 in)
- Maximum height: 60 cm (24 in)
Weight: 5.20LB / 2.36 kg
Best for: DSLRs, Mirrorless Cameras, Action Cameras.
Pros: Lightweight, portable, and made entirely of aluminum. Two-way adjustable base plate is suitable for all DSLRs under 6.6lbs.
Package includes the stabilizer, release plate, six weights, and a carrying bag.
Cons: The baseplate doesn’t work well with larger lenses (for example, the Sony 24-70mm G Series). The plate cannot slide far enough back, so a workaround of turning the base plate 90 degrees is required.
Though functional, this compromise is inconvenient, especially if you will want to switch lenses.
Another problem found is that the handle cannot slide vertically. Being close to the base plate, it occasionally can bump the plate and shake the camera. This is only a problem in shooting at low angles but can be frustrating if that is desired.
Description: Overall, the Raleno S60N is an extremely functional stabilizer at a very low price point. Being made of Aluminum, it has a low weight while still feeling sturdy.
It can certainly get you a smooth shot at an incredible price, though you may find limitations based on gear.
Check the current price on Amazon: Raleno S60N
2. The Sutefoto Portable S-60 – More Buck, More Bang
Weight Limit: Cameras Weighing up to 7.0 lbs. or 3.17 kilograms.
- Shortest Height: 42 cm (16.5 in)
- Maximum height: 60 cm (23.62 in)
Weight: 5.29 LB / 2.40 kg
Best for: DSLRs and Mirrorless Cameras.
Pros: Portable and made entirely of metal. Suitable for all DSLRs with a load capacity of seven pounds.
Package includes stabilizer, release plate, six weights, and a carrying bag. Very solid construction, comfortable handle, and well-marked base plate.
Cons: The Sutefoto is a bit heavier and relatively bulky, so fatigue will set in after a long day of shooting.
Additionally, the handle is not movable (similar to the RALENO). Occasionally it will come in contact with the base plate if you’re not careful. It can also be challenging to get a perfect balance, so practice is required.
Description: The Sutefoto is a sturdy and robust stabilizer at a very low price point. It can take a hit and can hold cameras up to seven pounds.
With time and practice, it can get you a smooth and balanced shot, though care must be taken not to bump the baseplate.
Check the current price on Amazon: Sutefoto Portable S-60
3. The Neewer Carbon Fiber 60cm Stabilizer – Best Lightweight And Portable Glidecam – Great for Travel
Weight Limit: Cameras Weighing up to 6.6 lbs. or 3.0 kilograms.
- Shortest Height: 39 cm (15 in)
- Maximum height: 60 cm (24 in)
Weight: 4.75 LB / 2.15 kg
Best for: Video Cameras, DSLRs and Mirrorless Cameras
Pros: Portable and light, but still made of a durable carbon fiber material. Suitable for all DSLRs under 6.6 pounds.
Package includes the stabilizer, release plate, six weights, and a carrying bag. It has a comfortable sponge handle and baseplate with a marker to record positions.
Cons: Make sure your camera weighs enough. Lighter cameras may require added weights to the baseplate.
Being so light, it doesn’t resist your bodies motion, so you may get a bit more camera shake when walking.
Additionally, if paired with a light camera, the overall lack of weight makes the rig susceptible to spinning in the wind.
Description: The Neewer 60cm stabilizer is lightweight and portable, working with cameras up to 6.6 pounds. It has an ergonomic grip, comes with a carrying case, and has a markable baseplate to record set positions.
It’s lightweight can cause issues if paired with a light camera, making it more easily affected by wind and body movements.
Check the current price on Amazon: Neewer 60cm Stabilizer
4. The Flycam HD-3000 – Best Glidecam For Bigger Cameras
Weight Limit: Cameras Weighing up to 8.0 lbs. or 3.50 kilograms.
- Shortest Height: 40 cm (15.75 in)
- Maximum height: 60 cm (23.62 in)
Weight: 8.82 LB / 4 kg
Best for: DSLRs, Camcorders, Mirrorless Cameras.
Pros: Sturdy construction with a high weight capacity of up to eight pounds. Even with a heavy lens and microphone, it should be able to hold any DSLR or mirrorless camera (for example the body of the Sony A7r iv is only 1.47 lbs.).
Additionally, it comes with a carrying case and a quick release plate, which is extremely helpful. It is easy to assemble and has micro-adjusters to ensure you get a perfect balance.
Cons: The FlyCam HD-3000 is by no means light, and if you intend to use it on longer shoots, a support rig is a good investment. On its own, it is over eight pounds, and with the weight of a camera, it can be very cumbersome.
After 15 minutes you may need to put it down. Additionally, the carrying case it comes with is small, requiring deconstruction to fit easily.
Description: The FlyCam HD-3000 is more expensive than the previous models, but with that comes durability and a higher load capacity.
The heavier weight is cumbersome but also allows a smoother shot. It is less affected by the wind and body movement than the Neewer and Raleno but will fatigue you quicker.
The fact that it comes with a quick-release plate is extremely beneficial and saves you an additional purchase compared to the other stabilizers.
Check the current price on Amazon: FlyCam HD-3000
5. THE GLIDECAM HD-2000 – THE BEST OF THE BEST
Weight Limit: Cameras Weighing from 2 to 6 lbs. or .90 to 2.72 kilograms.
- Shortest Height: 38 cm (15 in)
- Maximum height: 56 cm (22 in)
Weight: 5.80 LB / 2.63 kg
Best for: DSLRs and Mirrorless Cameras
Pros: The Glidecam HD-2000 comes with 12 weights, giving great control over balancing. The axis has no friction and the weight of the stabilizer ensures a smooth shot and durability.
The adjustment knobs on the top plate are responsive and facilitate a quick set-up. Finally, the base plate (where the weights are located) also has wings that can extend, helping with stability.
Cons: The Glidecam HD-2000 is heavier than other options, which can be a burden on the filmmaker. Additionally, cameras under 2 lbs. will need weight added on the top to help balance the stabilizer. Other than that, this is a great option!
Description: If it’s within your budget, it’s hard to go wrong with the Glidecam HD-2000. It is durable and features everything you need for a quick balancing process.
Unlike some of the other options, it doesn’t include a carrying case or a quick-release plate.
Make sure your camera is within the weight range before buying, but if it is, enjoy some super smooth shots!
Check the current price on Amazon: Glidecam HD-2000
There you have it! Those are my picks for the Top 5 handheld stabilizers for DSLRs and mirrorless cameras in 2019 at any price range.
If you have any other glidecam recommendations, feel free to leave a comment letting us know what you’re shooting with and why you like it.
Otherwise, good luck, balance those stabilizers, and have a great next film shoot!
Grant Harvey is a freelance writer, screenwriter, and filmmaker based out of Los Angeles. When he’s not working on his own feature-length screenplays and television pilots, Grant uses his passion and experience in film and videography to help others learn the tools, strategies, and equipment needed to create high-quality videos as a filmmaker of any skill level.