I don’t know how they do it, but Adorama’s house brand (Flashpoint) continues to come up with amazing products at an affordable price. Case in point the Flashpoint DSLR/DV Cinema Bundle.
If you’ve seen this type of rig before from companies like Red Rock Micro or Zacuto you’ve probably seen price tags that are three to five times higher than the $599 that Adorama charges for this kit. So what gives?
Well I’ve been doing some digging and I have no idea if this applies to the product I am reviewing, but I do know that Adorama has been quietly buying up small companies, products or distribution rights to all sorts of camera gear lately. Perhaps this was one such product. Whatever the case, I can tell you that as a past owner of $3000 ENG (Electronic News Gathering) rigs, I can’t tell much difference between them and the $599 version from Flashpoint.
Let’s start with the best news first. The unit arrives mostly assembled. (And that’s a good thing because there are no directions included.) If you’ve ever opened a box from one of these grip houses you’ve probably experienced true pain. There are usually lots of small pieces, poorly labeled with inane documentation provided. If you’re a professional grip person, you probably had no trouble assembling these units. But most of the people buying these products are NOT professional grips. They are still shooters making the leap to DSLR video. And this was a nice change having an ENG that was easy to assemble.
The kit comes with everything you need to get started. It ships with Flashpoints DSLR Shoulder Rig II with Rails and Quick Release System, a Matte Box System II and the Follow Focus Pro II with clip-on system. You can add on some stuff if you want but most of what you really need is right in the box.
So why would you need this? If you’re trying to hand-hold video on your DSLR you probably already know that it’s hard to do well. This kind of rig uses your shoulder as a stabilizer and gives you rock-steady shots. You can also mount it to a tripod and use it like a camera cage.
The barn doors on the matte box are nice for blocking flare. And the built-in filter adapter lets you use any standard 4×4″ and 4×4.5″ glass filters via dual removable ABS plastic filter frames. If you’re shooting video this is a great feature because to get that creamy bokeh you want you usually have to open up your aperture and sometimes the only way to do that is with a neutral density filter. Three supplied neoprene donuts (48mm, 64mm, and 74mm) fit against the back of the matte box to accommodate a wide variety of lenses.
The kit comes with lightweight rails, a follow focus (although Flashpoint doesn’t include a whip which would have really made the kit complete.) The follow focus is smooth and easy to operate and the 15mm rails attach to comfortable grips and a molded shoulder pad. There is no weight included for using super long or heavy lenses so in that case, I’d mount this rig to a tripod. Otherwise it will be out of balance.
If you want a fully-customizable ENG unit for stabilizing your video, and you don’t want to spend $2000 and up to get one, this is the very best choice I’ve found anywhere. Add to that the two year warranty and the fact that Adorama stands behind the products it sells, and it’s even more attractive.
I’m not sure this unit is 100% as sturdy as one of the expensive units from the competition, but frankly I am certain it is sturdy enough. In three weeks of testing it’s never failed me and it’s very configurable.
If Adorama reads this review, I hope they’ll consider throwing in some assembly directions (even though it’s pretty simple) and maybe a whip to make the follow focus more effective. But those are very minor nits. Overall I really like what Adorama is doing with the Flashpoint brand. In tough economic times, quality products at an affordable price are welcome news.