Here it is guys, my review of the Zacuto Rapid Fire! I still have not used with it enough to feel like I have toped out but I have played enough to give it a fair critic. An updated version will come out once I get my Zfinder.
I had a hard time to make up my mind between the Rapid Fire and the Quick Draw. The Rapid Fire won because it allows its user to keep both hands on the camera. This is the main advantage of the rig compared to the others: you don’t have to change the way you work with the camera. Both hands stay in their natural shooting position. You don’t have to learn anything new: you know how to shoot = you know how to film.
The Rapid Fire is a simple design but it does offer enough flexibility to be adjusted for most shooters. It has adjustment/squeeze knobs everywhere so you can get the ‘perfect fit’. The only part you can’t adjust is the angle between the two rods. This should not be an issue for 99% of the population, but it is good to know in case you have some weird shoulder/neck length ratio.
While I went for cheap with my previous rig, this time I went for one of the most expensive solution: Zacuto. The difference is obvious. Everything is solid and holds well in place. I shook the rig (with the 5DMarkII on it) has hard as I could and nothing moved. While I take ridiculous care of my lenses, it is a totally different story for my camera support gear. They are supposed to be near indestructible and I treat them as such. I am glad to say that my Rapid Fire fits the bill and if I ever damage it, Zacuto life time warranty will replace it.
First, it is important to note that I have not received my Z-Finder yet, so I only have 3 points of contact with the camera instead of 4. I have tested the rig with various lenses, from my 50f1.4 to the heavy 24-70L2.8. The level of stability I achieved depended on three factors:
– Weight of the lens
– Focus ring action
– My movement (not camera movement)
Weight of the lens
Since the Rapid fire does not have any counter weights, the arms have to support the whole weight of the rig, pushing some of it toward the chest/shoulder to add stability. While this is not so hard to do with a light lens (like the 50mm), in the case of the 24-70L2.8 I got tired after a few minutes and things got a bit shaky.
It is like holding your camera with the LCD at eye level for a few minutes. While the gunstock removes a lot of the shake, you still have to spend some energy to hold it in position. I expect this to improve when I get the zFinder. This is where the two other Gorilla rigs might be better: with the right arm at a 90 degree angle with the rest of the body, you have more strength and endurance at your disposal.
Focus ring action
While focus adjustment are very easy to do and are mostly unnoticeable in the video, I never managed to walk the focus over a long distance without introducing some camera shake. It is sad, but to be expected: this is why Follow Focus systems were created!
Having all of its weight i front and away from the user, it was obvious from the start that walking with this rig would be a challenge. While lateral displacements are easy to do, you have to be very careful (and slow) if you want to walk with your subject.
This is where the Rapid Fire shines for me. By itself, the unit is already very small and portable, but if you need it to be even smaller, you can split the rig in two smaller parts by sliding one of the rod off. It takes less than 10 seconds and makes the whole thing fit in my smallest camera bag. The other transport option is to use a binner to attach the gunstock to you (or your bag) when you are not using it as demonstrated in the Zacuto product video.
This level of portability is incredible. This is how I ended up adding my Rapid Fire to my list of things to always have with me and my camera bag gained an extra 1.6 pounds.
I am very happy with my purchase because it fits my needs for a portable stabilization solution. I would not use it to shoot a movie (I would prefer the bigger gunstock kits) but for the type of work I am looking for, it does the job very well.
What is next?
So where should I go from here? Should I order the missing parts to get the right hand grip? Should I get longer rods and add a shoulder pad & counter weights? I don’t know yet, I am waiting to receive the zFinder to have a better idea of what would help the best. That is the beauty of these kits: you can start small and build up as you need (and can afford!).