By Newsshooter contributor Li-Lian Ahlskog Hou:
As a Swedish documentary shooter based in China, I was fascinated when I was asked to review the Swedish Chameleon SC4:Large rig. Made by my fellow countrymen in Stockholm, these rigs have gained popularity on the Swedish production scene. I felt duty bound to check it out.
The design of the flagship SC4:Large is unique thanks to its weightless counterweight system. Comprising a back rod and waist-belt, it keeps the camera out in front of the operator while doing away with the need for heavy weights. This is a neat trick and it certainly means that you can operate for long stretches and remain comfortable. The ability to take both hands off the rig and have it just stay on your shoulder is certainly useful in run-and-gun situations. The drawback of the system is that it can take a while to assemble when you get to your location – you can’t just roll up and start shooting – but in my mind this is a small price to pay for saving your arms and back.
It can also be used without the back rod system as a more traditional rig and thanks to a clever dual dovetail system the camera and follow-focus system can be detached quickly from the rest of the rig and docked to a tripod instead. This is a great idea.
The camera mounting plate has been well thought-out and has a dual screw mount to prevent it coming loose or twisting from side-to-side.
The follow-focus system is based on a belt drive and is designed primarily with autofocus stills lenses in mind. It can be positioned in a way that allows you to focus while keeping your hand on the handgrip, unlike most other rigs that require you to let go (notable exceptions being Zacuto’s Tornado and Edelkrone’s Focusplus). The makers are certainly thinking about practicality here. The belt works well enough when properly tensioned on most stills lenses but I did find a tendency for lenses with looser mounts to pull a bit towards the follow focus if you over-tension it. Various different belts and gear sizes are available for different sized lenses.
The SC4:Large suits DSLRs and cameras like the Canon C100 very well. I didn’t get the opportunity to test it with anything larger though.
After a few months’ use I can say that this system really works especially well with a DSLR setup where you are using a LCD loupe like the Zacuto Z-finder or LCDVF-e, or simply relying on the camera’s back screen. If you prefer a monitor or an EVF then the advantages of having the camera out in front of you are far less.
Would I buy this rig for myself? At the $2045 US price it has some serious competition from rigs like Zacuto’s Recoil/Tornado combo. I would need to try out other competing rigs first before committing to one, and I would always recommend that prospective buyers do the same. The Swedish Chameleon SC4:Large would certainly be on my shortlist though.
You can see more and buy the SC4:Large from the Swedish Chameleon website.
Additional camerawork by Jia Li and Seth Coleman.
Li-Lian Ahlskog Hou is a videographer from Sweden now based in Beijing. Previously working for a publication that investigates the Swedish Armed Forces, she now shoots documentaries, concerts and promotion videos. She is based in China. You can see more of her work at http://www.li-lian.com/