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Zacuto DSLR Products: Striker Kit
Zacuto Striker kit - that's what you get out of the box: handgrip, gunstock support, Gorilla plate - all with connecting rods attached. There is also a main 15 mm rod with 3 mounts (Z-Mount II)
Zacuto Z-GUN-S Gun Stock Chest Mount with 15 mm rod attached.
Zacuto handgrip (Z-HG ZGrip Handle) with 15 mm rod attached
Zacuto Gorilla Plate with 15 mm rod attached
6.5" 15 mm rod with three mounts. This rod serves as a means of connecting all components of the Zacuto Striker Kit.
Zacuto Striker Kit is a set of standard Zacuto components from its family of products for DSLR video. The whole point in purchasing this kit is to save on costs. Same parts purchased separately would cost about 25% more.
Zacuto Striker assembled. On this photo you can also see a mounting frame for Z-Finder attached to Gorilla Plate. Both, Z-Finder and mounting frame must be purchased separately - they are not included in Striker kit.
Zacuto Striker kit in real life (front view) in ready-to-shoot position.
Close-up on assembled Striker kit used by a DSLR filmmaker.
Zacuto Striker kit in ready-to-shoot position (lateral view)
This picture illustrates the biggest problem with Striker kit - it may be difficult to position rods and mounts for low height or small shooters. Mounts become too close to each other with little or no space to lock them up.
Another picture showing how locks on Zacuto mounts can interfere with each other when various components of Striker kit are positioned closely.
Although Gorilla Plate and Z-Finder are not part of the Striker Kit, I cannot but report same "proximity" problem (since Striker kit is supposed to be used with Z-Finder).
In one of previous articles dedicated to Zacuto family of DSLR products I described its basic components: Z-Finder and Gorilla Plate. This time, we make one step further and explore Zacuto Striker, a DSLR camera support kit offering four points (assuming that you use Z-Finder attached to Gorilla Plate) of contact/support: (1) a hand on the handgrip, (2) the gunstock against your shoulder, (3) another (focusing) hand on the lens and (4) additional point of support by placing Z-Finder eyecup against your eye. (Note that Z-Finder and a mounting frame necessary to use optical viewfinder must be purchased separately - they are not a part of the Striker kit).
Unless you dare to shoot video with DSLR without any support, you will discover that the Striker is the most essential support kit for its purpose. Unfortunately, to buy it, you need to cough up $850 - based on my research, the best current price (July 2010) for the kit (Zacuto price is $998). It is not cheap, but arguably, it is the best support kit of the kind currently available on the market. I am talking about kits that are 100% hand-held (no shoulder support, not mounted on tripod) and do not include follow focus.
Indeed, if you want a Zacuto alternative to Striker you can go with the Target Shooter (street price $450) - the lightest Zacuto kit of the kind (does not include hand grip). Several other companies (for example, Redrock Microsystems, VariZoom, Cavision, Cinevate to name a few) manufacture or sell various support kits of the same type. All of them differ in some details and the quality of construction. However, in this niche market, prices for similar products are very high. I cannot claim I have held in my hands all of them, but beware, if you see significantly lower price for conceptually comparable product, chances are high that you will not be happy with it.
The goal of this review is not to compare the Striker to other similar rigs but rather to focus on kit's pluses and minuses thus providing as many details as possible to help you make more educated decision before you buy this kit. To start, I would like to mention the main reason why I like Zacuto Striker - because it is based on a very extensive video support system including more than one hundred various components. These components are smartly designed to be combined and connected to build any imaginable and unimaginable support system to fit all needs and tastes. Their design allows to infinite possibilities for adjustments to fit different equipment types and sizes, different shooting styles and techniques, as well as differences in heights and length of parts of human bodies.
Zacuto reacts quickly to demands of the market and customer feedback coming up with new components to accommodate new requirements and new types of equipment. In this respect, Zacuto products are like LEGO parts that can be assembled and connected in many ways. Zacuto was one of the first to develop a set of DSLR video products and accumulated significant experience in their design. From this point of view the Striker is just a kit consisting of 10 standard pieces:
Because of the component concept behind Zacuto designed products, when I buy another piece for my needs, I also think about other possibilities that the new item can represent to help me build and improve my perfect rig. For example, in the next article dedicated to Zacuto DSLR products, I plan to present the Single Action kit consisting of configurable DSLR base plate and single-sided follow focus. To make my point I should mention that the Single Action kit is designed mostly as a tripod mounted support. However, because of the design of Zacuto DSLR products it is easy to combine the Single Action and Striker kits. In fact, that combined kit has even a name, the Cross Fire. With Cross Fire you get a follow focus system with Striker (which otherwise is not available).
When you are considering Zacuto Striker, you should keep in mind several things - at least, based on my experience with the kit. First, it may take some time before you learn how to adjust quickly parts of the kit so that it fits your body. My recommendation is to try doing it, especially at the beginning, without camera mounted to the plate. Zacuto Z-Finder attached to its mounting frame will give you good clues during the fitting process. Another problem or rather dilemma associated with this is that the assembled kit is difficult to transport. All its protruding parts do not fit regular size bags; as a result, you will have a strong temptation to take it apart when you are on the move. But then you need to assemble it again.
One of unexpected things I discovered playing with the Striker was that it may be difficult to fit it to people with small body frames. For example, while trying to adjust it for my wife (who is five feet tall), I had to move mounts closer to each other on the horizontal rod. The result of doing this was a problem with tightening mount levers which started interfering with each other.
I found that Zacuto Striker provides good stability for small camera bodies - I especially love it with Canon T2i (550D) with its kit EF 18-135mm lens. Unfortunately, once you start loading the Striker with more serious (and better equipment), it becomes less convenient. For example, I would not recommend any prolong shooting with Canon 1D body and such lens as 70-200mm IS zoom (unless you are a body-builder).
I also found that although the Striker is very convenient when used with Z-Finder, it also can be used without the latter. In fact, it is much easier to fit the kit without Z-Finder than with it. On the other hand, Z-Finder provides additional point of contact with your body, making your shooting more stable.
If you look at Striker, it will become obvious that without additional components from Zacuto, you cannot use its follow focus. Personally, I do not regret it. For me, things like follow focus are more suitable for a tripod mounted rig rather than for a run-and-gun style of shooting associated with the kit.
Summary of Pros and Cons
One of the biggest considerations for many people thinking about Zacuto products and in particular Zacuto Striker are their high costs. Perhaps you (like myself) are thinking - how could it be that the price of Striker (ten machined aluminum pieces) is same as the price of such excellent camera with lens as Canon T2i (which is certainly much more difficult to manufacture)? I do not answer to this question. But I know that the Striker price is in the same range as prices offered by its competitors. So, is it because of this niche market and high demand? Anyway, the Striker definitely makes shooting with DSLR significantly easier. Because of this, I can only recommend this product.