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New Rig - Longshot Camera Systems

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Concretin Nik says:

I recently discovered www.longshotcamerasystems.com. A complete turnkey pole, mount, and trigger for taking "elevated photos" (or "pole aerial photography") with basic point & shoot cameras.

The Longshot Camera Systems rig really caught my attention because it and my DIY homebuilt model are of the exact same concept, "Camera-on-a-stick-with-a-pull-string-trigger." Full disclosure: After chatting with the owner about my DIY rig compared to what he developed, I did receive the Longshots system free, but with no expectations. Of course I've offered to post up my thoughts on it. I haven't rec'd any compensation(other than the rig itself), nor do I get any commission on sales. Though I do hope you'll let Jim know where you heard about his system.

Right off the bat, before I even had the thing in my hand, I can honestly say, if this system had been available when I started my research, I would not have had to do as much research, and I definitely would have purchased one. But I have thoroughly enjoyed my project and the people I've met while developing my rig. (Still not sure I'll completely ditch my DIY rig.) It is for those of you looking to get started in "pole aerial photography" that I am posting this information, rating each component.

The basic Longshot system includes a push button lock (9') or a thumb latch (15') pole, shutter trigger, retractable trigger string (think dog leash), and custom camera/trigger mount. The pole has a typical 'acme' thread just like a painters pole you can buy at the hardware store. (So you could purchase a longer pole if you felt you needed it. Though the trigger string only goes to about 23' max.) An angle adapter is also available. Other accessories include a laser pointer for aiming, a direction "outrigger," and "landing gear" that provide a way to lay down the rig without setting your camera on the ground.

The pole: B rating
Jim provided me with one of his prototype masts, and is actually NOT the mast he sells. It reaches a bit higher (20') but uses knobs to tighten each section.

Pole by Concretin Nik

Fully extended, the pole is quite flexible and the sway makes me a bit nervous, but it's not unwieldy. I can partially extend each section to add some rigidity, but of course I then give up height and I can understand why he didn't want this to be the pole for his system. While it is fairly light weight and made of fiberglass, I believe the poles he includes with the package are stiffer. The angle adapter was also permanently attached to this pole. I would believe the thumb lock pole would be the best choice. Higher reach and being able to choose how much overlap you want to leave with each section. The push button may be a bit stiffer, but it is shorter and I believe it has specific lock points. (I will also state that I personally would NOT put a dSLR camera on one, nor my own DIY rig. The weight is just too great, let alone the expense of replacing one should gravity decide to smite you. But Jim does have a larger trigger available for use with dSLR cams for those willing to hoist their dSLRs well above their heads.)

The trigger: A++ rating
A spring loaded shaft inside a bolt is the only way I can describe it.
Trigger by Concretin Nik

The outside thread allows for height adjustment for various size cameras. The cross pin is also adjustable for trigger 'reach' and angles down slightly to push the shutter button. A wrench and small screw driver are required for the adjustments, but should only need to be made once (unless used on different cameras). It is well built and looks much more professional than my DIY 'craft project' trigger.

The Pullstring: A- rating
The retractable string is easy to use, and I like that it automatically adjust to various heights. Attaching the spool to the mast is a bit archaic, simply tucking a bracket in the grip.
String by Concretin Nik

With repeated use I can see the grip possibly becoming worn and stretched and not fitting securely. I believe this is one modification I will address. Should be an easy and inexpensive fix with some pipe repair clamps or other pipe mounting hardware.

The Camera Mount: A- rating
The mount consist of a long bolt and lock nut allowing for attachment of accessories under the camera (outrigger, laser pointer, and/or landing gear). The bolt is attached to a handle that fits on the acme thread.
Mount by Concretin Nik

The angle adapter on the pole allows for tilt adjustment. The angle adapter seems like the 'weak' point of the rig, as there is some side to side flex in the plastic at the pivot joint. But as long as I don't shake the pole, it shouldn't be an issue at all.

Remote view: N/A
No remote view is included nor available. However, it would be simple to use the same cables and mini-tv as on my DIY rig. My remote view set-up uses the tv cable that came with the camera, an extension cable, and an adapter for the tv. I will definitely be making this modification. I am planning to attach the tv to the trigger string spool housing and develop a better mounting mechanism for them on the pole at eye level. But this will not be part of this review. I will take the Longshots rig out and shoot with it as is, with the only difference between my Longshots rig and one you can purchase will be the pole itself.

Test Photoshoot:
The system is so simple to set up. I had the trigger already attached to the cam, so I simply attached the mount to the pole, the string to the pole, and clipped the string to the trigger and away I went.
Campus1 by Concretin Nik

Campus2 by Concretin Nik

Campus3 by Concretin Nik

Thinker3 by Concretin Nik

Thinker1 by Concretin Nik

Thinker2 by Concretin Nik

I have a flip out screen, so I can vaguely look up to frame my shot for up to about 10'. (But this will certainly give you a neck ache if taking very many photos.) Once you're over about 10', without remote view, a pullstring trigger is almost not worth it. You are guessing at framing, so setting a timer with multiple shots, or using CHDK (on Canon cams), would suffice. Might as well have multiple shots to choose from since you're shooting somewhat blind. So I set my cam to take 3 shots with each shutter pull after 1 second delay to try to eliminate any shake/sway. Raising, shooting, lowering, reviewing, re-raising, re-shooting, lowering, reviewing got old quickly, and was time consuming. I did get some good photos, but for me, remote view is absolutely essential.

So there you have it. I won't go into how cool I think elevated photography is. If you're reading this, I feel it's safe to assume you're already sold on that idea. The very short version of all of the above is... The Longshot Camera System is an affordable, quick and very easy to use tool for taking elevated photos. I think it's fantastic and have slapped my head several times with the same question likely in your head right now, "Why didn't I think of that?" But I'm really glad somebody did.
Originally posted at 9:34AM, 23 May 2010 PDT (permalink)
Concretin Nik edited this topic 112 months ago.

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Lee Jinks says:

Not bad
112 months ago (permalink)

noisy rabbits [deleted] says:

Hey it looks to start one getting going with PAP, with the camera you have.

112 months ago (permalink)

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poolking says:

Nice pole Nik. Please keep us updated on well it works.

112 months ago (permalink)

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Concretin Nik says:

So I've now added live view and solved the cable issue for the collapsable pole.

Finding/building a retractable cable was a great idea, but just seemed it was going to be more trouble than it was worth to even attempt, and in the end, I wasn't really sure it was going to look very good.

First, I coiled the camera's cable completely around the top, so there would only be ONE cable running down the pole. I then coiled the video cable the full length of the pole. I secured the top connection with 3 velcro straps. I then added straps to the cable at each section 'end'. I compressed one section at a time, and then used the strap to bundle that section of coils, then lowered the next section, bundled the cable, etc. 3 sections total. You can see the bundles are still a lil' messy, but MUCH cleaner than trying to have only one bundle. You can also see the adapter I added at the tv end to eliminate a length of cable.

Cable Bundled by Concretin Nik

Collapsed. by Concretin Nik

Then reverse the sequence for extension, and you can see in the pics, I just need to tighten up the coils (add a few more wraps around) and it will look even better. I do think the all black rig looks professional.
Full Extension by Concretin Nik

Set up is now about 5 minutes compared to 20+. Here's the complete system:
Complete PAP System by Concretin Nik

So... I've attached the tv directly to the pole with velcro, same as on my original rig, and the trigger string is connected at the base, still just tucking into the grip. I'll be adding pipe clamps so that will be a 'permanent' mount and I won't have to worry about the grip stretching out. May add a rubber foot as well.

Now, to craft a new monitor shade that angles up, as the tv is mounted at chin level, not eye level. (At the top of the lowest section of the pole.)

Next, a full on test at the Patton Museum...
Originally posted 112 months ago. (permalink)
Concretin Nik edited this topic 112 months ago.

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Concretin Nik says:

Patton Museum session in a new thread:
112 months ago (permalink)

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Desert4wd says:

Thanks for posting this review!
112 months ago (permalink)

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www.digitaldirect.ca says:

wow, thanks, cool
107 months ago (permalink)

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