Cinetics Axis360 review
Video is not as difficult as time-lapse with the Axis360. Basically, you set your scrolling speed, pick your keyframes for where the camera starts and where the camera ends, and hit Play. With video, it's even possible to control the Axis360 manually rather than enter it into its automated mode. One feature video offers is Bounce. With Bounce, the Axis360 will complete its initial rotation, then reverse back to where it started, and repeat until you intervene. This way, if you're trying to get a particular shot that may require more than one take, Bounce will allow you to focus on the scene and try it over and over. I found Bounce to be incredibly helpful, especially when editing afterwards, thanks to all the additional footage.
One thing I will say about shooting video with the Axis360 is that there are more external factors that will affect its performance. For instance, I shot the ocean from the shore and it was incredibly windy. I couldn't use some takes because the wind was so fiercely blowing the camera about, and it was noticeable in the recorded footage. However, I was surprised at how well the camera was able to stay put on the Axis360, given the violent gusts. Even the footage containing the most wind barely exhibits any loss in stabilization.
The other thing about recording videos is that the Axis360 motor is not quiet when used at higher speeds. So, if you're expecting to use your camera's native audio, think again. A boom mic or wireless lav setup will be necessary.
As evidenced in the test footage, the motor noise is more audible in some scenes and less in others. The bottom line is that if you're going to be using the Axis360 system in the first place, you're more than likely going to record your audio via professional external means. I deliberately left the native audio tracks in the video to provide a glimpse of what it really sounds like. Obviously, with the native audio replaced by a music track, the video would take on a completely different character.
Proper setup is also important. When it came to panning and tilting, I came across a minor speed bump. This was especially noticeable during tilting. While the camera was making its way down, it got hung up, so to speak, before jerking back into place. This caused a break in the fluidity of the video footage and had me perplexed. After running it over with Justin, he determined that the weight of my camera was not properly distributed, as the lens was off center from the axis point. When I shifted the camera over so that its lens was located directly in line with the Axis360's rotor, the problem went away, and I could tilt as high or as low as I wanted without any hangups. So, proper setup is key when recording video, and this is a speed bump I was able to recover from.
|The Slider setup with a 5D Mark III. The Axis360 attaches to one end and pulls a Kevlar belt fastened to a pulley at the other end. Just remove the motor and belt and you have a hand slide.||The Slider attached to a tripod.|
I loved the slider, and think it offers the best representation of what the Axis360 can do for DSLR cinema. Shots looked very professional, and I can only imagine what footage I could attain with two additional Axis360 motors equipped on my camera while sliding along. While I was able to get excellent footage with the slider, I ran into a couple minor problems here as well. In the center of the slider, both sets of rails meet and are clamped down. I found that even the slightest misalignment of the rails led to a minute bump along with way for the sliding cart that holds the camera. So, I loosened the middle clamp and rotated them until they were perfectly seamless, and that made a lot of difference. Problem solved.
|An attempt to offset the weight of a large DSLR lens. Now all Cinetics has to do is chop the small side off the L-bracket so we can see the LCD screen and offer it as a standard plate.|
Now for the other speed bump. The cart has a drag control that can be configured to reduce or increase tension of the slide, basically controlling the amount of grip the eight urethane-coated bearings have on the rails (there are four bearings on each rail). Apparently, when you have a large DSLR with a big heavy lens, the lens pulls the weight forward. This stresses the bearings on the front side of the cart, and it doesn't move as smoothly. When I tightened the drag, this improved greatly, but there was still a tiny amount of hangup along the rails. So, the physics of the camera have a lot to do with it.
Obviously, this would not be an issue at all with a GoPro, but I figured out a solution for larger cameras. Cinetics needs to make a long rectangular plate, basically an L-bracket without the smaller side. The camera can fasten to the plate, and the plate can be shifted back to offset the weight of the lens. Voila! The Axis360 and Kevlar belt can be removed and the slider can be used by hand, which is a benefit for more manual control.
When the Slider was mounted to the center of a tripod, I noticed that the weight of the camera caused the end of the Slider to flex downward slightly. The Mark III with a battery grip is not a lightweight by any means, but I did notice the flex. It was not a huge issue, as the Slider only flexed slightly, but it's worth noting my experience.
I would suggest Cinetics look into producing portable support beams that could hold up the ends of the Slider when using heavy cameras. The rail system itself can expand and be added onto with 32-inch sections of rail, so I think with something like a 64 or 128-inch setup, the additional tripods would carry the bulk of the weight throughout the middle. Despite all of this, the Slider was still my favorite apparatus in the kit. It's also important to note that this is prerelease hardware, so the company has time to address these issues.
Aside from the minor issues I had with the Slider, the Axis360 components are top notch. The great thing about the Axis360 is that it's such a modular system, enabling nearly an infinite amount of shooting angles. Whether you want to do vertical panoramas, 2-axis time-lapse videos, or rely on a robot to perfectly pan, tilt, or slide your camera, the Axis360 can do it. Cinetics snap mounts and ball heads can be used on the Axis360, and all threads are familiar 3/8-16" or 1/4"-20 tripod-friendly connectors. Cinetics even offers adapters to convert a 3/8-16" to a 1/4"-20, which can be installed and uninstalled by the twist of a flathead. So when it comes to the Axis360's versatility, the system is a winner.
The only hardware issue I had was with the mounting fasteners on the L-brackets. They are a bit long, and bottomed out in the bottom of my camera, leading my camera to easily twist left to right. Justin told me washers are included to space the fastener from the camera, and that I just didn't receive any. This was after I added my own washers, of course.
So, while that problem was solved, I only had one more minor gripe about the fastener. It cannot be twisted tightly enough by hand, for my camera was not locked down even after I applied extreme force and my fingers were indented with half moon crescents. The fastener has a hex socket and can be cranked down with a hex wrench; the problem is that the hex socket is too shallow and stripped out easily. It also took excessive torque in order to really fasten my camera tightly, so I really think the L-bracket fasteners need to be modified or replaced with something a bit more effective.
The Axis360's battery is supposed to last six hours with continuous use and up to 24 hours in power saving mode. When I shot my continuous two-hour time-lapse at night (after having used the Axis360 throughout the day for a panorama), the battery life was at approximately 80%. That's not too shabby at all. If anything, my camera with two-battery grip will run out of power before the Axis360. The CineMoco controller's LCD screen can be dimmed, and there are various sleep and auto shutoff modes to preserve battery life. Overall, battery life is great.
Justin and the folks at Cinetics are really on to something again, but this time I think the company is truly finding its groove. We saw the Cineskates system last year, and I think the Axis360 truly takes things to the next level.
The Axis360 is a multifaceted system that will benefit photographers of many skill levels and interests. The fact that the system is so modular speaks to the diversity of the photography world, as an amateur photographer dabbling in time-lapse can spend $450 for a basic Axis360 setup while a semi-professional videographer can drop $1,650 on the whole kit, complete with three Axis360 controllers, the Slider, the tilt kit, and all the hardware. Yet even at the Axis360's highest price point, look at it compared to its competitors, which cost double or triple for certain brands.
Yes, the Axis360 needs some minor refinements. At fast speeds, the motor can be a little jerky for video, and the Slider needs a standard plate to offset large lenses. It could also use a little support at the ends when mounted to a tripod, using a heavy camera. The fasteners on the L-brackets also need to be revised or replaced with something a bit more finger-friendly. The two main things I was concerned with - motor movement and a more simplified menu system - are under revision by Cinetics by the time you read this. I like that Cinetics is willing to listen to feedback and alter their products to better suit their customers. Overall, the Cinetics Axis 360 is very promising.
What we like
- Versatile modular system
- Excellent and professional results
- Highly competitive price point
- Down-to-Earth company that cares about what photographers think
What we don't like
- Motor needs a little fine-tuning at faster speeds, particularly for video
- Menu takes some real acclimation
- Needs better L-bracket fasteners and a plate for offsetting large lenses