Cinetics Lynx motion control system review
As an astronomer and visual artist, I use the arts to communicate science. My main way of doing this is through a series of Science & Symphony films that get presented with orchestras in concerts around the world. Since 2008 I have been shooting time-lapse sequences of the night sky and incorporating them into many of these films. My stills and sequences of observatories in Chile, the U.S., and the South Pole have also been featured in many science documentaries.
One way of giving time-lapse sequences a more cinematic look is by using a motion control system. These programmable systems move your camera with high precision as you shoot your scene. I have used several of them since 2008, so I was quite happy to preview this brand new system introduced by Cinetics.
The Cinetics Lynx is a light, portable and compact (yet sturdy) system that lets you program precise three-axis moves for video, stop motion, and time-lapse sequences. Its main components (slider, motors and motion controller) have their own soft cases for easy portability. You can even carry the slider preassembled in its own case to save time when working in the field. The standard length of the slider is 24 inches (61 cm), but an optional set of carbon fiber rails, stored in their own carrying case compartment, can be added to the kit for a total extended length of 48 inches (122 cm). The total weight of the system is under 13 lb (5.9 kg).
|The Lynx motion control system at its standard 24-in (61 cm) length. (Photo courtesy of Cinetics)|
It's apparent that a lot of thought was put into designing a system that takes only minutes —and a single hex key— to assemble. Extending the slider with the second set of rails and replacing the belt with a longer one takes approximately 5 minutes. The slider comes with a set of built-in legs to rest it on the ground or against a wall (when inclining it). The legs spread out at a series of pre-determined positions, which avoids having an uneven slider.
The motor units are very compact and each one requires a single screw to install. The motion controller can be attached to the pan motor via an ingenious snap-on attachment and the system battery is conveniently housed inside the motion controller. These two features avoid the need for installing additional support accessories and contribute to the simplicity and compactness of Lynx.
|Motion controller snapped onto the pan motor. (Photos courtesy of Cinetics)||Pan and tilt motors with motion controller.|
|Slider and adjustable legs.||Slider motor.|
When assembled to the 24 inch length, the system can easily be installed on a single tripod without the unit tipping over, even when the camera is at either end of the slider. My first test in the studio was to see how the system behaved using a single but sturdy tripod/head configuration. I used a Gitzo systematic tripod and ball head with hydraulic lock.
Despite the sturdiness of the system, images taken at either extreme of the slider – when mounted on a single tripod – may need to be rotated slightly in order to align them. For a load of 5.7 lb (2.6 kg) the images needed to be rotated ±0.6 degrees with respect to an image taken at the center of the slider. This can be corrected in post-processing by key framing image rotation and letting software interpolate the rotation angles.
I extended the Lynx slider to its 48in. length and took it to the Chicago Lakefront to shoot for a new film I'm producing. With two Gitzo carbon fiber tripods easily attached, I leveled the slider, and proceeded to program the system. Lynx includes an Arca-Swiss style camera plate to quickly set your camera and, on the Cinetics website, you can choose from a comprehensive list of cables to control the shutter.
Once set up, it's easy to program the motion controller. You simply slide the camera to the first position, adjust the pan and tilt as desired, and save the position as your first keyframe. Then, you slide it to the second position, adjust the pan and tilt, if necessary, and set your next keyframe. Once the beginning and ending keyframes are established, you can program the parameters for your time-lapse sequence, including duration between keyframes (time), shutter speed, and the interval between shots.
From L to R on the slider: slider motor, tilt motor, pan motor with controller snapped on and a Nikon D5 with an Arca-Swiss style camera plate.
The controller's display shows you the total number of resulting shots. One thing that impressed me about the Lynx motion controller is that it not only lets you set up at least 5 keyframes, but it lets you program a different set of sequence parameters between each pair of keyframes! For example, you could program sets of keyframes in order to progressively change the exposure and interval times throughout a time-lapse – useful if you know that the lighting conditions are going to change during the sequence.
There are two motion modes available: shoot-move-shoot (S-M-S) mode and continuous mode. In S-M-S mode the camera is moved only between shots. In continuous mode, however, photographs can be taken as the system moves. This is useful for taking video or time-lapse sequences that incorporate motion blur. You also have the option of ramping up and down the motion speed when shooting video and time-lapse in continuous mode. (The S-M-S time-lapse mode has a built-in ramp, but unfortunately, it is not adjustable at this point.) Each segment of the programmed motion can have its own kind of motion. For example, you can have an S-M-S segment followed by one with continuous motion.
Once you have programmed a motion you have the ability to save it as a preset for later recall. When you're ready to start the sequence simply choose Run, step back, and voilà!
Finally, you also have the ability of continuing a sequence by reversing the motion (called bounce) as many times as you want. This is a great feature, but I wish it were possible to bounce the motion after a sequence has started, since this is something you might decide to do once shooting is in progress. Other systems let you do this, and also give you the ability to tell the camera to continue shooting even after it has reached the last keyframe.
Another thing I would like to see in a future software update is the ability to quickly preview the entire run in continuous mode. Even when the intent is to take a time-lapse sequence one could quickly preview the motion by shooting video and tweaking the motion, if necessary.
I decided to use the Lynx to take a time-lapse sequence by centering the field of view on Henry Moore’s sundial in Chicago, moving my camera from the left all the way to the right end (over a period of 17 minutes), while panning my camera to the left so I could keep the sundial at the center of the frame. The combination of slide and pan resulted in the illusion of the camera moving along an arc around the sundial when the displacement motion was actually along a line.
I then set up a time-lapse of Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate (the reflective sculpture nicknamed The Bean) in Millennium Park. Have in mind that the farther your main subject is from the camera, the harder it will be to notice parallax (the displacement in the apparent position of an object viewed along two different lines of sight).
|The Lynx system extended to 48 inches (122 cm) in length and supported by two Gitzo carbon fiber tripods. Location: Millennium Park, Chicago|
Nevertheless, for the particular composition I had in mind, I avoided getting too close to the sculpture. I slid and panned the camera to the right while tilting it up (in order to end up with less ground and more blue-hour sky) over a period of 20 minutes. Taking advantage of the dark blue that remained in the sky, I also placed the system right in front of Cloud Gate and simply tilted the camera up over a period of 8.4 minutes.
Note that the Lynx system can be used vertically or inclined, though when inclined you can only point the camera along the direction of the slider if you want to avoid an unleveled horizon. If, for example, you wanted to shoot perpendicular to the direction of an inclined sliding motion then you would need a leveling wedge (not included) to compose your shot.
One has the option of programming the Lynx motion controller via Bluetooth with a smartphone app. Having two options for programming the unit is very welcome but, surprisingly, I thought that programming the controller using the app was less straightforward and somewhat confusing, but the app's GUI was re-designed after I tested it. There’s definitely room for improvement in future versions of the Lynx app. Having said that, I like that on the app one can control the exposure values to a fraction of a second and use the smartphone's IMU (a combination of accelerometers and gyroscopes) to slide the cart.
In conclusion, the Lynx is a light, portable, and sturdy three-axis motion control system that can be set up very quickly. Its relatively light weight and compact design lets you carry it around in the field very easily, and its smooth and precise motion can be programmed with multiple keyframes. I can definitely recommend this motion control system and I look forward to future firmware and app updates.
Cinetics is offering Lynx through a Kickstarter campaign, with pledges ranging from $499 to $1499 depending on which features you want.
- Light and compact
- Quick and easy set up
- Lets you program at least 5 keyframes, each with independent set of parameter values and motion modes
- Ability to save presets
- Leveling wedge is not included
Updates I'd like to see:
- Ability to preview motion in continuous mode
- Ability to edit parameters in saved presets
- Ability to adjust ramping on S-M-S time-lapse mode
- During a sequence in progress, ability to decide what to do once the camera has reached the last keyframe
José Francisco Salgado, PhD is an Emmy-nominated astronomer, science photographer, visual artist, and public speaker who creates multimedia works that communicate science in engaging ways. His Science & Symphony films have been presented in 175 concerts and lectures in 15 countries.
José Francisco is a seasoned night sky and aurora photographer and filmmaker. If you would like to view, photograph, and learn about the Northern Lights then you can inquire about his Borealis Science & Photo Tours in Yellowknife, Canada.
Canon's mirrorless EOS R5 comes with a ton of features and capability stemming from its design inside and out. Come along with us on a guided tour of Canon's new high-end, high-megapixel camera and check it out for yourself.
Announced alongside the EOS R5, the R6 offers a lot of the same technology but in a more affordable, slightly more enthusiast-focused model. Take a closer look.
Alongside the EOS R5 and R6, Canon has announced a brace of lenses, all in the short to long telephoto range. Filling out the 'long' end are one L-series zoom, and two innovative primes.
Alongside a trio of telephoto lenses, Canon also announced a new 85mm this week. The RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM is a compact, affordable alternative to the pro-oriented 85mm F1.2L.
The EOS R5 has been a long time coming – we knew it had 8K and we knew it had an AF joystick. But now that's it's here, what is it really like to use? Find out in our initial review based on hands-on time with the camera.
The R6 doesn't promise quite such headline-grabbing specs as its big brother, but it still packs a punch, whether you shoot stills, video or both.
Think you've read everything there is to know about the new Canon cameras? Chris and Jordan share eight important things you may have missed from today's Canon EOS R5 and R6 announcements.
We've been shooting around with the new Canon EOS R6. Initial impressions of image quality are positive, and out-of-camera JPEGs appear similar to that of the gold award-winning Canon EOS-1D X III. Have a look for yourself.
Canon has officially released the long-awaited EOS R5, the company's top-end full-frame mirrorless camera. Featuring a new 45MP CMOS sensor, Dual Pixel AF II system, 8K video capture and 20 fps bursts, this is the RF-mount camera we've been waiting for.
Although the Canon EOS R6 doesn't have the 45MP sensor and 8K video capture of the higher-end R5, it's still an incredibly capable camera with specs that outshine similarly priced peers.
The Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM is the company's first super-zoom lens for RF-mount. Despite a relatively slow aperture range, it's very versatile, offering five stops of stabilization, weather-sealing and compatibility with Canon's new teleconverters.
Canon's RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM is an inexpensive telephoto prime lens with a minimum focus distance of just 0.35m (14") and a 0.5x magnification. When attached to the new R5 and R6, it offers a whopping eight stops of shake reduction.
Canon has announced a pair of super-telephoto fixed-aperture primes. The 600mm and 800mm use diffractive optics to keep their size and weight down. They'll also be compatible with new 1.4x and 2x RF teleconverters.
Canon has announced a new small-footprint inkjet photo printer, the imageProGraf Pro-300. it will produce prints up to 13 x 19" and it goes on sale later this month for $900. A new textured photo paper will also arrive in July.
The new compression standard is set to reduce video file sizes by half to save space and speed-up transmission, paving the way for more portable 8K footage.
Sony recently confirmed plans to launch a successor to the video-centric a7S II. We don't even know the name of the camera, but Jordan already has a feature wish list for the new 'a7S III' – and it doesn't include 8K.
The Profot B10 is the first studio flash system that can be used when shooting with an iPhone camera.
The Pixii camera is an interesting little rangefinder camera that features a 12MP APS-C sensor and lacks a rear LCD display, opting instead to pair with your mobile device, which can be used to view and transfer images.
Sirui is launching an Indiegogo campaign for a wide-angle answer to its existing 50mm F1.8 anamorphic lens. The 35mm APS-C lens will come in a Micro Four Thirds mount with adapters for other systems.
Sony has added a 12-24mm F2.8 to its top-shelf 'G Master' series of lenses. It's the widest constant F2.8 zoom currently offered for full-frame, with a hefty price tag to match: it will sell for $3000 when it ships in mid-August.
Take a look at the view from Sony's new ultra-wide F2.8 zoom – we paired it with the a7R IV for some initial shooting.
Canon's EOS-1D X Mark III is one of the best DSLRs ever made. With fast burst speeds, great video quality and impressive autofocus, the 1D X III is equal parts cinema rig and sports shooter. Find out how it fares against steep competition in our full review.
Nikon Rumors is reporting that Nikon will announce successors to its Z6 and Z7 camera systems by the end of the calendar year.
Canon says the event, set to take place at 14:00 CEST in two days on July 9, will be its 'biggest product launch yet.'
The Verge Video Director, Becca Farsace, shows how she built a custom Raspberry Pi camera with effectively zero coding knowledge over the course of just three days.
The EOS R5 has been in the works for some time, and Canon has published a handful of specifications, but there's still plenty we don't know. What are you hoping to see from Canon's forthcoming flagship camera?
Canon's CE-SAT-IB satellite camera was destroyed alongside six other satellites during Rocket Lab's ironically-named 'Pics or It Didn't Happen Mission.'
This sample gallery includes images from our recent review of the Tamron 28-200mm F2.8-5.6 Di III RXD zoom lens. Check out these photos to see how it performs, from wide-angle to telephoto and everything in between.
The Tamron 28-200mm F2.8-5.6 Di III RXD provides a wide zoom range in compact, weather-sealed design. Find out why it's Chris and Jordan's new favorite travel lens.
Kodak Portra 800 is a wonderful and versatile color film. And any rumors of it being discontinued, we're pleased to report, are simply untrue. That's a good thing, because it's capable of producing lovely results in all sorts of conditions.