Camtrol Prime 22 camera rig review

The Camtrol Prime 22 is an inexpensive video camera stabilising rig for equipment with a maximum load of 3.5 kg. I tested it with a dSLR camcorder and a small consumer camcorder with a Ninja 2 mounted next to it.

Camtrol is a small company specialised in the design of camera rigs for amateurs and independent movie makers on a small budget.

The Prime 22 is Camtrol’s mid-range stablising rig. It’s an all-aluminium platform with a three-part articulating arm. The Prime 22 comes with one .25 inch mount screw and can hold up to 7 pounds or 3.5 kilograms. The platform has four retractable legs and a clever labyrinth-like channel cut out in the platform through which the mount screw can freely move. In places where most people will want to locate their camera the engineers have provided for extra ‘inlets’ so the mount cannot slip out of position inadvertently.

The articulating arm has ball joints that can be tightened/loosened by fastening/loosening large knobs that can easily be operated, even with gloves on. The upper arm segment — the one you’ll be carrying the entire system with — is a joystick look-alike. It is surprisingly comfortable to grab and hold. The arm extends into a narrow tube that can hold peripheral parts, such as Camtrol’s own remote (wired) control mounting panel.

The upper segment has a guide for the remote’s cable. I received the remote control mounting plate for the review, but not the remote itself. In order to try out the cable guiding system, I used a thin HDMI cable to run through the tube and upper segment, only to find that the loose end of the cable kept falling in front of the camcorder’s lens.

The main reason why you would buy a Camtrol Prime is the stabilising factor, so I tested that thoroughly. I started with a consumer Sony Handycam, which weighs next to nothing. The Prime 22 has just the right weight to prevent fatigue but deliver just enough muscle tension to keep your arm steady. However, it wasn’t ideal, still on the (too) lightweight side. The dSLR of about 2.5 kg did better. I had to use just the right amount of force to move the whole thing in a steady and quiet way without becoming tired too quickly.

When I mounted the Ninja 2 on the Ultra Light Control Systems arm I reviewed earlier this year, the weight was still ideal but the weight distribution and the limitations of movement of the Prime’s lower arm segment made carrying the unit an awkward experience. After experimenting an hour with the Ninja 2 positioned in different ways and locations, I finally found the right combination.

Before you ask: I couldn’t mount the Ninja on the Camtrol accessory plate. The Ninja is a bit heavy and the mounting holes on the plate are too close to its edge. Instead I used parts of the ULCS system and a .20 inch screw, an adapter ring and a bolt.

As soon as you find the right positions for your equipment, so you can get a good distribution of weight, the Prime 22 is an absolute charm to use. You can hold it in low to very low positions. That’s where it really shines. You can also hold it high above your head, but then the weight distribution factor comes into play again, so it may or may not work.

You can also use the Prime 22 to a certain degree as a shoulder mount. However, with the Ninja mounted the way I did, that didn’t work well.

Mounting the whole thing on a tripod without having to unmount the camera is possible as the mount screw has a tripod mounting thread — you can use a quick release plate to place the entire system on a video head — however, there is a caveat: the screw isn’t big enough and the platform too large to keep the whole construction well balanced. Additionally, the QR-plate has nothing to hold onto firmly, so the platform can easily rotate on the plate without you knowing it, which in turn increases the risk it breaks loose altogether.