With the proliferation of Indie moviemakers, documentary shooters and others who create video on a shoestring budget, come a whole range of products that accommodate the needs of these people at a low or at least a decent price. The Fotodiox Articulated Magic Arm camera mount is such a contraption. It is meant to support a field monitor or recorder such as the Atomos Ninja and the Samurai.
The question is twofold: Can you trust it? And is it efficient?
In terms of setting it up, I can answer that one quickly: it’s actually more efficient than the UltraLight Control arm system. The latter is far more flexible, but that comes at a cost. The cost being that you need to fix the arms with independent clamps. Each clamp needs to be fixed in place tightly.
With a heavyweight monitor (the Ninja2 with two large capacity batteries is not what you call easy to handle) this may prove to be a challenge. In contrast, the Fotodiox camera mount has but one tension knob that fixes everything — the two articulating arms, the 360 degree rotating-capable mounts.
Both products are in aluminium, and both look to be quite strong. The UCL system is stronger, though. It’s not that you’ll be insecure with the Fotodiox, but on the UCL system, each clamp can ‘grab’ its part of each arm tightly, whereas the Fotodiox has only one point of failure (the tension knob). If that one fails, the entire arm collapses and your monitor with it.
However, I did not have the impression that it would fail that easily. In fact, I could fix the tension knob just as tightly as the UCL clamps. In both cases, the Ninja2 sits on the system and doesn’t move a millimeter, not even when I moved the camera-and-monitor setup quite violently.
One word of advice: the Fotodiox comes with a number of converters to allow for mounting on dSLR hotshoes. Don’t use those without much care. The conversion mechanism behaved very weakly in my testing, loosening up with almost every shake or move of the monitor. Besides, the hotshoe of a dSLR (unless you’re lucky enough to own a top-pro model) isn’t meant to carry the weight of a field recorder/monitor like the Ninja.
There’s one distinct reason why you would opt for the more expensive UCL system, though, and that’s flexible scalability. The Fotodiox arm I tested is the longest in the range. The UCL arms can be extended ad infinitum. You can keep on building on this system for as much as you want.