August 29, 2011

K-Tek Norbert DSLR Camera Mounts
K-Tek Norbert Mount

Review by Steve Douglas

With the increasing number and uses of DSLRs for both photo and video use, both stabilization and ergonomics become issues to contend with. For video, hand holding the light weight DSLR for shake free filming can be daunting. Certainly mounting upon a tripod eliminates much of this concern, but one of the advantages to the smaller size of a DSLR is that it can be used to provide different and unique angles from which to shoot and can be positioned in places larger cams simply would not fit. At the same time, this eliminates the tripod from the equation.

Introduced last year, K-Tek brought out several versions of its Norbert DSLR camera mount. Its rectangular shape is constructed of machined aluminum ringed with as many cold shoe mounts as one might possibly need. Every inch around the Norbert frame are threaded holes, alternating 1/4-20 and 3/8-16, for attaching a diverse variety of accessories. The base of the Norbert features a quick-release plate and, in the bottom rail, another 6 3/8-16 and 15 1/4-20 threaded holes. Three 1/4-20 holes are centered in the base of the ring to allow for mounting to an external tripod plate.

The basic setup Frame Only mount is equipped with 23 standard dimension shoe mounts. msrp $199.00


msrp $530.00

Moving up the line, the Norbert Filmmaker Kit adds a pair of locking handgrips, a camera quick release, two 8" iris rods and adjustable height extension side plates. In order to attach the hand grips, you must remove the allen screws from the bottom and then screw in the comfortable grips. My first thought was that I hoped I wouldn't lose the screws but once the handles are mounted you probably will not remove them anyway whether you are filming off a tripod or hand holding.

msrp $285.00

Another configuration is the Norbert Sport which uses extendable graphite handles on the sides of the frame to make shooting handheld shots considerably easier. While this cuts down on the number of cold shoe mounts, there are still plenty on top to access so I did not find this a problem. The top handle allows you to get those really low shots through the grass as you walk, as well as many shots that otherwise would have you lying on your belly.

msrp $169.00

There is also a new Norbert Sport Junior which is the perfect size for smaller camcorders or cameras like the small Canons and GoPros that have been flooding the market. The Sport Junior does not come with the top handle which can be purchased separately for $55.00 or the quick release.

These mounts then enable you to attach any number of needed accessories which is just what I did when testing it. After mounting the Norbert to my tripod I attached a Z-96 LED light, a Lite Panels Micro Pro Hybrid, my Azden shotgun mic, using K-Teks mounting accessory shock mount, a Zoom H4n audio recorder, a Marshall 5" external monitor and an Azden lavaliere receiver all with room to spare. One might be concerned with the balance of all of these accessories when moving the tripod from position to position but I felt steady and secure with each move.

There are several accessory mounts that can be optionally purchased and I had the opportunity to sample several. Adding to the positive redundancy of the many cold shoe mounts, there is the KTBAR which is a six inch shoe bar for mounting even more accessories on a single camera shoe, this is also available as 9" version. The wiggly arms I was already very familiar with from Locline Flexible arms as I use them to mount my underwater lights when scuba diving. While it comes as a 6" section, additional arm sections can easily be gotten and attached. I generally use 12-15" arm lengths for my underwater filming. The KCAMBH has a cold shoe for mounting either on the camera itself or on the Norbert and can be used for mounting on boom poles as well as for mounting an LCD monitor or light panel. I was also able to try out one of their two shock mounts for my shotgun mic. The shock bands are made of a thick rubber and attempting to insert my Azden SGM-1X shotgun mic through the mounts holes was a bit difficult since rubber is not meant for gliding through but easily enough accomplished. I was tempted to sprinkle the rubber mounts with a little baby powder to more easily insert the microphone but I didn't, and once in place, it held the mic nicely in position with little, if any, noise as a result of movement.

Where the Norbert really shines is when shooting those hand held shots. The light weight of DSLRs makes shooting video a bit more difficult when run and gunning hand held without the benefit and stabilization of a tripod. I found that my footage using a Canon 7D was considerably smoother whether I was gripping the Norbert by the top or bottom handles or even just holding it by its side grips. The weight of the Norbert at approximately 1.5 lbs did not add to arm fatigue that I could tell. The top handle, particularly, made getting those low angled shots considerably easier, and being able to mount the Norbert on a boom pole or highly raised tripod, with the monitor attached, a joy to shoot those shots that would have often found me shooting and balancing from on top a ladder. The only real problem I encountered was that when the Norbert was mounted on my Manfrotto tripod and head, there tended to be a bit of a swivel between the Norbert and the Manfrotto's head plate. This can probably be ameliorated with an additional screw in the base release plate.

While most of my filming is done under the waves, there are a ton of topside and B roll clips I often am in need of. That the Norbert is so light weight and flexible in regards to accessory configurations it is something I will be taking along with me on all my future filming endeavors.


Steve Douglas is a certified Apple Pro for Final Cut Pro 7 and underwater videographer. A winner of the 1999 Pacific Coast Underwater Film Competition, 2003 IVIE competition, 2004 Los Angeles Underwater Photographic competition, and the prestigious 2005 International Beneath the Sea Film Competition, where he also won the Stan Waterman Award for Excellence in Underwater Videography and 'Diver of the Year', Steve was a safety diver on the feature film "The Deep Blue Sea", contributed footage to the Seaworld Park's Atlantis production, and productions for National Geographic and the History channels. Steve was a feature writer for Asian Diver Magazine and is one of the founding organizers of the San Diego UnderSea Film Exhibition. He is available for both private and group seminars for Final Cut Pro and leads underwater filming expeditions and African safaris with upcoming excursions to Bali, Raja Ampat, Indonesia, and the Maldives Islands. Feel free to contact him if you are interested in joining Steve on any of these exciting trips.


copyright © Steve Douglas 2011

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