Knowing how much the average rig costs, I was resigned to spending ~£225 for a low-end piece of kit. And then I found this.
You can find this crummy looking no-brand rig on ebay from spurious looking dealers by searching for 'cheap DSLR rig' or from slightly more legitimate looking sellers on Amazon under several different 'manufacturers' names (CamSmart, BestDealUK and Opteka to mention just three) . It's shockingly cheap, retailing for anywhere between £32 and £50. But should the low price set off alarm bells and put you off?
Well, after a bit of experience with it, I'd certainly never film anything with a significant budget on this rig: Every screw and joint on this thing is built with the lowest quality materials available and as a result it handles incredibly loosely. This can be remedied by applying lateral pressure to the handles but this is far from ideal and you may well still experience the odd shift as your handle moves a few degrees.
But should that be enough to put you off owning one of these? Absolutely not. This thing is FANTASTIC value for money. It's insanely light at under a kilo, folds down to an incredibly small size (31x24x9.5 cm) and unfolds quickly for fast shooting.
It may be built cheaply but as long as you don't over-tighten the screws it feels pretty solid, like it can take a battering and still work fine. I'd never trust a monitor mounted on it (the location of the mounting screw receivers mean that the monitors weight would loosen the arm and fold over) and with no easily available counterweights for the back or rails for the front, you'd struggle to add extras like matt boxes, a follow focus, or anything similar. But that's not what its made for.
This thing is an absolute basics rig, providing you with increased stability and nothing else.
I've no problem with leaving my 5DmkII with a 70-200mm and a Rode Pro Mic on it, both on my shoulder or resting on a solid surface, but that's about all you can get away with.
Going somewhere where you're not sure if you'll need a shoulder rig? Take this.
Budget won't stretch to a worthwhile £500 rig? Take this.
Need to travel light? Don't need to add anything more than to your rig setup? Got thirty five quid lying around? Take this. Take this. Take this.
Be prepared to be constantly tightening the ever loosening screws, but for £35 it's absolutely worth it.
NB: When I received the rig, the screws that join the plate to the arms (not the hand screws) needed a little tightening with an allen key. Based on feedback from a reader it seems I wasn't alone in that.