After working with lightweight, compact jib options for DSLR sized cameras, I decided to check out a more affordable and durable option. In this review I’ll show you a sample of the footage from the Taurus Jr. Heavy Duty Jib, and point out where it rocks and where it could be better.
The Taurus Jr. is made by a company called ProAm USA. They found their beginnings in 2003, by offering a tool-less camera crane, and have since gone on to manufacture and distribute gear for filmmakers such as sliders, cranes, tripods, and other accessories. Additionally, ProAm USA designs and engineers all of their products in the US. Jaron Schenieder reviewed ProAm's Orion Jib, another low cost jib option by ProAm, in an article a few weeks ago.
The Taurus Jr. Heavy Duty Jib is a low to mid level camera crane, built for video shooters who might have a camera system that weighs more than a fully loaded DSLR (up to 30lbs or 13.6kg). With a reach of 4 feet and weight of 12lbs (5.4kg) the Taurus Jr. is best suited for working in tight spaces, small studios, or easy to get to outdoor locations where a simple and short jib move is all you need. If you shoot real estate, this would be a great jib that won’t be too cumbersome but still allow for some usable sweeps and reveals.
The Taurus Jr. is built like a rock. It’s made of black aluminum that has a bit of weight to it (relatively speaking) and it can definitely take some abuse. When fully weighted, the Taurus Jr. worked like a champ and delivered mostly smooth moves.
The tilt handle is foam, and the screws for locking, mounting, and releasing the tilt come in various forms (plastic twist top, flat head screw, etc) with the occasional rubber bumper to use.
I’m used to ultralight, portable solutions for a lot of the work that I do, so my main jib is the Aviator CF. Before I moved across the country though, I owned a heavy 12 foot crane that I only occasionally used because it was such a beast to transport and setup. The Taurus Jr. kinda falls right in between those. While it can hold an FS700 or RED camera, it isn’t so cumbersome that it takes two people to carry, or a pickup truck to transport it.
Unless you have a PA on your crew that you dislike, I wouldn’t recommend carrying it out into the woods, as a sturdy tripod, counterweights, and the jib itself will easily amount to more than someone would want to deal with. Saying that, the jib isn’t so heavy or large that it is a burden to take to a set or transport on a cart… I just wouldn’t try to hike somewhere with it on my backpack.
The Taurus Jr. has screw locks for vertical and horizontal movement, and when I used them they seemed to securely hold the rig in place. They didn’t however hold my camera in the exact place I wanted it. More on that later.
A cool feature of the Taurus is the manual tilt control. While meant for only 10lbs of camera, being able to have another level of control for a wider variety of shots is a great option to have. By default the tilt is locked in and “auto levels” to keep a proper perspective as you crane up/down. With a quick screw removal you can independently control the tilt of the camera platform during your move.
This jib accepts standard round weights, but you can improvise and hang sandbags too. The Taurus Jr. comes with an extension camera plate for longer bodied cameras that can be placed right onto the equipped mount, with 4 included screws.
Setting up the Taurus Jr. took a few minutes to figure things out, as the manual referred to some items I wasn’t sure I was supposed to have in the box or not. I thought I was even missing a screw for the tilt handle, but heard back from ProAm's customer service that it was most likely already screwed into the bottom of it. D’oh!
Once I was sorted on all the parts, I placed it on a Manfrotto 475 set of legs. It screwed right on to the 3/8” thread and I was in business! I locked the jib down and got my camera in place, followed by counterweights. The locks worked well, and I was able to easily set up the Taurus Jr. by myself.
In the short video below I used the Taurus Jr. for every shot, static or otherwise.
I found the moves to be extremely smooth and controllable, in about 90% of my shots. I did experience some slight shake and inconsistencies with panning speed when trying to do very slow, precise moves on the long end of a 24-70mm lens (on an FS700) but I’m sure there was some room for operator improvement too.
I didn’t have the ProAm LCD bracket for a preview monitor, so relied on checking my images before and after each shot for focus, exposure, and composition. It would have made getting some shots a bit easier, but since I was working by myself I had to get up close and personal with the camera anyway.
I noticed that the horizontal lock would loosen over time, and when attempting to shoot a static video clip, I had trouble getting the Taurus Jr. to precisely lock in the exact position I wanted it for the shot. I could have whipped out another tripod, but I was trying to be efficient and waste as little time as possible. Ironically, I ended up fidgeting with the jib so much to get the exact composition I wanted that it would have been faster to get my other sticks and use those for a simple lock down shot.
I wanted to get a couple of directly overhead shots, so I released the tilt handle completely and raised the jib up. I wasn’t able to point the camera plate exactly straight down for the shots I wanted (even after raising the jib high on my tripod) so I slapped a ballhead on the camera plate for the ability to tilt it more. I was nervous about hanging an FS700 at 90 degrees, but I carefully tested and weighted the setup. (I had a 501 head I could have used, and in retrospect I should have gone for that one instead, but I used what was nearby and tried to make it work... which is just how things go on shoots sometimes.) My point is though, I wish I could have gotten a straight down angle without needing the additional part. Not a big deal, but an extra step.
Lastly, I was only able to use this jib in tests and then for a single mock shoot. I had several other projects I was filming, but I simply couldn't use the Taurus Jr. for them because of its size and weight. I was taking stills of rock climbers but would have had to carry the entire kit about a mile– not happening. I then was going to shoot video clips of a truck, using the jib setup in the bed of another truck to get some nice movements both from the crane and the vehicle. This didn't work out because the Taurus Jr. just didn't give me the reach I needed to get long, moving shots that would have been worth it.
At $400, the Taurus Jr. places itself as being cheaper than its lightweight counterparts, but a bit shorter in length. Compared to the Orion, its longer brother from the same mother, the Taurus is $100 more and can handle heavier loads. If you shoot primarily with a DSLR, I think the Orion might be the better choice. As for the Taurus Jr., if you own heavy video cameras and lenses, you'd be better off with it.
What I liked:
Cheaper than ultralight jibs
The ProAm lineup has various lengths of jibs if 4 feet isn't enough
What Could be Improved:
A 4 foot jib doesn't offer a ton of movement for big moves
Pan lock loosens over the course of your day
Can't get dead vertical angle without a head on the camera plate
Tough to precisely position for a static shot, would be faster to use a tripod
The Taurus Jr. has a decent build quality, and can deliver smooth jib moves in small spaces with relative ease. This would be a great jib for a small studio or if you do real estate (interiors) video. It is simple enough for a one-man setup, and if you have a rig that is heavier than 15-20lbs, it will take the weight. If you're just shooting on a DSLR or other lightweight system though, I would look at the Orion, or some other options depending on what you shoot and get a jib that will best suit your needs.