Saturday, January 14, 2012

Caveat Emptor 2: Electric Boogaloo

This one is a little bit more problematic than the last. I purchased a DSLR rig that I really hoped would be useful to me. I spoke with the seller, asked pretty much any questions I might have, and he answered them (though, looking back now, I can see where some of the answers may have been very specifically worded to be somewhat evasive, if not deceptive, but that's beyond the point, I suppose).

The company is called Monaceio. Judging from their Ebay and their website, they've been offering various DSLR rigs for sale for a little over a year. Their price point is right around some of the cheapest Jag35, IndiSystem, and various India-based Ebay rigs and accessories. I know what being a start-up is like, and the seller seemed to be a straight shooter, so I went ahead and purchased it. Here's what I expected to get.

Camera, matte box, Rode mic, LED video light, and girl not included.

They also told me there was a follow focus included with the system, and that I could attach a second party's mattebox and other accessories after market. This is really what interested me; I really wanted to start using a follow focus, and the ability to upgrade is really what sold me. If I decided I needed more stuff in the future, why, I could just add it right on there!

It arrived just in time for my first real DSLR shoot (with the HVX200 as my backup, stationary wide angle camera). I was pretty excited.

The box, however, made me a bit worried... it was a smaller USPS Priority Flat Rate box, which... I've had trouble fitting much of anything into in the past. They couldn't fit much larger than a few t-shirts and several bars of soap.

Or, as USPS promises, 5 apples, a block of cheese, and some honey.

When I took the item out of the box, I noticed it was wrapped in a Target shopping bag... not a good sign. Once I unwrapped it, this is what I found.

Pardon the highly offensive Christmas tablecloth.

The rig is made of tent poles, a few VMS spark plug brackets, two base plates, and fucking LEGOs. I shit you not, the follow focus is made of goddamn LEGOs. The follow focus ring (or whip?) is made from a zip tie.

This is the kind of thing that you might be psyched to build for yourself as a temporary DIY rig for $25, $50 max. This rig? $300 out of my pocket.

He didn't send the User Manual until it was scheduled to arrive. I look a look at it afterwards when it arrived in the mail.

Here's the PDF of their User Manual.

This is the first time the construction of the rig becomes very apparent, and the LEGOs are ever mentioned or pictured. I now understand why they waited until it was going to arrive to send it, and it isn't available on the site. It tries to guide you through how to use this jerryrigged thing. Had I seen ANY of those photos or info prior to ordering, I wouldn't have.

I promptly filed a complaint and they were very willing to accept it back, I'll give them that much. They offered me $100 back to keep it (because they'd still be making $150-$175 profit that way), or a complete refund minus shipping. PayPal ended up giving me a complete refund.

I would give them a little credit for accepting it back so readily, but since posting the photos and user guide on another forum, the owners threatened to sue the forum if they didn't remove the user guide as copyright infringement. Mind you, that guide is the ONLY thing that really details exactly what their rig is made of and how it functions, nothing on their website does. What a bunch of scumbags. They also emailed me asking me to remove the review, most likely because it's the only thing anyone has to go off of aside from their website, as I've since noticed that their Ebay feedback is all entirely private except for the remarks themselves.

Stay clear of these guys. If you'd like to know how to build a rig like theirs for less than $50, I can post the tutorials.

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