Philip Bloom PocketDolly | In-depth Review
The highly anticipated Phillip Bloom signature series Pocket dolly from Kessler Crane has starting shipping in batches of 12 thus far. We were quick to snap up the traveler 2’ length from the initial batch.
Right from the shipping box you’ll notice that the slider is packed extremely well for the rigors of international shipping. Even the strap for the included padded case is wrapped in an excessive amount of bubble wrap. This amount of care on shipping alone had me very excited to see how well this dolly is built.
After finally getting through all the saran and plastic wrap, we’re left with one solid kit. It’s nearly made entirely of milled aluminum (aside from a few plastic knobs and the rubber track). The build quality is top notch and the tolerances seem to be very tight. This gives it, not only a feeling of durability, but a nice amount of heft. I also have to take a second to acknowledge how great the anodized red aluminum looks! While seeing it on Philip Bloom’s blog during the testing phase, I was really hoping the production model would retain the red accents; Kessler Crane did not disappoint.
It also comes standard with the outrigger feet, a flat mount adapter and a custom padded soft case. The flat mount adapter, to me, feels like it should be a standard accessory for all pocket dollies considering its simple design and the fact the most other sliders come a 3/8” stud or adapter as standard issue. Though, considering the price, it’s nice they included it.
The outrigger feet are simply splendid – coming from a few sliders (more on that later) it was great to have these leveling legs included. The custom padded case is a nice added touch; we love cases / bags and think everything you buy should come with one. Though one minor hiccup is that you need to take a decently sized tripod head off to close the case fully ( Manfrotto 701 HDV in our case ) It would’ve been nice to see them add a little extra room to accompany smaller fluid heads, though nothing a quick release plate can’t remedy.
After initially testing it out in my condo (taking some dolly shots of my cat), we got to use it while shooting the outdoor scenes for our latest short film for Still Motion’s contest ( more details here ). Smooth, smooth, simply smooth! This dolly is by far the smoothest slider we’ve used yet. So much so that if you backed off the drag control and gave it a decent nudge, it seemed to stop with a nice ease to it.
An excellent feature that came from the Cineslider is the drag control and having this added to this pocket dolly is well worth its price of admission. Dial in as much or as little drag as you’d like; it also acts as a brake if fully tightened down. The dial is the perfect mix of control; not too fine so it takes all day to add any drag, but fine enough to apply exactly the amount of drag needed. I can certainly see why Philip Bloom made such a fuss of bringing this over to the Pocket Dolly line and it’s more than appreciated.
On the other end of the dolly is the crank. Also borrowed from the Cineslider, it’s adjustable so you can vary the diameter of the crank turn radius; smaller for faster tracks or longer for slower ones. In practical use, I found it hard to get a good consistent track speed and resorted back to pushing the head with my hand. Perhaps this takes some practice to get used to – time will tell!
The ‘slider’ market appears to be getting more and more crowded with offerings from GlideTrack, Cinevate, Kessler Crane and DP Slider among others and DIY options. To us, the more competition the better – though things can get a bit confusing. We’ve only had the opportunity to use the GlideTrack SD and a the Slidr from local company HandCraft Creative ( very similar to the GlideTrack HD ). Both of these systems are “IGUS” based (Teflon sleeves) instead of bearing based as all offerings from Kessler Crane (as of PocketDolly 2.0, Cinevate & DP Slider).
The IGUS based systems are generally pretty good, though you get a fair amount of sticking and ‘chugging’ which forces you to sometimes re-do a shot multiple times to get it just right. They’re also prone to not performing well in moist/damp or sub-zero (freezing Canadian weather) conditions. The thicker the track, the better, is generally the rule of thumb with these systems, though I wouldn’t recommend anything below a GlideTrack HD, which brings us into the price range of the DP Slider Kesslar Crane PocketDolly Basic and the upcoming Cinevate Atlas-10.
The Philip Bloom PocketDolly has also the added the ability to drop in the ‘elektradrive’ drive pods, which work with the Oracle controller for highly customizable motorized tracking or timelapse photography. Being able to build up your gear is another attractive attribute.
The Philip Bloom PocketDolly Signature Series is an extremely well built piece of gear. The extra features added over the standard PocketDolly’s, while not necessary, add a lot to the overall functionality.
At $1095.95 USD this may not be intended for the average user, however as a professional who uses a linear tracking system (slider) on almost every shoot, it was a sound investment. If you have the means or if you find yourself using a lower end system on a near daily basis I’d highly recommend picking one up, it will pay for itself in no time and just look at that red you know you want one!