There is a huge array of suction mounts on the market these days for mounting cameras of all sizes onto vehicles at all angles. The advent of the GoPro has sometimes meant that photographers think everything can be shot using that tiny camera. However, there are only so many shots that the fisheyed GoPro can do. And high definition, DSLR or medium format still photography needs something more secure. If you are going to trust your cameras to a suction mount’s ability to defy atmospheric pressure, you want to be sure they are a good solid mount. I’ve used a variety of mounts at a variety of price points over the years, but time and again, Woods PowrGrip prove to be the most dependable I’ve used so far. They look outwardly identical to many other suction cups, including the popular Manfrotto model, but they have several key differences. Here’s why we recommend them.
Woods aren’t camera grip manufacturers. They only make suction based lifting equipment, specialising in the glazing industry with products for installing commercial windows into those huge car showrooms and shopfronts. So they’re experts at making suction mounts that are industrial strength. The cups for this review are from GGR Glass in the UK. They are experts at lifting huge glass assemblies using only vacuum as the method for stopping it all coming crashing to the ground, so sticking a camera onto the side of a car is pretty small beer for them. Overkill? You may think so, but Woods PowrGrip are the industry standard in the film and TV grip industry too, so if it’s good enough for Hollywood, then I’m OK with that.
The mounts come in a variety of sizes, the ones seen here are the 15cm diameter with an industry standard 1/4 inch threaded stud. GGR Glass also supply the 5/8 inch pins that screw onto the stud and provide an anchor point for other grip kit including Super Clamps, Arri grip heads etc. With or without the stud, the cups integrate into the workflow of any other grip kit you may already have.
The second reason is the construction of the cup itself. As I mentioned, at a glance they look identical to others. But they’re not. The cup is deeper and made of a softer rubber. This serves two useful purposes. First off, the deeper cup allows you to mount onto slightly curved car panels with ease. Secondly, the softer rubber compound allows you to push them onto compound curves while you’re pumping the air out and gets you into places that others cannot. The secondary benefit is that they continue to be effective at very low temperatures, not becoming stiff and unyielding. I’ve used PowrGrips successfully in temperatures down to -25c plus wind chill and at speeds over 130kph in Sweden, shooting the video below.
Thirdly, payload. The 15cm cups here have a massive 32kg payload. Far beyond the weight of most camera rigs. However, if you’re shooting video and not stills, where shutter speed cannot be used to simulate motion, then the forces exerted on a 3kg camera are far higher than the actual weight. Having a 32kg margin can only be a good thing.
PowrGrip have a single vulnerability that you must be aware of. The precious vacuum seal they create as you pump out the air is held by a thin bead of rubber at the edge of the cup. It’s easily nicked and damaged and once that happens, they’re no longer secure. They absolutely must be handled with care and always, always kept in their protective covers when not in use. Additionally, be absolutely sure that the surface you’re securing to is totally clean and grit free. Take those simple precautions and they’re fine. I’ve used these mounts for the past eight years with no trouble.
I’ll write in another blog post about techniques for using suction mounts, but you can from the video above that they are extremely secure. In use, the PowrGrips are self evident in their application. Personally, I set them in position with a slight vacuum, make any adjustments needed to the rest of the mounting, before locking everything off and pumping out the air until the red tell-tale line is no longer in view. Take a final ‘pre-flight’ check that everything is tight and there are no red lines in view and you’re good to go.
When you’re done, remove all other attachments before removing the suction cups last by pinching the two removal lugs together. You’re basically reversing your build up procedure. Resist the temptation to slacken the cups and try and remove the whole camera, head and suction cup as an assembly. That’s a recipe for something getting dropped onto the car. Don’t do it.
You will often find a black ring of residue left behind on the car with Woods products. Don’t panic, it’s not permanent and some soft car wax will remove it. Best to have that nearby so that the car owner doesn’t get over stressed!
These mounts come in a variety of sizes and payloads, some with tripod heads already attached. You can see the full range on the GGR Glass online shop here. If you only ever mount a GoPro onto the outside of a car, then you’ll probably never need a Woods PowrGrip. But once you move to mounting larger HDSLR cameras for stills and video, you have a lot more weight to accommodate and you’ll be glad you have the extra margins that these products give you.
GGR Glass http://www.ggrglass.co.uk/suction-mounts