As my photography and video business has grown, so too has the amount of gear that I bring to client shoots. This is especially true when doing video work. Since I am a ‘solo-shooter’ and never work with a crew, I was finding it more and more cumbersome to load, unload and transfer my gear. I began looking for a cost-effective, flexible solution. When I discovered the Pearstone PSL-3 Step Photographer’s Ladder with Wheels I knew it was the ideal tool for the job.
(NOTE: click on images to enlarge them)
This combination cart/ladder has a cart load capacity of 132 lbs. (59.9 Kg) and a ladder capacity of 264 lbs. (119.7 Kg). For many photographers this will be sufficient to load and move their gear in one trip. The images below show the Pearstone PSL-3 Step Ladder loaded with the gear I brought to my most recent video shoot.
Just in case you’re wondering what’s in all of those carrying cases here is a quick summary:
• 3 – Genaray SpectroLED Studio 1000 lights
• 3 – Impact heavy duty light stands
• Cinevate Atlas FLT 26” camera slider
• Kessler Pocket Jib Traveler with Kessler quick release plate, and weights
• 6 assorted video/tripod heads
• 6 tripods including Manfrotto 055CXPro3, Oben CC-2491, MeFOTO convertible travel tripod, Oben TT-300, Tamrac Zipshot, and Optex mini table top
• 50 foot heavy duty extension cord with triple receptacle
• D800 and Nikon 1 V2 cameras with a selection of 13 lenses, plus a few batteries, chargers, filters, and shot gun microphones
The Pearstone ladder/cart is constructed mainly of heavy-duty aluminum alloy along with polymer castings and some heavy-duty aluminum alloy fittings. The unit weighs 17.7 lbs. (8 Kg) and feels to be well constructed.
The cart’s carry platform measures approximately 11” x 15.5” (39.4cm x 27.9cm) and certainly looks to be solid enough to support the units stated load capacity.
One of the important construction details to examine for this type of equipment is how the carry platform is supported when it is in its loaded position. The Pearstone unit has a good sized welded fitting that locks up against two robust-looking stops that are mounted on each of the legs of the cart/ladder.
When not in use the luggage rack rotates upwards and fits snuggly into clips on each leg.
The handle at the top of the ladder/cart is well padded and has a solid feel. It provides good grip during cart application and also acts as a substantive safety rail when the unit is used as a ladder.
Opening the unit into a ladder configuration is very easily done by grasping the hand grip on the top stair and pushing downwards while the ladder is angled slightly towards you, and the steps of the ladder are facing you (the Pearstone labels on the stairs will be visible). To close the ladder you simply tilt the ladder towards you, and pull up on the hand grip on the top stair.
There is a horizontal support rod in the ladder that helps control the opening and collapsing of the unit. It appears to be made of either aluminum or stainless steel and slides along the groves in the side support structure. It locks into place when the ladder configuration is implemented and gives the ladder a feeling of additional stability.
The steps on the ladder measure 15” wide x 8.5” deep (38cm x 21.6cm) and are made of molded polymer. They have a ribbed and textured surface for added safety and security. The steps are 10” (25.4cm) apart, with the top step 30” (76.2cm) off the ground. Wedding, event and industrial photographers who often have to shoot from an elevation will find this very useful. Even when on the top step the ladder feels very strong and secure. As noted earlier, the ladder is rated for 264 lbs. (119.7 Kg).
Each leg of the ladder has a molded foot on the end which provide good grip on indoor surfaces.
The only concern I have with the construction of the Pearstone PSL 3-Step Ladder are the wheel assemblies. You can see by the wear tracking on the 5” (12.7cm) rubber wheels that they tend to camber inward slightly which puts more pressure on the outside edges of the wheels when the cart is rolling. If the cart was overloaded I’m not sure how long the wheel assemblies would last before they snapped. I could not find any replacement wheels listed on the B&H website so I’m not sure what you would do if the wheel assembly either broke, or simply wore out. I think that this part of the design needs to change and the molded polymer wheel casting should be replaced with a more robust metal casting. It may add a few dollars to the cost of the unit, but I think it would be well worth it. Failing all else, if the wheel assemblies did fail you could remove them by taking off two bolts and still have a solid step ladder.
The wheels on the ladder can be rotated inward to make it easier to store. You can see in the above photo that there are wheel lock tabs on each of the wheel assemblies that keep the two sections properly aligned.
To rotate the wheels you need to tilt the ladder away from you to make sure the wheels are off the ground then step down on the wheel assembly to disengage the wheel lock tabs.
While keeping your weight on the wheel assembly you then need to rotate it with your foot until it locks in the sideways position. I found that this takes a fair bit of effort as the spring in the wheel assembly is quite strong. People who are not concerned about the ladder taking up a little bit more storage space may choose to leave the wheels in the extended position…although this can be a trip hazard. Lighter weight folks may need to exert more effort to get the wheels to rotate.
The flat size of the ladder with the wheels folded in is 18.5” x 3.5” x 49.8” (47 x 8.9 x 126.5cm).
Overall, I think the Pearstone PSL 3-Step Photographer Ladder is a very functional and pretty well made product that represents good value. If the wheel assemblies were changed to something a bit stronger and easier to rotate I would have rated this product even higher.
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Article and all images are Copyright Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved, no use, reproduction or duplication including electronic is allowed without written consent.