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-3S 3-Step Photographer’s Ladder with Wheels, I knew it was the ideal tool for the job.
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 image below shows 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:
- 3x Genaray SpectroLED Studio 1000 lights
- 3x Impact heavy duty light stands
- Cinevate Atlas FLT 26” camera slider
- Kessler Pocket Jib Traveler with Kessler quick release plate, and weights
- 6x assorted video/tripod heads
- 6x 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
- Nikon 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-3S 3-Step Photographer’s Ladder is a very functional and pretty well made product that represents good value. If the wheel assemblies were changed to something stronger and easier to rotate I would have rated this product even higher.
Where to Buy
The Pearstone PSL-3S 3-Step Photographer’s Ladder can be purchased from B&H Photo Video for $99.95 (as of 07/17/2014).
Article and all images are Copyright Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved, no use, reproduction or duplication including electronic is allowed without written consent.
Pearstone PSL-3S 3-Step Photographer's Ladder
- Build Quality
- Size and Weight
- Ease of Use
Photography Life Overall Rating
It’s currently on sale for $59.95 at B&H with Free Expedited Shipping!!!
Got mine from B&H.
Where did you buy it and get it ship to Canada? I live in Ottawa and BH want to charge $80 for shipping and fee.
Thanks for this useful info. Looks like a nice piece of equipment.
Yup…very nice piece of equipment. Used it today for a still photography session and found being able to stand on the top step really helped to get some good perspectives when using my Nikkor 16-35 f/4 indoors.
I haven’t had mine that long to judge how sturdy the wheel assemblies will be. I have not had any issues with the wheels unintentionally turning in. With the design I could see that happening if the unit was overloaded. As you can see from the photos in the review…I do put a reasonable amount of gear on mine.
Thanks Tom! I like your notion of “reasonable”! :D
Trying to order one up from B&H right now and for same reason the Purolator customs clearance option is not coming up. I note you’re on the Cdn side as well; how did you receive yours?
Received mine this week! :) Pleasantly surprised with the beefy construction. The wheel assemblies are a little wiggly but will see how they hold up. I still have plans to replace with a set of pneumatic tires for rougher terrain. Currently working on methods to mount telescoping light stand poles to the sides.
Great review, Thomas, and timely for me as well! I’ve been browsing for cart options for outdoor location shoots for the past week or so. I had already stumbled across this Pearstone cart however hadn’t seen anyone review it until yours popped up just recently.
My concept began simply with wanting a way to use my bag of gear (currently in a roll-along hockey equipment bag!) as ballast/lightstand for a large California Sunbounce reflector. The concept was inspired by the (insanely priced) Clik Elite Perspective cart/bag, which is when the potential for a ladder entered the picture.
I think I’ll try this Pearstone and bolt on a couple of telescoping light stand cores along the sides of the frame, and maybe an extra grip mount on the handle bar. I may also replace the folding wheels with an axle and two large pneumatic tires for better use on rough ground, similar to those seen on the Eckla Rolly carts.
Since the stock wheels push downward to stow, have you encountered any issue with them stowing unintentionally when snagging on bumps/steps? You mention the spring force is quite high, so maybe that prevents it?
Thanks and regards,
Get a crew! You’re life and work will be so much better. I promise. One intern, one true assistant. Charge your clients bit more and for a while you’ll make just a little bit less, but in the long run it will be worth it.
I like your thinking about an assistant. Honestly, I have just about the best one – especially for pet photography… and she works cheap… thank goodness my wife is gaga for dogs and cats. It was hard to get her help until I started shooting pets. Now she has fun with it despite the hard work!
:-) thanks for the perspective…but an intern and/or assistant is not for me.
Due to my extremely independent nature I actually enjoy being a ‘solo shooter’….and all of my gear has been coordinated so I can set-up and tear-down very quickly. With the gear that I have I can usually set-up and be ready to go in 20 minutes. I’m very focused at what I do and clients are often amazed how much more efficient I am on site compared to other video suppliers that come in with a crew. Obviously it is important to understand the types of jobs for which I’m best suited. I ‘stick to my knitting’ and have turned down work that is not a good fit for me.
Employees are something that I left behind when I left corporate life almost 14 years ago and I have no interest in adding any now. I love the freedom that I have to do whatever I want…whenever I want and not have to worry for one second about generating additional income to support any employees.
Thank you, Nasim … I’m definitely going to hold onto this and give it some thought. I’ve been doing more and more model home / architectural stuff and when outdoors, I usually pop up through the roof of my Rav4 to shoot elevations, but sometimes I can’t really drive the car up onto people’s lawns across the street to get the angle I want … lol … they frown on that. So the rickety ladder I usually use … and the camera shake from my fear (hate heights) … are not the solution. This looks like it just might be!!! Thanks again!!!
If you don’t need to get up too high the Pearstone 3-Step Ladder should do a very good job for you. The top step is 30″ from the ground which should give you reasonable elevation…especially if shooting through the roof of the Rav4 is currently working.
Thanks so much, Tom. I’m looking for a bit of height but stability is key as well. Around this area, the grading is generally done so that the houses are raised above street level to varying degrees … so crawling through the sun roof usually does the trick. But maneuvering the car, if there are other parked cars or if there is any traffic can be problematic.
There are times when I like to use a telephoto from the lawn of the house across the street to get a better variety of angles. This can often get me nearly level with the house I’m shooting … but just that extra few feet of elevation can be a great help.
By the way, if anyone else does this kind of thing and is interested, I found a tutorial for a filter in CS6 for Adaptive Wide Angle Lens Correction that I blogged about … it’s not a cake walk and I’m still perfecting how to use it, but it offers an alternative to the standard transform, skew, scale bit. Here’s a link:
With an 18″ width and solid construction I think you’ll find the Pearstone ladder quite stable.
I recently purchased DxO ViewPoint 2 to adjust architectural angles etc. I haven’t mastered by any means, but it seems fairly easy to use as a standalone program.
I have this ladder as it was recommended to me by another photographer. I use it sometimes as a cart but mostly use the Rock N’ Roller TR-8 to carry equipment. The ladder comes with me anyway in case I want to elevate my shots. I often use this ladder when doing real estate shoots. Furthermore, I use it in the studio to get to some of my high shelves. I find it to be very sturdy. Good article and a great heads up for a very good product.
Glad you enjoyed the review! I haven’t had this ladder very long but I also find it very sturdy and flexible.
How long have you had your Pearstone ladder, and how are the wheel assemblies holding up?
Tom, I bought the ladder about a year ago and use it frequently. However, I also bought the Rock N’ Roll cart right after I got the ladder and when I am packaging and moving as much gear as you show above I use the cart and take the ladder in case I need it.
I have loaded the cart several times with Pelican cases and tripods and light stands and so far I see no abuse of the wheel assemblies. I think the Pearstone ladder is stronger than we expect it to be and I think it will last longer then we expect. Having said that, you have to keep in mind I don’t use mine in the very same way you do if I’m taking as much gear.
What an unusual, but really great article, I love this ladder, it would be perfect for a number of my interests, including photography.
I wonder if you can post the manufacturers website details up for me – I will re-read the article in case I missed it. You may recall I am in the UK and thus have no access to B&H directly, or even by Mail Order.
I’d like to find the UK stockist, if there is one. $99 is a steal.