If you're a movie buff, you've probably heard of the Steadicam, one of those big harnesses videographers use to stabilize their shots while filming. Now for US$199, you can have a mini-version of the device for your iPhone. Overkill? Maybe.
Do you shoot lots of videos and still pictures with your Apple smartphone? Do they often turn out shaky and wobbly? If so, the Steadicam Smoothee -- which works with the iPhone 3Gs, iPhone 4/4S, iPod touch, FLIP MinoHD and GoPro Hero -- can help. It's based on the same technology as the big $60,000 rigs used in Hollywood, and allows you to capture video and still images without the shakes normally associated with hand-held shots.
Its quick release mount lets you swap camera connections between your Smoothee and any tripod, although I only used it with the iPhone 4/4S mount. The patented quick release removable mount also serves as a tabletop stand or can be mounted to any tripod with a standard ¼ x 20 inch camera mount. The ergonomic hand-grip folds up securely when you're not using it.
The Steadicam Smoothee can indeed make your iPhone videos less shaky, but you're going to have to invest time in a learning curve to accomplish this, especially with the free-swinging gimbal (the same sort of joint employed in keeping a ship's compass level) and handle arrangement. If you hit the Smoothee with your hand, bump against something, etc., you'll mess up your shot.
The red knobs (for trimming left, right, up, down) should trim the Smoothee so it's at sitting level. If it's "swimming" from side to side, then you have more of an operation issue rather than a balancing issue.
Two hands should be used to operate the Smoothee: one hand on the grip, and one hand just using your index finger and thumb to gently guide the Smoothee in the direction you want the lens to face. The index finger and thumb should be on the ring, just underneath the stage.
Tiffen says with a little practice, you'll become accustomed to operating the Smoothee smoothly without the handle flopping around. It took Yours Truly a LOT of practice to get used to it, but maybe that's just me. To see what I'm talking about, check out this YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bk4XxqHIJzA .
Before you spend time mastering the use of the Smoothee, you should decide if it's worth it as: 1) you'll have to use your iPhone without a case with the Steadicam device, which poses some dangers to the smartphone, and 2) said device adds a LOT of bulk to the Apple smartphone, which may, for some, defeat the entire purpose of having a small camcorder (or, in this case, a phone that doubles as a small camcorder). Also, note that you shouldn't use a Steadicam in situations where a tripod would be better, such as long, static shot.
If you use your iPhone a lot for filming video, the Smoothee could be a solid investment. If you only use it sporadically or for short videos, the Steadicam device is, indeed, overkill.
Rating: 6 out of 10
-- Dennis Sellers