The iPhone 4S brought true HD video recording (1080p, up to 30 fps) to the masses, and fortunately for iPhone owners, the accessories industry has wasted no time in developing products to make your videos even more professional-looking. iStabilizer's Dolly (US$59.95) has arrived in time for you to shoot your summer vacation videos like a pro. Be sure to enter into our giveaway of an iStabilizer Dolly later in this post.
First, let's talk a bit about dolly or tracking shots. These are a staple of cinematography, using a wheeled cart (usually on tracks) holding a movie or video camera to smoothly move the camera towards, away from, or perpendicular to the subject. For iPhone videography, you certainly don't want to have to carry tracks along with you, and that's where the Dolly comes in.
At first glance you might think that the Dolly is a child's toy. It features two sets of skateboard wheels mounted to a short metal body, with an ingenious flexible arm that bends into a variety of positions. At the end of the arm is a mount that can hold an iPhone, an iPod touch, a GoPro camera (with an optional GoPro tripod mount), or even a lightweight video camera. You don't want to overload the Dolly, however, so don't plan on mounting your DSLR on the end of the arm.
At 1.25 pounds, the Dolly is light enough to fit into your backpack or a larger camera bag so that it's available at any time. The wheeled base is about 8" wide x 3" high x 5" deep, and you can remove the arm (which can stretch as far as 11") for compact storage.
My favorite feature of the Dolly is how you can adjust the angle of the wheels fore and aft for making arcing pans. The bolt that holds the front and rear axles to the frame has thumb screws at either end, and there are angled marks painted on the body so that you can precisely adjust how tight a turn the Dolly makes.
I'm also impressed with the adjustable arm, which is made of seven interlocking pieces that flex under pressure, but stay put when you don't want them to move. The spring-loaded mount on the end of the arm can grab onto an iPhone in just about any case out there. That means if you want to toss your phone into a LifeProof or driSuit case, you could theoretically use it with the Dolly in the rain or do a rolling shot into the waves at a beach. Of course, if your video camera or iPhone case has a built-in threaded tripod mount, you can remove the spring-loaded mount and just screw the camera onto the end of the arm.
The Dolly really works quite well, both to shoot straight track shots or interesting curved dolly shots of a subject. The adjustability of the arm makes it very easy to frame your subject in the iPhone's fixed-focus video image, and the mount holds onto just about any iPhone case or "naked" iPhone equally well.
The choice of material for the wheels was a good one -- even on hard surfaces, you cannot hear any wheel noise, and they seem to dampen vibration on some surfaces as well. About the only thing I'd like to see added to the Dolly is a motor drive that would move the mount at a pre-defined speed so that you don't have to nudge it along with a hand. Of course, that would add significantly to the price of the product.
For taking panning or track shots with your iPhone or iPod touch, the iStabilizer Dolly is the perfect product. Results don't lie -- using this accessory can take a boring video shot of a subject and give it life and movement. The Dolly should be in the equipment bag of anyone who loves to shoot video with their iPhone.
- Extremely well-constructed and designed
- Adjustable to a variety of positions for different types of panning or tracking video shots
- Reasonable priced for a videography product
- Compact and lightweight for easy portability
- No assembly or user manual in box, although it's fairly easy to figure out how to put the Dolly together
Who is it for?
- Pro or amateur videographers who want to add a touch of class to their iPhone videography, creative professionals looking for a new way to shoot product videos.
We love to give away review items here at TUAW, and one lucky TUAW reader is going to walk away with an iStabilizer Dolly. Here are the rules for the giveaway:
- Open to legal US residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 and older.
- To enter, fill out the form below completely and click or tap the Submit button.
- The entry must be made before August 2, 2012 11:59PM Eastern Daylight Time.
- You may enter only once.
- One winner will be selected and will receive an iStabilizer Dolly valued at US$59.95
- Click Here for complete Official Rules.