Pro videographers and cinematographers know that to stabilize moving handheld shots, there's nothing like the Steadicam. This camera stabilization system has been around since 1976 and revolutionized filmmaking by eliminating the need for a camera dolly for moving shots. Now Tiffen has released the Steadicam Smoothee (US$179.95, less at online retailers) to give your iPhone much the same smooth "floating" video capability as the much more expensive professional versions.
When you're shooting video with a Steadicam Smoothee, you're going to get attention. As with the professional Steadicams, the Smoothee uses a counterweighted camera mount attached to a gimbal. This allows the camera -- in this case the iPhone -- to move smoothly when handheld rather jerking up and down.
The iPhone 4/4S is held in an adapter that can be unlocked from the Smoothee body and placed on top of a tripod for still photography or stationary video shots. There are adapters for other devices as well, including the iPhone 3GS and GoPro Hero.
The entire device feels very well made. The handgrip feels very comfortable in your hand, and the gimbaling mechanism can be controlled with a thumb to produce smooth pans. When you're done with your video, the Smoothee slips into a provided carrying bag for protection.
On the main body of the Smoothee are three knurled plastic knobs that provide a way to level the camera platform before shooting or pre-position the camera left, right, up or down.
It takes only a few minutes to get the hang of the Steadicam Smoothee. That's good, because the instructions that come with the device leave a lot to be desired and the company's website doesn't even load properly in Safari.
Once your iPhone is secured to the device, you make sure it's level and then start the video rolling. Walking at a normal pace, you keep your eye on the iPhone display to make sure you're capturing the subject, making minute adjustments or pans with your fingers. Steadicam recommends using one of three methods to shoot video with the Smoothee -- I felt that the one-handed method using my thumb to "steer" the camera worked the best.
How well does it work? Watch the video below for a vivid example of how the Steadicam Smoothee creates very smooth motion shots:
- Lightweight, well-built
- Adds the classic Steadicam look to your iPhone videos
- Reasonably priced
- Easy to get the hang of shooting video with it
- Can swap out mounts for other devices such as the GoPro Hero
- Good online support forum
- Instruction sheet is fairly minimal
Who is it for?
- Anyone who shoots a lot of video with an iPhone 4 or 4S and would like to improve the stability and quality of motion shots.