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Review: Tiffen Steadicam Smoothee for iPhone 4/4S

Posted in iPhone, Reviews on 26/09/2012 by J. Glenn Künzler

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Apple tends to put excellent cameras in the iPhone, making significant improvements year after year. The 8MP still/1080p video camera in the iPhone 4S is an excellent example of this. Indeed, the iPhone 4 and 4S are both capable of capturing great video.

Unfortunately, no matter how good the iPhone’s camera is, it can be challenging to take smooth, steady video with a handheld device. Tiffen aims to change all that with the Steadicam Smoothee – a pro-sumor image stabilizer kit for the iPhone 4 and 4S.

Overview

In their essence, all Steadicams are fairly basic devices – they’re little more than a set of adjustable weights, a handle, and a gyroscope. As with most worthwhile things, however, a Steadicam stabilizer is more than the mere sum of its parts – it turns that basic set of components into something remarkable – in this case, a unique mounting system that keeps your iPhone (or camera) perfectly steady at all times!

Design

I was impressed with the Steadicam Smoothee right away, from the first moment I took it out of the box. The reason? Quality. The Steadicam Smoothee oozes quality. While some of its components, like the iPhone holster and the handle, are made of plastic, they’re not made of cheap plastic.

Even (and perhaps especially) with the plastic bits, it’s quite clear that Tiffen put a great deal of attention into the molding. You won’t see any rough seams or imperfections here – it’s perfect right out of the box. On top of that, all of the structural parts of the Smoothee – including the frame supporting the bottom boom – are made of metal.

Quality aside, there are also several other elements of the Smoothee that I really appreciated. For instance, the handle used to control the Steadicam folds up neatly underneath the unit when not in use. The Smoothee is also modular, and can support dozens of different video devices just be removing one mount and adding in another. The Smoothee is also very lightweight, making it ideal for longer recording sessions.

Finally, the holster itself (in this case, an iPhone 4/4S hoister  also impresses from a design perspective. Rather than being compatible with the Steadicam Smoothee alone, the holster also doubles as a tripod mount, making it easy to film from a tripod when you don’t need the mobility and stabilization of a Steadicam

Setup / Ease of Use

Fortunately, the Steadicam is not only well-designed – it’s also easy to use. Setting up the smooth is a simple process, but it can take a bit of time to adjust the Smoothee so that it holds your device perfectly level.

Once you have snapped the holster into the Smoothee, the unit will need to be adjusted using the two red knobs on the front and side of the base. The side knob controls the left and right tilt of the Steadicam, and the front knob controls the forward and backward tilt.

Fortunately, this set up only has to be done once. Once you’ve optimized the settings for your iPhone, you’re done, and won’t need to make any more adjustments unless you switch out your iPhone for some other device.

Once everything is set up, the Smoothee is a breeze to use – it’s built with absolute simplicity in mind. The Smoothee feels natural in hand, and you can easily control the movement of your iPhone in the Smoothee using only your thumb and index finger.

Does it Work?

Does the Steadicam Smoothee really have what it takes to keep your iPhone videos smooth and stable? Yes. Yes it does.

The Smoothee does a fantastic job stabilizing video. To get an idea of just how well the Smoothee stabilizes, take a look at the two sample videos that I created below – the one on the left was shot without the Smoothee, using my iPhone 5. The video on the left was shot with my iPhone 4S using the Smoothee to stabilize.

As you can see, the difference is absolutely clear – it’s also clear that I could use more practice at using a Steadicam – notice how the image pans up and down a bit in a couple of places. It can take a fair bit of practice to become really good at controlling the movement.

Verdict

The Steadicam Smoothee is a great product. It stabilizes exactly as advertised, and does and excellent job – it even compensated for the ditch I walked through filming the video, which is painfully apparent on the video shot without the Smoothee.

I would highly recommend the Steadicam Smoothee to anyone who wants to improve the quality of videos shot using an iPhone. I was extremely satisfied with both its comfort and performance. Even better, while the unit I tested was for the iPhone 4/4S, it’s likely that Tiffen will release an iPhone 5 holster soon as well, allowing you to use the device with Apple’s latest and greatest smartphone.

For more information about the Steadicam Smoothee, check out Tiffen’s website. The Smoothee retails for $149, and is available now from Amazon.com and other online retailers.

Pros

  • Affordable (especially considering the quality).
  • Doubles as a tripod mount.
  • Exceptionally build quality.
  • Easy to set up and begin using.
  • Does an excellent job stabilizing video.
  • Lightweight and comfortable to use for extended periods.

Cons

  • Takes a lot of practice to get used to controlling it.
  • Can take a while to set up the first time.
  • Can be difficult to use in windy conditions.


J. Glenn Künzler

Author

J. Glenn Künzler

Glenn is Managing Editor at MacTrast, and has been using a Mac since he bought his first MacBook Pro in 2006. Now he's up to his neck in Apple, and owns an old iBook, a 2012 iMac with an extra Thunderbolt display for good measure, a 4th-generation iPad, an iPad mini, 2 iPhones, and a Mac Mini that lives at the neighbor's house. He lives in a small town in Utah, enjoys bacon more than you can possibly imagine, and is severely addicted to pie.