For professional-looking videos, one of the fundamental rules for the vast majority of shots is to use a tripod. Doing so can be a hassle, however – particularly if you’re running around banging off quick shots for some sort of extreme sports video. With that in mind, New Jersey-based Wild Iron Inc. is introducing a little something known as the Flex Shot. Essentially, it’s a deformable 4 x 4-inch (10 x 10-cm) heavy-duty rubber bag full of a “sand-like material,” with a coated aluminum camera mount on top. I recently had a chance to try out a prototype unit, and I think the idea has a lot of merit.
To use the Flex Mount, you simply screw your compact video camera, point-and-shoot, or DSLR onto the standard threaded mounting stud, then plop everything onto pretty much whatever surface you wish – a universal adapter is available for smartphones and tablets, too.
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In the case of flat surfaces, you can then shift the bag subtly to straighten out the shot, or tilt it to achieve wacky angles. Where the Flex Shot really comes into its own, though, is on uneven surfaces. I had no problems placing mine on branches, broken-off tree stumps, rocks, and other objects that would present considerable difficulties for a conventional minipod. Not only does the squishy nature of the bag allow it to conform to the shape of whatever it’s placed upon, but its weight also helps keep it in place.
The big competitor for the Flex Shot, however, will undoubtedly be a certain unconventional minipod – the US$20 original model of Joby’s Gorillapod. With its bendable, grippy legs, it can be wrapped around things like branches, or easily made to straddle rocks. It’s lighter, too. With the Flex Shot that I was using weighing in at 3 pounds (1.4 kg), it could certainly add some unwanted heft to a gear bag if it was being carried for long distances.
That said, its extra pounds allow the Flex Shot to do some things that an unaided Gorillapod can’t. For starters, it’s great for getting shots from a car’s dashboard – its weight and wide rubber surface area allow it to grip the smooth plastic dash, even when going around corners. Because it weighs more than the camera attached to it (a heavier model is in the works for larger cameras), it can also be laid on its side to get shots looking straight down over ledges.
Additionally, because it’s got some weight yet is completely waterproof, it can be securely placed in fast-flowing currents. If you want to get underwater shots of salmon swimming upstream (just for example), it’s what you’d want to use. The same thing could be done by wrapping a Gorillapod’s legs around a suitably heavy rock, although such a rock might or might not be close at hand.
Competition will also come in the form of products like The Pod ($17 and up) – essentially bean bags with integrated camera mounts. For that matter, even a plain old bean bag without a mount will suffice for many situations. As compared to most such products, however, the Flex Mount still has the advantages of being waterproof, grippy all over, and (in cases where it is an advantage) heavier. Additionally, the sandy material inside of it allows it to hold its desired shape better and longer than the relatively loosely-packed dried beans in bean bags.
Wild Iron – which also brought us the SteadyWheel camera stabilizer – has set about raising production funds for the Flex Shot, on Kickstarter. A pledge of $30 will currently get you a 3-pound model, when and if the funding goal is met. The estimated retail price is $45, shipping included.
The Flex Shot can be seen in use in the pitch video below.