While there may now be a slew of compact camcorder stabilizing rigs on the market, it was Tiffen that offered the first such product three years ago, in the form of its Steadicam Smoothee. Late last year, the company began shipping its Steadicam Curve – a device that's similar to the Smoothee, but optimized for use with GoPro Hero actioncams. I recently had the chance to try the Curve out for myself, to see how good it really is at smoothin' out the shakes.
Like the Smoothee and its various imitators, the Curve utilizes a gimbal-mounted handle and a dangling counterweight. With this setup, the user's smaller hand/arm twitches cause the handle to move relative to the camera, instead of causing the camera to move relative to what it's shooting.
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Setting the device up is quite simple.
The GoPro is attached and detached via a quick-release mount on top. To set the fore/aft balance (so the camera doesn't pitch forward or lean back), a knob on that mount is twisted left or right, incrementally moving the mount forward or backward on the Curve's body.
Setting the side-to-side balance is also necessary, to keep the horizon of your shots level. Doing so is easily achieved by twisting the threaded cylindrical counterweight one way or the other, thus gradually moving that weight to the left or right.
To shoot with the Curve, you just grab the handle with the bottom three fingers of one hand, then lightly hold the rubberized swivel collar on the underside of the camera mount between your thumb and forefinger – bigger-handed users can also just hold the handle in one hand, and pinch the collar with the fingers of the other.
Manipulating the collar allows you to pan or tilt the Curve/camera relative to the handle, but more importantly it also lets you keep it from doing so on its own, due to inertia or wind. The latter is particularly a factor, as the Curve has a tendency to turn like a wind vane if not stopped from doing so. The challenge lies in maintaining enough finger pressure to keep control of the thing, while not applying so much that your hand tremors get transmitted through your fingers – it's definitely a skill that requires some practice, so don't expect perfect footage as soon as you start using it.
For situations where you just want a good solid hold on your GoPro and don't care about lessening the shakes, the handle can also be locked in place to form an ergonomic grip (see the photo below).
So anyhow, down to brass tacks ... does it work as advertised? Yep, it does. I shot footage both with and without it, while walking, jogging and riding in a car. As can be seen in the video at the bottom of the page, it definitely smooths things out. Bigger bumps or other movements can cause it to sway, however, so you definitely have to be ready with your fingers on that collar.
The Curve weighs half a pound (227 g), comes in five colors, works with all generations of GoPro Hero, and is priced at US$99.95. It should be noted that the device is designed for use with Heroes equipped with one of GoPro's LCD BacPacs, so if you don't have one, the Curve's performance might not be optimal.
Product page: Steadicam Curve