It's humbling, and in fact almost a little scary, when you realize just how far the video quality of mobile phones and pocket camcorders has progressed over the past few years. While features such as their resolution are truly something to behold, they do however have one distinct disadvantage when compared to their larger, heavier predecessors – they shake like crazy. It's a shortcoming that's addressed by the Steadicam Smoothee.
Professional videographers tend to have steadier handheld footage than casual shooters mainly because they're using wider lenses and shoulder mounts, but also simply because the extra weight of their larger cameras has a way of "flattening out" the jiggles. A featherweight mobile phone held in an unsupported extended hand, however, tends to show up every little breath, heartbeat or nervous tic of its user.
Like Steadicam's existing rigs for movie and television cameras, the Smoothee uses counterweights to live up to its name. The phone/camcorder mounts on top, in a quick-release bracket, while the weights are located on a curved metal arm that extends underneath. The user holds the contraption by a pistol-style grip, that is joined to the mounting platform via a freely-moving gimbal connection.
Adjustment knobs on the platform allow the phone to be minutely moved from side to side or front to back, in order to get its weight perfectly balanced over the Smoothee. Once that has been achieved, the device will always maintain that level position, with the energy of user-generated shakes going into moving the grip instead of moving the phone. Should users want to move the phone, such as to pan or tilt, they can do so by reaching up with their thumb and forefinger and gripping a guide ring on the underside of the platform.
The Steadicam Smoothee currently accepts the iPhone 3GS and 4, iPod touch, and the FLIP Mino HD, although mounts for additional phones and cameras are reportedly on the way. It sells for US$200.
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