The iPhone 4S is blessed with the best still image and video quality in the smartphone world, but its wafer-thin, diminutive stature causes major problems for more serious photographers and videographers. It’s so easy to capture beautiful 720p HD videos that look like they were shot from within the confines of a rock tumbler. Yes friends, smartphone camera jitter is one of the leading causes of nausea in the United States. I made that up.
Well, longtime camera accessory maker Tiffen has answered many a baffled soul’s prayers with the Steadicam Smoothee. This odd contraption aims to not only vacuum away the jitters in your iPhone’s footage, but it also converts you from a shaky tourist to one of Martin Scorsese’s DP’s. Was the Tiffen Steadicam Smoothee a refreshing treat on a hot summer day, or did it leave me with a Category 9 Brainfreeze? Get out your straws and let’s find out!
What is the What?
Humans are by nature unsteady creatures. Heck, with enough coffee it’s hard to keep the Canon EOS 5D Mark III locked on target. So when you place a puny little iPhone into the hands of an average human and politely ask them to pan across a delightful golden sunset, what do you think the result will be? Seizure bait.
Tiffen wants to put an end to this offensive smartphone video jitter with the Steadicam Smoothee. Built from parallel curved, tubular metal poles, the Steadicam Smoothee features two weights: one in the middle and a heavier one residing along the bottom. On top of the Smoothee is an apparatus that’s similar to a tripod head. In fact, it actually is a tripod head, offering the ability to shift the unit from side to side and forward and backward via dials.
A square lock mechanism sits at the top, where various attachments like the iPhone 4/4S harness, Flip Mino adapter and others can sit. Now where does the Smoothee part of the model name come from? That would be the handle, which features an orbital mechanism that’s smoother than butter on a waxed balloon in the middle of the Sahara. There are a few different ways to grip the Steadicam Smoothee, but I opted for the single-hand method with thumb and index finger bracing the guide ring.
Who Might Buy It?
There is a group of wacky people out in the world that think feature films and serious commercials can be shot with smartphones. This accessory is for anyone belonging to that group. Or parents who have toddlers, a little extra cash kicking around and an almost fanatical devotion to becoming the next Steven Spielberg of home movies.
The Tiffen Steadicam Smoothee is destined to achieve one thing: it wants to make your iPhone movies smoother. And that it does. I ran a few tests shooting with and without the Steadicam Smoothee and the differences between the videos I shot were dramatic. When shooting without the Smoothee, every step I took translated into a visual “bounce” onscreen. Everything was jerky and jittery, and far from professional.
But when I mounted my trusty Apple steed to the Steadycam Smoothee, all of the glistening stars aligned. Gone was the offensive “bounce” from each step. Gone were the relentless and unwanted jitters. Ushered in on a red carpet was a one-way ticket to Smooth Town with the Steadicam Smoothee in the driver’s seat.
Not only was the Smoothee a champion for videos, but it also enabled me to capture better still images. With the ability to steady the iPhone to an exacting degree and angle it precisely using the Smoothee’s orbital handle, I used my little smartphone to document all of my 5D Mark III product images without a hitch. Shazam!
If you’re a disgruntled smartphone camera user like me who constantly yakkety-yaks about how detestable it is to use a smartphone as a camera, then there’s so much to love about the Tiffen Steadicam Smoothee, and not much to dislike. The only negative I can think of is that the Smoothee does not come with additional attachments. When you order the Steadicam Smoothee for the iPhone 4/4S, you only get the iPhone 4/4S attachment, meaning you can only shoot with an iPhone.
Tiffen offers attachments for the iPhone 3GS, different Flip cameras, iPod Touch and GoPro, but guess what? They’re all an additional $25. Also, I could not for the life of me find a general attachment with tripod screw mount, which would fit hundreds of digital camera and camcorder models. It seems that Tiffen wants to keep the Smoothee destined for smartphones and pocket cams. But, if you plan on using one of the above mentioned models with the Steadicam Smoothee and nothing else, then you’ve got nothing to whine over.
I guess the only other irksome thing about the Smoothee is its $150 price tag. You’d better be balls to the wall serious about iPhone video production if you plan on shelling out a Benjamin and a half.
Does it Belong in the Herd?
I think the Tiffen Steadicam Smoothee has a cushy little cubbyhole within the Herd. It zaps away the amateurish “squiggle vision” look and smooths videos down with finesse. Again, compatibility and price were my main issues, but I never had any problems with the device itself. Do you have an iPhone? Are you serious about video production? Are you gungho about using your iPhone to make awesome, jitter-free videos? Then run out and get a Tiffen Steadicam Smoothee. I’ll be here slurping a peach on my old rocking chair filming the squirrels with my iPhone 4 perched atop a Steadicam Smoothee, dag nabit.