Tested: Tiffen Steadicam Smoothee for GoPro Hero
With GoPro becoming a household name the past few years and turning into one of the market's powerhouse POV cameras, the sheer volume of Joe Videomakers using these cameras to capture their every move has increased ten-fold. GoPro'ers are constantly looking for creative and new ways to mount and utilize these pocket-sized cameras to create different and unique footage, but for anyone who has attempted to use a GoPro to shoot handheld video, you know the result is usually shaky footage due to the camera's small size and weight.
Steadicam, known for some of the most high-end camera stabilizers in the business, has remedied handheld jitters with the Steadicam Smoothee for GoPro Hero and Hero 2. Based on the same technology that is used in Hollywood production stabilizers, the Smoothee is a compact apparatus that will allow you to get smooth shake-free shots with your GoPro Hero or Hero 2 camera.
The Smoothee is compact and lightweight, something you could easily toss in a backpack on my way out to the trail head. The ergonomic handle folds up and snaps into place for easy storage when not in use, which is a nice touch when packing it for travel.
My first impression out of the box was how easy it was to balance the Smoothee front-to-back and side-to-side. As an experienced DSLR steadicam user that has owned cheaper stabilizers in the past, I knew that micro adjustments were key to getting the rig balanced quickly and easily. Without a balanced rig, you can forget about getting ANY smooth shots.
The Smoothee comes equipped with obviously labeled thumb screws on the side and back to move position the camera accordingly. After attaching my GoPro Hero 2, I was balanced within minutes.
Using the Smoothee
All camera stabilizers require practice and technique to get a smooth shot and the Smoothee for GoPro is no different. You can't expect instant, buttery results, but because setup was so easy, the learning curve should be small and frustation levels diminished. The Smoothee's small size allows you to control the pan movements and hold the entire rig using only one hand which was a nice feature. I used both one and two hands and found advantages and disadvantages to each method. Practicing and techniques and figuring what you're most comfortable with is key to a good experience. I did find that the Smoothee worked better with the LCD Bacpac attached.
The Smoothee is constructed of a combination of metal and plastic which has a solid feel that you'd expect from Steadicam. The gimbal is made of high quality components and operates smooth as butter. No complaints here.
Most people might see the $150 price tag and hesitate to pull the trigger, but for the features and ease of use, it is probably one of the best options on the market today. There are other options for lightweight cameras on the market, but they'll run you at least twice the price of the Smoothee and might be a bit overkill. If you're a frequent GoPro user and want to up the production value of your videos, this would be a great, affordable investment.
I was impressed with the Steadicam Smoothee and how easy it was to create some smooth running/walking footage with a GoPro. I found the device extremely user friendly when it came to balancing, but like any camera stabilizer you will have to practice a bit before you perfect the art of running/walking smoothly and using a stabilizer at the same time. Once you get this perfected, your GoPro videos will see a HUGE jump in production value.
I would be glad to see the main arm have the ability to fold in half for packing. I'm always traveling with a lot of camera gear and space is limited, so the arched frame might be tough to toss in smaller packs or in with luggage. Other than that, I think Steadicam nailed the design for the everyday consumer.
While the Smoothee is specifically designed for GoPro Hero and Hero 2, Tiffen has released some info to help you mount a GoPro 3. Also, during our test period, Tiffen released the Steadicam Smoothee Curve which weighs only 1/2-pounds and works with all GoPro models. You can see the initial press release about the Curve here (it's a big PDF file).
Visit www.steadicam.com for more info on the Steadicam Smoothee
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