Steadicam’s new Volt electronic smartphone stabiliser keeps working even when the batteries die

Jan 6, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Steadicam’s new Volt electronic smartphone stabiliser keeps working even when the batteries die

Jan 6, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Steadicam, the devices famous for stabilising Hollywood’s footage for decades, are refocusing their efforts towards phones. Tiffen, Steadicam’s owners, have just announced the Steadicam Volt. Taking square aim at the influx of motorised handheld gimbals launched recently, the Volt works a little differently. It also offers advantages over those motorised gimbals we’ve come to know.

It’s also been awarded as an Honoree of the 2017 CES Innovation Awards. Tiffen have released smartphone stabilisers before. The Steadicam Smoothee, for example. Unlike the Smoothee, though, this one is electronic. They’ve teamed up with drone makers, Yuneec to load it up with some pretty cool stabilisation tech. This lets it achieve camera moves no current motorised stabilisers can.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tiffencompany/steadicam-volt-smartphone-stabilizer-shake-free-vi

Despite being a pretty established company, the Steadicam Volt has been launched through Kickstarter. Presumably this is to see if there’s enough of a market out there for it. Assuming there is, and it gets fully funded, I can see no reason why they wouldn’t be able to follow through. It’s a very safe bet.

So, what can it do that a three axis gimbal can’t? Well, the biggest and most obvious one is that it can follow moving action far more quickly. So as to not stress out motors or create jerky footage, gimbals generally tend to pan very smoothly (and quite slowly). They don’t make quick sideways movements. So, things like whip-pans can be pretty much impossible to achieve.

So, if fast action or sports is your thing, the Volt is going to let you follow what’s going on more more easily. You won’t miss something because the motor’s still trying to catch up with where the handle’s pointing. It’ll probably take some getting used to, though.

Another example shown on the Kickstarter campaign shows some very quick camera movements. These happen while the phone stays locked in the same direction. Personally, though, I have a Zhiyun Smooth-C, and I’ve had no trouble doing these kinds of movements already. Not all gimbals are created equally, though, and some can’t handle this at all.

The one disadvantage of most Steadicam products, is that they can take some time to set up. Fortunately, the Volt packs up really small without having to completely disassemble it. This means you shouldn’t need to rebalance it every time you want to use it. Well, maybe if you’re switching between different sizes and weights of phones.

One massive advantage the Volt has over a regular 3 axis gimbal, though, is that it’ll still work even when the batteries are depleted. Sure, you don’t get the electronic assistance, but it will still function as a regular non-motorised Steadicam gimbal, just like the Steadicam Smoothee. And you’ll get about 8 hours of battery life before that happens.

Although the batteries in my Smooth-C last far longer than the battery in my phone while filming, I can recharge my phone between shots from USB batteries. For the Zhiyun, though, I need to take a couple of extra spare sets of batteries with me.

You can find out more about the Steadicam Volt on the Tiffen website, and order yours over on the Kickstarter project. Right now, they have a CES special running for a ridiculous $119. Once those are all out, it will cost you $139. If you wait, and get one when they’re on general sale, RRP is going to be $199.

If I didn’t already have a gimbal, I wouldn’t hesitate to back the project. Despite already owning a gimbal, I’m still rather tempted.

What do you think? Better than a regular 3-axis motorised gimbal? Or just different and both are useful for different things? Do you already have a motorised gimbal? Which do you have? And are you considering backing this project? Let us know in the comments.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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