B&H recently ran a deal on a product I had my eyes on a couple years back: the Steadicam Solo Stabilizer and Monopod for getting smooth shots. It was originally $500, but you can pick it up now for as low as $150. Where did it all go wrong?
Winding back the clock, RC Helicopters and quadcopters had just become “drones,” and if you wanted to fly your GoPro in the air, you needed to stabilize it. In came the gimbal, which had arguably reached the masses for the first time. When Freefly debut their MOVI system, the gimbal became handheld like never before.
It hasn’t been an awful long time, but the rush to market from this style of stabilization has been incredible. You can stabilize your phone, your Arri, and everything in between. Hell, there’s even room for a gimbal on a Steadicam system.
Why Would You Buy a Steadicam?
It’s no surprise that Steadicam, and knock-offs alike, have surely taken a hit from this. High-end Steadicam operators are always going to be needed on large sets, but on smaller ones, I’m not so sure. Why bring a device that can be difficult to use and weighs more than the comparable gimbal?
The Steadicam Solo is a brilliant idea and perfect for event videography, but that’s not to say it’s any lighter than the competition. The plus side is that it’s cheaper, doesn’t need a battery, and can be put on the ground easily. Would I personally consider getting one? Not at all.
The motor in a handheld gimbal-based system can take the slight errors in balance that I’ve made and smooth them out. Their batteries are generally amazing (my Ronin-M doesn’t need a charge for 2-3 shoots), and I’ve never had any unreliability. The Solo was $500 when it was released, making for a sharp discount in the wake of competition.
Tiffen, the people who now make the Steadicam-branded stabilizers, have tried to meet people in the middle with the new Steadicam Volt. It’s small, for smartphones, and includes a built-in gimbal of sorts, electronically aiding the process in order to make things a bit easier. Let’s face it: the consumer who buys this might not understand how to balance a Steadicam. At that, they may not grasp how to control it. Bringing in the gimbal should help users get past that learning curve.
Is it enough to win the hearts of the consumers? What about the professionals at the lower end? This new Steadicam offering from Tiffen could make them more attractive, even just to test out and get a feel for the system.