While smartphone manufacturers have tried to account for shaky cam with various anti-shaking stabilising technologies, it's not always enough to conquer the shakiness. Thankfully, several companies have released stabilisers — special mounts to hold your phone and counter the effects of your hands shaking or jerking — that make it easy to take the perfect shot.
Whether or not these become as prolific an accessory as the 'selfie stick', they're being used by amateurs and professionals, including SBS TV's The Feed.
Much like the very expensive Steadicam, invented by Garrett Brown and introduced in 1975 by Cinema Products Corporation, some of these devices, such as Freefly Systems' Movi — $US369.01 ($473.85) including shipping — claim to have 'shrunk a Hollywood camera crew' into their devices when combined with your phone.
The Movi comes out later this year and looks very promising but is among the most expensive, and for good reason; its devices have a full suite of features that go well beyond some of the existing players' abilities.
Other stabilisers that have come to market include Zhiyun-Tech's Smooth Q 3-Axis Smartphone Gimbal ($149); the EVO SHIFT 3 Axis Handheld Gimbal ($US149, or $191.33); and FeiyuTech's SPG 3-Axis Gimbal ($129) and Vimble 2 ($145). As an added bonus, the Vimble 2, which also comes out later this year, also doubles as a selfie stick.
Another such device is the DJI Osmo Mobile, which I have been using for about five months now and which appears to have thrust these new line of camera stabilisers into the mainstream.
Earlier this year, DJI unveiled a new version, the Osmo Mobile 2, at $209.
When choosing to buy one of these stabilisers, it's important to look at their restrictions. While the DJI Osmo Mobile works with both Android and iOS devices, the Movi is purely for iPhone.
The battery life in DJI's original Osmo Mobile also isn't great, but because it has a detachable battery, you can always just replace it with another one. The new Osmo Mobile 2 has its battery built-in, making it impossible to put in a spare battery, but is said to support up to 15 hours of continuous use (versus 4 to 5 hours for the original).
Another really important thing to think about when buying is how you'll carry it around. I had to return my original Osmo Mobile twice after it failed to function properly within two weeks of purchase. I was travelling overseas a lot at the time, and it turns out that the gimbal inside it (the technology that does the stabilisation magic) is very sensitive to any movement, breaking on both occasions.
While DJI provides a fabric case, it's not as solid as the one provided by Zhiyun-Tech's Smooth Q, which includes foam and a hardened plastic to keep it in the same position at all times. To solve this problem, I started storing the Osmo in the original box it came in to keep it in position.
Most, if not all, stabiliser cameras include subject tracking, which means you can highlight a person or object in a shot, and if they move, the camera will follow them. While great in theory, it doesn't always work as planned and can result in the stabiliser (in my case the original Osmo Mobile) making quick, jerky movements that don't look good on film. Counter-intuitive, I know.
I found manually controlling the device was always the best option.
Most stabilisers also include a joystick, meaning you can tilt and pan manually, in addition to moving the camera around in the direction you wish to film.
So if you're on the lookout for a new smartphone accessory that will improve your photo and video taking skills, I'd highly recommend checking out the new range of stabilisers on offer.