Having some kind of support for your camera used to be the exclusive preserve of professional shutterbugs. With the global rise of vlogging as a pastime that almost anyone can indulge in, more regular citizens are asking the question: “How can I keep my camera steady while I’m filming?”
While there are ways you can stabilize footage using software, as with anything to do with movie-making, it’s always better if you can do it “in camera” at the time of shooting. This is where a gimbal comes in.
What is it?
The Hohem iSteady X is a 3-axis stabilized gimbal which uses positional sensors and motors to keep a camera, in this case your phone, level and free of shake imparted by your hands. It does this with three smooth and powerful motors attached to a handle and your phone. The sensors ensure that the phone stays where it starts. It’s a bit like a chicken head, where no matter where the body moves, the head stays in the same position.
Attaching your phone to the gimbal is as easy as using a selfie stick, and once turned on, the motors and the sensors make sure your shots are smooth and professional.
Inside the box is your iSteady X gimbal, a lead for charging the internal battery, a soft pouch to carry it around in and a short tripod which when closed also extends the handle and when open allows the gimbal to be put down on a flat surface for vlogging with face-tracked camera moves.
Setup is easy. Just unlock the motors, unfold and screw down the main strut, clip your phone into the head and turn it on. Installing the app before you put your phone in is also advisable.
Review and evaluation
First impressions of this gimbal are that it’s really pretty darn good. The build quality is really quite high. It feels solid and expansive.
Getting set up was a bit fiddly at first, but most of that was just me being an idiot. Of course it’s best to install the Hohem app first and get yourself registered, etc., before you put it in the clip of the gimbal. Then you don’t have to chase it around with your finger to press on-screen buttons. I’m glad nobody saw me doing that.
As well as registering and signing in with Hohem, you have to authorize the phone to talk to the gimbal as a Bluetooth device. This is all simple stuff.
When you’re all set and power up the device, it rotates the phone to be upright. This is both a little bit spooky and very cool. Once it’s in the upright position, any movement of your arm and hand is not translated to the phone but smoothly absorbed by the motors, which move silently to keep the phone exactly where it started.
Does this mean you can’t move it at all? Of course not. If you persistently turn the phone to the right, eventually the motors will get the idea you want to turn, and they will turn too. There is also a joystick pad under your thumb for steering the camera in any direction, and this, too, is smooth and not jerky at all.
In fact, if you steer the phone to the right while turning to the right, you can get very smooth and cinematic moves. It takes practice to get good at camera moves with smart supports, but luckily, acquiring this muscle memory with this kit is much fun.
As well as the joypad under your thumb when you hold the gimbal, there are two buttons. One of these is the shutter button. It takes a picture (or starts a video depending on mode), which means you don’t need to touch the phone once it’s in the embrace of the gimbal. The button on the right is the on/off button when held for a second or two. If you tap the button, it automatically changes the phone orientation from horizontal to vertical, handy for stills.
Why would you use a gimbal for stills? The answer is: low light. Having a very steady platform really helps with long exposures. If you are trying to do stills at night, your exposure times are going to be LONG, so having a steady platform is going to make your photos a lot sharper.
While you can use the iSteady X with any movie or stills app on your phone, the most fun comes when you use the Hohem app, which can control the gimbal automatically and has a variety of preset moves, or “Moments,” built in. These extend the use of the gimbal beyond what’s normally possible. The templates enable you to do Inception-like rotations, Hitchcockian dolly zooms and other expensive looking camera tricks. Trying out all the presets in the app was the most fun I had testing the device.
Honorable mention: if you set the gimbal down on its tripod and activate face-tracking mode, the camera will follow your face around. There’s a thumb slide button on the side of the handle which you can use in the app (with a toggle for Z and F) for adjusting focus and zoom. All these made the gimbal a very slick gadget.
On the downside – there are not many. The templates were a little bit buggy and temperamental, and you sometimes had to run them twice to get them to work. The soft pouch to protect the gimbal from scratches is fine, but I would have preferred a more sturdy case. These are the most negative things I found.
The Hohem iSteady X is a an excellent starter gimbal which packs a lot of bang for your buck and is highly recommended. It’s good for vloggers and tourists and even some features which movie-makers would find invaluable.
You can get the device at a discount for just $54 by using the code Hohemx80m, and for my money, it’s a bargain at that price. It’s available in both black and white.