Things I want to try: camera stabilisers
Regular readers will know I’m a bit of a fan of the Kodak Zi8 stick camera — similar to the ubiquitous Flip range, but arguably better quality, a close-up focus mode that’s surprisingly effective, and featuring the all-important jack for a decent microphone. For my money it’s as good as anything several times its price.
If it has an achilles heel, however, it’s shot steadiness. Although the camera does apply a smidge of anti-shake processing, it’s simply impossible to hold the thing without jostling it slightly, as if your heartbeat is making the camera tremble. It helps if you try to imagine you’re holding a priceless vase filled to the brim with water, but the Zi8 is still a bit too light.
Attaching an accessory grip does help a little. However, what I really want to try is one of a new breed of ultra-light (and relatively cheap) Steadicam alternatives. Steadicam themselves make an astonishing bit of kit called the Merlin, but it’s far too costly for our pockets. However, there are a couple of similar products available for around £80, which might just solve the Zi8’s greatest weaknesses.
The things I want to try are the Manfrotto 585 Modosteady, or the Hague Mini Motion-Cam. Most reviews of the former are pretty poor, but expectations may have been too high; the latter may be more effective, but by the time it’s balanced for a very light camera it may be more expensive than the Modosteady.
Neither of these is going to be a patch on the Steadicam Merlin. But if they make a £200 package that rivals £400 camcorders for smoothness, they might just be worthwhile.