Just Posted: SteadePod Review
What do you do when you are not allowed to use a tripod or even a monopod? There are some indoor venues, such as Museums and photo galleries, where the use of a tripod (and flash) is forbidden. Trying to stand perfectly still like the statue you are trying to photograph in low light rarely works and leaning on that stuffed tiger for stability is so not allowed.
Last week Photoxels received a SteadePod for review and we wasted no time to try it out in the field.
Disclosure: Gentec sent us a sample SteadePod to review and, as is often the case with small products, we were allowed to keep it.
I’m sure you’ve seen a DIY version on the Internet that you can make yourself for about $1. If you have tried it, you have probably found that, though it works, there are some disadvantages to the DIY version. First of all, it works only when you are standing tall and stretching the string to its full length. If you crouch down or bend down slightly, the string slacks and it’s a messy affair trying to wrap the loose end around your foot. Secondly, the long piece of string gets easily tangled. Enter the SteadePod.
The same principle of pulling against a taut string is at work in the SteadePod. There are 3 advantages of the SteadePod over the DIY version: 1) It uses a strong stainless steel wire which 2) is all neatly reeled up inside a compact unit and 3) can easily be adjusted to any length to accomodate different shooting positions (standing, crouching, etc.). The SteadePod unit is compact enough to carry in your pocket or just left attached to your camera if you intend to use it for the day.
Using the SteadePod is straightforward:
- Screw the SteadePod’s thumbscrew into your camera’s tripod socket.
The designer has cleverly allowed the unit to rotate forward and backward so you can angle your camera at any angle you want.
- Remove the wire, draw it out and step on the footpad found at the free end of the wire.
- Extend the wire to the desired length and lock it at that position.
As mentioned, the wire stores neatly out of sight into the unit. A 3-position switch allows you to lock the wire in position, extend it as far as it will go (about 1.8 m / 6 ft), and adjust its length. In the “Extend” position, you can freely and quickly draw out the wire; in the “Adjust/Retract” position, the wire is spring loaded so it retracts easily when you let go; and, in the “Locked” position, the wire is locked at the length you extended it to.
It’s all quite easy and intuitive.
So, how effective is the SteadePod as a replacement for a tripod or monopod?
The SteadePod is a nifty little gadget that is very easy to use and works within limitations. It is compact, light and you can carry it in your pocket. It looks like a tape measure and the wire is thin enough to pass unnoticed in actual use.
Though the SteadePod is marketed as a camera “stabilizer,” we did not find it to be a perfect substitute for a tripod/monopod. In our field tests, we found that it does help in some situations [we estimate a gain of up to 1 stop] but it all depends on your body stance. The best way to use it is to compose and set exposure, then pull the string taut when you are about to click the shutter. We needed some practice before we could see an improvement in the stabilization.
The SteadePod is not for very long exposure [i.e. in the seconds] night photography: you’d need a sturdy tripod for that. We find that the SteadePod comes closer in use to a monopod.
I’m sure a lot of you are going to compare the $25 price versus the DIY $1. [A self-retracting tape measure also costs less and if you soldered a screw to it, you'd basically get the SteadePod, minus some of the other features, and you'd draw lots of strange stares.] So, is the SteadePod worth it? We recommend that you actually try the DIY version first and see if it works for you. If it does and you need all the extra stabilization you can get in those venues where you cannot use your tripod/monopod, then I would bite the bullet and get the SteadePod: that easily adjustable and retractable wire makes it convenient and discreete to use and store.
So, final verdict is that the SteadePod does help to stabilize your camera and can work quite well. It doesn’t replace your sturdy tripod/monopod but, for those times when you can’t carry or use the latter and your camera’s image stabilization is not enough, then the SteadePod can come in handy.
What I Like:
- The SteadePod is pocketable and the wire stores neatly away.
- The wire is stainless steel and quite strong.
- The wire is on a spring-loaded reel so adjusting its length is easy and effortless.
- The unit swivels and rotates freely forward and backward [or left / right, depending on how you decide to orient it] and makes it comfortable to angle the camera for portrait or landscape orientation.
- The Extend, Locked and Adjust/Retract switch is straightforward to operate.
- As easy to operate as a tape measure.
- Belt locking feature is great when discreetness is paramount or when you can’t find a flat surface to step onto the footpad.
Besides using it as a stabilizer, the SteadePod can help when panning the camera:
- Useful for panorama shots to keep the camera at the same horizontal level.
- Useful when recording movie for smooth panning.
- Useful for panning shots in still photography.
I did not try it but I guess you could also use it for some nifty light painting photography effects.
A review is not complete without some improvement suggestions from our part.
- Provide a perfectly flat [horizontal] surface.
With the SteadePod attached to the camera, it is not possible to set the camera down perfectly horizontal on a flat surface.
- Replace the 3-position switch with a depress/release trigger.
The switch works well but a depress/release trigger might be even better. Depress to allow the wire to adjust/retract; release to lock the wire in position.
- Provide a locked vertical position so the unit can be used as a handle grip.
This would be especially useful when using the camera [I'm thinking DSLR here] as a movie camera.
- A bigger/longer footpad.
The footpad is a bit on the short side and people with large feet may find it challenging to step onto it. Also, it works well on a dry flat surface, but can be slippery when the ground is not level and/or is wet. Luckily, you can loop the footpad around your belt (if you’re wearing one) in those situations.
- Quieter mechanism.
It’s pretty noisy when extending the wire and discreetness may be important in a quiet venue. Again, I would extend the wire prior to entering the venue and use the belt locking feature here.
- Lower the price!
The steadePod is certainly much more elegant that a ball of string in your pocket, but it’s pretty steep at MSRP $30 [about $25 at Amazon.com].
Here’s a video by the manufacturer:
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