by Charles Haine
High-end stabilization for your smartphone camera from the industry pioneer has arrived.
With several gyro stabilized gimbals already competing in the marketplace, Steadicam is getting into ring with the new Volt, a handheld motorized stabilizer for smartphones and GoPros. Started with a Kickstarter earlier this year, the Volt is now shipping to the mass market for $199. While that is a bit pricier than some of the rivals in this space, the Volt has a few standout features that might make it worth the upgrade.
By focusing on the traditional Steadicam design, with one arm being used for support and another hand lightly touching the sled for framing, far more complicated moves can be created without requiring a remote control or a second operator in a smartphone app. The Volt works like a traditional Steadicam sled when properly calibrated, only with motors to help you along.
While we’ve primarily used it for pre-visualizing blocking on shots that would eventually be executed on another device, if you are planning a production that will be shot entirely on a smartphone, the Volt is definitely the stabilizer that is going to give you the best combination of user input and motor support. The Volt takes a little longer to learn how to use because you need to practice keeping your body steady and giving gentle input to the sled, but the extra effort will reward you with more sophisticated and controllable movements as a result.
The Volt also uses plastic that just doesn’t feel “professional,” but instead feels more like the plastic your clock radio was made out of in the 1990s. In reality, the plastic is plenty strong and seems to be super durable. We’ve kept the Volt stored in its soft cloth bag in our scout bag for a while and it has survived just fine. The Volt’s plastic just doesn’t feel quite as polished and tough as another plastic or metal might. However, the company managed to bring it in at the exact same price as a Merlin, only with motorized gimbals. The cost savings had to come somewhere, so if the plastic is what allowed the company to hit the price point, provide the motor assistance and deliver great shots, it feels like a fair balance.
We wonder if a “Volt Pro” around $1,000 and capable of carrying mirrorless cameras with a metal or nicer plastic chassis will come out in a year. That speculation shouldn’t make you avoid this unit, however, since its purpose (amazing smartphone and GoPro shots, being a gimbal you can constantly keep with you in your kit) is distinctly different from what you want and expect from the bigger units.
The Steadicam Volt for smartphones and GoPro is available now at B&H for $199.
– Built for phones weighing 100 – 200g
– Can handle phone 58 to 80mm wide
– Comes with rechargeable LiOn batteries
– Works with batteries dead in a more limited fashion
– Simulated inertia