Using the 3-axis motorized stabilizer from Snoppa, you can shoot professional looking movies with your Smartphone.
It is amazing how smart our smartphones have become. From simple flip phone, to flip phone with a camera, to minor internet connectivity, to bigger processor, bigger camera, better internet and features, our smartphones are now essentially portable computers. There are many markets that have been affected by our devices and some have not been able to recover. You can still buy point and click cameras, but why would you want to buy one, when track phones have megapixel ratings as good or better than a lot of the cameras. Why have the extra expense, or the need to lug around the extra gear/accessories when your smartphone can do it for you? In fact, this was the thought for CES 2016 and 2017. We shot most of our videos with the iPhone 6 S plus and the iPhone 7 plus. Without a tripod, still photos typically look amazing with the iPhone 7 plus. Alas, even the most steadfast hands shake and result in a lesser quality video. This is where electronically stabilized gimbals shine.
The product arrived in a 3 inch by 3.75-inch by 9.5-inch tall black box with a representation of the gimbal on the front. The back displays the features of the device: portable, intelligent 3 axis system, 360-degree panning. Bluetooth low energy, portrait and landscape mode, 360 panoramas, and motion time-lapse. Remove the top middle section and you will find a QR code leading to the Snoppa App (more on this below). Snoppa did a really nice job with the product packaging. When you remove the outer cardboard, you will find a gray styrofoam (recycled) rectangular box. Remove the lid from this package and you will see the gimbal. micro-USB charging cable, and magnetic weights. The gimbal, in folded position, measures 8.25 inches tall and 2 1/2 inches wide at the top and 1 3/4 inches wide at the handle (listed dimensions 208x53x43mm folded and 266 x 53 x 43mm unfolded). The gimbal weighs just at a pound at 16.01 ounces (listed 450 grams). After the unboxing was complete, I noticed that there was no instruction manual, which did seem kind of odd.
Using the QR code, I was able to quickly and effortlessly download the app. When you activate the app, you will notice the Snoppa icon and then you will be taken to an alignment image. This is designed to align your camera/phone with the gimbal. The gimbal comes in the folded position and you need to lift up on the phone clip and snap it into place. You will notice that the clip will accommodate devices measuring 58-82mm, which is pretty much any uncased modern phone. Lift up on the clip, slide your phone into place. Once your phone is placed into the correct position, click the “Confirm” circle along the bottom right. Open the handle by pulling outward. You will notice the USB micro port in the middle. You can charge the device with the included 18.5 inch USB A to USB micro cable. Make sure that you charge the gimbal for a few hours prior to first use (1.5 hours recommended by the in-app manual).
Once charged, open up the device and notice that the central core, the area inside of the handle, will be facing downward. The bottom has a magnetic port for weights. I have an iPhone 7 plus and need all of the magnetic counterweights. All of the information about needed weights, for each phone, will be provided to you within the app. This is the reason that there is no manual, it is not necessary when the app walks you through the setup. The handle will allow you to roll from side to side (360 degree) the gimbal also will allow you to pan (360 degree) and tilt (+/- 100 degree). With all of the functionality, you can capture video in a variety of modes. First, the “Pan Track Mode” will follow the user horizontally. Lock Mode (my favorite), will allow you to lock the phone onto a target and as you move your arm, the handle, pan, tilt, etc. the device keeps the phone locked on the desired spot. Omni Track Mode essentially becomes an arm extension and follows the movement of your arm in any direction. If desired, you can actually turn the phone into vertical mode or horizontal mode, which is really a neat additional feature. For a really well-done video showing the features, I encourage you to watch the Snoppa M1 video from the Indiegogo campaign.
When you have the phone locked into the secure clip, the gimbal turned on (press the vertical line) and activate the app, you will notice a series of icons on the left and right of the screen. The left has 3 circles, a camera, a bullseye-like icon, a front camera swipe icon, and a mode select icon (Left/right arrow for pan track mode, four arrows pointing towards the center for lock mode, four arrows pointing out for Omni track mode). The three circles pull up another series of icons, which are designed to enhance photo quality. You can turn on/off the flashlight, adjust white balance, adjust focal point, ISO (darker conditions have better images with higher ISO (more light sensitive) and thus faster shutter speed). Across the right, you can touch the mountain icon to access library. You can access grid lines/diagonals. You can also adjust the image capture quality: 540p HD at 60fps, 720p HD at 60fps, 1080p HD at 30 fps, 1080p HD at 60 fps (defaulted), 2160p HD at 30fps. Touching the cog icon will take you to settings of the Bluetooth, gimbal, firmware information and here you can find the user guide. Additionally, you can access the gimbal calibration.
One of the frustrations with any accessory is the phone clip. I have an iPhone 7 plus inside of an Otterbox Defender. This case is a beast and I am aware of the fact that it has multiple accessory limitations. However, the 82mm max distance is a little small considering the unadorned iPhone 7 plus is 79mm in size. You will need to remove your plus-sized phone from its protective enclosure and trust it to this gimbal. In the few days that I had to test the device, there was never any concern about my phone’s safety. The gimbal has adequate strength to keep the phone stable in place. My wife’s iPhone 7 (inside a bumper case) fit nicely into the gimbal. The app clearly states that complicated cases are not supported.
As stated previously, you can find the instruction for the app/gimbal within the app. There is an included magnetic tool to add the appropriate amount of counterweights. Place the magnet onto the base and pull out the central plug and remove the plastic piece. For iPhone 5/6/7, you should use the plastic ring and metal solid magnet. For the iPhone 6s plus and 7 plus you should use both the metallic weight and the central core and for phones between the two sizes, use the plastic ring and the magnet.
When you select Bluetooth, you will be required to put in a password. This is detailed in the settings. Having set up multiple devices historically, I put in 000000. This happened to be the password. Press the green button on the gimbal and then set the handle at 60 degrees. The gimbal will automatically take over. My initial use required a firmware update that took about 2 minutes. This updated the firmware to version V1.2.1. After the update, my phone wanted to lean towards the left. This seemed to be a calibration issue as it did not matter which orientation I placed the phone into. To move from horizontal to vertical shooting mode, hold the grip vertically, turn the phone 90 degrees to the left and how the manual tilt at the location of your choosing for 1 second. In vertical mode, you can automatically switch by raising the grip up to 45 degrees.
To turn off the device, you can do one of a few options. It has a built in automatic power off feature. Collapse the device, quit the app and the gimbal will power off in 20 seconds. You can also press and hold the power button for two seconds to power down the device. The 1050 mAh LiPo battery (500 charge life) should last about 4 hours. You can press the green button to change the tracking modes. If you press and hold for 10 seconds, it will reset the Bluetooth. Having tested the device around the house, I am truly excited to head out to one of my son’s baseball games. I love the stability, and I personally love the three modes. The only downside is the lack of case support.
This is a get better with time app/device. It seems well done. There appears to be some issue with the Indiegogo/pre-campaign. This review is through my use and has no influence by the group. I would rate the Gimbal at 5/5. My only complaint, as stated, was a lack of case support. It did have to get updated to level appropriately. However, all of this was easy to do and will take you little more than a few hours.