Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ez-Steady Is A Film/Photo Gadget Pick

Kyle Hart knows a thing or two about cameras, which might sound odd for an insurance salesman. But like many people, insurance isn't all Hart does. He's also an amateur filmmaker with the spirit of an entrepreneur.

Earlier this year, he and a few friends were trying to get better shots and angles for their films when they started asking the question: "What if you could film yourself from the third person perspective?" So Hart machined an adapter, screwed it on an aluminum pole and stuck in his camera. 

It worked well enough to start their own business. But that's only part one of this gadget success story. While launching their store, Hart and his friends were already on to their next big idea.

The EZ-Steady stabilizer is the best film/photo gadget this year. 

Hart and his friends had another idea. They wanted to make a better camera stabilizer, one that wasn't too expensive, didn't take too long to balance, and wasn't too challenging to operate. Four prototypes later, Hart came up with the EZ-Steady and they took the concept to Kickstarter for a trial run with a modest $5,000 goal.

EZ-Steady has long since surpassed its initial goal, raising more than $46,000 with nine days left to go.  The quick pick up in interest is easy enough to understand. The stabilizer balances the camera depending on where it sits on the stage and the adjustable counter weights.

It also includes a flight control, eliminating the need to pivot your entire body to stay with the shot. The flight control pivots the camera using nothing but a thumb. Likewise, the gimbal allows for mounted cameras to change vertical angles as well. Smart and simple.

When Hart initially shared his Kickstarter concept, he did have a few more questions to answer. Photographers and filmmakers wondered whether or not the stabilizer could support heavier cameras.

So Hart tested the EZ-Steady with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II (almost 2 pounds). It held up, and he says it works fine even if the camera is equipped with a 16-35 zoom (which is heavier than a prime lens). It took him about two minutes for set up.

More importantly, according to Hart, the EZ-Steady works with cameras like a VideoMic Pro if you purchase additional weights for counterbalance. But what really struck me about the EZ-Steady story was something else.

Two additional concepts came from early backers. First, at the request of backers, the rig is now being made in a blue powder coated or black anodized finish. And second, Hart developed an accessory that makes the EZ-Steady the stabilizer of choice for anyone with an iPhone.

The iPhone might have found its best stabilizer to date. 

When paired with GLIF (which holds the iPhone in place) and counterbalance that essentially tricks the stabilizer into thinking it has a heavier camera, the EZ-Steady essentially makes iPhone hardware work like a professional camera to match its video quality. And from some of the footage shot using an iPhone, the results are stunning.

As a stabilizer, the EZ-Steady puts amateur photographers as close to professional as possible and it's no surprise that many professionals are interested in the project too. Hart's company, Rhino Camera Gear, is also developing a slider accessory and shoulder rig for the stabilizer. It wouldn't be surprising to see a quick-fix tripod mount in the near future too.

The only thing close to the EZ-Steady is the U-Fly Cam or Glide Gear steady cam. But looking at the design and functionality, it's easy to see why this one landed here.

The EZ-Steady Stabilizes At 9.4 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Although I've shot family video for years, my passion for it slipped as iPhone technology surpassed analog technology with each new generation of iPhone. I generally stick with photos because handling the iPhone for film can be awkward in anything less than an ideal position (because of big hands). The EZ-Steady could easily solve that problem.

Through Dec. 14, the EZ-Steady is only available via Kicktstarter. Shortly after, the EZ-Steady will be available at Rhino Camera Gear for $100 more. On Kickstarter, EZ-Steady lists for $225. An additional $30 more (on Kickstarter) includes the Mini Steady counterweight for the iPhone. It also works with a GoPro and Flip. Kickstarter orders are expected to ship in late January.
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