Tiffen was nice enough to send us a sample of their Steadicam Curve for the GoPro to try out. If you’re unfamiliar with what the Steadicam curve is, it’s exactly what it sounds like, a Steadicam designed specifically for the GoPro cameras. A steadicam allows you to get smooth footage while walking or moving. On a much larger scale, this is what Hollywood movies use to follow an actor that is walking through a scene. Now obviously for $99 we’re not going to get movie studio like quality out of the Steadicam Curve, but under the right circumstances it can be better than just holding the GoPro.
I do have one warning though, do not expect amazing results right out of the box. As with any steadicam, you can get decent results right away, but it takes a lot of practice to get the feel for it, and unfortunately I can not seem to master the Steadicam Curve for the life of me.
When the Steadicam Curve showed up at my doorstep a few months ago I was super excited to try it out. I had actually tried to order one earlier in the year for a trip my wife and I took to Italy, but sadly it was out of stock and did not make it in time for the trip, so I canceled the order. But since Tiffen was nice enough to send one over for review, I still get to try it out.
The first thing that I noticed about the Steadicam Curve is it’s construction. It feels hefty, because of the counterweight, but there are some aspects of the device that feel a bit flimsy. The main area that feels like it could break at any moment is the little clip that holds the handle into the counterweight, for normal, non-gimbal, motion. I’ve seen a few reviews online where people have complained that this little plastic piece has broken and no longer allows them to use in a stationary mode. Personally, in all of my tests with the device, I have not run into a similar problem, although when I do go to put the handle back in its free swinging state, I do get a bit nervous that I’m going to break something. I have also broken one of the GoPro clips that snap into the Steadicam Curve while trying to remove it from the device, but I’m not sure if this is an issue with the Curve or with GoPro’s clips. GoPro’s clips do tend to break, so I won’t hold that against the Curve. My only other gripe with the physicality of the Curve is the grip, and it’s not actually a gripe I have with it, but what I could see being a problem for others. I have a pretty small hand, generally speaking, so the 3 finger grip, with index and thumb maneuvering the base of the gimbal, seems to work ok, but if you have larger hands, I could see this becoming a problem. There’s not much space to work with here, so if you have larger hands there’s a chance you’re going to be constantly hitting the counter weight, or getting hand cramps based on the way you need to hold it. It’s not a deal breaker, but just be wary if you have larger hands.
Overall though, the Steadicam Curve has a decent construction for what you would expect out of a small $99 steadicam, but who cares about the construction right? Let’s see how this thing actually works.
I am going to be completely honest in this review based on my experiences with the Curve for the past few months, these experiences may not be typical, but they are real.
I received the Steadicam Curve from Tiffen way back in November, but am just getting around to finishing the review now, and there’s a reason for that. When I first received the Curve I was not under the assumption that you NEEDED to have the LCD backpac for the GoPro in order for it to properly balance and steady your camera. Needless to say I spent hours trying to get the thing balanced and working properly before I finally gave up and put it to the side for a while. A couple weeks later I dug it back out and tried again with no luck, so it was time to search the internet and find out some tips and tricks for getting this thing to balance properly. I have some experience balancing DSLR’s on to the Merlin steadicam, so I did find it a bit strange that I couldn’t figure out how to balance the GoPro on the Steadicam Curve, but that’s when I discovered that in order to balance it properly you NEED the LCD BacPack on the GoPro, along with the plastic case.
Now I didn’t have an LCD BackPac for my GoPro, nor did I really want/need one. The beauty of the GoPro, in my eyes, is that its form is so small and it’s lens is so wide, that you can just point it in the general direction of what you want to record and there’s a 99% chance you’re going to capture it. I do kind of see the idea behind requiring the LCD BackPac because how else will you know what your GoPro sees, but to my point above, I don’t think you need to actually see. And also, not everyone likes to have the bulky plastic case on their GoPro all the time, personally I like to use the GoPro Frame 90% of the time to keep the size down. Unless I’m out on a boat or doing something involving water, I never have the waterproof/plastic housing on the camera.
So I guess what I’m getting at is I wish it was a little more obvious, on the packaging or in the descriptions I read of the product, that the LCD BackPac is required in order to properly balance the Curve. Once I found that out I’m glad my order didn’t make it in time for my Italy trip, because I wouldn’t have figured that out in time.
So flash forward to January and I finally decided to just pull the trigger on the LCD BackPac after seeing my brother’s GoPro with it. It’s much easier than connecting to the phone to view, and then I could finally wrap up this review of the Steadicam Curve.
So with the LCD Backpac attached the GoPro, I attached everything to the Steadicam Curve and gave it another shot at balancing. It is still pretty difficult to get everything balanced and setup properly, but once you do the Steadicam Curve definitely works as described. There is far less side to side movement than when I was trying to balance without the LCD Backpac, and the video was much more useable. There is still definitely a fairly steep learning curve in terms of using the Curve and getting used to how to manipulate it and keep it steady, but this comes with all of the steadicam devices I’ve used, whether for GoPro or DSLR’s. Don’t get frustrated, just keep practicing and you’ll start to pick up on how the camera moves, and what the best way to hold it and keep it steady is. Different methods are going to work for different people, so just find a comfortable way to hold it and practice.
The only downfall to the device, in terms of function, that I noticed, was that it doesn’t hold up very well on windy days. It’s windy in Chicago quite often and when I tried to use it the other day just walking down the street, the wind was blowing it all over the place making it basically un-useable. This is also why I don’t have any cool video examples to show for this review. I didn’t want to show video of me walking around my apartment, and Chicago has been pretty cold up until recently, but I will update this review with some sample video in the near future so that you can see the different between walking while holding just the GoPro and walking while using the Steadicam Curve.
Bottom line, for $99, this is about what I expected from this steadicam. It’s obviously not going to stand up to the quality of more professional devices, but of course this is made for the GoPro, and it does what it advertises. It does have a bit of a learning curve so don’t get discouraged, and make sure you have an LCD Backpac on your GoPro before attempting to balance the steadicam, it will save you a lot of headaches.
For more information about the Steadicam Curve visit the Steadicam Curve website.