Mobile accessory review: iStabilizer tripod mount
Lars Rehm | Published: Jan 17, 2013 at 20:29 UTC11
Image quality of smartphone cameras gets better with every new device generation. However, despite new sensor technologies and first attempts to implement optical image stabilization, for example on the Nokia Lumia 920, low light capture is still an area where smartphones lack behind dedicated compact cameras.
At higher ISOs the tiny smartphone sensors typically produce more noise than even very basic digicams, which means the results are often less than satisfactory. When shooting with a camera you can significantly improve the quality of your low light and night photograpy by mounting the device on a tripod. This allows you to select lower ISO settings and a slow shutter speed. Of course this doesn't typically work if there are any moving subjects in the scene. That said, by mounting your camera on a tripod and using slow shutter speeds also helps capture motion, for example, light trails created by the headlights of a car or a flowing waterfall or river.
In theory, you could do all these things with your smartphone too (and an app that allows you to use long shutter speeds) but smartphones don't have a tripod mount. There is a variety of tripod brackets and smartphone holders available, but so far we haven't been convinced by any of them -- they tend to be flimsy or simply don't hold the device very well, resulting in shaky images or possibly even dropping your costly device.
The iStabilizer is a welcome exception. Its spring-loaded bracket holds your phone very tightly but at the same time the small contact points ensure it doesn't cover any part of your screen or interfere with any of your phone's buttons. The contact points are covered with a foam-like material at the bottom and rubber on the moving upper part. Despite partly being made out of plastic, the iStabilizer makes a reasonably solid impression, but we'll have to see how it hold up under sustained heavy use.
The iStabilizer comes in two sizes. The standard version holds devices of up to 7cm width. This includes all iPhones and reasonably dimensioned Android phones such as the Samsung Galaxy Nexus or the Droid Razr MAXX. The larger XL version even holds "phablets" such as the Samsung Galaxy Note. It's also recommended for use with slightly larger phones such as the Google Nexus 4 or the Nokia Lumia 920. However, without a case the latter just fit the standard version, too, as you can see in the pictures above.
Overall the iStabilizer is a worthy investment if you are planning to take night shots or self portraits with your phone. It holds your device tightly without scratching or otherwise damaging it and still gives you full access to all buttons and the screen. It's small enough to always carry in combination with a mini-tripod if you want to be prepared for that special shot at any time.
What we like: Tight grip, small and lightweight, works with a variety of phones
What we don't like: little more expensive than other brackets, needs very strong tightening on some tripod plates
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