I got the Hohem iSteady Pro stabilizer for my GoPro a few months ago, for our trip to Bali. Before that, I was using my Moza AirCross, which, even though it was really nice, was a bit too bulky to carry around just for my little GoPro. So I looked around for a basic action camera stabilizer, nothing fancy, and finally settled on the Hohem iSteady Pro.
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Major pros and cons of the iSteady Pro
After six months of using this stabilizer, here are the major pros and cons I’ve figured out.
- Very economical, compared to more well-known brands
- Extremely long battery life
- Inbuilt battery; no removing and charging needed
- Can also be used as a power bank to charge your phone or action camera
- Convenient mode change button with menu and LED indicator
- Compatible with most action cameras
- LED battery level indicator
- ‘Inception’ mode (rotating the picture 360o while pointing the camera forward) with latest firmware update
- Default stabilization level is decent but not great, and doesn’t deal with wind very well
- Sometimes takes time to reach the centred position on starting up
- Stabilizer motor sounds may be picked up by the camera’s microphone
- App is buggy and may have problems recognizing and/or connecting to the stabilizer
Features of the iSteady Pro
The iSteady Pro is a three-axis gimbal stabilizer, with a versatile clamp that fits almost all models of action camera. The clamp may need to be flipped around, depending on which camera you’re using, but the iSteady Pro is intelligent enough to recognize this and compensate.
The powerful 4000 mAh battery is built into a handle that is nicely shaped for a comfortable grip, and needs charging very infrequently. The handle also has a useful battery level indicator that shows you how long you have left before you need to recharge.
Besides steadying the camera, the iSteady Pro’s motors can also rotate quite a bit while shooting, giving you a lot of flexibility. The pan (side to side) motor can rotate 640o – turning around more than one-and-a-half times – while the tilt (up and down) and roll (sideways tilt) motors can rotate 320o each.
A button allows you to quickly select one of four stabilization modes, and a light flashes to show you which mode you’re currently in.
The iSteady Pro has four stabilization modes. The default mode is ‘pan follow’, which means that the camera will smoothly turn from side to side based on how you move the handle, but it won’t move up and down, or tilt at a sideways angle. The other modes are ‘pan and tilt follow’ (the camera moves sides to side and up and down), ‘all locked’ (the camera points in the same direction, no matter what) and ‘all follow’ (the camera moves along all three axes).
The stabilization modes are controlled from the handle. The mode button lets you select the stabilization mode by clicking (for example, three clicks for ‘all locked’), and an LED light flashes to show you which mode you’re currently in. The joystick button lets you move the camera around, whichever mode you’re in, and the hotkey slider lets you either quickly centre the camera by pushing upwards, or temporarily lock all axes by holding it down.
Additional features using the app
The app that comes along with the iSteady Pro also has a few nice features. Besides letting you calibrate the stabilizer and adjusting the speed and power of the motors, it also lets you set the camera to stay pointed at an object or person (object tracking); set the gimbal axes to slowly rotate along a set path for time-lapse photos or videos (trail time-lapse); and save a specific set of movements that can be repeated later (scene memory).
Lastly, the iSteady Pro has a few nice add-ons. Besides the now-standard mini-tripod that can be fixed to the bottom, it also lets you use the in-built battery as a power bank for your phone or camera. It also has a separate port in one of the gimbal arms through which you can charge your camera while using it (though the cable isn’t included). Lastly, it has a screw socket on the side, so you can attach a microphone or light, or even mount the stabilizer itself on a tripod or other mount.
Also read: Review: Samsung Galaxy A7 phone camera
First impressions of the iSteady Pro
My iSteady Pro came in a semi-hard case, together with a small plastic tripod, a USB cable and instruction manuals in English and Chinese. It didn’t need any assembly, and the battery came reasonably charged, so I could start using it immediately. Construction seemed nice and solid, with the ergonomically curved and rubberized handle being a nice touch. The tripod was a bit plasticky, but that’s not surprising at this price—I got mine at about INR 8,000 (about USD 115) on Amazon.
There was no assembly required, the battery came reasonably charged, and construction seemed nice and solid (except for the mini-tripod).
When I tried it out, if found that, in practice, the rotation on the roll axis is actually limited to less than 180o instead of the full 320o. This is because the camera body gets in the way. I also noticed that my GoPro Hero 5 Black was stable when mounted with the clamp pointed in either direction, though the instruction manual says it should be mounted with the lens sitting alongside the motor. I guess this makes it possible to charge the camera from the handle while shooting. Presumably you can do this with all cameras. Lastly, the cable I got with the stabilizer didn’t fit the standard Android-compatible micro-USB port, nor the port in my GoPro. Maybe it’s for charging iPhones or other brands of action cameras.
Also read: Review: GoPro Hero 5 Black action camera
Using the iSteady Pro
I bought the iSteady Pro just before our trip to Bali, and since then I’ve also used it while travelling to Lepakshi and Bidar in India. In those six months or so, I’ve learned quite a bit about what this stabilizer can—and can’t—do.
An unfair comparison?
When I first started using it, I couldn’t help but compare it to the Moza AirCross stabilizer that I’d been using since our trip to Africa. Some comparisons were favourable and some weren’t. For starters, the iSteady Pro was far smaller and lighter, and fit comfortably into my camera bag. I also almost never needed to charge the iSteady Pro. On the other hand, it didn’t really deliver the level of stabilization that I’d become used to from the larger, more powerful (and, of course, more expensive) Moza AirCross.
Mostly good experiences with stabilization
Having said that, this little stabilizer still did very well in most circumstances, though, and gave me decent camera steadiness while strolling around and pointing it out of the window of a moving car. The only times it didn’t smooth out the jerks completely was while walking fast, and in moderate-to-strong wind. I tried mounting my GoPro both ways, but it didn’t change things.
The stabilizer also sometimes took its own time to centre the camera when started. A quick restart usually fixed the issue, but it was a little annoying when I wanted to capture a fleeting moment. I also noticed that my GoPro’s microphone picked up the vibrations of the motors when the surroundings were quiet.
An app surprise
It struck me later that I could use the app to increase the power of the motors for better stabilization. Imagine my surprise that, when I installed the app, it wouldn’t connect to the stabilizer at all. I did some research, and found out that this is a common proble. So, when you buy one of these, I guess connecting to the app is a roll of the dice. Now, because the app doesn’t connect to my device, I can’t update the firmware (so I don’t get ‘inception’ mode), I can’t adjust the power of the motors, and I can’t use the time-lapse and object tracking modes.
In all honesty, though, even though I find the inability to adjust motor power a bit annoying, I probably wouldn’t really use the other modes. Right now, the pros outweigh the cons, so I think I’ll keep the iSteady Pro for a while longer.
The bottom line
The main selling point, by far, of the Hohem iSteady Pro is its price. You can buy this one for a far lower price than that of other action camera stabilizers (like the GoPro Karma Grip, for example). Overall, it’s a very affordable lightweight workhorse of an action camera stabilizer, but one that comes with its own flaws. I suppose you get what you pay for, so some flaws are to be expected. But if you’re looking for decent enough stabilization, long battery life and ease of use, all at a great price (and with a few interesting add-ons thrown in), then the iSteady Pro is a good choice. And if the app connects to your device, then that’s the icing on the cake.
(Aside: The iSteady Pro doesn’t seem to be available on Amazon.in at the moment, but Hohem has also launched the iSteady Pro 2. This new stabilizer’s upgraded design, more powerful motors and new app presumably address most of the flaws of its predecessor that I’ve mentioned here.)