Joby, the company behind the bendy GorillaPod tripods, has come out with two new gadgets aimed at content creators who shoot with their phones but still want to get some professional-looking shots. The $90 Spin and $130 Swing (hardware to mount your phone to them is sold separately, but some creators may already have what they need) are designed to act as small, relatively inexpensive devices that you can use to mimic the movements that a motion-control head or slider can produce without the need for a trained operator or heavy mounting equipment. Oh, and they charge with USB-C, which is always a plus.
For those unfamiliar with the video production process, adding motion to your shots can be a bit of a bear to deal with — you have to figure out how to move the camera smoothly, potentially while still having yourself in the shot. Joby’s approach to solving that problem is with these devices that you mount on a tripod, then attach your phone to. An app then uses Bluetooth to control motors in the devices, which physically move your phone, either rotating it with the Spin or moving it side to side or in an arc with the Swing. Here are some gifs that show them in action — you can also watch Joby’s... interesting ad for the Spin and Swing below.
There are other tools that you can use to get these kinds of moves, even outside of the pro stuff used by video production studios and Hollywood. For example, some gimbals will let you do a programable pan and have the added benefit of acting as a stabilizer when you go handheld. They’ll also probably be significantly more expensive — DJI’s phone-focused OM 5 is a cool $160, $70 more than a Spin. The OM 5 can move your phone along two axes at once, both tilting and panning the camera, which may make it a better option than getting two Spins and Joby’s $30 pan tilt bracket in a lot of scenarios (it’d probably be easier to keep two Spins and a piece of plastic safe and dry if you’re a travel vlogger). But if you’re just looking to get a panning shot with something mounted on a tripod, the Spin should be more than enough.
A gimbal also wouldn’t be a great replacement for the Swing. Sure, you could try to approximate a slider-like movement with an OM 5, but unless you’ve got some serious skills, the final shot probably won’t look quite right. That’s not to bash on gimbals, by the way — they’re great tools, and it’s borderline incredible that you can buy one for $160, mount your phone to it, and get results that would’ve been pretty alright for a professional rig a decade or two ago.
But gimbals also aren’t perfect for everything, and I think there’s absolutely a place for the gadgets Joby’s selling — I’m excited to see the interesting, unexpected things people use them for and will be trying to resist the urge to buy a Swing myself. (Personally, I’d want to see if it can repeat shots accurately enough for some decently convincing visual effects work. I’d also probably try and hack it to see if I could use it with a small mirrorless camera rather than a phone.)
The Spin and Swing are available to order on Joby’s website. The company also offers different kits if you don’t already have a tripod to mount them on or a phone holder to attach your device to the moving bit. Joby’s app is available for iOS or Android, and both the Spin and Swing can move devices that weigh over a pound, so you should be able to use them even with a big phone in a bulky case — for reference, an iPhone 13 Pro Max is just a tad over half a pound, and the S21 Ultra is a hair lighter than that.