Cameras are everywhere yet nowhere at the same time. Nobody buys cameras anymore. Instead we use the good-enough camera that comes as standard equipment on our phones, which these days is pretty damn good. Nevertheless, you’ll still have to accessorize the hell out of it to make your pics pop and your videos sing as beautifully as dedicated shooters. That means snap-on lenses, battery cases, selfie flashes, and external storage, to name but a few. The 3-axis gimbal is perhaps the most audacious cameraphone accessory, with prices starting at about $300. At least that was before an upstart named Rigiet hit Kickstarter with a gimbal for half that price, yet still claims to be the "most advanced stabilizer" in the world.
What is it?
Rigiet is a stabilizing 3-axis gimbal that works with most GoPro cameras (via adapter) and phones with screen sizes up to about 5.5-inches. It's very similar to the Osmo Mobile from DJI in that it dramatically smooths and automates your handheld video production. It features seven shooting modes including Auto Tracking, which uses computer vision to follow an onscreen object, and Motion Time Lapse to create dramatic time lapses as the camera pans across a scene.
As a first time gimbal user, I have to admit to being easily impressed by what the Rigiet can do. The onboard optical image stabilization of my iPhone has nothing on a 3-axis gimbal, especially gimbals with computer vision software and advanced shooting modes. But that praise can be lavished equally on the DJI Osmo Mobile as well.
What's special about it?
- Works with phones from 4.7 to about 5.5 inches and up to 220 grams
- Tripod mount (tripod must be able to hold Rigiet vertically)
- Pairs with phone over Bluetooth (4.0)
- Mode button lets you lock the horizontal- and vertical-axis, lets you pan and tilt by unlocking both the horizontal- and vertical-axis, or just pan by locking the vertical-axis
- Three-and-a-half video modes: auto-track, slow-motion, time-lapse and motion time-lapse
- Three panorama photo modes: 180-degree, 330-degree, 12 pic wide-angle
- With practice it’ll switch automatically between portrait or landscape (including underslung) shooting
- Ships with a 3340 mAh battery and supports any standard 18650 Li battery
- Two microUSB jacks to simultaneously charge the internal battery and your phone
- Gimbal can be reoriented by hand
The price is what makes this gimbal a standout accessory. It has most every advanced hardware and software feature you'll find on the $299 DJI Osmo Mobile, but lists on Kickstarter for just $144 (the $129 super early bird levels are gone) and includes a GoPro mount. Rigiet will cost $229 after the campaign.
Rigiet also features two microUSB jacks that allow you simultaneously charge your phone and the Rigiet from an external power source like a portable battery. It's a bit of a kludge that requires a couple of microUSB cables dangling off the stick, but it lets your shoot all day long, or at least until your phone's on-board storage is depleted.
Is it good?
Yeah, my pre-production unit is pretty good. But I have a long list of nitpicks, none of which are deal breakers given the price:
- The hardware is plasticky.
- It's not as comfortable to hold and operate as DJI’s Osmo Mobile.
- The three-way mode button doesn’t provide enough feedback to indicate when moving from pan+tilt, to lock, to pan modes. Simply put: there's not enough of a "click" felt when sliding the selector.
- Shoddy documentation (Rigiet says it will be improved for backers).
- Getting motion time lapse to work was finicky. It doesn’t work unless Rigiet is mounted vertically on a tripod (which many tripods don’t support) and it’s not exactly clear which mode it has to be in (pan+tilt, lock, or pan modes?) to record. Rigiet says the shipping unit will work in all three modes and how-to videos will make operation clear.
- Battery fell far short of the reported 3 hours (I got 90 minutes on average) though I did my testing under very heavy usage with a large and unwieldy iPhones 6 Plus.
- What normal human associates a button labeled "YP" with "pan and tilt"?
- Sometimes the overlay for Bluetooth pairing in the Rigiet app refuses to go away even after pairing.
- Kickstarter page says it supports a "livestream mode" but that wasn't available in the app for my pre-production unit due to a lack of permissions (which are being negotiated).
Is it the "most advanced stabilizer" on the market. No. But Rigiet does achieve parity with the most popular features out there which is saying something at this price.
Am I happier or more fulfilled?
Yeah, I am happier actually. I'm happy that my kids and their friends are thrilled by the "professional skater videos" (as they call them) I'm able to produce while running beside them:
And I can't help but enthuse over the ability to lock onto subjects, allowing me to leave the camera unattended to join the action (and yes it’ll lock onto your face too for those longing for YouTube vlogging stardom):
And motion time lapses have upped my Instagram game considerably:
Should you get one?
If the question is, should everyone with a smartphone buy a 3-axis stabilizer then I'd have to say no. But if you don't own a dedicated camera, and you've got $150 to burn, and you can put up with my nitpicks above then hells yes, buy a Rigiet. It packs a lot of punch for not much money compared to the other smartphone gimbals on the market. And as an accessory, it'll work with your current phone and your friend's phone and most likely your next phone for years to come which is something you can't say about most smartphone accessories.