Yuri Arcurs SteadyPod Review – First Impressions
I hate tripods! I have tried to like them numerous times, but I can’t. When I take a tripod on a shoot – this is how things go: I set up the lighting, set up the tripod, then attach the camera to the tripod and test the lighting and settings. The models arrive, I take a few shots, I want to move a little then get frustrated with the mobility of the tripod, take the camera off the tripod, and the next time I see the tripod is when it trips me and I kick it out of the way.
The problem with a tripod is mobility. I DO still use a tripod for things like interior architecture, macro, timelapse and a few other things but for microstock and images of people and interaction I can’t stand to be tied down. I need to move around and explore angles.
Yuri Arcurs‘ solution to this problem is a monopod. With a monopod, what you loose in stability, you gain in mobility. A bit of a trade off to get the best of both worlds.
Two year’s ago Yuri talked about his monopod set up in a You-Tube video produced by Crestock
Since then, Yuri has worked together with Custom Brackets to tweak the monopod and fix the things he disliked about his setup. The result… the Yuri Arcurs SteadyPod
My first impression of the SteadyPod is that it is solid and well made. The components appear tough and look like they’ll put up with a lot of abuse. The setup is very similar to what Yuri reviews in his video but with a few important updates and improvements.
In the video, Yuri complains that the foot of the Manfrotto monopod falls off. The Yuri Arcurs SteadyPod still uses the Manfrotto 685B NeoTec Monopod for the leg, but to fix the foot, CustomBrackets have added a foot shield that will definitely NOT fall off. The foot shield has rugged grip on the bottom and good flexibility on the top. First problem fixed.
The Leg (Manfrotto 685B Neotec Monopod)
As I just mentioned, the leg is still made from the Manfrotto 685B NeoTec Monopod. Yuri calls the monopod a ‘piece of junk’ in the video, but like anything by Manfrotto I find it to be anything but junk. With the CustomBrackets improvements, Yuri is still using the Monopod so it must be the best piece of junk around :). The aluminum alloy Monopod has a smooth working height adjustment grip handle which makes for quick height adjustment. This is no doubt one of the reasons Yuri chose this monopod. Freedom is what we gained when we gave up the stability of three legs, so a monopod with screws and knobs to adjust height is a step back to the frustrating world of tripods. If a monopod is going to allow any sort of freedom at all, it has to be extremely simple to adjust – which this one is.
Working our way up the SteadyPod, Yuri has switched out the Manfrotto ballhead with a Tilt Head from Custom Brackets. The tilt head reduces the number of axis in which the camera can tilt, effectively giving you a steadier camera with more precise movements. If you have ever used a ball head, you know how both wobbly and wonderful they can be. Your camera can go in any direction which is great, but at the same time, you camera can go in any direction, which can be frustrating. The Tilt head isolates the camera’s movements to a front-back motion, which should be all you need as the camera bracket takes care of rotation.
The CustomBrackets Tilt Head has two knobs, one knob dictates the friction applied to front-back movement while the other knob locks the head in place (when desired). Now here comes my biggest gripe with the SteadyPod. The friction knob on the Tilt Head is back threaded, meaning you turn it the opposite direction to tighten (was that your idea Yuri??!!). I see the logic to this idea, wanting the knobs so that both turn away from the user to tighten but really… virtually every other knob, nut and screw in the world is set to tighten when you turn it to the right, why toy with the standard? Needless to say I keep on loosening it when I mean to tighten it. It is a small detail, but a frustrating one. I have since been informed that I was using the knobs backwards. The knob with the cork looking material is the LOCK knob and the other is the tension knob… and here is the explanation from CustomBrackets for the reverse threaded knob
You should be using the drag way more than the lock knob. We tested the left-handed thread on the lock knob, and we thought it was a better solution so that you are able to push with your thumb to lock it easier. It was a functionality design by Custom Brackets, and we thought once people figured it out, it would be better.
Once I realized I had my knobs backwards things worked a lot better. The tension was easier to adjust, more precise and the reverse threaded lock knob makes more sense if you think of it as a lever and not as a screw. I am still not sure I totally agree with the backwards threading but I think I can get used to it now.
The Digital Pro-SV mounting bracket is at the top of the SteadyPod and allows you to rotate the camera 90 degrees while keeping the camera centered over the SteadyPod. I was impressed with this piece of the SteadyPod. It has a very smooth action when rotating and locks into place when you are fully rotated. This piece of the setup is nearly identical to the one Yuri highlighted in the video except the Palm Grip has been extended so it is easier to hang on to.
As I mentioned before, I like to have the freedom to move around when I am shooting. If I can get the camera shutter speed up around 1/400 (for shooting with a 200mm) or am using strobes as my only light source I can’t be convinced to use a support. When I shoot for microstock however, I shoot on location and want to balance strobe and existing light. To achieve this I need to shoot with a shutter speed between 1/60 and 1/200. When using my favorite lens, 70-200 or even a 24-70 camera shake is always a problem. Like Yuri mentions in the video, I HAVE found myself selecting seconds or thirds because of unsharp images. In these cases I should definitely use a monopod and feel the SteadyPod is a great solution. The SteadyPod allows easy camera rotation, quick height adjustment and a single leg to keep itself out of my way. Doing a few tests I found I was comfortable shooting at 1/60 with a 200m focal length with the monopod whereas i would want to shoot at 1/400 to be guaranteed sharp images without any support.
Before trying the SteadyPod I hadn’t really given a monopod much consideration. Now that I have used the SteadyPod and I find myself being persuaded. I haven’t done an official microstock shoot with the SteadyPod yet but I’ll for sure be using it on my next shoot. The price of $629 will probably be a hurdle for the majority of microstock photographers, but for those photographers who are earning a living from microstock or other type of photography, the tripod could easily pay for itself in a single shoot if it increases your selects by 10-30%. CustomBrackets also provides the option to purchase each part individually which may help alleviate some of the costs if you have a monopod, or ballhead from before like Yuri showed in the video or otherwise.
So now I’m curious, what do you use to stabilize?