Gadling gear review – Manfrotto ModoSteady 3-in-1 tripod

Several weeks ago, I reviewed the innovative Manfrotto Modo Pocket camera stand. Today, I’m going to introduce you to another new product from Manfrotto, the ModoSteady. The ModoSteady is unlike any tripod/camera mount I’ve ever seen. To describe it, you’ll really need to see it in action.

The ModoSteady is part shoulder mount, part camcorder stabilizer, part mini tripod and part handheld camera grip. After the jump, you’ll see the four different ways you can use the ModoSteady.
The ModoSteady takes a little getting used to – it has quite a few moving parts. The first part is the camera mount itself. Your camera attaches to a disc using a regular tripod screw, which means almost any camera can be attached to it. Once you click the disc into the ModoSteady, you secure it using a screw. Once everything is in place, your camera is very securely attached.

The second part is the grip – it is a rubberized grip with a ball joint on top. You can swivel the grip in almost any angle you want, and lock it in place using a thumb screw.

The third and final part of the ModoSteady is the stabilizer arm/mount portion. When you use the product as a mini tripod, this part stays folded in, when you use it as a stabilizer mount, you fold it out, and use the weight on the bottom to keep your camera steady and in balance. And finally, when you use the ModoSteady as a shoulder mount, you unfold this part and rotate it up towards your shoulder.

This all sounds horribly complicated, but it actually works very well together. Once you master the art of the Modosteady, you can switch between the various methods in a matter of seconds.

The ModoSteady as a mini tripod

The grip on the ModoSteady houses a surprise – by pulling on the bottom of the grip, you actually turn it into a small tripod. It really is perfect for vacation photos, when you’d like a family shot without bothering any of the locals.

The ModoSteady as a shoulder mount

With the stabilizer arm unfolded, you can use the ModoSteady as a very comfortable shoulder mount. Simply fold the bottom of the bar down, and rest it on your shoulder, then you can use the grip to maneuver the camera.

This is where the optional ModoSteady remote control ring can help – though it only helps if your camera supports the LANC remote protocol (mainly on Sony video cameras). This $40 accessory can control the zoom and shutter on your camera. Without the remote, you’ll need to use your other hand to reach the controls on your camera (or invest in a wired/wireless remote for it).

The ModoSteady as a camcorder stabilizer

This is where the ModoSteady excels – by loosening the screw above the grip, the ball joint under the camera mount becomes super smooth. The next part is to unfold the stabilizer, and rotate the weight so it keeps your camera balanced. This takes a little practice.

For cameras where the center is off-balance you can use a thumbscrew to move the entire camera mount to the left. This is great for camcorders with a swivel screen, or cameras where the mounting screw is off-center.

The end result is the kind of setup used by professional videographers. Sure, their versions cost thousands of dollars, but they are also designed to hold cameras worth more than most cars. When you use it along with a camera that shoots HD video (like the Olympus E-P1 in these photos), the results are fantastic.

Manfrotto Modosteady video demo from Scott C on Vimeo.

Once you have the balance set correctly, you can start filming. If you’ve ever tried making a video clip using your camera while walking around, you’ll know how jittery things become. Not so with the ModoSteady. In fact, I’ve made a video clip showing the camera in use on a boat ride on a choppy river. Obviously, you can still sense the movement of the boat, but as you’ll see, the footage is pretty damn smooth.

The ModoSteady as a camera grip

This mode of operation isn’t even advertised by Manfrotto, but it has quickly become one of my favorites – the grip under the camera is so comfortable, that I’ve started using it for everyday photo work. I’ve added a $10 wired remote control to my camera, turning the whole thing into a fantastic little setup. Making photos like this means you no longer have to worry about dropping your camera, and the large grip makes it much easier to hold the camera for longer periods of time.

Final Thoughts

I absolutely love the ModoSteady – it has completely changed the way I use my camera, and it has helped improve the quality of the stuff I shoot. At under $100, it is a real bargain. The fact that it can be used in so many different ways makes it even better.

Call me stupid, but it has also helped improve my comfort level when using my camera. I’m by no means a professional, and I’m still getting used to carrying an $800 camera around.

Now more and more cameras are being sold with HD video capability, a product like the ModoSteady can take you from shaky and stuttering, to nice and smooth.

Using the ModoSteady takes some getting used to – there is no denying that, and on first sight, it looks overly complicated. The build quality is outstanding, as can be expected from any Manfrotto product. The ModoSteady weighs just 500 grams (1.1 pounds) and when fully folded, it is just 5 inches long, making it perfect for packing in any suitcase.

You’ll find the Manfrotto ModoSteady at your favorite camera retailer, from or B&H Photo. Its MSRP is $115, but retails for around $95.