iStabilizer Flex - compatible with most smartphones, $22.50
iStabilizer gets into the flexible-leg arena with this versatile little tripod and mount kit, compatible with most smartphones and digital cameras, as well as GoPro models (though a separate GoPro tripod adapter is required). The kit includes bendable tripod legs with a little ballhead on top, as well as a clamp-style tripod mount adapter.
The tripod is one of the largest of its type, so it can give you a little more height than competitors, while remaining compact enough to require a minimal amount of space in a purse or shoulder bag. Because the legs are flexible, you can wrap them around any available pole, edge, or other amenably shaped object that can provide support. They hold their position well once bent into place, and foam padding on the legs helps them to maintain a tight grip. Grippy rubber feet add to the stability of the pod when you use it on a tabletop.
The clamp-style tripod adapter has a standard ¼-20 tripod socket on the bottom so that it can be mounted on the Flex legs or any other tripod. The main advantages of its spring-rod clamp design are that it’s quick to use, and the clamp can fit a variety of phone sizes, including phones in cases. The grip of the clamp is strong enough to hang onto the phone at any angle, but if you move it closer to a horizontal position with the open side of the clamp facing down, the phone will gradually slide forward on one side.
The phone didn’t ever fall out of the clamp in my tests, but I wouldn’t trust it in a setting where the phone could fall a long distance. It could also create a little frustration if you’re trying to hold the phone in a specific position and take a series of shots.
Another point of frustration is that the notch in the iStabilizer Flex’s ballhead socket that allows you to swivel the mount vertically is placed directly above a tripod leg. That means that while you can swivel your mounted phone down to an almost horizontal position to shoot a closeup of a subject on the surface the tripod is sitting on, it’s very difficult to avoid having a tripod leg in the frame. That makes the Flex less than ideal for macro shooting.
For most purposes, though, the Flex makes a nicely adjustable tabletop tripod. Because the ballhead has a standard ¼-20 tripod mount, you can mount a phone in a case with a tripod socket directly on it, without using the clamp. The only time that probably wouldn’t work well is if you have an especially heavy case or accessory lens. While the ballhead has a strong enough grip to hold an iPhone with a plastic case and a moderately large accessory lens in place, it might not hold its position with heavier accessories, and the relatively loose leg hinges might also cause the tripod spread to slide outward.
All in all, the Flex makes a serviceable little pod for most purposes, and will be especially appealing to people who want to use it with more than one phone or case size. It’s not an outstanding product, but it most cases it does the job.
What we like: The Flex is lightweight and versatile, allowing you to position its flexible legs or wrap them around another support. Its phone mount can accommodate a variety of phone sizes and phones in cases.
What we don't like: The Flex phone mount doesn’t always feel completely secure and can allow the phone position to slip a little, and its leg design makes it a poor choice for macro shooting.
Aimee Baldridge is a writer and photographer based in New York. For more than a decade she has specialized in covering imaging technology, digital media, and the world of photography. You can see more of her work at www.aimeebaldridge.com.
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