That Steady Thing
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The simple idea that tripods are inconvenient to carry for extended periods has given birth to a host of attempts to find an easier way to steady a camera during a long exposure. We've seen string-based contraptions that create tension between the camera and the photographer's foot to create stability, monopods that sprout legs from their lower extension, beanbags and window/tree/fence clamps - and those are among the more sensible.
A new device that joins this list is That Steady Thing - a metal boss that sits between a monopod's leg and its head, into which a pair of steadying legs screw.
The idea is that you can then lean the monopod easily against a tree or a wall, for example, or create a low-level tripod arrangement for macro work or worm's eye view-points.
According to the device's British inventor Ron French, this isn't supposed to be a tripod alternative, but rather a device that can go some way towards fulfilling the role of a tripod should you be caught short. We should probably class it as a monopod adapter. We put it to the test to see if it lives up to its name.
That Steady Thing Key Specifications
- Boss: 1.2 inches (30mm) high x 2.95 in. (75mm) in diameter
- Legs: 12.4 in. (315mm) long x 0.59 in. (15mm) in diameter
- Weight: 1 lb. (450g)
The circular collar (the 'boss') that screws to the monopod is made from milled aluminum and is quite a solid affair. The top of the boss features a rubber padding/tensioning disc with a regular tripod screw (1/4-20 BSW/UNC) protruding from it, so we can attach either a camera or, preferably, a tripod head. As the thread in the base of most tripod heads is the larger 3/8-16 BSW/UNC type, a thread adapter will probably be needed depending on the screw size of your tripod head. For strength, the two screws of the boss, top and bottom, are part of a single steel core that runs through the center of the unit.
The aluminum legs, which extend 315mm (12 inches) from the boss, are fitted via 15mm-deep wells. These wells are equipped with a male part in the bottom, which screws into the female thread in the centre of the leg. This arrangement lends the connection extra security and protects the threads from damage should the contraption be dropped or bashed.
That Steady Thing comes with Velcro straps so that the legs can be unscrewed and stored flat against the body of the monopod when not in use. Putting the thing together takes only a minute or so, as long as the boss and camera are in place before you attach the legs.
On a practical level I found this device very useful for gaining stability for low-angled work, and for shooting a macro specimen close to the ground. Our angle of approach is somewhat restricted by the non-telescopic legs, but it was something I learned to live with.
Similarly, when using the monopod upright I found my shooting position rather reliant on where I could find a suitable tree, wall or fence to lean on. I am quite particular about my composition, so found this quite difficult to deal with, but also recognized that without these legs I wouldn't have been able to get the shutter speeds I needed in the conditions. In an open field with nothing to lean on That Steady Thing is of no help at all for head-height compositions, but in the woods, in town and in areas where there are things to support it, the idea comes into its own.
Once a decent tree was found for the legs to rest on (or to rest between them) I found it easy to achieve the solidity required for long exposures.
|Nikon D7000, 1/15sec @ F11, ISO 320|
|Nikon D7000, 1/30sec @ F16, ISO 800|
On a couple of occasions I rather wished the legs were flexible, Gorilla-pod style, so they could wrap around the tree trunk so I wouldn't have to worry about the camera falling, but flexible legs would reduce the effectiveness when shooting in the macro and low-angle positions. Maybe that's something for a future Mark II version.
Although the camera will attach directly to the boss, shooting angles are extremely limited and it is hard to keep the camera level, so a tripod head is essential - and I found a ball-and-socket type easiest to work with.
When set up well this is an extremely useful invention, and for those who are in the habit of using a monopod it will lend great assistance when shutter speeds are required that are beyond the monopod's ability to support. Tripod users will probably scoff and say, quite rightly, that for long exposures you can't beat the real thing - but we all know how easy it is to be caught without one, and how easy tripods are to leave at home.
At first I saw this as a trade-off between artistic integrity and convenience, as it limited my shooting position according to what I could find to lean on. But when we remember this isn't supposed to replace a tripod but to add function to a monopod, we can begin to view it differently. A tripod is certainly a better device for absolute stability, but this is designed for those occasions when you don't have one, or for people who are fundamentally opposed to carrying them.
For this test I went out purposely to use That Steady Thing, but the idea is that we are out with our monopods and come across a situation in which we need a bit more stability. And on that sort of occasion it could be the difference between getting a sharp picture, however compromised the composition, and going home with just the memory of the one that got away.
What we like:
- Interesting concept
- Strong and solid construction
- Clever stable design
What we don't like:
- Rigid legs limit compositional options
- Can only be used where there is something to lean on
Damien Demolder is a senior contributing writer for DPReview and the former editor of Amateur Photographer Magazine, the world's oldest weekly photographic publication. www.damiendemolder.com
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