One of the great things about using a point-n-shoot digital camera such as my Canon G11 is that I can take it anywhere and go ultra light. The G11 has image stabilization so I can easily hand-hold shots down to about 1/30th or a second or lower and get usable photos. But the problem with most small sensor point-n-shoot cameras such as the G11 is that most of them have poor high ISO performance. Generally I like to shoot with the G11 at 100 ISO, I’ll go up to 400 ISO if needed but I do not shoot with the camera much beyond 800 ISO. So in low light levels or indoors I often can not get the shutter speed above the safe handholding zone of 1/30th of a second. So in those scenarios I’ll need to bring a tripod or live with noisy photos or just not shoot.
Recently I was made aware of a nifty little gadget that might help get sharp shots in low light or with low ISO ratings. This thing, the SteadePod, looks like a tape measure and has a cord that you extend and step on. With the cord attached to your camera and by stepping on the opposite end you simply pull up until the tension in the cord steadies the camera. For a video on how this works see the SteadePod website.
Ok, fine I thought, looks a bit gimmicky but I’ll give it a try and see if it works.
I went out to photograph the snowy scene below, this is May 6 in Alberta, what the hell?
I shot the scene both without and with the SteadePod – the results at 1/25th of a second (below) are close, with the edge in sharpness going to the SteadePod shot. Like I said in the introduction, I can get sharp shots hand-held with the G11 around 1/30th of a second so I was not surprised that there was little difference in the two shots but the SteadePod did add just a tad more sharpness at this shutter speed.
Back home, out of the snow, I taped a newspaper up in the wall of my house and did some close-up shots of the text to see how close-focus performance worked with the SteadePod (see overall image below).
Here are the detailed results from the photo above comparing sharpness without and with using the SteadePod. There was definitely better sharpness when using the SteadePod at 1/10th of a second as the photo below shows:
Finally I thought I should really push the shutter speed down to lower values and tried a 1/2 second exposure on the newspaper with one photo handheld and one version with the SteadePod but with camera stabilization on for both shots. The results below show that the SteadePod really shines when using lower shutter speed that are generally impossible to hand-hold.
The SteadePod does make a difference and gives sharper shots than could be obtained by hand-holding. I doubt I will use it with my point-n-shoot when shutter speeds higher than 1/30th of a second (it does not add any extra sharpness). But at shutter speeds below 1/30th of a second this little lightweight, inexpensive gadget works well to give me sharper shots than I could get hand-held. The SteadePod will probably work on dSLR’s as well but if I am going ‘serious’ with a bigger camera, I’ll just take my tripod. The SteadePod has now officially made it into my point-n-shoot camera kit. I guess it gives you another stop or two of useable shutter speed beyond what you would normally get with a hand-held image stabilized camera.