So back in 2016 I backed a campaign for a crowdfunded mobile phone gimbal called the Snoppa M1. The idea was I could use my mobile phone to capture footage, but it would be stabilised and look much better than handheld footage.
The company behind the gimbal – Snoppa were an established company, already making many devices, however this was the first attempt to make a smartphone gimbal for them. The device had been prototyped and was ready to go into produced, so I paid up my $70 approx. and it was due to ship to me by March 2017.
March came and went, April came and went. Updates were slow, confusing and generally very annoying as stories of the devices being sold online prior to backers getting theirs surfaced. Many people were angry that they had funded the production, but weren't being given priority – myself included.
There were countless delays with excuses such as "tooling taking time", "public holidays" and many more – I didn't mind any delays due to bugs being found and corrections being made – ultimately I wanted a device that worked well, not a half finished gadget.
Anyway, finally in May 2017 there was some communication that Baader Planetarium would be handling the EU distribution as well as the warranty backup, etc. This seemed like good news for EU backers – I was given a delivery window of late June. All was well (if not a little late).
June arrived, then passed. There was still not sign of a gimbal. But then, an email arrived from Baader stating that due to an oversight in regulations once the item was delivered I would need to pay VAT and import duty to the distributer directly (this worked out to be approx €12 – but it varied based on exchange rates and the price you originally paid for the device). This although annoying, is understandable – Baader will have paid this on the parcels when they arrived from China, so it had to be passed on – this is really more a reflection on Snoppa, not Baader. In my mind, I was just glad that someone was sorting it all out.
Anyway, late July – I finally get a UPS shipping notification. It's on it's way. 3 days later, it arrives safe and sound. The device looks good, feels pretty good and seemingly works as it should. Well at least at first.
I took out the gimbal, checked all the parts were there – first issue (this has caused quite a lot of confusion online) – the counterweight system has changed – but the manual still has the old information in it – so the user isn't seeing what they expect.
Second problem – the promised waterproof bag isn't here (apparently they haven't arrived from China) – but people who have had them appear to be claiming that they aren't waterproof and the word has been somewhat mis-translated.
The item arrives with little to no charge – this is to be expected – it's a Li-Po battery – they are safer to transport when they have less charge.
Charging is quite slow – took about 2 hrs to say it was full.
Next, download the app – I use an iPhone 7 Plus. App available in the UK app store – no issues there. Installed. Job Done.
Next, put the phone into the gimbal. Follow instructions. Turn on, launch app, pair, done…. or it should be.
First thing I noticed, it wasn't level. So I took the phone out, the gimbal goes crazy vibrating, eventually realises it can't stabilise anything and turns off. I have to calibrate the gimbal. Easy to do – just like a drone – it centres all the gyros, etc.
Try again. Better. All nice and level now. Now to try the app.
Experience in the app:
The app is pretty rubbish IMO – it really doesn't seem to yield very clear videos. I've taken to not using the app and using the button to cycle modes instead. This means I can use Filmic Pro or the stock camera app. Both seem to give better results.
The only reason I need the app now is to update the firmware and to calibrate the device.
I am actually quite impressed with the footage generally. It certainly does make it more stable – you only get a slight sense of movement up and down when walking. Its not drone like – but then it isn't using such high-tech kit as a £1000 drone. But for sub-£100 it does a good job.
Here is some example footage:
Here is some additional footage:
More footage coming soon. Using better apps!
What I don't like:
OK, it works mostly as intended, but there is one glaring issue I have. It CANNOT cope with the weight of an iPhone 7 Plus. Regardless of what Snoppa say. In omni-track mode it really struggles to correct the phone after it is pointed down. It always drops out and the phone falls forward – this can been seen in the second video and will be more apparent in future videos I make.
Portrait mode – it's a pain in the backside to get it to actually switch – most of the time it will timeout and turn the gimbal off, or it will go crazy and rotate the phone round and round. I can't help but feel it should just "work". Never mind – I'll hardly use this anyway.
Finally – the phone mount feels crap – not just a bit cheap – genuinely crap. People on social media are already complaining that their mount has broken after 1-2 uses. This is a device that should be solid. Why skimp on a few pence for a better quality mount.
Rounding up then. I've backed quite a few Kickstarter, Indiegogo, etc campaigns and they've all pretty much delivered on their promise. But I am a little disappointed with the Snoppa. It's left a sour taste in my mouth due to the lack of transparency that they had with their customers. Along with the flaws that clearly should have been picked up during design (iPhone weight issues, portrait mode niggles, weak mount, etc).
Would I crowd fund something again? Probably – it's a risk you take.
Would I bother with another similar product or just buy the DJI Osmo Mobile? Honestly, just buy the finished and complete item – DJI have a great reputation with good reason. OK it might cost over twice as much – but what you get is a complete product that works as intended with a solid app.