Freefly is a company that’s best known for making camera stabilization rigs typically used by professionals, or ambitious semi-pros. But the company is trying to change that with a new $299 handheld stabilization called the Movi that is supposed to help you step up your iPhone video game. Preorders start today, and the first units ship in March 2018.
The new mobile rig shares the same name as the professional version that first helped Freefly blow up its business in 2013. That Movi was a light, adjustable, and affordable stabilization rig that used sensors and motors to smooth out a camera operator’s movements. It let people capture cinema-quality footage on a budget that wouldn’t bankrupt them, and it’s helped the company expand to a full lineup of professional video stabilization solutions.
The idea behind the mobile Movi is similar: make it easier for people to capture footage that will fool someone into thinking it was shot on a more expensive camera. It does this using gyroscopic tech in a gimbal that’s similar (in spirit, though not in complexity) to what you’d find in the professional versions of the Movi, and by leaning on the company’s now years-long expertise in crafting software and algorithms that make it easier to shoot smooth footage.
I recently got a brief demo of the new Movi, and it’s fun to play with. It’s not too heavy, and the one-sided grip design isn’t as imbalanced as it might seem. The motors moved the phone as smoothly as one would expect from a Freefly product, and I love that it’s built in such a way that you can just place it down on a flat surface (which is especially useful for time lapses) without needing a separate accessory.
But there’s definitely a lot of work to be done before the company ships them in March. The units I was shown were two of just five 3D-printed prototypes that the company has made so far, and it’s still early enough in the process that the directional buttons on the grip still don’t have any assigned functions. (The corresponding app at least appears ready, and is already packed with different shooting modes and options that let you customize the movement of the gimbal.)
The challenge for Freefly is a totally different one than it faced when it announced the original Movi. Back then, the company was wading into new territory, and was rewarded by customers for being ahead of the curve. Now, it’s entering a part of the market that’s been flooded with options from China, and is dominated by DJI’s Osmo Mobile.
The year-old Osmo Mobile has tangible advantages: an extra level of control thanks to a joystick that lets users aim their phone without moving, brand recognition, and Android compatibility. (Freefly says there are no plans for an Android app right now, but isn’t ruling it out.) But the biggest is the fact that it’s on sale right now, and that the Osmo Mobile is, at the time of writing, at least $100 cheaper than the unreleased Movi.