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Review: eMotimo Spectrum ST4

eMotimo's new camera robot, the Spectrum ST4, delivers multi-axis camera control for timelapses like its predecessor, the TB3, but features a new design and motion presets designed to enhance its appeal for video producers.

More About Presets

The Spectrum features six different preset motion modes if I cycle through them. Preset 6 is Turbo. Turbo is the one in the instruction manual where they say “watch out,” because it is very fast. On this short slider, it would take me no time to crash in the end, but they thought of that as well. With the two trigger buttons on the front of the device (Figure 6, below), you can set stops. I could go all the way to the end of the slider and turn the camera to whatever extreme angle that I wanted to stop at and use the left button to create a left stop. The Spectrum would remember that position in all the axes. Then I can move to the right, do the same thing with the other side and use the other button to set where I want that to stop.

Figure 6. Set stops with these trigger buttons. Click the image to see it at full size.

With these stops set, if you’re on a shoot and you’re paying attention to your subject and not necessarily watching the camera movement, you can go back and forth, and you don’t have to worry about hitting the end of my slider, because the Spectrum will automatically ease to a stop at that point without an abrupt hard slam that will shake the camera. The controller has haptic feedback, so it will vibrate intensely in your hand to tell you, “You need to stop. This is the end. You have to go back the other way.” You don't even have to look at the device; you can just run to the end and then, when it vibrates, just go back the other way and wait until it vibrates again.

In Turbo mode, it won’t take long to get from one end to the other. For sports, when you have to move a camera really fast to track a ball or a player, this is going to be key. I have not used Turbo mode for much, because I rarely need to move that quickly for the kind of stuff I shoot.

Generally, I found myself really liking preset 5, Quiet mode. It creeps along, making almost no sound. When you let go of the control to stop it, it eases to a stop really nicely. Preset 4 is also a good one. It doesn’t have quite as much damping, but the longer you hold it, the longer it damps. This makes for nice, smooth shots when you're trying to do something really gentle. The downside of this is you do have to protect that ease so that when you stop and you try to land on the subject, you don’t go too far, because it’s got a lot of flow to it.

One more thing about the slider. If you don't want to use this Spectrum with this, there is also a flywheel (Figure 7, below) that comes with the iFootage slider. This is basically a heavy weight, and you would replace the motor and cog there. Adding a weight there would then give you a counterweight. It uses centrifugal force to give you more damping when you’re operating the Spectrum by hand and not relying on the motor.

Figure 7. A flywheel comes with the iFootage slider. Click the image to see it at full size.

Power and Connectivity

To power the Spectrum, I use a 23,000 mA hour battery that I can take anywhere. I can also use USB ports on it to charge devices, such as my smartphone or tablet. The Spectrum also has DC power. You have an SD card slot which will be used for a number of things upcoming. The Spectrum also has an I/O port for camera control if you’re shooting timelapse, so you’d need a cable to go from this to the camera that you’re using to control the shutter. There is also a built-in joystick (Figure 9, below) in case your controller dies on the field, so you can still navigate to the menu that you need to. This wouldn't be great for video, because then you still can't use your controller to control the device, but you could still set up a timelapse and execute it just with this 4-way button. Then your controller port here for your third axis is what this needs.

Unlike the TB3, the Spectrum has more of a gimbal type setup for camera-mounting and it uses Arca Swiss mounts, so it’s a really solid connection. To connect your camera, you’ll have to buy an L-plate, which you can get from eBay or direct from eMotimo. The Spectrum has a payload of roughly 12 pounds.

Tech and Product Support

I didn’t just buy a Spectrum because it's a great product; I purchased it knowing that the guys at eMotimo, Brian and Logan, are fantastic to deal with. They really know their products and stand behind them. When I contact eMotimo with a question via email or phone, I know that one of those two guys is going to respond quickly and they're going to take care of the problem.

In preparing to do this review and my presentation at NAB where I used all of the equipment shown in the video that accompanies this article, we had shipments and emails and phone calls going back and forth for a couple of months. Brian and Logan were always right there for me to take care of any little issue I was encountering, or something I couldn't figure out on how to work with this new machine. When you buy a product from eMotimo, you’re not just buying a product; you’re buying a service. I know a lot of companies say that, but I can tell you from my personal experience with eMotimo that they really stand behind it and believe it.

 

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