Sunday, November 1, 2020

Ubeesize 51" Multi-Purpose Tripod/Selfie Stick with Bluetooth Remote (Amazon.com)


This is about as good as you're going to get for around $20.

Believe it or not, I like to dabble in photography. I know that might be a hard concept to grasp for longtime readers of this blog (are there any?), because I consistently forget to snap pictures of the products I review while I have them, and many of the ones I do remember are haphazardly thrown together. Indeed, I hate taking boring photos of products—for whatever reason, considering it's easy as hell to do and only takes ten seconds—but when it comes to more “artistic” shots, such as macro or nighttime photography, I'm always looking for unique ways to capture shots.

And I think one of the major reasons I count this as a hobby is just how far mobile photography has come. Even though I've always thought I've had a pretty good eye for composition, I just didn't have the interest level (nor the monetary requirement) to carry around a large case full of equipment with me wherever I go. Now that smartphone photography has made huge strides, with even most budget phones carrying multi-camera arrays these days, it has gotten a lot easier to take pictures in virtually all situations. The end results might be a ways off from dedicated cameras that can't text or call people, but with each passing year, that gap seems to draw at least a little bit closer.

One of the later developments in smartphone photography came with Huawei's P20 Pro, released in 2018, which was one of the first—if not thee first—to feature a dedicated night mode, allowing users to take competent photos in low-light situations. Since then, almost every major manufacturer has adapted it in some way, shape, or form, and while the results have gotten better, the basic idea of how it works is still the same: keep the camera as steady as possible for a few seconds while the camera “sucks in” as much light as possible (or, in the case of Google, for the software to do its thing), and then presto! Out pops a picture that's usually terrible by normal photography standards, but that can look atmospheric and cool with the proper tweaks.

The issue, especially as far as the P20 Pro was concerned, is that this mode didn't have a dedicated mode of stabilization, meaning even the slightest movement of the camera would lead to frustrating, blurry results. Well, with an impending visit to the in-laws—who live in the semi-secluded country hills of Tennessee—forthcoming, I knew I would have plenty of chances to take some nighttime shots without the endless supply of light pollution life in the big city provides, and that is why I ended up grabbing the Ubeesize tripod from Amazon, which retailed for just $20 at the time.

I don't have a lot of experience with tripods overall, having only used them for digital video during my filmmaking days back in high school, but the basic function of tripods are all the same: to hold the camera steady. The reason I opted for this one wasn't just the price, but the plethora of features available for said price: it extends to 51”, which is one of the longer lengths I found while researching; there's a dedicated Bluetooth shutter button allowing for hands-free operation (so crucial for maximizing those night shots); it can double as a selfie-stick (which I abhor, but my wife has been known to take millions); and a flexible 360-degree head and 180-degree neck rotation, which allows the user to set up shots at almost any angle, without constantly having to move the entire tripod around.

I haven't taken this out as much as I would like to—I'm not sure if you've heard about this virus that's kind of put the entire world on hold—but I've used it enough to know that it has not only matched my expectations in almost every regard, but also exceeded them. I was a little nervous, especially given the price, that it would be very thin, or very weak, and while I definitely wouldn't use it in a windstorm, the tripod feels pretty sturdy out of the box. I was also nervous about how the spring-loaded holder would handle my phone, fearing it would either grip it too hard, or not be able to grab it hard enough, but loading it in is a process that just gets easier every time you use it. The springs work really well, even after repeated use, and show no signs of malfunctioning any time soon.

Anyone who's used a tripod before knows there are generally a variety of different mechanisms throughout, for controlling every aspect of the shot. This tripod has the same collection of “snaps” to extend or lower the body, and screws for holding the legs and phone holder in place, giving it a familiar appearance, and function, to virtually every other one. Crucially, though, the “snaps” (for lack of an official term) don't feel super-cheap, and do a solid job of holding the tripod up. Ditto that for the screws, which keep the smartphone (or included Go-Pro or camera) adapters securely in place

I also had read comments of people who had issues pairing up the included remote with their phone or, even worse, people who couldn't get it to work even after setting it up properly; even though I was expecting the worst, I had it paired up—and working—within a minute, with no problems whatsoever. (Of course, the issue with online reviews is that it doesn't take the technical competence of the reviewer into consideration, making it hard to tell if it's legitimately a compatibility problem with the item itself, or user error.)

Even if tripods aren't really your thing, Ubeesize has you covered: the legs can fold up, giving you an extendable selfie stick. I've never actually used it for this purpose, but the ability to extend up to 51" really widens the scope of field for these kinds of photos and can allow you to get even wide family shots with little problem. If you take a lot of shots with social media in mind, this should be a go-to tool.

This has easily been one of my best investments, and should be a required accessory for anyone who is even slightly interested in photography; it has allowed me to get shots that I simply couldn't have gotten otherwise (or that would have been much more difficult to set up), while also experimenting with the P20 (and, later on, the P30) Pro's plethora of shooting options. Want to take photos of the night sky for star trails? Get that “silky water” effect from a running stream or waterfall? Use the “light painting” setting to get those artsy shots of moving traffic? Want to think outside the box and experiment with settings using the camera's “pro” mode? Well, this tripod enables you to do all of those things, and more; it's a cliché thing to say, but it really does open doors to all kinds of cool, unique shots that just simply aren't possible to get by hand, even with the improved handheld AI of most high-end smartphones.

There are, of course, some downsides, although all the main gripes I have are relatively minor: the Bluetooth shutter is made of thin plastic and feels incredibly cheap. It's also very small—for someone who loses things on a daily basis (and who has a child), it's a wonder I haven't lost this. (A lanyard comes with a later model to help keep tabs on it, although I could have just made one for this if I were so inclined.) The telescopic base of the telescope can also be a little frustrating to work with, as in order to max out the length, you have to max out four separate sections. I know, this is the way most tripods are designed, but it's still a fairly repetitive task to put up and take down.

Lastly, while I mentioned that the tripod is surprisingly well-made and feels sturdy, it is very light; this is certainly a plus for you when you're lugging it around, as it adds very little weight to your setup. However, it does become a concern in stronger winds, especially when it's at its maximum height. I wouldn't really worry about it in a gentle breeze, but anything beyond that might cause some issues out in open fields, or other areas where the wind can't be blocked. I also wish that the tripod legs were more independent, but that's typically a feature on more expensive tripods, so I can't really complain about its omission; all it means is

In other words, it's not perfect, but for $20, how could you honestly expect it to be? The fact of the matter is, this will be a great choice for almost all but the most professional of photographers, and with the ability to convert into a selfie-stick, is able to get almost any kind of shot that a typical user will require.

Overall: 8/10. If you just want a simple tripod for light-duty shoots, look no further than this one. For $20, you get a good-quality tripod, complete with a Bluetooth remote, and a variety of adapters ranging from smartphone, Go-Pro, to DSLR cameras. The tripod itself is very lightweight and feels sturdy, although it's so light it could cause some problems in windy shoots. The remote is very cheaply made, but the battery lasts a long time (with minimal use) and it pairs up easily with my Huawei. The conversion from tripod to selfie stick also helps make this a virtually required accessory for anyone, from photographers to wannabe Instagram stars. There are certainly better tripods out there, but for entry level media creators, I'm not sure you can do much better for the price.

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