The History of the Hand-Held Camera Stabilizer

Since the first photo was taken in 1826 to the invention of the 35mm camera, introduced by Leica in 1925, people have enjoyed immortalising the moment in a photograph. Since those early days cameras have become more accessible, and today they are smaller, lighter and highly portable. The hand-held DSLR camera stabilizer has become a necessity in order to get the perfect shot. Motion pictures are now regularly being shot using hand-held “point and shoot” cameras (click for the guide here).

The Steadicam was used in iconic films such as the Shining, brining hand-held filming to the fore. Although placing your camera on a tripod will stabilise the shot, they are not considered to be camera stabilizers.

A Brief History of the Hand-Held Camera Stabilizer

What is a Camera Stabilizer used for?

History of the Hand-Held Camera StabilizerA camera stabilizer is a device that you can use to prevent “camera shake” and other unwanted movement. They are designed to be used with hand held camera that are small and easy to use such as a camcorder, DSLR, Go-Pro or a video recorder. For specifically designed GoPro gimbals click the link.

Garrett Brown invented the Steadicam, mostly used for motion pictures, this is a body mounted designed stabilizer. Then in 1991 Martin Stevens, an Englishman by birth, took it a little further and invented the hand-held camera stabilizer. This was called the Glidecam.

Movies, and the way movies are made, have come a long way over the years and the camera stabilizer has become essential to any photographer or videographer. For the small hand-held cameras, a harness or a contoured frame will steady the camera using the photographer’s body as the base for stabilisation.

There are some models of hand-held stabilizers that have a camera mount on an arm. This arm swings out in front of the photographer and it has a handle grip situation under the camera itself. Another style of hand-held stabilizer, which includes a fulcrum which is then braced against the chest or abdomen of the shooter.

Finally there is a shoulder brace type DSLR rig stabilizer that will allow the photographer to place the weight of the camera on their shoulder for stabilisation.

Non-motorised Camera Stabilizers

If you are looking for control then the non-motorised camera stabilizer is the one that you would choose. This type of stabilizer will allow you to control the minor movements, adjusting as you go. When you are filming an action shot and tracking a subject that is fast moving then the non-motorised camera will allow you to get the most out of your action shots as you can lean the camera into the turns tracking you subject in a way that you would not be able to do with a motorised stabilizer.

Getting this great movement requires a lot of user interaction, unlike their motorised counterparts. This can be a bit of a drawback when it comes to operating non-motorised versions as it takes a longer time to learn how to control your filming. Getting that smooth shot with your hand-held camera using a non-motorised stabilizer is not as simple or easy as with a motorised stabilizer but, on the other hand, the footage will be spectacular.

Motorised Camera Stabilizers

This type of stabilizer is the easiest to use and, at least with the majority of stabilizer, once you have set it up and balanced it, you can start shooting straight away. Another great benefit of the motorised stabilizer as opposed to the non-motorised units, it is very simple to use and learning the ins and outs takes a lot less time. With these types of stabilizers, you can tilt your camera to any angle for both high and low shots and the stabilizer will ensure that your camera is maintained at that angle.

However, unlike the non-motorised version, you cannot easily change the angle while shooting. Motorised stabilizers have another downside. They can be heavy and require a longer set up time. The larger ones can tire you out when shooting all day with your hand-held. If you are going to be changing your settings such as lenses, which affects the weight of the camera, you will also need to change the settings on your motorised stabilizer.

As the size of cameras get smaller, as they get more lightweight and as people use their Apple smartphones as cameras more often, the need for the hand-held stabilizer will continue to get more important. Most of these cameras will include some form of stabilisations apparatus, but with handheld shots you will often require more support than the inbuilt stabilisation.

If you are interested in going into more detail about hand-held camera stabilizers, read this study.