If you’re in the market for an ultra portable robotic tripod head that pans and tilts and is super easy to setup, you’ll be wanting to take a look at the Syrp Genie. The guys at Syrp have done their Kickstarter backers proud with a solid product that looks as good as it performs.
While it can’t pan and tilt at the same time, the Genie has a little trick up its sleeve to add an extra layer of motion control to its arsenal.
When you want to put the Genie on to a slider you won’t need any extra motors or cables to get things moving. The Genie comes complete with the linear accessory which utilizes a thin yet strong rope which you attach to either end of your slider. The motor inside the Genie will then pull the unit along the slider to add production value to your video recordings or time-lapse footage. You could even put the genie on a skate board or cart and then attach the ropes to trees or fences while it pulls itself through your scene.
While this might not be the most advanced method of motion control, you’ve got to love the sheer simplicity of the Genie, and with its built-in battery it really takes up very little space in your camera bag. If you’re off on a long haul flight and don’t relish the idea of packing lots of complex toys, you’ll appreciate the compact form of this device.
I was really impressed with the build quality of the Genie and its accessories. The packaging was like something you’d expect from Apple and everything has a solid, ruggedness about it that feels reassuring. I had some problems with the battery on the first unit that I received so Syrp promptly replaced it and the second unit had no problems with the battery lasting as advertised.
Ease of Use
The Genie is about as easy as it gets. Time-lapse photographers will love the presets and how the time calculations are adjusted based on your input. The interface is really easy to navigate and pretty intuitive. I only had to refer to the manual on a couple of occasions. Setting up a panning shot is pretty easy but I found the tilt shots more of a challenge to get things lined up with the horizon and also struggled a little with the ball head that Syrp kindly included. Once you’ve done it a few times it gets easier.
My first impression of the ball tripod head that Syrp included was that it might not be up to the job. After putting it to some serious stress tests it turned out to be a very sturdy little head that can handle a lot of weight and some hefty abuse.
The infra red transmitter stalk is a really cool addition for time lapse photographers who don’t fit into the Canon/Nikon mold and can’t connect up to the Genie with a cable. The IR transmitter plugs into the Genie and then sticks out of the side like one of those gooseneck desk microphones. The idea is that you point it at the IR receiver on your camera and it triggers the camera for time lapse shoots. I shoot with a Sony A7R so this was essential for me. I just wish the IR transmitter was a couple of inches longer so that I didn’t have to strap it to my lens with an elastic band. Anyway, it works and is much easier than fiddling about with a long IR cable.
The rope that you use for linear motion on sliders is really good quality and you can order different lengths to suite your needs.
I found the tech support from Syrp to be pretty quick and effective. When I had any big problems they jumped on it quickly and were patient when I was just being thick and didn’t get how things worked. I get the impression that even if I wasn’t a writer for dPS, I’d still get taken care of well.
Is it Worth the Price?
This is a tricky one and it really depends on your needs. Currently priced at $890 USD, the Genie cannot pan and tilt at the same time. It can only pan, tilt or slide. There are other robotic ‘motion control’ heads out there that offer more functionality for around the same price, but it’s kind of unfair to compare the Genie to more advanced units because they don’t have the built in battery and they require motor accessories in order to slide. With that in mind your decision to buy the Genie might come down to its two greatest features – simplicity and portability.
Here’s some quick and rough test footage that I shot with the Genie straight out of the box. Please watch at 1080p.
I am a confessed pixel peeping perfectionist. A snob of the worst kind when it comes to image quality and the finished product of a shoot.
My main use of the Genie was for shooting time-lapse sequences and I have to say that the results I got were not as smooth as I’ve had with other devices on the market. I don’t know if this can be fixed with a firmware update or if it’s down to a mechanical limitation of the Genie design. That being said, whether or not my obsessive ‘buttery’ motion requirements would make much of a difference once a finished video is butchered by the compression ogre from Vimeo or YouTube remains to be seen.
I suspect that for most time-lapse and video shooters, the motion of the Genie will be more than sufficient. I’m just a picky bugger.
Things I Love
- Ease of use
- The Preview Function (others could learn from this)
- Build quality
- Built in battery
Things I Don’t Love
- Can’t pan and tilt at the same time
- Not the smoothest results for time-lapse
- The little bit of ‘play’ that makes the first few frames of your time lapse completely static. You can see this in the second clip of my test footage video above.
All in all, the Genie is a really cool product that I feel is ideal for time lapse beginners and budding cinematographers. When you factor in the portability and the ease of use, the Genie comes in at a very fair price point with excellent build quality. Time-lapse shooters that are looking for something more advanced will have to spend a little more to move up to the next level of production value. I give the Syrp Genie 4 out of 5 stars.
More time-lapse tips and info here:
- Time-Lapse Photography Equipment Guide to Getting Started
- Discover the Wonder of Time-Lapse Photography
- 10 Pro Motion Control Time-Lapse Tips