In a Supporting Role
Gadget makers have been busy inventing better ways to steady a camera, for those times when you want a long exposure or a self-portrait. Brian A. Wilson of Los Angeles evaluated six camera mounts (with a little help from four friends).
OUR TOP CHOICE: Joby Gorillapod
Cute and funky, with twistable legs that wrap around poles, branches, or railings, the Gorillapod is the coolest-looking camera mount we tested. But while the Gorillapod looks like a toy, it takes its job seriously. The flexible tripod holds tightly to whatever its legs are wrapped around, without slipping under the weight of the camera. For maximum stability, be sure to purchase the size that's appropriate for the weight of your camera. joby.com, from $22.
Snaps on a Bottle
The bottle-top camera mount is simple, yet ingenious. The camera screws on to the plastic top of the device, and the rubber bottom half fits snugly over the cap of a water or soda bottle. But be careful: When assembled, the rig can topple over if bumped. A bigger bottle makes for a more stable base, and a full bottle is better than an empty one. The gadget is easy to use and hardly takes up any room in a bag. compact-impact.com, $10.
When fully extended, the XShot is an impressive 37 inches long. The extra reach gave us room to fit more people and background scenery into our self-portraits. That's where the advantages ended, though. The XShot is cheaply made: The camera mount is not very strong, and it couldn't always hold the camera upright. The pole is also decidedly uncool—we felt like real gadget geeks trying this one out on the street. xshotpix.com, $30.
Looking like a cross between a hockey puck and a breast implant, the Pod is nothing more than a small beanbag with a camera mounting screw. It is the easiest of the six gadgets to attach to a camera: Four spins and the camera is ready to go. The rugged little beanbag support works best for straight-on, horizontal shots taken from a flat surface—a table or car roof. But you should forget about extreme up or down angles. thepod.ca, from $18.
The Chestpod is designed to make it possible to hold a still or video camera for long periods without your arm getting tired. Braced against the abdomen and held in place by a strap around the neck, however, the device is as comfortable to wear as Burmese neck rings. What's more, every time we pulled the Chestpod out, it got tangled up in itself, a bramble of straps and clips. Passersby loved watching us try to put the thing on. rtsphoto.com, $89.
Quik Pod Pro+
With the 18-inch-long Quik Pod Pro+, you can take a self-portrait with enough background in the shot to tell where you are. A mirror is affixed to the end, just below where you screw in the camera, helping you see yourself (and frame your shot). The mirror, however, doesn't always match up exactly with the direction that the camera is pointing. We adjusted the camera angle several times and still got shots of cropped heads and sky. quikpod.com, from $25.