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iPhone 13 video stabilization performance really impresses me

It’s taken me a while to test the night video capabilities, but it turned out that it was the iPhone 13 video stabilization performance that really impressed me!

A TV professional friend once said to me that the most common shot seen in any movie or TV show is one taken on a locked-off tripod …

Camera movements have their place, of course. Dolly movements – where the camera moves in toward something, or backs away from something – are Hollywood staples. Crane or drone shots are commonly used to create drama or visual variety. Walk-and-talks can be incredibly effective in dramas. Changing angles can be used to good effect to create a sense of unease or tension. Some of today’s videographers especially tend to use all kinds of funky camera movements.

But my friend is right – a static shot is still the most common one you’ll see in professional footage, and with good reason. A static shot lets you frame a video with the same care you’d take with a still photo, and generally you want all the attention to be on the actors and the action. And even if you want to pan or tilt, a tripod is the best way to get a smooth movement.

When I shoot video, I use tripods a lot. I do have a mini one I use with an iPhone holder if I know in advance that I’m going to want to shoot video. But of course, a huge part of the benefit of an iPhone is that it’s the camera you always have with you, so sometimes footage is spontaneous – and that’s when I often wish I had a tripod.

But what I discovered in this test is that the iPhone 13 video stabilization offers close to tripod-level stability when shooting handheld, as long as you exercise a little care in your stance.

Yes, there is some movement visible, but it’s very small indeed. So much so that although I tried adding post-stabilization in Final Cut Pro, the difference between that and straight-from-camera footage is absolutely miminal. In the sample video below, you can see the raw footage first, and the FCP stabilized version second.

For casual usage, the in-camera stabilization is nothing short of miraculous. Would I use it for anything more serious, like short films? I’d still prefer the 100% stability of a tripod for locked-off shots, but it’s honestly very close to the point at which I’d be willing to use it, and I might well do so for panning and tilting movements, which look almost as smooth as tripod-mounted shots.

The only area where it failed was walking shots – those were no better than I’ve seen from previous models, and I wouldn’t consider them usable, so I haven’t included any.

Cinematic Video got all the headlines – even though it very definitely isn’t yet ready for real-life use – but perhaps the stabilization feature should have been the one to get the attention. This really is ready for real-world use.

Check out the video below.

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