Garnering an incredible US$ 1,590,090 (S$ 2,151,870) on crowdfunding site Indiegogo, Snoppa’s latest gimbal entry comes amidst turbulent times, but brings with it unique capabilities and features. With strong competition in the form of mobile gimbals like the DJI Osmo Mobile 2 and the Zhiyun Smooth line of mobile gimbals, the Snoppa has clearly stood its ground with solid backing ahead of its release, being 14,597% funded with 14,585 backers.
The Snoppa Atom has had to contend with two notable developments in 2018. First, a revolutionary electronic stabilisation system touted to be on par with gimbals – Hypersmooth on the GoPro Hero 7 Black. Next, DJI’s groundbreaking DJI Osmo Pocket, which packs a physical, three-axis stabiliser gimbal mechanism into an unbelievably small form factor – not much bigger than a pack of mints.
The Atom’s claim to fame is its folding form factor, reducing a three-axis mobile gimbal into a tiny heap of plastic that could fit in most pockets.
The roll and pitch axes lock with a click by rotating them in a specific direction. This achieved, the user presses on a latch to pivot the arm over the device, ensuring a protrusion slots into a notch near the back of the device. Fully folded, the latch re-engaged to ensure the Atom does not swing open unsummoned.
I’ve used the DJI Osmo Mobile versions extensively in the past, and despite their light weight and slim profile, the bulky nature of the stabilising arms meant that I seldom lugged the device out for on-the-fly filming. The Snoppa Atom’s sheer portability puts it ahead of the mobile gimbal pack.
Apart from its foldable form-factor, the Atom’s plastic construction feels adequately robust, much like the DJI Osmo Mobile 2. I did feel the matte finish on the device to be somewhat vulnerable, with the aforementioned protrusion having been rubbed shiny within my first use.
Again, the Atom (on paper) shines in the software and capability department. Motion timelapse? Check. Face and object tracking? Check. Running and walking modes? Check.
And thats where it goes above and beyond the spec sheets of its closest competitors. The Atom transitions seamlessly between landscape and portrait orientations, and pivots about-face for vlogs (or sweep transitions) at a press of a button.
Which button, you ask? You choose! The Atom allows a total of four customisable controls with options for short presses and long presses of the “back key” and “M key”, located under the trigger control at the index finger and at the thumb knuckle respectively.
There’s also wireless charging embedded in the cradle for seamless charging of your mobile devices. Short cables for iPhone (USB-C to Lightning) and Android (USB-C to USB-C) sort out those phones without this wireless magic, too.
With two USB-C and 3.5mm audio ports each, and unobstructed yaw rotation about the main Y-axis, the Atom sets a firm foot as the leader of the mobile gimbal territory.
Performance and Usability
Like its competitors Zhiyun and DJI, Snoppa uses a mobile application to facilitate interaction between the gimbal and your device.
The Snoppa app is a well-designed application that impressed us well in terms of usability and degree of customisability. Everything from resolution, frame rate, grid options, zoom and focus speeds, wireframe mode for checking focus, walk/run gimbal sensitivity control, and button mapping can all be accessed within the app.
Despite this, we were unable to access the 4K recording option within the app when used with an iPhone Xs Max, with the next best option an adequate (for us) 2160p/60fps.
While this did not affect usage or orientation of the video output file in any way, the bar indicating the “bottom” of the iPhone Xs Max was on top when in landscape mode. Note that the phone can not be rotated since a support arm obstructs the camera that way.
We were also unable to get the face/object tracking feature to work satisfactorily as the gimbal twisted out of control the moment the object got to the edges of the frame.
Otherwise, the Atom was a real pleasure to use, and these concerns did little to affect my usage experience.
Snoppa claims up to 24 hours of battery runtime, with a 14.8Wh, 2,000mAh internal battery that charges in 3 hours. Although I was unable to test this fully, an inclusion of a conveniently-located USB-C charging port meant peace of mind since I could easily charge the Atom from my 20,000 mAh portable charger between shooting locations.
An included 3.5mm TRRS microphone port enables the use of external microphone options, which I capitalised on with a lavalier microphone. This feature would be particularly useful for budding filmmakers, aspiring YouTubers and vloggers alike.
Is it worth getting in 2019?
With blockbusters like the DJI Osmo Pocket and the Hypersmooth-capable GoPro Hero 7 Black packing capable three-axis stabilisation in ultra-compact form-factors, the Atom struggles to find a niche.
Like most comparisons, price is the leading factor. The Osmo Pocket comes in at SGD 519, while the GoPro Hero 7 Black retails at SGD 595 (usually for slightly less, and with bundled goodies). We snagged the Snoppa Atom at an exclusive price of USD 79, at 49% off intended retail price, and far cheaper than comparable mobile gimbals.
The competition by GoPro and DJI feature standalone optics and storage, which means lag time and added battery drain while the device syncs large video files across to your phone, if you choose to do so.
Conversely, it also means that you have a battery life separate from your smartphone on which you can rely on for extended trips and filming sessions.
Both competing devices are also 4K 60p capable, which also means a bump up from most top-tier smartphones that usually sport 4K 30p video cameras. But with the Atom being (currently) unable to access 4K recording on my device, I’d say this is not much of an issue for most casual users, who would appreciate seamless portrait/landscape orientation change or any of its useful features. However, pessimists or anyone requiring 4K recording should look for alternatives.