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TUAW Review and giveaway: Blur Tripod and app for iPhone

Way back in September, we announced that Mobile Mechatronics was going to be selling a combination of a tiny tripod and an iPhone app called Blur. The idea behind this combo is that the tripod can hold your iPhone more steadily than your hand can, and then the software can assist you by either taking a photo after a delay or taking several photos in quick succession.

At the time, I asked Mobile Mechatronics to send some samples for us to test and then give away. The tripods arrived very quickly, but the software was nowhere to be found. In my quest to get review equipment out of my office and into the hands of TUAW readers, I kept searching the App Store for the app. It appears that Mobile Mechatronics fell into the bane of iPhone developers everywhere -- slow approval of apps -- because it finally showed up when I searched this week.
With the tripod and app finally together, I sat down to do a quick review. The US$14.99 tripod is very small. I was able to stick one into a pocket of my jacket and didn't even notice the weight. The kit consists of the tripod and a small plastic adapter mount with a threaded metal insert. That adapter screws into the top of the little Blur tripod (or any other tripod for that matter), and holds an iPhone horizontally or vertically. The first adapter that I pulled out of the box was missing the threaded metal insert, which made it totally worthless. If you're considering purchasing one of the Blur tripods, make sure that the threaded insert is properly installed. If it isn't, return the tripod for another one.

The tripod really isn't that great. There are other tripods that cost nearly the same amount that are quite rigid and well-made. The skinny legs telescope out to provide a bit more height, and there's a little screw with a handle on it that is used to tighten the ball and socket at the top of the tripod. Unfortunately, the ball and socket doesn't work too well. On other tripods I own, the mechanism locks the pivoting head down tight. Here, it still has a bit of wobble, but that's only while you're fitting the iPhone into the plastic mount. Once you've let go of the iPhone, it seems to hold steady.

The plastic mount works well at holding an iPhone vertically. Inside are three small rubber-like pads that cushion the iPhone and grip it as well. However, you really can't use the mount to hold the iPhone horizontally, as there is a plastic ridge in the bottom of the adapter that is meant to fit into the iPhone's dock port. You also can't use the mount with any iPhone in a case unless you remove your phone from the case first. Frankly, I'd toss the cheaply-made tripod and get a small, lightweight model like the Sunpak 620-020 2001UT Travel Tripod [US$18.95, Amazon Link] instead. You can still use the plastic mount to hold your iPhone on top of the "real" tripod instead of this aluminum toy tripod.

Now let's go to the other piece of the equation, which is the Blur Tripod app [US$0.99, iTunes Link]. The Mobile Mechatronics website is still showing the app as "available on iTunes shortly," but it is definitely in the store now. There are three functions that the software performs:
  • It provides a bubble level so that you can make sure that the iPhone is perfectly horizontal or vertical
  • It has a delay timer, so you can set the camera to take a picture and then walk over to put yourself into the scene
  • You can set up the camera to take multiple photos taken anywhere from two seconds to 10 minutes apart
The bubble level is nothing spectacular, but it will ensure that you're getting a flat horizon if you're taking a picture of the plains or a body of water. The Time Delay function is something I've wanted for a while, since it not only can be used as a self-timer, but in concert with the tripod it will make sure that there is absolutely no vibration when you take the picture. Finally, the Multishot function could be helpful for doing action shots or even time-lapse photography over the course of a day.

The app could have used a simple set of instructions and a one-page help file. When I first started using it, it took me a minute to figure out (for example) that I had to touch the Time Delay button once to enable that function and make the selector visible on the screen, and then touch it again to actually take the photo. Likewise, someone just casually picking up the app might wonder what 10p, 15s means when they're in the Multishot mode. As it was, I was able to figure it out just by trial and error, but it wouldn't hurt to have instructions for the more timid.

Once the photos have been taken, they are visible from within the app by tapping the View Photos button. While this takes you into a photo viewer that's similar to the one in Apple's Photos app, there is no way to delete or share the photos in the photo viewer. For that, you need to leave the Blur Tripod app and use Photos, or use another app like Best Camera to crop and add effects to your photos.

The bottom line? If you want a little tripod for your iPhone and also need an app that will give you a level, a self-timer, and multi-shot capabilities, consider buying the Blur Tripod (for the plastic iPhone mount) and the companion app. Or you win the tripod! That's right, we're giving three away to TUAW readers. Here's the scoop:
  • Open to legal US residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 and older.
  • To enter leave a comment telling how you'll use the Blur Tripod
  • The comment must be left before Wednesday, November 11, 2009, 11:59PM Eastern Standard Time.
  • You may enter only once.
  • Three winners will be selected in a random drawing.
  • Prizes: Three Blur Tripods from Mobile Mechatronics, valued at US$14.99 (Blur Tripod software not included)
  • Click Here for complete Official Rules.
Check out the gallery below for pictures of the Blur Tripod and screenshots of the app in action.

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