A medium that I’ve enjoyed working in over the years has been photography. I started way back in my college days (the mid 1980s) when it was all film. When the digital age hit in the early 2000s I was an early adopter and spent a thousand dollars on my first three megapixel digital camera. Technically my first digital camera was the Gameboy camera from the late 1990’s but that was really a toy.

I mention all that because being into photography means that over the years I’ve spent a lot of money buying cameras and accessories. A new camera every four or five years isn’t a ton of money but when they cost $400-$1000 a piece that’s a big piece of my art supply budget. So I could never get everything I wanted to in the realm of photography but I didn’t let that stop me. My motto became “Shoot with what you’ve got.”

I like to get things done. When that comes to photography that means taking photos. Back before everyone carried a phone camera in their pocket there were only a few of us interested in taking photos. It wasn’t always easy to carry a camera with you and get people to stop for pictures. By “People” I don’t even mean strangers on the street but friends if we were at a party of some such. It took effort to take photos.

A fairly large percentage of people I knew who were interested in photography never took any photos. The time was never right for them and they never had the camera they wanted. I’d say that some of them were even camera snobs. They had some fancy camera that maybe was borrowed from a relative but then gave back. They were saving for their own fancy camera and didn’t want to bother taking photos with lesser cameras. Yes, I ran into people like that more than once back in the film age.

I love fancy equipment too. My first camera that I got as a freshman in college was an Olympus OMG. That is a 35MM SLR with interchangeable lenses. I liked it but it had no flash. That was no problem in college but after I graduated and started working at Marvel Comics I found myself hanging out after work, and after dark, with friends and coworkers. That meant I really needed a camera with a flash to take photos but I had no money for one.

Meanwhile my sister had a cheap 35mm camera with a built in flash. It was nothing special and offered no controls but I realized that I wasn’t taking any photos with my OMG so I may as well borrow hers. So that’s what I did. It took crappy photos but they were better than no photos. I learned to shot with what I’ve got.

I’m still remembering Joe Matt.

In a couple of years I got an Olympus Stylus pocket camera and carried that around all through the 1990s until the digital age. In the 1990s I also bought a Canon Rebel 35mm SLR and then a few years later a Canon EOS SLR. I had a couple of lenses for those cameras too so there was never any shortage of equipment all through the decade. But often I’d shoot with the Olympus Stylus that was always in my pocket. It was what I had.

This is all in my head today because I just bought a new piece of camera equipment. A gimbal. That’s a device to put a camera on and it keeps the camera steady and level as you move. Its main use is for shooting video.

One of the things that I like to do is to shoot video as I walk down the sidewalk in NYC. I get off the train on 33rd Street and walk down to 14th Street shooting video as I go. It’s video that no one will ever see but maybe someday when I’m older and can’t get around as much I’ll watch it with nostalgia.

The problem with handheld video is that it’s shaky. I hold the camera at chest level, use my body as a shock absorber, and keep the camera as level as I can but still the video is going to be shaky. That’s the nature of walking and taking video. Unless you’ve got a gimbal.

I’ve wanted a gimbal for a few years now but they’re expensive. Not super expensive. The ones I was looking at ran around $200 to $400. But that’s a lot of my budget to blow on a piece of equipment that I only needed to shoot steadier video for videos I never really did anything with. But I kept a few of them on my Amazon Wish List.

The gimbal I ended up buying is the MOZA Mini P MAX. There was a used one for $120 so I figured I’d finally jump on it. It has a handle, three “Arms,” three gyroscopes in it, and fold up for storage. It weighs about a pound and a half so it’s not heavy but it’s more weight than a camera alone. For that reason I found it works best with my phone camera.

You also have to balance the camera on the gimbal. All three arms swing freely but also have a locking position. I had to look up online haw to unlock and balance the camera. You unlock one arm, balance the camera by moving it along a beam, clamp it in place, and then repeat for the other two arms. It’s not hard but it took practice. I spent my first few hour with it just practicing unfolding and balancing it.

I have yet to bring the gimbal to NYC and use it for taking video but I will soon. Meanwhile just yesterday I bought another thing for moving and shooting video. At only $20 it was an impulse buy. It’s a chest harness that holds a phone and is made for shooting video while riding a bike os some such. Since I ride a bike I wanted to check it out.

There are no gyroscopes in it so it’s not really a gimbal but it’s supped to be designed to get steady video. It’s not here until tomorrow and I don’t cycle until the day after tomorrow but I’ll let you know how that one is. Meanwhile I’ll shoot with what I’ve got.

Update. I tried out the chest harness and it was terrible. Oh well, you can’t win them all.