If you’ve even a passing interest in photography, you’ll be aware that the handheld nature of a mobile phone makes it a poor candidate for some forms of photography like long exposures and night mode. As camera technology improves, the ability for our phones to take photos with every longer exposures brings this to the fore.
The solution is actually pretty simple – stabilise yourself when you’re taking the photo. You might lean on a tree, or attach your phone to a tripod. Or, obtain a phone that has the AI smarts to compensate for handshake wobble like the upcoming Huawei P20 Pro. Or, do both.
We’ve covered a few solutions like the Joby GripTight Mount (a spring loaded grip that attaches to a standard tripod), and there are some other products out there like the Kenu Stance that eschew a tripod mount and instead use the USB port on your phone.
Today I’m offering a quick look at a compact tripod from Xiaomi. The Ausdroid team came across this in the Xiaomi store in Barcelona while we were attending Mobile World Congress in Februarywhere it cost us about €15 (we also stocked up on some of Xiaomi’s more esoteric products like pens, Bluetooth mouses and even sunglasses).
The Xiaomi Mi Tripod folds away to about 20cm for travel and is about 40cm tall when fully extended. At that size it basically lives in my backpack and goes with me everywhere. The tripod legs have rubber feet on them and flip out from the body when you’re ready to place it. There’s also a central stabiliser too, again with a rubber foot.
The springs in the legs mean they don’t really have a variable open stance – they’re either open or shut. If that’s a problem, you can always stick something under the feet to alter its stance.
The main phone cradle is not unlike all the other phone grip solutions out there – spring loaded extension to take phones of all shapes and sizes, with a couple of prongs top and bottom – you need to be careful not to clamp these on your phone’s buttons or things won’t work properly, and if you have a phone with squeezable edges like HTC U11 / U11 Life or Google’s Pixel 2 phones you’ll need to disable the feature lest you constantly call up the Google Assistant.
You can tilt the cradle to about 20 degrees forward, or all the way back to look up at the night sky (although you might need to be careful that your phone doesn’t fall out of the cradle if you’re doing that). It can also rotate to hold the camera in portrait mode.
Another tip for better night time or long exposure photography is to avoid touching the phone while shooting – even the slightest touch can move the phone and ruin the shot. Again, there’s a few solutions here – set a timer and set the phone down, use a voice command, or use a remote shutter release. The Xiaomi tripod comes with a handy dandy little Bluetooth remote that works with most phones so you can trigger a photo from within the camera app without touching the phone.
The remote charges from Micro USB (sorry, no USB C) and even attaches to the tripod in a rubber cap so you can transport it all in one piece.
You might also use it with Android’s Smart Unlock feature – set the remote to be a trusted device so you don’t have to be too concerned about screen timeouts while waiting for the perfect shot.
I’ve been using the tripod with the Huawei P20 to get some shots that might otherwise not work out. The phones night mode take several shots at different exposures, so it needs to remain stable between the shots. The P20 Pro’s software stabilisation is good, but not needing it is even better.
I’m pretty happy with this tripod and find it really useful. It’s light and compact and rashes up a negligible amount of space in my backpack. I don’t often take shots that require a tripod (because I usually don’t carry one) but it’s great to have the option, and its opened up some new night time photography options for me. Not bad for a random excursion to a Xiaomi shop in Barcelona.
If you’re interested in getting a Xiaomi tripod for yourself, you can find a link to it in GeekBuying’s flash sale below. The white model is US$20, while the black model (which I’ve got, pictured) is a little less at US$17. You can use free shipping to get the item in about a month, or add about US$9 to get it a little faster (options are shown at checkout).
Disclosure: the link above is an affiliate sale link – if you purchase a Mi Tripod using it, Ausdroid gets a couple of dollars kickback. If you’re not comfortable with that, you can also search for the product and buy it wherever you like.