The StickPic - Camera Gear
Test Series by Hollis Easter
Initial Report - 5 September 2008
Long-Term Report - 25 November 2008
The StickPic is a compact, ultralight camera mount that attaches to the tip of a trekking pole.
Name: Hollis Easter
Height: 6'0" (1.8 m)
Weight: 205 lb (93 kg)
Email address: backpackgeartest[a@t)holliseaster(dah.t]com
City, State, Country: Potsdam, New York, USA
Backpacking Background: I started hiking as a child in the Adirondack Mountains
of New York. As a teenager, I hiked my way to an Eagle Scout award. I
love winter climbing, and long days through rough terrain abound. The
peaks have become my year-round friends.
I am a midweight backpacker: I don't carry unnecessary gear, but neither
do I cut the edges from my maps. I hike in all seasons, at altitudes from
sea level to 5,300 ft (1,600 m), and in temperatures from -30 F (-34 C) to 100 F (38 C).
Manufacturer: Rodney Java and David Lopez
Year of manufacture: 2008
Listed weight: 0.38 oz (10.8 g)
Actual weight: 0.4 oz (10 g)
Length (end to end): 1.375 in (3.49 cm)
MSRP: $14.99 US plus shipping and handling
No dimensions were quoted, so I was surprised by the StickPic's Lilliputian size. It's wee!
Product features (from product website):
- Fits all cameras with a tripod socket
- Works with all cameras with a self timer
- Slides easily onto trekking poles
- Makes it easy to take well-proportioned, centered pictures
- Weighs less than a tripod
Initial Report - 5 September 2008:
The StickPic is small
The StickPic is not yet available in retail stores, and so I received mine directly from the manufacturers. It comes in a surprisingly small resealable plastic bag, along with a folded set of instructions. The manufacturers, Rod Java and David Lopez, also included a personalized letter with detailed suggestions for the StickPic's use, including a much larger version of the StickPic's instructions.
The designers write that "it's one of those Why didn't I think of that? ideas", and they're right. I rarely carry a tripod while I'm backpacking, even though I have a very small one, because it's not useful that often. I basically only use it to take pictures of a group, and it's hard to justify the stopping time to the group. So I make do with group pictures that don't include me, and with the extended-arm distorted pictures that I've christened "Dork Shots".
The StickPic is designed for this specific purpose: the desire to record one's own presence in the wild, without need of great fiddling.
The device is simplicity itself: a 1/4 - 20 machine screw with a knurled jam nut (like most tripods), stuck into a machined piece of Delrin acetal resin. A hole in the Delrin attaches it to the tip of my trekking pole, which allows me to hold the camera at pole's length and snap photographs. The resin section is stamped with "The StickPic" and a model number (1 in my case).
Setup is easy and quick: screw the camera and StickPic together, align the StickPic and lock the setting with the jam nut, attach the camera's strap to the pole for security, and attach the StickPic on the tip of my trekking pole with a twisting motion. I've found no issues with fit on my REI Summit Winter poles, which isn't surprising since the StickPic is custom made for different sizes of poles.
Mounted on pole
I found that the preset timer options on my Canon SD1000 camera were unhelpful (2 seconds was too short; 10 seconds was too long), so I used the custom timer option to set a delay of 5 seconds. This allowed me to hit the shutter button, move the camera into place, and jockey for position briefly. As per the StickPic's instructions, it only took a few shots to become comfortable with the aiming procedure.
I found the StickPic website entertaining. It seems apparent that it's a product designed by and for colorful characters, and given that it's been launched and tested among Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) hikers, it seems fair to call it a gram-weenie device. I liked the pictures of StickPic users.
I found it a bit hard to find the list of supported trekking poles: the link is misdirected, and leads elsewhere in the site. The list of poles resides on the order page, and I found it there. I would have preferred a site that was a bit narrower, as I've had to scroll a lot in 1024x768 pixel resolution to read the full screen.
Other than that, it's a great site. The list of poles wasn't relevant to me, in the end: my poles weren't on it. Rod and David asked what model my poles were, selected a StickPic for me, and they were right. It fits perfectly. I found their customer service quick, courteous, and helpful. They shipped very quickly, too.
As for the StickPic itself, it works well so far. I'm looking forward to using it. It fits my trekking pole snugly, and I haven't yet felt worried about the StickPic falling off. In the usual shooting position, both friction and gravity conspire to keep the system assembled.
I've been having fun playing with the StickPic, and each time I take a picture, I'm a little bit surprised at how well it comes out. It's still possible to take distorted pictures—in particular, I discovered that I can still find unattractive camera angles with the StickPic—but it seems pretty easy to take reasonable photos of myself. Neat!
I was concerned that the snow baskets on my trekking poles would interfere with the StickPic's line of sight, but they aren't visible at all. When I extend the pole, I just get a greater field of view.
It's going to be a challenge to photograph the StickPic in use. Consider the Portrait of Drum Major, below right, as my first attempt. I'm looking forward to using the StickPic!
StickPic photos at home
Long-Term Report - 25 November 2008
Stone Valley and Ampersand Mountain
During this period, I carried the StickPic for eight days of hiking. With the exception of severe cold, environmental conditions seem to matter little to the StickPic, so I'll be brief in reporting my trip conditions. All of my trips were in or near the Adirondack Park of New York state.
Since camera placement is integral to this test, let me state that I have not cropped any of these photographs: they are portrayed here in their original aspect ratio.
I used the StickPic while climbing Ampersand Mountain on September 13th. I led a group of friends and their enthusiastic children up this delightful small peak. It was a windy day, and it was nice to have a sturdy camera attachment.
I used the StickPic repeatedly during a trip near Johns Brook Lodge in the Adirondacks. We'd intended to summit some peaks in the area, camping as we went, but we caught the tail of a hurricane and the ground-dwellers all got their gear soaked. We aborted the trip on the third day. The StickPic made it easy to get a picture of all four of us, which was good because there were no other people around!
Johns Brook Lodge
October 5th brought me on a pair of short hikes: one by myself in Lehman Park and one with my mother along the Red Sandstone Trail, both near Potsdam, New York.
I climbed Lyon Mountain, an isolated peak in the northern Adirondacks, on November 4th. I experimented with using the StickPic for candid photographs of my friends, as well as taking a few of myself. It worked well.
I walked the Stone Valley Trail on November 9th, which runs through a cooperative recreation area on both sides of the Raquette River near Colton, New York. Lots of history, and beautiful scenery. It rained quite hard throughout the whole trip, which gave me a good opportunity to test the StickPic's grip in wet weather.
I climbed Phelps Mountain on November 22nd, walking the Klondike Notch trail from South Meadows and then bushwhacking from the Klondike Notch Lean-To. I carried the StickPic, but was unable to use it because my trekking poles were encrusted with ice that I couldn't remove.
I really like using the StickPic. I use it a few times each trip to take pictures of myself or the group, and then I put it away again. With my usual hiking companions, we don't stop for very long, so when we're moving I usually just snap some landscape photos or pictures of the other people in the group. I like that the StickPic is so small and lightweight that I don't mind carrying it even when I only take a few pictures with it.
I usually carry the StickPic in one of the cargo pockets of my REI Sahara convertible pants, where it rides unobtrusively most of the time. It can sometimes poke my leg if there are other things in the pocket, but a quick rearrangement of the pocket's contents stops that.
I've found that it takes about a minute to get the StickPic out, attach it, take a picture, take off the StickPic, and put it away again. However, I usually take longer than this because I rarely take just one picture at a time. I often fiddle with the camera a bit, so the process tends to be reserved for longer stops, like when we eat lunch.
Isn't this edgy?
The StickPic screws easily into my Canon SD1000 digital camera, and it's proven easy to adjust the jam nut appropriately, even with thin gloves on. It sometimes takes me a couple of tries to fully tighten the nut while keeping the StickPic facing forward. However, it doesn't seem to matter much if the StickPic is a bit off-center.
I tend to shoot with my camera set on a 5-second timer, which gives me time to compose the shot without wasting a lot of time afterwards. I don't adjust the length of my trekking pole for the photograph—I just use it at whatever length I've chosen for the day, and it works fine. One thing I've found is that the StickPic tends to hold the camera very securely, so I don't normally bother with looping my camera's lanyard around the pole's basket. If I'm shooting at a weird angle, I'll affix the lanyard, but otherwise I just let it swing. I've included a photograph below (top left photograph in the "Good friends" grouping at the bottom) that shows the lanyard swinging into the camera's field of view.
I've been using the StickPic with snow baskets on my poles for the last several trips, and I haven't noticed any effect. The angle of the camera makes sure that I don't see the baskets in the photos.
Sad life without StickPic
I've gotten the StickPic muddy many times, with no ill effect. I usually wipe the mud off with a dead leaf, and there's no problem. The mud doesn't get on my camera.
My only major problem with the StickPic came on the Phelps climb, when it was very cold: 6 F (-14 C) with substantial wind chill. The tips of both trekking poles got very significantly iced over because we were frequently crossing running streams. I could sometimes chip a portion of the ice off the tips, but not enough to get the pole's tip completely clean. This meant that I couldn't fit the StickPic over the end of the pole, and therefore couldn't use it. I took the old standard arm's-length photograph to document the occasion; I include it at right ("Sad life without StickPic") to show what a significant improvement the StickPic offers.
When I got home from the Phelps climb, it occurred to me that I could have tried to scrape the ice off the pole tips using the back of a pocket knife. I'll try that next time.
Smaller difficulties are due to my camera, and aren't the fault of the StickPic. I think my camera fixes its light metering and focus settings when the shutter button is clicked, not when the picture is taken. This has led to some issues of under- and over-exposure, as seen here.
I've managed to get around the problem by making sure that I point the camera toward myself before clicking the shutter button. This seems to fake the camera into exposing the picture appropriately.
StickPic photographs definitely have a distinctive look: even when the trekking pole is invisible, I tend to adopt a particular posture when using the StickPic. I don't find it obtrusive, since I'm usually looking at the faces anyway.
I have one recommendation for future versions of the StickPic: drill a hole so users may add a lanyard. If I were going to do this, I'd put a small hole through the back left corner, opposite the numeral "1". This would thin the resin somewhat, but there are other parts of the StickPic that are equally thin, and I haven't noticed any problems there.
Nothing can substitute for the eye of a trained photographer. Carefully-composed photographs have usually been more satisfying than those I've taken with the StickPic. Who cares? They're not meeting the same need. The StickPic works better than anything else I've used for recording "memory pictures", by which I mean those that serve more to trigger memories of the place than to win juried art competitions.
The StickPic works well at capturing the moment, and makes it easy to take "there we were!" pictures when nobody else is around. As such, it's a valuable tool, and I plan to continue carrying it. I would replace it if I lost it. It's great!
- Small size
- Low weight
- Easy setup
- Jam nut spins smoothly
- Lets me take pictures of myself
- Can't be used when pole tip is iced up
I thank BackpackGearTest, Rodney Java, and David Lopez for allowing me to test the StickPic.
Read more reviews of StickPic gear
Read more gear reviews by Hollis Easter