The Rise of the Selfie Stick as a Photographic Tool: Review of Looq S + Looq G

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Looq S

Think about the last birthday party you attended; the last sporting event you went to; the last time you went out to dinner. How did you capture these special moments? Chances are, you pulled out your smartphone, snapped a picture, and maybe posted it to Facebook and Instagram for the entire digital world to see. 

Today, many of us use the camera that’s smallest and easiest―the one that’s already in our pocket. You know: the one we also use to text, make phone calls, send emails, and check Facebook. Even for those of us who own larger, stand-alone cameras, a smartphone can be a convenient way to get a shot that’s in the moment and needs to be taken quickly, for times when high-resolution and professional-quality images aren’t a requirement. 

With technology advancing so fast, smartphones these days have ample specs for taking photos and videos. The iPhone 5 has an eight-megapixel iSight camera capable of capturing up to 1920 x 1080p Full HD resolution video at up to 30 frames per second (fps) with high-quality audio (the latest iPhone Plus and iPhone 6 are also capable of shooting Full HD 1080p video, but at either 30 or 60 fps). The Samsung Galaxy S5 has a 16-megapixel rear camera that can shoot ultra high-definition 4K video at 30 fps with video stabilization. The Sony Xperia Z2 has a 20.7-megapixel camera that features the powerful Exmor RS mobile image sensor, which is capable of capturing 4K video. Some smartphones, like the Nokia Lumia 1020, with its 41-megapixel rear camera and six-element Carl Zeiss lens, can even shoot DSLR-quality photos and Full HD 1920 x 1080p video.

Smartphones like those mentioned above feature better technology than ever, and are quickly becoming status quo for capturing informal photos and videos of our family and friends, so why wouldn’t we want to achieve the best shots possible? It makes sense that there is now a plethora of accessories to help us get better images with these pocket-size, all-purpose mobile devices, including a stick dedicated to the individual and group selfie.

At some point, we’ve all indulged in taking a selfie shot, either in the secrecy of our own homes or―for the more bold―out in public. It’s tough to get your smartphone at the perfect angle and height so you look your best. None of us are strangers to the group shot, either. Capturing that ideal photo with your friends or coworkers and yourself is hard to do without enlisting the help of a stranger. The alternative, as you have probably found out, usually requires multiple photo attempts before you get yourself and everyone else in the photo.

The word “selfie” first appeared in an online forum in 2002, and in 2013 it was named the Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year, defined as follows: “A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

Although the word is a fairly recent phenomenon, people have been taking and sending photos of themselves for as long as mobile phones, laptops, and desktop computers have had built-in cameras. In fact, almost two centuries ago, Robert Cornelius produced a daguerreotype of himself, which was one of the first photographs of a person. During the time of World War I, Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna became one of the first teenagers to take her own picture using a mirror and a Kodak Brownie box camera. She sent it to a friend with a letter where she wrote, "I took this picture of myself looking at the mirror. It was very hard as my hands were trembling." A Looq S or Looq G and a smartphone would have made things a little easier for her.

When I first received mine, I was only aware of the Selfie Stick in a more general sense. I had seen the articles poking fun and the 65,000+ Instagram images hash tagged #selfiestick. I had a hard time taking them seriously at first, resolving that this stick must be reserved only for the most dedicated and self-involved narcissists of this world.

But I unboxed them, and assembly was very easy. The stick arm snaps into the phone holder and screws in to keep it tightly secured. It can be detached easily, as well. The holder swivels so that you can achieve an ideal angle for the camera. I downloaded the free Looq app, pressed my phone into the rubbery grips of the Looq S and plugged the coiled microphone cord cable into the headphone jack of my iPhone 5. I opened the app and started shooting right away, simply by pressing the remote shutter button just above the grip. There’s no battery to recharge and no Bluetooth or Wi-Fi pairing to complicate things, just plug it in and you can start snapping. I wouldn’t mind a button to control the zoom just to the left of the remote shutter button, but it’s not essential because I managed to capture several great photos anyway. My first few shots came out blurry, and I had to get the hang of holding it steady, but once I was comfortable with it, the camera began to focus quickly and properly.

The solid rubber grip allows you to keep a secure hold on the stick while shooting and the button is ergonomically located. The iPhone-specific Looq S is compatible with iPhone 3GS/4/4s/5/5s and the Looq app is optional—you can activate the remote shutter without it. The Looq G is identical, but also works with select Android devices, but requires the app to be open. Both have a telescoping arm that reaches anywhere from 5.5 to 24 inches, so you can adjust the stick length as needed to achieve an ideal distance from yourself (or your subject). Each holder has an integrated mirror on the back, so that you can hold it with your phone facing away to make use of the higher-resolution rear camera and get a general sense of what’s going to end up in your shot. 

A key feature of the Looq S and Looq G is the companion app. It gives you access to several filters, including one that turns your photo into a black-and-white sketch. When you select a filter, it automatically takes one unfiltered shot along with your selected filter shot so you can choose whichever image turns out best. The other filters you can choose are: Beautify, Film, Lomo, Black and White, Process, Transfer, and Instant. The app also has a flashlight feature that you can turn on or off.

One thing is for sure, the Looq S and Looq G are conversation starters and they will definitely get you some “looqs” as well. When I took them out to use in public, I received many comments from complete strangers, many of whom had already heard of Selfie Sticks and others who had not. Each person who approached me also wanted to know where to get one. Even in a location such as New York City, where everyone seems to be in a hurry, several strangers stopped me on the street to inquire about the Looq S and Looq G.

Once I finally shook off my feelings of self-consciousness, I found that the Looq S and Looq G were a lot of fun to work with and they definitely helped me capture several great selfie and group shots, all without the strange expressions and odd haphazard framing that almost always happens when trying to take these shots on your own. They’re solid enough to eliminate a lot of the camera shake that is inevitable when shooting video with a smartphone. And beyond their intended purpose, the Looq S and Looq G were useful for capturing photos and video in crowded shows where it’s difficult to get decent shots of a band on stage. I also found that they made it much easier to capture low-angle shots on the street.

It’s also worth noting that both the Looq S and Looq G are very portable, as each measures just 9.0 x 1.5 x 3.0 inches. Each weighs less than an iPhone and the stick arm telescopes down to 5.5 inches, while the mount holder folds at a right angle (or detaches) so that you can easily fit it in a purse or backpack.

All in all, the Looq S and Looq G are useful and versatile photographic tools. Who knows how Robert Cornelius or the Grand Duchess would have used them, but if you find yourself taking lots of selfies or group shots, or even if you just want to take more dramatically angled photos with your smartphone, the Looq S or Looq G are perfect for you. Both are available at the B&H SuperStore in Manhattan, or online through the website. If you have more questions about photographic accessories for your smartphone, such as lens kits and mounts for recording action sports, you can consult a sales professional at 1-800-894-9703 or go online for a Live Chat.