What Syrp is doing with motion control and timelapse devices is definitely something to be lauded. They built and marketed what was pretty much the first widely available, consumer friendly and affordable timelapse machine capable of slides, pans and tilts. Over the years though, competitor products have emerged that make the once king-of-the-castle Syrp Genie somewhat behind. It’s still the only device that can run a “zipline” timelapse effect and the battery life is so ridiculously good (while also being internal) that you can shoot for more than 10 hours and not have a problem. But it didn’t do multi-axis moves… until the Genie Mini was announced.
The Genie Mini is a hockey-puck-sized pan/tilt timelapse device that runs charges by USB and is operated by either app or through the original Genie. It’s a somewhat complex device to review because of its multi-function nature. You can absolutely use the Genie Mini on its own, and that was the primary marketing angle of Syrp when it was announced. But the Mini is a far more valuable asset when it is combined with the original Genie, since it adds multiple axis and works in tandem with other Syrp devices.
Let’s start with the Mini as a standalone.
The Mini can attach to pretty much any tripod and sit between the leg platform and the ball head (as shown above). From here, it just plugs into your camera and is controlled via bluetooth app. The app itself is very easy to figure out, allowing you to set angle points, time of the lapse and number of shots to produce the final calculation for the exact timelapse you want. You can also save presets for your lapses for quick-access later, and these presets are labeled via photo that you take at the time of the preset save. It’s a nifty system that I really dug.
Unfortunately, though originally stoked on the app connection, I experienced why my friend Toby isn’t normally a big fan of timelapse control via app: you often can’t be assured that what you are asking your device to do is actually happening. When shooting seriously with the Mini for the first time, we found that it was randomly stopping its pan motion somewhere in the middle of the desired timelapse. After troubleshooting later with the Syrp guys, we were able to fix the problem by hard resetting the Mini. Though yes, we did get it to eventually work, it was an example of the issues with non-wired connections. Neither the app nor the device could really tell us what was happening, or why. According the app, the Mini was still moving as instructed, but it was clear the Mini was actually ignoring the request (or something to that effect). This issue could have been resolved if the Mini was communicating back to the app and telling it that something was wrong, but it didn’t.
Once the device works as intended, it does a really great job. The Mini is the absolute right idea and step in the right direction for a timelapse device: small, squat and discreet.
One final gripe: I wish the app allowed me to run the mini with no motion plugged in. When we tested the Mini, we were required to set at least one degree of motion in the move, which sucks when sometimes we just wanted a locked-off shot. This is a small complaint though, as this is likely a very easy firmware fix/app update, and at the time of the publication of this article the issue might already be solved.
And that’s really all there is to the Genie Mini when you look at it on its own. It’s a very, very simple device capable of one axis of movement. It works with just about any camera, including your cell phone, and produces high-quality timelapses in a quiet, small form factor. It’s good at its job, though as stated above it’s not perfect at it. Syrp has done an absolutely excellent job in supporting its gear with stellar firmware updates, so I’m confident that the Mini is no exception to this.
But that’s not all there is to the Mini if you’re an avid Syrp user. If you already have a Genie unit, the Mini is the answer to your prayers for multi-axis moves.
By attaching the Mini to the Genie, you can combine the two devices to create a pan and slide move, and with two Mini units and the Genie, you have yourself all three axis movements of pan, tilt and slide.
The Mini screws into the top of the Genie as shown below. You then connect the Mini to the Genie with the included cord, and the camera can then connect to either the Mini or the original Genie. Once the two units are connected, both are controlled via the LCD screen on the Genie. When you boot up the devices while they are connected to one another, they instantly recognize they are connected and the control options immediately reflect the new axis options (this is, of course, if your Genie is running the latest firmware).
It is in this connection that the real power of the Genie Mini can be appreciated. I love my Genie, don’t get me wrong, but I was starting to yearn for the ability to do more than one type of move at a time.
However, though the system rocks and is a thousand times better now that it can accommodate more complicated moves, the integration of a new type of motion has shown me some issues with the way you tell the Genie what to do.
The Genie has always operated on a motion command in either “degree of pan” or “length of slide” in the menu system. When using the Magic Carpet Slider, the “length of slide” has never really been an issue since you can see exactly how far the Genie is going to cover in a given motion. The pan/tilt degree is also fine when on its own. Not perfect (since I don’t know if you can visualize a 22 degree pan without actually seeing the preview first), but it works. When you combine them, though, you start to see that there are probably better, faster and more user-friendly ways of doing it.
Right now, you have to tell the Genie exaclty what you want it to do, and then watch it do the motion to make sure it’s on the right track. It can only handle one move in that time frame (so you can’t input multiple points in the motion), and when working it’s basically impossible to “guess” the right amount of pan and slide you want to get the perfect move. What you end up doing is doing a “preview” test of the moves multiple times until it looks right, taking full advantage of live view on your camera.
What would be better is if you can give the Genie a starting point and have the device set exactly as you want it to start, and then move the Genie to it’s end point and tell it how you want it to look at the end. In this way, you wouldn’t have to guess degree and length measurements and spend valuable time fiddling with the device as you try and get it perfect. The method I just described and would prefer is what Emotimo and Edelkrone do in their own ways, and it’s vastly superior and faster than what Syrp has us doing.
Also unfortunate is how small the LCD screen on the Genie is, and how often you have to crane your body in odd positions to read it when trying to get a specific shot. It makes me wish there was a wired control screen I could hold separate from the Genie, or even if the app worked for both devices, despite what I said earlier about being uneasy about wireless control (which at the time of this article’s publication, it does not. However, that is in the plans for Syrp so it very well could do this very soon).
The Genie now also suffers from what we call the “totem pole problem.” What does that mean? Well, like many timelapse devices out there, the Genie can start to get very, very tall and tower-like when it’s all said and done. Put the Genie, the Mini, the camera and the slider on top of a tripod, and you can see what I mean. It’s a big wind catch, and this can result in shaky, annoying timelapse footage. Sure, you can probably stabilize it in post but I like to try and do as little of this as possible, especially on client shoots when the time it takes to process footage is already a hindrance on what is usually a tight schedule. If you were to use an L-Bracket (which Syrp will start selling shortly) to create the three axis move, the Genie system gets even taller. When most of the great timelapses you see are done outside, you can understand why wanting a device to not be a wind sock is a huge priority.
All that said, I’m honestly pretty happy with the device as it stands, I just felt the need to point out everything that could crop up for you in the field. Yes, it could be improved, but Syrp is working pretty darn hard to keep their Genie moving forward without leaving the original, expensive base unit behind. For what it’s worth, I honestly think Syrp did the absolute best that was possible in this situation while they work on developing their next generation motion control device. Until that time I, as a huge Syrp fan, remain pretty satisfied.
- Easy to operate
- Can be used alone, or with the original Genie
- Modular: makes your Genie a lot better with multi-axis control
- Long-lasting battery
- Spiffy, simple and fun app
- Wireless control makes me nervous
- When wired to the Genie, the device suffers from the “totem pole problem”
- Working with the Genie interface asks for a strong understanding of what one degree of motion looks like, and will likely require that you run multiple test previews before starting your move
Giving the Syrp Genie Mini a final score out of five is rather challenging. It’s an absolute must-have for anyone with the original Genie, even with the aforementioned quibbles I have with the way it works as a whole. As a standalone, it’s for me a lot harder of a sell. It’s cool, but limited. For those reasons, we give the Syrp Genie Mini three out of five stars. It was a challenging device to review, so do some research to decide if the Syrp Genie Mini is right for you.