Friday, December 26, 2014

Selfie Stick Comparison (Looq, Polaroid & iStabilizer - 5 Models Tested)

Looq Mini, Looq Be Selfie, Looq Super Selfie, Polaroid PLMONBT, iStabilizer Monopod
Looq Mini, Looq Be Selfie, Looq Super Selfie, Polaroid PLMONBT, iStabilizer Monopod

If you’ve been to Asia over the past year there’s no mistake that the hottest gadget on the market right now is the infamous selfie stick. You literally can’t go anywhere without seeing people whipping these things out and taking photos of themselves or group photos with their loved ones.

At first I rolled my eyes at the sight of these gadgets, but I quickly warmed up to them after seeing how much fun my wife and son were having taking photos together. Before long we found ourselves jumping into shots with our friends and using these things just about as often as everyone else around us during a November trip to Korea and Japan.

My son and friends enjoying a group selfie shot
Click to see a full selection of Selfie Sticks ($29.95 & up)

Yes, there are cheap knockoffs from China that when they work seem to do a good job. However, I prefer to buy products from reputable brands without having any fear that they might damage my phone (and if they do, I have someone to go after). As a result, I limited the scope of my review to devices that were in-stock and sold by B&H as of December 2014.

Sizes Extended and Retracted

Selfie Sticks Extended - 40", 24" and 5.9" respectively

While the sticks tested could go up to 40”, I found that to be an unwieldy length. More often I found 18 – 20” to be a comfortable length for a two to three person group shot with the camera on the LCD side of the phone (i.e., the Selfie / FaceTime camera).

Selfie Sticks Retracted - 6.5", 11” & 10” minimum (with attached heads shown above removed)

All of the devices supported removable heads which helped make them much more compact, but with the heads attached was how we typically used them. This added a few extra inches and a lot more bulk. This meant that an average small purse could only hold the smaller Looq branded sticks and a medium to large purse or messenger bag was required to hold the largest sticks.

None were comfortable in a pocket unless the head was removed, so I never carried them in my pocket.

Tested Sticks Rated

My wife, 12 year old daughter, 5 year old son and I all had fun trying out the selfie sticks featured in this article. After a family discussion, here is our consensus on how we’d rank the devices we tested for this article.

5th Place – Looq Be Selfie

Looq Be Selfie

I tested this with a iPhone 4, 5, 5s, 6, & 6+ as well as a LG G3, Samsung Note 4 and Galaxy S4 & S5. For the Android devices it would bring up a menu that had nothing to do with photos when I pressed the button, but it did nothing on the iPhones. As a result, I was unable to properly test this device.

Final Verdict: Didn’t work, so NOT RECOMMENDED

4th Place – Looq Mini

Looq Mini

The only good thing I can say about this selfie stick is that it works – IF you remove your case to plug it in. However, the big problem with this one is that the button required such force to press it that everyone who tested it got blurry shots from movement caused by pressing the button. At a whooping 5.9” long, it really offered no advantage over using your arm extended out without a selfie stick at all.


3rd Place – iStabilizer Monopod

iStabilizer Monopod

This device doesn’t really try to do anything more than hold a phone or compact camera. I didn’t find it to work very well with large phones like the iPhone 6+ or Galaxy Note 4, despite its claims that it works with all phones.

No matter what phone or camera you use, you’ll need a self timer because this device does not feature anything to trigger the attached device. This was a big drawback over the other devices tested which made me think “what’s the point”?

The only good thing I can say is that with a point and shoot camera you can’t trigger them from any of the sticks tested anyway, so you can save $10 by getting one of these for your point and shoot.

Final Verdict: NOT RECOMMENDED for phones, but good for compact cameras

2nd Place – Polaroid Bluetooth Monopod

Polaroid PLMONBT

This was the Swiss Army Knife of selfie sticks tested and arguably the best one overall. It offers both iOS and Android support over BlueTooth as well as up to 40” of extension for phones as well as compact cameras (shown later below). It also featured Micro-USB charging so no separate batteries are required.  What was also nice about this one is that it not only worked with all modern iOS & Android phones with BlueTooth except extra large ones like the 6+ and Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

Polaroid Selfie Stick with Bluetooth Shutter - Controls View
Polaroid Selfie Stick with Bluetooth Shutter - Controls View

I found the controls (shown above) to be intuitive and pairing was super simple (just hold and choose “Polaroid” from your phone’s BlueTooth device menu). What was even better is that this stick is beefy enough to hold compact cameras like my x20 (as shown below). This implies that others of similar weight like the Sony RX100 III, Canon G16 & s120 and others that are roughly the same weight with a tripod receptacle should work too. 

The Polaroid was able to hold some compact cameras
The Polaroid can hold, but not trigger compact cameras
so you’ll have to use your self-timer on the camera

This was a probably the best built and most sturdy of the bunch, but this also meant it was the most bulky and heavy which made it cumbersome to carry around. It would only fit in the largest of my wife’s purses and I fear it could be prohibited in some public venues as it is large and solid enough to be used as a weapon.

This product appears also to sold under the name Satechi Smart Selfie Extension Arm, but I have not personally tested the Satechi device so I only base this on what I’ve seen on the web. 

Final Verdict: RECOMMENDED, but bulky & heavy. Being self-contained battery powered means you could find yourself out of luck if you forgot to keep it charged.

1st Place – Looq Super Selfie

Looq S Battery-Free Extended Selfie Arm with Button

Coming in at $29.99 at the time this article was written (after $15 instant savings), this was tied for the lowest price but it was also by far my favorite selfie stick that I tested. My wife loved how it was compact enough to easily fit in all of her purses, and I loved that it “just worked” with no batteries or BlueTooth required. We didn’t need to install any apps or do anything fancy to get it to work with the iPhone 4s, 5, 5s, 6 & 6+. It should be noted that while it could control the 6+, it didn’t hold the 6+ securely enough for me to recommend it for that phone. For the LG G3, Samsung Note 4 and Galaxy S4 & S5 it would trigger a menu to pop up when the button was pressed, but it failed to take photos with those phones.

Integrated Mirror lets you use the high resolution side of your phone camera instead of the low-resolution selfie camera
Integrated Mirror lets you use the high resolution side
of your phone camera instead of the low-resolution selfie camera

I found the button easy to press and the 24 inches extension was the most we ever found ourselves really needing. I also LOVED the fact that using the mirror on the back of the phone mount (shown above) you can use the high resolution rear camera of your phone instead of the typical 1.2mp low resolution “FaceTime” selfie camera found on most iPhones.

Final Verdict: RECOMMENDED for iPhones excluding the 6+. The 6+ sorta works, but it was too unstable for my comfort. 


Our phones are very important to us these days so it is much harder for me to hand a phone (with lots of personal, work and financial data on it) over to a stranger to take a photo than it is my compact camera (which holds no personal data beyond photos). There’s also a point where the weight of a camera on a stick gets so heavy that it becomes tough to hold it steady to get a sharp shot. While I liked the idea of being able to support my compact camera on the bigger sticks featured by iStablizer & Polaroid, I honestly can’t see myself really using it with them.

I’ll also admit that for this review I’m biased to iPhone 5, 5s & 6 solutions as that’s what I’d most likely use a selfie stick with in my household. Android users might have views that differ from my conclusions here, but if I did have an Android I’d probably do more research and figure out how to get one of the Looq sticks to work with it. I also can’t emphasize how valuable using the mirror on the Super Selfie can be as I loved being able to get a 8mp picture instead of a measly 1.2mp, so that and size was really the big reason why the Looq Super Selfie won this comparison test.

Where to order

Please click one of the following links to order or THIS LINK to see B&H’s current selection of selfie sticks:

  1. Looq Super Selfie (1st Place)
  2. Polaroid PLMONBT (2nd Place)
  3. iStabilizer Monopod (3rd Place)
  4. Looq Be Selfie (4th Place)
  5. Looq Mini (5th Place)

Other articles you may enjoy

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy these:


If you make a purchase using links found in this article, I may make a commission. It doesn’t cost you a penny more, but it does help to support future articles like this.

NOTE: This site requires cookies and uses affiliate linking to sites that use cookies.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by making a donation or saving money by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site.

The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity

Monday, December 22, 2014

Photography Holiday Gift Deals & Ideas 2014

Here’s Christmas Deals Newsletter for this week (best deals of the year) and you can sign up for my deals newsletter to stay up on deals during the rest of the year when I don’t post them to the blog.

Here’s more gift ideas for last minute shoppers:

B&H Holiday Shopping Ideas - 2014

*** The best one day only deals can also be found via the B&H Deal Zone ***

This time of year I get lots of emails from spouses asking me what should they get for their photographer junkie who seems to have it all.

Well, any photographer will tell you that there’s no way to have it all so there’s always plenty to buy. However, buying things that are wanted versus crap your local camera shop will sell you are two different things. There’s also various budgets, so I’ve tried to offer some ideas at a variety of budgets.

If you have a spouse who might be shopping for you, you may want to share this link with them so you can help steer them in the right direction!

Stocking Stuffers ($17.99 – $79.99)

My 5 year old son loved using our friends selfie stick
Click here to see a full selection of Selfie Sticks ($29.95 & up)
This is one of the hottest gifts this holiday season!

When I spent most of November shooting in Asia I was overwhelmed with the reality that everyone seemed to have a one of these selfie sticks to help them take photos of themselves (often with their loved one). These things were as common as phones, so my wife has added it to her holiday wish list. They are also easy for kids to use as well. I’ll be reviewing several models just before Christmas, so stay tuned.

Camera Creatures ($17.99 – $19.95)

My article entitled Camera Creatures–A Great Way To Get Your Kids Attention For Holiday Photos says it all, but this is a handy little gift to keep your photographer from using bad words when trying to take pictures of the baby who refuses to look at the camera. I HIGHLY recommend it!

Trey Ratcliff’s Lightroom Presets and HDR Tutorial were hot gifts last year, so this year they’ve updated both and done a new Textures Tutorial which includes 170 textures. Click the images above to learn more about each and use my discount coupon code RONMART15 to save 15%!

Camera Sutra T-Shirt
Camera Sutra T-Shirt ($19.99)

I got one of these back in April 2014 and it’s been a huge hit whenever I wear it. I try to use it at my workshops and private lessons because its always good for a chuckle – it also doubles as a grey card in a pinch too!

Rogue Flash Gels - Color Correction Kit
Rogue Color Correction Gels ($29.95)

This is something many photographers need, but don’t actually own. You probably won’t understand why even if I tried to explain it (which I do here), but your photographer will be both happy and shocked you managed to get these for them!

BlackRapid SnapR 20 ($39.95)

Did your photographer pick up a little camera this year that was kinda expensive? If so, they might want want a better way to hold that camera, yet keep it at the ready. For doing that the BlackRapid SnapR Camera Bag + Sling Strap is a great gift as it acts both as a case as well as a sling for the best of both worlds. If you’ve noticed that your photographer has lenses that come off their little camera, then order the SnapR 35 ($44.95).

If they like to carry a lot of junk with their camera, then consider the Mirrorless Mover listed in the next section instead.

BlackRapid RS-Sport Camera Strap
BlackRapid RS-Sport Camera Strap ($73.95)

The RS-Sport is a special camera strap that allows your photographer to keep the camera at the ready when they are out walking during vacation or during the little league game. BlackRapid also makes a wide variety of great straps to meet all your needs (from $29.95 to $134.95 for the dual camera version).

Hoodman HoodLoupe Optical Viewfinder for 3.2" LCD Displays
Hoodman HoodLoupe Optical Viewfinder for 3.2" LCD Displays

I don’t think I’ve had a single student own one of these before any of my classes or workshops, but I’ve most of them buy them after borrowing mine (which they often refuse to give back to me without force during my classes). It’s stupid expensive so most people refuse to buy it for themselves, yet they discover quickly they can’t live without it once they own one.

If you are in doubt as to what to get, it’s very hard to go wrong with this one!

Breakthrough Photography Filters
Breakthrough Photography Filters ($24.99 & up)
The best new filter company on the market wants your business

Breakthrough Photography wants to make a big dent in the filter market, so they are offering a line up of state-of-the-art traction filters with a unique warranty:

if isn’t the best filter you’ve ever used
we’ll give you a 110% refund – no hard feelings

While I am not a fan of UV filters, a lot of people insist on buying them. I’ve used the UV2 & UV3 filters on my recent trip to Asia and I loved the quality. I’m looking forward to trying out their polarizer and ND filters next year as they are super easy to remove thanks to the great grip and the quality of the UV2 matches Hoya and the UV3 matches my B+W filters for a lot less money. Click here to learn more.


Buying gear is expensive and sometimes you realize that you don’t need it as much as you thought you did (this is especially true with super telephoto lenses). What better gift than to rent a dream lens or camera that is out of your budget? is my preferred site to rent gear from and my discount offer makes it even easier to rent the gear you always dreamed that you could buy!

Great Software = Great Images for less money than most gear

Get rid of Digital Noise ($87.91 after discount)
& Skin Blemishes ($189.91 after discount) with a few simple clicks

Is your photographer cursing at the little salt like spots on their images or complaining of digital noise? If so, then Noiseware is the solution I use to solve that problem when using Photoshop.

Are they taking photos of women and not making their skin look beautiful? If so, then I’d suggest Portraiture when using Photoshop.

Get both and more in the bundle for only $274.91 with my blog discount by clicking here.

Check out my Imagenomic Portraiture Discount & Tutorial article (& video) which shows both products in action on a real photo so you can see how they work and I why I can’t live without them.

Topaz Labs – The most creative photo filter maker just got even better

Topaz Labs Glow is the hot new software that just released that everyone wants but few have

I recently published my review for Topaz Glow and my Facebook wall is showing all sorts of cool photos that readers are publishing using this awesome new product. It’s an awesome product that really is unlike anything else on the market.

Another great product also released by Topaz Labs recently is called Impression. It is an awesome (albeit a little slow at this time) product that can create some stunning artistic effects. While it isn’t for everyone, it’s certain to please those people who are looking for something unique that they haven’t seen from other products before. Here’s literally a one click example from the numerous options available:

Copyright (c) Ron Martinsen - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

I love the results and literally I’m done with one click! Click here to learn more and don’t forget to use my discount coupon code RONMART to save 15% on any or all Topaz Labs products!

Want to edit with layers without investing in Photoshop or Lightroom? If so, then look no further than onOne Software’s Perfect Photo Suite. Editing PSD files, layers, complex masking tools, skin softening, noise reduction, intelligent image resizing and more – this product is a great starter and alternative to Photoshop

Kick start your photography business in 2015

Stop giving your photos away for free to greedy publishers
Know what your photos are really worth for only $119.99

Cradoc fotoSoftware has a cool product called fotoQuote that I use to find out how much my photos are worth when a publication comes knocking . To celebrate their 20th year in business they are are offering their lowest prices ever with a 20% off special that’s available when you CLICK THIS LINK (make sure coupon code RMPB0809 appears in your cart when you check out).

Affordable but Awesome ($25 – $309)

These items are a little bigger and will need to be wrapped, but

Mirrorless Mover
Mirrorless Mover ($34.75 - $69.75) is fantastic
for small body cameras with interchangeable lenses

If you are worried that your photographer will think the SnapR looks too much like a purse for their little camera, then these are the macho solution for the man with the little camera. It’s also great if you have lenses or accessories you want to carry with your camera. I LOVE this bag with my X-E2!

Turnstyle Sling Bags ($74.75 – $99.75)
Available in a variety sizes and of colors

Think Tank Photo TurnStyle 20 is a bag that will fit a DSLR, a small lens and a flash for a quick photography outing. It is the perfect lightweight bag for the photographer who has a crap load of bags already, but gripes that they are all too big/heavy.

Available in Black, Blue & Green for tablets up to 15” laptops
Think Tank My 2nd Brain Collection ($52.33 – $101.33)
Available in Black, Blue & Green for tablets up to 15” laptops

This one isn’t just for photographers it is for anyone with a laptop plus other gadgets (tablets, cell phones, Kindle, etc…), and it was my favorite acquisition of 2013. In fact, I love it so much that I’m gave a dozen of my friends this bag for the holidays last year!

It’s hard to describe why this is laptop bag is better than anything else on the planet, so check out my review and video to learn more.

Lastolite Ezybox Hot Shoe Softbox Kit - 24x24"
Lastolite Ezybox Hot Shoe Softbox Kit - 24x24"

If you photographer has more than one flash, then this is one that will both please your photographer and help him/her get MUCH better light on their photos. What’s more, s/he typically won’t mind if they end up with two of these!

Sennheiser MKE 400 Compact Video Camera Shotgun Microphone
Sennheiser MKE 400 Compact Video Camera Shotgun Microphone

A Sennheiser MKE 400 HDSLR Microphone is helpful for the would be videographer in your life who is only using the camera to record sound and that sound isn’t recording very well. This is nice one if you have kids too!!

Wacom Intuos Pro Professional Pen & Touch Tablet (Medium)
Wacom Intuos Pro Professional Pen & Touch Tablet (Medium)
Click here for my review

Go check your photographers computer desk. If they don’t have one of these tablets, then you can rest assured that they definitely want one. The Wacom tablet is a godsend for those doing photo editing, so this a slam dunk gift that is sure to please!

Click to visit X-Rite for more info on the i1Display Pro
i1Display Pro ($224 after discount)

Is your photographer cursing about the fact that the print they just got back from the print service are dull, dark and not matching what they see on their computer display at all? If so, then an X-Rite i1Display Pro Colorimeter might be just what they need. These are way geeky devices that help adjust you computer display to show colors the way they actually exist in their image files rather than super vibrant and bright like the display manufacturer shows you by default.

Please note that if you own a NEC display then you should get NEC SpectraSensor Pro (powered by X-Rite) with the SpectraView software to accurately calibrate your display. It’s the same sensor as the one shown above with the software you need to calibrate your NEC (only) displays.

My Photographer Needs Help – Educational Gift Ideas ($17 – $225)

Click for Kelby Training & NAPP Special Offers
How to Photograph Car Interiors by Tim Wallace (course link)
Just one of the many videos featured on KelbyOne for one low price (as little $25/mo)

If your photographer doesn’t already have KelbyOne (discount offer here), then getting this endless awesome online video training the best money you can spend! Seriously, if I won the lottery I’d spend all my time just sitting back and enjoying these videos by some of the top photographers in the world so I could better my skills!


Books are always a good choice, but it’s tough to know what your photographer might have. Here’s some that are really fantastic, but not super common purchases:

Click to look inside
on Amazon

Understanding Composition Book ($17) – If you don’t know how to tell your photographer that it’s not the camera and editing that suck, but the pictures they are taking – this is could be the ticket to more interesting photos.

Click to look inside on Amazon ~$35

If your photographer bought a color printer that they curse for not getting the colors right, then they will certainly benefit from reading a new book called The Digital Print. While it’s a little longer and more expensive than my Printing 101 eBook, it’s something that you can hold in your hand and give to your loved one this holiday season.

Click to look inside on Amazon ~$35

Welcome to Oz 2 by Vincent Versace changed the way I think about photo editing forever by teaching me how to control the viewers eye through a photo. While I still don’t always apply what I learned often enough, I think many photographers overlook this import book that can really help make them a much better at photo editing. If your photographer already has this book then they might enjoy his black & white book.

Here’s a few more ideas as well:

There’s actually more books that I recommend but these are pretty safe bets that your photographer with both love them and probably not own them already. Click here to see my full list of recommended books.

Beginner Photography Classes

Ron discuss flash techniques with a student
Photo by student Mike Wiebe

Do you think your photographer just needs a class? If so, then contact me to get on the wait list for my next Photography 101 and/or Photo Editing 101 course in Bellevue, Washington. Each course will be $299 for four 90 minute sessions held in the evenings after business hours.

Big Budget Gifts for the Photographer Who Has Everything ($329 – $1049+)

My smartest investment ever
My smartest investment ever to improve my handheld shots ($328.95)

The Leica Tabletop Tripod ($119) and Leica Large Ball Head ($209.95) (or the Short version shown above) combo are stupid expensive ($328.95), so I never bothered buying them. However my mentor (a Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist shown above), swore that when used on the chest (as shown above) that it could help me get stable handheld shots that were never possible before. Despite his advice, it took me almost two years to bring myself to finally buy it myself. In short, it changed my life and helped me to realize how this little investment helped me a lot more than many of the $1000+ investments I made to improve my photography.

Given the ridiculous price of this combo, almost no photographer will buy this set for themselves, but like a great set of high quality steak knives – you never regret it (or can go back) once you own it. Click here to see my article about this combo which also includes a simple video to show you how to apply this technique.

Gitzo GT1541 with a Really Right Stuff BH-55 is a great choice
The Perfect Travel/Hiking Tripod ($554.99 with Rebate)

I call the Gitzo GT1541 - Perfect Travel/Hiking Tripod because it is. It’s lightweight and just short enough when closed that it can travel internationally with your carry on items. It’s super expensive because of the carbon fiber, but that also makes it super sturdy so that it’s a purchase you make once and never need to revisit again. While the tripod head is not included, no photographer will be sad to see this for the holidays (unless they own one already – rare given the cost). See also my tripod recommendations article which includes info on ball heads and monopods too.

NEC PA242W-BK Color Critical Wide Gamut Desktop Monitor
NEC PA242W-BK Color Critical Wide Gamut Desktop Monitor

($799 after you add it to your cart)

The NEC PA242W computer monitor is the ultimate photo editing monitor for both Mac and PC’s and it’s something that your photographer will happily add next to their current monitor if they currently already own one. It’s better than the sexier looking Apple displays, and it’s a luxury that few will splurge for without a business need. There’s also a 27” ($999 on sale) and  30” model ($1649 on sale) that will have your photographer doing cart wheels and crying tears of joy like a like a little baby if they find this beast under the tree (warning, it’s huge).

NEC MultiSync EA244UHD 23.8" 4K IPS LED Monitor
NEC MultiSync EA244UHD 23.8" 4K IPS LED Monitor
Only $1249.99 in cart this holiday season

2015 is very likely to be the year when 4k Ultra HD displays become the standard display that new computer and home display buyers will purchase. If you want to be at the leading edge of technology, this is one that is sure to put a smile on your face. I’ll be reviewing the NEC PA UHD 4k displays that are specifically designed for photographers and videographers in 2015.

One on One Photography Training and Portfolio Reviews Discount

I’m offering 50% off Silver & Gold Portfolio Reviews and daily flat rate specials for one on one training. Contact me for more details.

High End Photography Experiences

Copyright Ron Martinsen – All Rights Reserved

Want to give the gift of a a photography workshop experience in Japan? Contact me for details of this amazing experience and pricing.

Copyright © Douglas Dubler – ALL Rights Reserved

If your photographer wants to be a part of a high end fashion shoot in New York City in 2015 (date TBD) with a top fashion photographer who has shot hundreds of magazine covers, then. Contact me to learn more about this amazing experience! ($3000+) – limited spots available.

My significant other is just getting started, what do you recommend?

If they already have a camera then the items I’ve already discussed are good as are those found in my Things You Need AFTER You Buy Your New Camera - Must Have Photography Accessories article.

If they don’t have a camera or good lenses yet, then you should probably check out my Which camera should I buy? article.

My photographer has all that, now what?!!!!

Well if your budget is big you can start with my Ron’s Recommendations page, but more modest budgets will find these links handy (ignore the 2013 below  - it’s for 2014):

B&H also has a fantastic Holiday Shopping Guide here for all price ranges

Here's Amazon's Gift Guide with last minute deals:

Still stumped? Then feel free to contact me, but please do so only if you plan to make a donation and/or use my links in this article when making a purchase. However, please expect delayed responses due to my work schedule.


Hopefully this will help make you a holiday season hero with your significant other for getting the perfect photography gift! If so, do me a big favor and post your success story with a photo on my Facebook page!

Other articles you may enjoy

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy these:


If you make a purchase using links found in this article, I may make a commission. It doesn’t cost you a penny more, but it does help to support future articles like this. If you would like to purchase from a different store, please contact me for links to that store before making your purchase.

NOTE: This site requires cookies and uses affiliate linking to sites that use cookies.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by making a donation or saving money by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

This blog is intended for freelance writing and sharing of opinions and is not a representative of any of the companies whose links are provided on this site.

The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity