Review: iFlex & SightFlex
This is the product that Apple should’ve included with the iSight camera. One almost wonders why the team that developed the iSight didn’t come up with this in the first place. Instead of bundling a variety of cheap-looking pieces of plastic for mounts and a spaghetti-thin FireWire cable, why not simply make a FireWire cable out of a metal gooseneck?
The desk-in-mind SightFlex and the laptop-in-mind iFlex combine goosenecks with FireWire cables for the ideal iSight mount.
As far as the design concept goes, I can’t think of a single improvement. You don’t even have to futz around with an attachment to act as a go-between that connects the iSight to the end of the gooseneck. The camera simply attaches directly onto the end. In the case of the SightFlex, the other end of the gooseneck sports a weighted base with a typical FireWire cord on the edge that plugs into your computer. The gooseneck is tall enough to peek over even the largest Apple displays. The iFlex, on the other hand, is only the gooseneck with a standard 6-pin connector on both ends and is designed to be used with laptops.
Possibly the most common SightFlex positioning.
The best feature of these products will be best-realized by someone who wants to take an iSight to different computers. I, for example, can leave a SightFlex at work, attached to my desktop G4. At the end of the day, I can slide the iSight into the clear plastic container that came with the camera, drive home, then reattach my iSight to the iFlex connected to the back of my PowerBook.
I said a moment ago that probably nothing could improve on the concept of these products. In application, this remains true for the iFlex. The only quirk you may find is a simple matter of physics. If you type on your laptop with an iFlex attached, the camera is naturally going to jiggle around a little bit. The gooseneck would have to be made too stiff for practical use to prevent the jiggling. But, if you think about it, when you are video conferencing with someone, aside from the occasional “Hey, look at this Web site” moment when you have to type a URL, you’re generally just leaving the laptop sitting on a desk or even on your lap as you lean back and chat with your buddy. Ergo, no more camera jiggle.
You’ll no longer have to wonder if you’re squeezing the laptop screen clip too tight, nor have to put up with a thin FireWire cable hanging down to the floor and back up to the rear of the computer.
For the SightFlex, however, two miniscule gripes kept it from reaching highest marks. The first gripe didn’t even dawn on me until I read Snaggy’s review on the Geek Culture Web site. Snaggy seemed to think a combo version (which implies a higher price) would be a good idea. Such a product would include the basic iFlex and the base portion of the SightFlex with a FireWire jack in the top to plug the iFlex into. Personally, I’d like to see the SightFlex simply sold in this manner. Just because you use a laptop doesn’t mean that the SightFlex version wouldn’t be helpful. For example, I have a chain of hard drives plugged into my laptop’s single FireWire port when I am home. This precludes using an iFlex. A perfect solution, besides purchasing both a SightFlex and an iFlex, would be if the SightFlex were plugged into the end of the FireWire hard drive chain and, when I took to the road, I could simply disconnect the iSight, pull the gooseneck portion of the SightFlex out of the base, and drop it in my laptop bag—instant iFlex.
The one other small disappointment for the SightFlex pertains to the weight of the base. It either needs to be just a smidge heavier, wider, or both. On my desk at home, the space behind where my laptop sits isn’t exactly ideal to place a SightFlex. My original plan was to set the base to the right of my laptop and twist the gooseneck to the side so that my iSight was in its usual position above the center of my screen. Unfortunately, the base is not heavy enough for this position. The weight of an iSight on the top is enough to tip over the SightFlex if the gooseneck is positioned at lower angles.
Don’t plan on angling your SightFlex more than perhaps 30 degrees or so. It will tip over under the weight of an iSight camera.
Lastly, when you get your hands on either product, don’t get freaked out at the popping sound you’ll hear when you bend the gooseneck. When I first heard it, I thought I’d broken it. But I now understand that the sound is a side-effect of the strengthened gooseneck. You’re supposed to hear the sound!
I’m not going to try to claim that every iSight owner needs to have one of these products. If you are only an occasional video conferencer and/or have already stuck the iSight mount to the back of your display with no real need to use it elsewhere, you’re probably good to go. However, if you’ve just purchased an iSight and are still feeling as though it would be a crime to stick something to the back of your display, you’re definitely a good candidate to become a SightFlex owner. Laptop users who frequently use their iSights at a variety of locations are equally good candidates to own the iFlex.
Reader Comments (24)
If the SightFlex base had a socket in its top for the iFlex cable to fit in (instead of the current permanently attached gooseneck cable) then you would be able to simply detach the gooseneck cable (which would be an iFlex in effect) and take it with you.
There is, however, one other variable of this equation that didn't really dawn on me until long after I submitted this review. The SightFlex's gooseneck is longer than the iFlex. This is so the SightFlex is able to reach over the top of the 23" Cinema Display. It's conceivable that this long of a gooseneck in an iFlex usage might be awkward.
I have an iFlex and I'm very happy with it. My only concern is that if I adjust it during a video chat it, sometimes the signal seems to be interrupted. Basically, the cable seems a little loose in the socket - it can wiggle up and down a little more than I would think is ideal. I wonder if this is the same for all units or if it's unique to mine. Any idea?
Has anyone used the iFlex with a 17" pbook, basically does it have the reach to stretch from the right side Firewire port to top middle above the screen?
On a related note, I'd expect a revised iFlex/SightFlex soon as MacMice have basically identified the proposed change (removable base with top firewire port) in their similar MicFlex product . Would be really nice if they combined the two firewire products likewise, but that may be counter to their profits ;-)
There are differences in the tightness of the mechnical connection made between Firewire and USB connectors. Basically, there is more slop in the FW connectors... leading to things like the wriggling iFlex plug sensation. Point? Well, we were able to get a stable connection by plugging the USB plug end of the MicFlex stalk into a port on the base. But, the same effort with a FW plug end doesn't make for a stable mechanical setup: the stalk on such a prototype SightFlex/iFlex combo unit teetered around like a drunk in a high wind. Plus, as has been said here, the best stalk lengths for the two applications (desk and portable) are different. So, that's why there is no "all in one" MultiFlex™ product.
As for use with a 17-inch PB... the iSight cannot be located dead-center above the rear of the screen. But, there are many positions nearer the edges, either in front of or behind the screen where the iFlex can hold the iSight.
Hope this helps.
Thanks for the offer of the experiment ...
Your reply and clarification is much appreciated, I don't see the inability to reach dead centre putting me off buying. Just being able to carry one device for cabling/location will be a great boon. Don't really understand why Apple didn't go this way!
Looking at the length of a couple of USB and firewire plugs I can see how the USB would offer more 'purchase' for the flex.
Anyway, thanks all for the rapid replies
I'm currently researcing a cheap/simple copy-stand solution for animation education.
Do you think the flexsight would support the weight of a griffin iLight?
I wan't bend the flexlight into an extended street-light sort of way for down-shooting an 8x11 sheet of paper.
Your idea, however, might be worth exploring.
The SightLight is not very heavy at all, and the iFlex (name correction, once again) shouldn't have any trouble supporting it. Bear in mind, however, that the nature of the way the SightLight plugs into a FireWire port may be problematic for you. Normally, you run a FireWire cable through the SightLight first, and then use the included short FireWire cable to continue from the SightLight to the iSight camera.
If you use either the iFlex or SightFlex, you cannot connect the SightLight the way it was intended. You'd have to run a second FireWire cable to a second FireWire port on your computer. The problem is confounded for a lot of laptops—I'm not sure about the current models, buy my 15" Titanium 1GHz PowerBook only has one FireWire port on it. So, without a FireWire hub, it's impossible for me to use the iSight and iFlex and SightLight all at the same time.
If, however, you do have multiple FireWire ports and are okay with running a second cable, then go for it.
P.S. - even for a laptop, I'd recommend the SightFlex for what you're doing. With an iFlex, your computer would always have to be very close to what you were taking an image of. With a desktop-in-mind SightFlex, you could move the base a little further away and give yourself some extra room.
The moral of the story is, make sure you're getting the actual product and not a foreign knock-off, and always be sure of a return policy on anything you buy.
It worked on me, I have both. I travel with one and leave the one with the base on my desk at home.
FYI: Mine both work beautifully. I live on the West Coast and sometimes I use it to show friends what's on my TV from my living room :-)
Obviously, the problem is worse with FW. I almost decided to glue my MicFlex into the base, so it makes good sense to me that SightFlex has basically done just this!
I'd love to see some kind of custom connector, perhaps with a pair of snaps on the sides like my iPod connector. I guess that would increase cost. Perhaps you can think of something. The flexibility (NPI) of being able to go both ways with the connector is useful, but the ease of it coming out of the base must be solved...
An unrelated comment, some visitors may realize that the product links at the top of this page are no longer correct. You'll now find links for the iFlex and SightFlex here.
Anyway, I'm not trying to make this a commercial but all my customers just rave about them. I have not had one dissatisfied customer yet.
I'm not sure if I can do this on here but if you want either one go to www.socalepals.com I offer a great price and return policy. I also have them on ebay.
Thank you, Aaron
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