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Gear Reviews

Syrp Genie Timelapse & Video Motion Control Review – Incredible Versatility and Reliability

By Matthew Saville on September 1st 2014

For the serious videographer or timelapse photographer, smooth motion control is critical in creating content that stands out from the crowd.  The Syrp Genie is a robust, highly adaptable device that allows anybody to add motion to their creative vision without breaking the bank or being limited by traditional motorized slider systems!

A Brief Introduction To Motion Control

It seems like timelapse photography is reaching its heyday right about now.  The internet is exploding with creative, often breathtaking video montages of all types of timelapse footage.  Television and movies are beginning to incorporate timelapses into their “B-roll” interludes and scenic views, too.  One of my favorite TV shows, White Collar, relies heavily on timelapse footage and the results have a great impact on the show’s fast-paced mood, in my opinion.

[Click here to watch a great timelapse video titled Yosemite HD II]

This has set the stage for all kinds of timelapse accessories and equipment.  To start, all you need is a $30 timelapse trigger for your camera and a tripod, right?  Sure, if you’re practicing and learning.  (If you have a Nikon DSLR or certain others, your timelapse intervalometer might be built right into your camera!)  However, after a few “static” scenes, you’ll begin to realize that what takes a timelapse video from decent to stunning is….MOTION!

Motion control equipment for video and timelapse footage has long been extremely pricey.  Thousands of dollars were required for slider rails, motors, dollies, etc.  Not only that, but to achieve high quality motion control with such high-end devices, you need to become a wizard at programming a complicated interface system.

Thankfully, with popularity comes many affordable options!  Not-so-thankfully, however, with affordable options come a whole slew of sub-par, cheap-o products that just aren’t worth your money. We saw this exact phenomenon over the past few years in the realm of wireless flash, actually: Tons and tons of cheap knock-off junk, and a few good brands that slowly floated to the top.  New companies that play their cards right with quality control, engineering, customer support, etc. will be rewarded for their efforts.

So, I have set the stage now for this, my new favorite tool- the Timelapse Genie.  Made by a company named Syrp that is based in New Zealand, the “Genie” is a motion-control device that can be used for both timelapse and video recording.  I might call it the Timelapse Genie here and there in this article, by the way, but that is just because I am mainly a timelapse photographer. I did put the Genie to the test in both timelapse and video situations, but this review will mainly be about its use as a timelapse motion control device.

Watch A Video Sample Of Footage

While our full video review is being finalized, please enjoy this brief demo of how we edit some of our sequences of astro-landscape timelapse footage.  Check back in a week or so for our full video review!

Design & Operation: Real-World Use

The Genie is compact, at about 4″ on all sides.  (~100mm)  It has a top mounting screw for a traditional tripod head, and two different interchangeable base plates. The base plates allow for either linear motion, or rotational panning.

For rotation / panning, simply mount the base plate and the Genie in between your tripod legs and ball head, like so:

Syrp-Timelapse-Genie-Tripod-Mounting

For linear motion, simply mount the other base plate to your slider, rail system, dolly, or whatever, and string the provided cord along the path of motion.  You can adapt it to basically any slider at all, using the provided clamping system, or you can get creative and use even longer cord to stretch your total motion distance to almost any length you want!

Syrp-Timelapse-Genie-Slider-Mounting

To program the Genie, the LCD display interface is very simple-  choose between video or timelapse, then set up your movements, intervals…and hit “start.”  No, seriously, it’s that simple!  For example, with just a few clicks, I could instruct the Genie to capture a timelapse over the course of 3 hours at 40 second intervals, and rotate from left to right by a total of 45 degrees.  Done!

Syrp-Timelapse-Genie-Programming

The simplicity of it all is rather refreshing. So, how does it handle, and what do the results look like? Well, if you skipped over the video portion of this review, I’ll spoil the ending: the Genie performs beautifully, and the footage looks gorgeous!

Pros

1. Simple Design

If you wanted to, you could just pull it out of the box, turn it on, and figure things out without even consulting a manual.  Of course, to fully harness the versatile features you’ll want to delve into the user manual, but my point is that this thing is beautifully simple to set up and operate. Whether creating panning rotation or sliding movement, setup is both intuitive and quick.  Moving parts are well-protected, too.  The user interface is straightforward and bug-less, what more can you ask for?

In the past with other timelapse/motion control setups, I’ve found myself scratching my head just trying to figure out how to get the dang thing up and running. With the Syrp Timelapse Genie, there are no custom function numbers to memorize, (*cough*Canon*cough*) every option is listed plainly and easy to adjust.

2. Robust Construction

This isn’t a cheap knock-off, that’s for sure.  As someone who studied mechanical engineering, I am very quick to judge a product if it doesn’t have flawless physical design and construction.  Bonus points if it even goes so far as feeling “indestructible.” The Timelapse Genie delivers, in this respect.  It’s built to take a beating, which is rare with something so precise and delicate as motion control.  Of course, I’m sure the internal motors and gears need to be treated with respect; dropping an expensive piece of equipment onto pavement (or into sand, or water) is never a good thing.

3. Total Adaptability

As rave-worthy as the simplicity and robustness are, they’re not even the Genie’s greatest strengths.  This, by far, is its adaptability, its ubiquitous design.  You can use this device with basically any type of rail, slider, or dolly, …or anything else you can think up. In other words, forget about paying $3,000+ for a mechanized slider system that only moves 2-3 feet.  With the Timelapse Genie, you can adapt to any slider of any design or length. Or, you can just make your own!

Below is an official video from Syrp that demonstrates the crazy adaptation that the Genie is capable of- an aerial tram style contraption that will blow your mind!

Cons

1. Weight

On the one hand, I am definitely grateful that the Timelapse Genie was designed exactly the way it was- burly, ruggedized, no-nonsense construction that doesn’t need me to treat it delicately and avoid inclement situations.  I didn’t hesitate to use the Genie in windy sand dunes, and the Genie didn’t let me down either. Like I said, bonus points for feeling “indestructible.”

On the other hand, however, it is definitely a bit hefty. I suppose I wish that the folks at Syrp would design another, lightweight model. I’d probably still use this current model 90% of the time, but for those few trips where I need to hike many miles with very hefty gear on my back, maybe a slightly lighter version would come in handy.

2. Price

While the Timelapse Genie clearly stands out as a high-value product, with superb construction and a fantastic interface, I do realize that $890 is going to put it a little out of reach for some hobbyists or aspiring pros who are on a really tight budget.  This is unfortunate, because the Genie is worth every penny if you can afford it!

3. “Either-Or” Motion

The last thing that I at least need to mention is that, inherent in the Timelapse Genie’s design is the limitation of “either-or” motion.  In other words, with a single Genie, you can either rotate or slide, but not both at once.  The way the base plates work makes this simply a fact of life for the Genie. Then again, this is part of the inherent beauty of the device’s simplicity.  Extensive motion control devices that offer motorized pan/tilt controls are expensive, complicated, and far more delicate.  Personally, as a timelapse photographer especially, I just don’t need that much motorized motion, and therefore, I’m far happier with a device like the Genie anyways.

So, at the end of the day both of my “cons” have caveats that basically stop them from being cons.  Go figure!  It comes down to this:  Nothing stops me from recommending this to someone who I know is serious enough to appreciate its quality and reliability.

The Ultimate Timelapse Setup

So far, the Syrp Genie has easily adapted to everything we currently own here in the studio, from pricey high-end rail systems such as Kessler, to affordable, simple rails like the Revo Slider.  We’re looking forward to trying out different options in the future as well, and maybe even creating our own homemade dolly system! It seems like the Genie was built to shine for creative types of photographers who think outside the box.

Who Should Buy It

For photo

  • Outdoor / Adventure photographers who need strength and simplicity If you’re like me, then your outdoor adventures usually involve bringing simple, yet powerful camera systems- easy to operate and built to last, yet capable of stunning results.
  • Video / Cinematographers who want versatility and adaptability

On the other hand, is there anybody who shouldn’t buy it?  Really, the only reason not to get the Syrp Genie is if you’re certain that you need extremely advanced, multi-directional motion control.  The kind of thing that usually costs $3,000-$4,000, and requires a ton of prep work to set up.  In other words, if the Genie isn’t meant for you, you probably already know it.  Otherwise, its simple interface, yet advanced adaptability make it suitable for anyone who is getting into motion control, from a curious hobbyist to a serious professional.

04-performance-5-stars

Performance-wise, the Genie delivers the goods.  No bugs in the interface, reliable operation, etc.  Amazing overall quality equals trusty performance, period.  You can’t ask much else from this type of gear!

09-features-5-stars

As I discussed in the pros and cons, sure you might wish for the Genie’s features to include both rotating and sliding at once.  However, in my opinion, that is simply an entirely different product for Syrp to design separately, NOT an update for this Genie itself.  Thus, I’ll give it 5 stars for features because I believe anyone in the market for timelapse equipment will find its features to be perfectly purposed for its intended use.  And its adaptable functionality is highly unique, if you want to consider it a “feature.”

14-design-5-stars

The design is what makes the Syrp Timelapse Genie so unique and versatile.  Sure, having a beautifully designed exterior and user interface is nice, but the main focus of design is the universal adaptability in my opinion, and this is what will set the Genie apart from the rest if you are in the market for such a unique timelapse tool.

19-quality-5-stars

Quality is one of the best aspects of this piece of equipment, for sure.  It’s built sturdy as heck, and the overall thoughtfulness of design is superb.  As someone who studied mechanical engineering, I have a tendency to strongly judge anything that in my opinion doesn’t have amazing build quality and operational quality.  This just makes it all the more satisfying when I find something of awesome quality, though!

24-value-5-stars

Again considering what it is capable of doing, the Genie is one of the best values on the market.  A penny pincher might give everything they ever review 3-4 stars for value, just because they’d always wish to pay less for everything, but in my opinion, that is a cop-out.  The other aspects of my rankings, such as quality and design, all prove that for its price the Genie is a great value.  Simply put, this thing allows you to create timelapse and video movement, especially sliding/dolly etc. moves, that other setups costing many thousands of dollars would fail to match.

Final Verdict

34-overall-score-5-starsFive stars, without a doubt.  The Genie works perfectly, is easy to set up and operate, and is built to last a lifetime.  Any drawbacks are only going to affect certain people who are looking for something completely different in the first place.  If the Genie is even remotely close to your budget, and you’re looking for a simple, highly adaptable device to execute movements that few other devices can, this is a no-brainer!

Take care, and happy clicking,
=Matt=

Matthew Saville is a full-time wedding photographer at Lin & Jirsa Photography, and a senior editor & writer at SLR Lounge.

Follow his personal wilderness adventures: Astro-Landscapes.com

See some of his latest wedding photography featured on: LinandJirsa.com

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Basit Zargar

    Awesome

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  2. Michael Moe

    This product would definitely imrpove the quality of my timelapse movies :)

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  3. Pye

    Fantastic write up and review Matty, love it. I agree 100% this is a great, and “must have” product.

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  4. Chuck Eggen

    Yet another toy I want and don’t need. My wife says I need to make some money with the toys (she calls my equipment toys) I have before I think about buying more.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Chuck, if you’re on toy lockdown like I am for a while, you can always learn arguing and make your own time lapse device. Don’t let finances stop you from pursuing a hobby… :-)

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  5. Michael Chapman

    I’ve been drooling over this particular item for weeks. Your article just reinforced everything I had learned about it – great review and awesome time-lapse with it.

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  6. Wendell Fernandes

    Very nice article – I see so many people benefiting from this.

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  7. Phil Bautista

    For those interested in motion timelapse on the cheap, try out the Hyperlapse app for iOS. It’s got great stabilisation so you can take interesting pseudo hyperlapse/timelapse video. Mount your iPhone on an egg timer to get the rotating time lapse look. This isn’t real time/hyper lapse but should whet your appetite for more or help you decide if it’s the right thing for you.

    And FWIW (free), don’t expect the same quality you’d get from a DSLR and timelapse rig, specially in low light. You get what you pay for. Still a good appetizer though.

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  8. mugur ic

    It’s a must have kit for time elapse. Nice

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  9. Jim Johnson

    Yeah, $980 is really high, especially considering it is just a digitally controlled spinning servo.

    Don’t get me wrong, they found a niche in the market and built a good product, but I doubt it will be very long before a knockoff starts taking business from them.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Jim, you could easily build your own using Arduino software, in fact friends of mine have done just that. However the build quality and ease of use / reliability are what make this device “RRS-like” in value. That is to say, pricey but oh-so-worth it. (In case anyone isn’t familiar with Really Right Stuff products, they’re tripods designed by Bruce Wayne & Tony Stark, basically. ;-)

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