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.