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Christmas Gift Guide
Mobile Accessories

Shake-free celebrations

Your holiday gatherings might not be the picture of stability, but at least your holiday videos can be smooth as silk.

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Michael Muller

Holiday family videos can be pretty unwatchable for a variety of reasons. Shaky movement is certainly at the top of the list.

Shooting with a phone doesn't help, either. Don't get me wrong -- phones are great because they're always handy, and their wide-angle lenses let you get more people in the shot. But compared with a traditional camcorder, they're difficult to grip steadily, and while some models have optical image stabilization built in, it's not as effective as you might think.

For impromptu party shoots, you can turn yourself into a human tripod by taking a wider stance with your feet, tucking your elbows in at your sides and keeping the phone as close to you as possible. If you want to pan, twist your torso and keep the camera stationary. Using a pole or wall or resting your elbows on a table makes a difference, too.

To really stabilize the camera, though, you'll want to attach your phone to something that will isolate it from your hands. A simple selfie stick collapsed as a handgrip can make a noticeable difference. But there are also a variety grips designed specifically for making your shots steady and more comfortable. They not only make it easier to put your phone on a tripod and shoot handheld, but they also give you room to attach a light and an external microphone.

From a simple tripod phone mount to a mechanical stabilizer that you can run with and not see a single shake, here are the best accessories for smoother shooting.

Joby GripTight Pro

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Perfect for those FaceTime calls with relatives, the rubber-coated stainless-steel mount attaches to any standard tripod and keeps a firm grip on any device (from 2.2- to 3.6-inches wide) even with a case. Two knobs on the back let you get just the right angle and can quickly change from shooting landscape to portrait.

Price: $21 mount alone (£26, AU$32); $42 mount with Joby GorillaPod tripod (£49, AU$64)

Shoulderpod

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Andrew Hoyle/CNET

This well-designed mount is available in three styles to meet your stabilizing needs. The S1 is a basic mount that you can use as a handheld or attach to a tripod. The R1 Go has a single wooden handgrip and an extra mount to the side for a light or mic, while the R1 Pro has two handgrips and room to mount multiple accessories.

Price: $35 for S1 (£25, AU$63); $55 for R1 Go (£45, AU$70), $95 for R1 Pro (£75, AU$130)

iOgrapher for iPhone 6 or 6 Plus

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Handgrips on each side of this slim, lightweight case -- and tripod mounts on the bottom and right handle for vertical video -- keep things steady on or off a tripod. There are spots on top to attach a light and mic, too, and you can even twist on a wide-angle lens to get more people in your shot.

Price: $60 (£50, AU$80)

Padcaster Verse

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Padcaster

The Verse is a movie-making system. At its heart is the Pod, an adjustable holder small enough to fit in a pocket, but has spots to attach accessories and can grip a wide variety of phones and small tablets. The Pod can then be connected to the lightweight aluminum Verse Frame with molded hand grips and 11, 1/4-20 mounts to hold all your gear.

Price: To be announced

Polaroid Steady Video Action Stabilizer System

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Sarah Tew/CNET

This is great for moving through a crowded party. The Steady counterbalances your phone's weight, so your camera movements look smooth, almost like it's floating. Just attach your phone with the included universal mount (or any other holder that fits on a standard 1/4-inch tripod), adjust the weight and you're ready to go.

Price: $60 (£50, AU$140)

Zhiyun Z1 Smooth-C

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The Smooth-C literally lets you shoot on the run. Small, powerful motors stabilize your phone so that every movement can be countered, giving you buttery-smooth results whether you're standing still, running or even jumping up and down. Thumb controls let you pan and tilt for more dramatic shots, and the mount can handle phones big and small. It's ideal if you're going to need to move a lot, say to chase after kids and pets.

Price: $185 (£190, AU$300)

This story appears in the winter 2016 edition of CNET Magazine. For other magazine stories, click here.