As I seek to lighten my load for travel, the question of video enters. I'm by no means a film maker, but I'd like to add video as an accompaniment to my travel photography. It's easy to get swept up in the latest and greatest offerings from the likes of Black Magic and Panasonic, but the fact remains my budget only goes so far. In the growing landscape of mobile-ography, there are tons of add-on options to elevate your humble iPhone (or whatever your cult may be)video. And now, if an iPhone is good enough for Bentley, then it seems it should be good enough for me. I've scoured the options, and here are a select handful that won't require a personal Sherpa or Royal bank account, but will help you create some snappy video.
Joby GripTight GorillaPod Video
Joby, best known for its flexible GorillaPods, is the maker of numerous support accessories for all types of photography & video tools.The petite GripTight GorillaPod Video lets you mount your phone (or GoPro) for nice stable video shots. Use it to capture stationary video of yourself, establishing shots, or wrap the legs around handle bars for first-person video on the move.The pan & tilt handle lets you pan smoothly in all directions to take in the view, and it boasts magnetic feet for even more mounting options. Purchase the legs independently or with a mount, around $35.
This is a very simple setup, with a cradle that will fit most any smartphone. A tiny ballhead supports the cradle, and little legs pop out from the handle so you can set it on a flat surface. You can also unscrew the ballhead to mount it on a traditional tripod. There's no real pan or tilt, though you can manipulate the cradle with the ball head loosened. If you have steady hands and only want something basic - and ultralight - this could be an ideal choice at $20.
Photo courtesy Photojojo Woxom Slingshot on B&H Photo Video
iStabilizer for Mobile
This is getting a little more serious, but it's some pretty nifty stuff in a not too heavy or huge package. It does weigh a little over a pound, but is a great choice if you like to get some motion in your shots. Dolly in or out, or set the arc of the wheels for slow curving shots. The articulated arm holds your phone at just the right height and angle. Bear in mind that if your surface isn't smooth, your shot won't be. However, at only $40, I'd consider it potentially worth the weight and price.
This jumps your price commitment a good bit, but if you're drooling over the ability to capture smooth sliding shots at a variety of angles, this could be for you. It's about 14 inches long, but can be placed on angles and used either for slides or dollying in/out even if the surface it's set on isn't perfectly smooth. A bit of practice will be needed to keep your speed steady and avoid jerky movement in the slide. It does come in at $95, and if you'd like to spend even more you can purchase a longer rail that is just over 25 inches.
Gizmon Circular Polarizer
There are oodles of lens add-ons out there, from basic to funky, and many require a special case to be mounted on your phone. Add to that the wildly varying quality of the optics, and you might be better off learning to work with the native focal length of your phone's lens. Gizmon's offering conveniently clips on over your case, and can be used on multiple devices (say, your iPhone and iPad) without any extra fiddly bits. Of all the photography items I'd consider indispensable, the humble polarizer is tops on my list. Increase saturation, punch up skies, and reduce reflections in your still or video capture.
Add-On Lens Options
Still feeling the need for lenses to swap around? Try out the fun iPhone telephoto lens option from, yet again, Photojo. Olloclip has a number of offerings from fisheye to macro and even modest telephoto. Schneider Optics has a trio set with custom case for when you really want to break out the big guns, which will set you back over $200 but you do get that legendary Schneider glass. In most cases, you'll need to be aware of at least a moderate to severe image quality trade-off when piling optics on, but it will give you much greater variety in your shots, and how much it matters is wholly dependent on your own taste and intent.
Another somewhat pricey (about $150) option, from industry leader Steadicam, the Smoothee mounts your phone on a hand-held stabilizer. Usually a tool like this would be too heavy, since it uses weight to counterbalance the camera. However, since you're only counterbalancing a phone, the necessary weight is rather minimal. You do have to buy the model specific to your capture device, as the Smoothee has its counterbalance weight built in.
Glide Gear Syl-1000
If the Steadicam is impractical for your budget or thirst for camera variety, you can choose the Syl-1000 from Glide Gear for about half the price. It includes mounts for a smart phone, GoPro, or very small camera. Like the Steadicam, it takes some practice and fine tuning to get the best result, so it's definitely recommended to spend as much time as possible with it before your big shoot. Available reviews are reasonably good, and this has multiple weights so that you fine tune the balance. With a mic or other camera add ons, that can make or break the practical useability of a stabilizer.
The iPhone Boom Mic
Sound can make or break your video, and the built-in options on smart phones leave much to be desired. Whether you're trying to capture ambient to help set the scene or dialogue while shooting, an external mic is a necessity. It's amazing how quickly you can go broke on mics and accessories, and for those of us who are not sound engineers, it can also be very intimidating. This little shotgun mic simply attaches to the headphone jack and drastically improves your sound. At only $40, it's a very good value for basic but pretty good sound. Follow the link to watch PhotoJojo's video. Add a simple foam windscreen, or a more robust furry option, to this mic to cut down on wind noise and smooth out your sound even more.
Muku Labs Remote Shutter
Originally a Kickstarter campaign, you can now buy the remote shutter by Muku Labs on Amazon in black or white. It works with Apple and Android based devices, and seems to be well worth the price of not-quite-$40 judging by the excellent overall reviews. You can use this for stills or video, making it a great choice to get yourself in the shot without having to run, wait, or need to edit before using footage.
Much like photography, when shooting video the technical side is only half the battle. Beautiful slides, zippy skies, and clear sound are only as good as your subject matter and story telling. As much as any gadget, studying the craft at least a little will help you get the most from your neat gadgets. Combine the right selection of these with a good understanding of story telling, and your video will certainly turn heads.
Do you have a favorite gadget or accessory for your mobile videography? Share it with us in the comments!