Updated 29 August 2017
Left top-bottom: Shoulderpod S1, optional H1 handle, Ztylus Pistol Grip kit.
Right: iOgrapher case for iPhone 6/6S
iPhones are great unobtrusive tools for shooting video. But they’re not easy to hold steady. A case or clamp would be the first accessory I’d buy.
I’ve tested three alternatives: the iOgrapher case for iPhone 6/6S (they also make cases for other iPhones, iPads and GoPros); the Ztylus Pistol Grip Kit, which I’ve been using for a while; and the Shoulderpod S1 clamp and H1 handle. (This has now been replaced by the S2, which includes the wooden handle and an improved strap).
All three are easier to handhold than a bare iPhone, and have tripod sockets.
iOgrapher for iPhone 6/6S
The iOgrapher (shown here with wide angle adapter) is sturdy and easy to handhold, with two side handles, a handle and tripod socket on the base, and a second tripod socket for mounting it vertically.
The case is made of two pieces of polycarbonate. The iPhone snaps in snugly, and it’s easy to remove by pushing down on the single tab in the centre. The screen is well recessed.
The iOgrapher iPhone case is a big improvement on their original iPad Air case which I reviewed a while ago: it’s more rigid, the phone is well protected but easier to remove, and the controls and sockets are easier to access.
Two cold shoes on top let you fit microphones, lights or other accessories. There’s a threaded 37mm brass mount for accessory lenses and filters: you could use iOgrapher’s own wide/macro and telephoto lenses (see below), a Moondog Labs anamorphic converter for shooting widescreen, or any adapter lens with a 37mm thread. You need to be careful to avoid cross-threading the lenses when you first fit them. I’m using the mount to fit a circular polarising filter, which is great for deepening blue skies and cutting down reflections.
iOgrapher sent me their wide and telephoto lens to test. The front element of the wide lens screws off to make a useful macro lens. They’re relatively inexpensive for adapter lenses and centre sharpness is OK, but they do suffer from edge softness and distortion. Unlike my Olloclip and Ztylus adapter lenses, they have a filter thread. The thread is 46mm. I already have a larger 49mm polarising filter, so I’m using a couple of step up rings: a 37-49 to fit the filter direct to the case, and a 46-49 to fit it to the front of the lenses.
(Option-click on the images below to view full-sized versions.)
iOgrapher telephoto adapter
The European-made Shoulderpod S1 is a solidly designed clamp with rubber jaws. It comes with a small bottom handle and a leather and webbing wrist strap for extra security. It’ll take most smartphones, with or without a slim case. It looks elegant and professional.
You put the phone between the jaws of the clamp, push them together, then turn a knurled screw to hold the clamp in place. You have to be careful not to overtighten the screw.
It’s well engineered. The tripod socket is a brass insert. The standard handle is solid machined metal, but it’s rather short: I swapped it with the longer H1 handle (around $20 more) which felt more secure. It looks good, too: it’s made from turned sapele wood with black rubber end caps. It has a brass tripod socket on the base. (Update: the S1 has now been replaced by the S2 which includes the wooden handle.)
The Shoulderpod system is modular. You can buy more elaborate kits with two handles, or extension bars to add other accessories such a lights or microphones.
Ztylus Pistol Grip Kit
The Ztylus Pistol Grip Kit combines their Smartphone Rig clamp with a P&C moulded plastic grip. The clamp size and shape is very similar to the ShoulderPod (who told me it’s copied from theirs). But the tightening mechanism is different: you push the jaws together against your phone, then tighten a knurled screw on the front to hold the top half of the clamp in place. It doesn’t look as neat as the Shoulderpod, but it’s quicker to fit and remove the phone. (Very quick to remove: the jaws spring open when you undo the knob, and I nearly dropped my phone on the floor a couple of times.). There’s a metal tripod socket on the base, and a useful single cold shoe on top, for fitting a microphone or lights.
The P&C Pistol Grip is big and easy to hold (I’ve used it with my DLSR), with moulded finger grips. It’s quick to fit and remove. But the removable D-ring on the base isn’t much use (it rattles), and the tripod socket was recessed too deeply for one of my tripods.
All these options have their pros and cons. Personally, I use a Shoulderpod for most of my phone filming. I use the iOgrapher when I want to add accessories like a standard polarising filter, a lens hood or a shoe-mounted microphone.
- The iOgrapher is solid, easy to hold, and protective. It’s a good option for serious filmmaking and mobile journalism. But you can only use screw-mount adapter lenses or filters, it’s not pocketable, and you’ll need to replace it if you buy a different sized phone.
- The ShoulderPod is very well made and looks good, particularly with the optional wooden handle. It’s small, discreet, and holds the phone securely. You don’t have to remove your usual phone case to use it, so you can use non-screwmount lenses like Olloclip, Ztylus or Moment.
- The Ztylus kit isn’t as elegant, but it has a cold shoe and it’s quicker to use. Like the Shoulderpod, it’ll take a large phone in a case, and you can use non-screwmount accessory lenses. It works out around the same price as the ShoulderPod for US buyers. But it’s more expensive for Europeans because of shipping, unless you buy other Ztylus items with it (they offer free shipping over $50).
The little Joby MPod is very affordable, and small enough to carry anywhere. It has an elasticated clamp combined with flexible tripod legs which you can straighten out to use as a handle.
Electronic gimbal stabilisers will let you hold your phone much more steadily, and move it more smoothly, than a clamp or case.