Taking photos with a smartphone is always a simple snap away. However, with certain camera accessories, mobile photography and videography can reach a different level.
Phone manufacturers keep pushing the envelope on what their cameras can produce, despite physical restrictions that also limit image sensors and lenses. Third-party apps try to fill in the gaps by offering features meant to bring more control over every image. In addition, there are the accessories designed to deliver something that looks professional.
The following imaging accessories made our short list to represent what’s out there to augment the mobile photographer and videographer’s shooting experience.
A Selection of Smartphone Camera Accessories
It’s hard to choose only one lens when Moment has different glass to accommodate varying shooting needs. The company says its wide 18mm lens is its best seller; it’s followed by its tele 58mm lens. Anamorphic, macro and fisheye lenses round out a compelling package of options. Regardless of what the
photographer chooses, a key component to all Moment lenses is the case—a $40 add-on that’s necessary to mount the lens to align with the phone’s own lenses.
Unlike some competitors, Moment doesn’t only work with iPhones. It also offers kits that are compatible with Samsung, Google and OnePlus handsets. Moreover, the Moment app for iOS and Android adds an array of features and modes. They include full manual controls, RAW capture, focus peaking and anamorphic de-squeezing.
While the lenses aren’t required to use the app, Moment says the two are meant to work together. The iOS app seems to get newer features sooner than the Android. Lenses start at $99.99.
DJI Osmo Mobile 3
DJIs third iteration of its popular gimbal stands out for the simple fact it folds up for easier transport. Previous versions didn’t. The smaller footprint is equally helped by the shorter, slimmer profile. The trigger button, which was removed in the Osmo 2, is now back. It now also uses USB-C to charge. The 3-axis gimbal has ports to charge a docked smartphone or plug in a mic, maintaining a simplified design that’s fine for both beginners and pros.
Another key addition is ActiveTrack 3.0, carried over from the company’s drones. It allows users to stick to a subject better than before. DJI’s Mimo app is part of the mix, presenting the various modes, like Hyperlapse, gesture control, panorama and story modes.
A tripod and carrying case don’t come with the Osmo Mobile 3, though DJI will throw them in as part of a combo pack for $20 more. $119.
Zhiyun Smooth 4
Often an alternative to DJI, the Zhiyun Smooth 4 is a competing gimbal that also offers solid, stabilized footage. Unlike the Osmo Mobile 3, the Smooth 4 doesn’t fold up. However, it does come with a case and tripod out of the box. Zhiyun also went with a wheel to adjust pan and tilt, rather than the joystick typical of other gimbals in its class. The form factor is also rectangular, not cylindrical. This makes for unique ergonomics because of how the wheel works in tandem with a trigger on the back.
Furthermore, the gimbal is designed to work with both the company’s own ZY Play app plus Filmic Pro for third-party shooting. However, the feature set in each case skews toward the iPhone; some functions and integrations aren’t compatible with Android phones.
In addition, features may differ depending on the app used. Also, large phones, like the iPhone XS Max or iPhone 11 Pro Max, are not as nimble when locked in. $119.
iOgrapher Multi Case
As a hand grip, the Multi Case is also fairly agnostic; it works with the iPhone, Samsung, Google and other smartphones. Previous models from iOgrapher had trouble fitting phones with cases attached; however, that appears to be less of an issue with this one. Yet, smartphones with large screens greater than 6 inches may pose challenges. Moreover, grips on either end make it easier to maintain smooth footage when panning or switching angles as an alternative to a gimbal.
In addition, there are shoes for up to two LED lights or a microphone to make the Multi Case something like a filmmaking rig. The standard mount at the bottom works with any tripod. It also offers the option to shoot in a stationary position without having to take the phone out.
A plus, iOgrapher manufacturers each unit in the U.S. $59.99
Joby GripTight One GP Magnetic Impulse
Known for its flexible tripods, this one combines Joby’s GorillaPod legs with a GripTight mount to set up on any magnetic surface. The neodymium magnetic feet attach to a metal surface, though the malleable legs will also twist around anything. The spring-loaded mount also has a higher threshold to accommodate larger handsets, including those with thicker cases. In addition, it’s detachable, revealing a standard tripod mount to attach another compatible accessory, if necessary.
Further, a Bluetooth remote offers some control away from the phone to set up selfies or group photos without setting a timer. The same is true if shooting a long exposure photo with an app’s manual or pro mode to avoid the effects of shake. While Joby specifically notes compatibility with certain iPhone models, it works with Android phones as well. $59.95.
The Pivo Pod is a motorized mounting system that rotates up to 360º to track and capture a subject. It can lay on a flat surface with three extendable legs at the bottom, or on a tripod with the standard mount underneath. The grip for the phone can manage both portrait and landscape orientations, where the primary role is to rotate and keep a subject in focus, especially when moving. There are different levels for speed and rotation to customize the experience.
An included Bluetooth remote offers hands-free control, though the Pivo app is required to use the device and all its inherent features. There are also a number of modes, ranging from auto-tracking to time-lapse. Additionally, livestreaming via YouTube and Facebook round out a capable set of tools to shoot with. The app does work with both iOS and Android and doesn’t appear to have limitations with either platform. $109.
Fotodiox LED Studio-in-a-Box
This foldable light tent from Fotodiox comes in a square-like form with a reflective interior that can reflect the built-in LED light source. It’s 5600K daylight for a softer glow that covers the subject, be it a small or medium-size item that comfortably fits inside. There is also a foldaway front panel that includes a built-in shooting hatch, along with a second hatch for overhead shooting. Background colors vary between white, black, gray and blue, all of which come included with the package.
What’s more, a carrying case takes the folded tent for easier transport, and the power adapter isn’t especially large, either. Moreover, its vinyl material reduces wrinkles to avoid creases that could affect the background.
This LED studio box also comes in different sizes that start as small as 16×16, along with 20×20, 24×24 and 28×28 inches. $79.95–$134.95.
Among the most durable in the market, Catalyst’s lineup of phone cases caters exclusively to iPhone and Samsung users. There are two different tacks to take. One of which is to go the fully rugged route, and the other for waterproofing. The rugged build can withstand a 9.9-foot drop; it takes a beating without affecting the device inside. More notable may be the waterproof case that functions in both fresh and saltwater, enabling users to shoot underwater.
The waterproof cases can submerge down to 33 feet. On top of that, they work just as well in the snow, courtesy of a fully sealed frame that keeps out ice, dust, dirt and sand.
For capturing photos and video in tougher conditions, cases like these could keep the phone safe without compromising quality. Pricing starts at $89.99.