Must-Have Accessories For Your Smartphone
The first two decades of the twenty-first century has given us a plethora of change. The personal computer has moved from the desktop to the laptop, the tablet, and now the cell phone. Televisions went from 200-pound monsters to lightweight flat screens of wall-like proportions, and cable and satellite television bowed out to internet streaming on demand. Time and technology march on!
THE RISE OF THE SMARTPHONE
In photography, those changes have been just as drastic. Nowhere has that been more apparent than the world of the point-and-shoot camera. Since the pinnacle of their success in 2008, their market has steadily declined, and the most obvious reason for this death spiral is the meteoric growth of the ‘smartphone.’
The smartphone has also given rise to an entirely new product line —smartphone accessories, explicitly geared towards the smartphone’s camera. Let’s look at some of these and how they can help improve the “smartphone photographer’s” craft.
Like most of us in the western world, I have a smartphone in my hip pocket that takes some extraordinary images. I often use it to scout shooting locations, and my iPhone creates a reference for what I hope to do with a future shot at the site. But there are times that my trek to a particular spot is so arduous that I wish I had my gear with me to complete the shoot on the location.
Enter the new line of smartphone lenses that will help you extend the reach of your phone’s camera considerably. Nobody seems to do a better job of this than a company called Moment, which started with a 2014 Kickstarter fund and has since grown into a well-respected smartphone lens manufacturer.
Note: Moment products are available with several retailers. For this blog article, I am using Samy’s Camera in Los Angeles for reference links to help the reader gather more information. They support these products online and in their retail platforms.
There are five lenses in the current Moment M-series line-up: the 18mm wide-angle, the 58mm telephoto, the 25mm macro, the 15mm “Superfish” fish-eye, and the video-first anamorphic lens. Today entire productions can be shot on the smartphone, and this last lens could be a game-changer for Moment.
Moment 18mm Lens
All Moment lenses require either a case or a mounting clip on your phone that provides the compatible M-series mount. Moment sells several cases for most modern smartphones, but there are also third-party cases with compatibility like the beautiful leather ones from Nomad. The mount itself provides a simple twist-on attachment for the lenses, and there are obvious indentations and markings to indicate the correct alignment. Lenses mount firmly, with no noticeable play or wobble, but are still reasonably easy to remove as needed. For phones with multiple cameras, it’s worth noting that the lenses can be mounted in front of either camera, meaning you get access to two additional focal lengths per Moment lens. Best of all, since the lenses are universally compatible, you can swap smartphones without having to re-purchase the lenses — just replace the case with one that fits your new phone, and you’re good to go!
STABILITY AND SHOOTING ACCESSORIES
Since the advent of the selfie stick, this line of products has become by far the most popular segment of the smartphone aftermarket. Some of the major tripod manufactures have gotten into this segment of the market in a big way. “Benro,” for example, has a pretty cool tabletop tripod and selfie stick for any smartphone, while DLC has a very nice attachment to enable you to mount your device to most of your existing tripods. I might note that DLC also has a complete cage system so videographers can shoot like pros shooting with much larger, heavier gear.
Companies like SYNC with their SYNC Technology Smartphone Camera Stabilizer offers a turnkey solution to shaky video shot on smartphones. A 32 bit CPU using patent-pending artificial intelligence software to predict your movements to keep your phone perfectly steady.
Additional features include a custom-designed Li-Po battery that lasts over two hours and a 90° controllable tilt. Compatible with iPhone’s 4, 5, 6, and most phones with a screen size under 5.5″, you’ll now be able to take full advantage of your smartphone’s video capturing capabilities. Zhiyun Tech and Feiyu Tech also produce very good gimbals without many of the bells and whistles of DJI or SYNC.
Of course, if you are going to shoot video for a vlog or, for that matter, a feature-length indie project, audio is a critical component of the finished product. Both Sennheiser and Audio Technica produce outstanding omnidirectional Lavalier microphones, while Saramonic has an excellent wireless lavalier solution. Rode provides microphone solutions in both wired and wireless at a slightly lower price point than the others mentioned here. Almost any microphone solution that you can end into a 3.5mm jack or a Bluetooth connection into the phone can provide you with the audio solution you need for your project.
The items mentioned here only scratch the surface of what is out there. Professional equipment providers such as Samy’s Camera and others are paying attention to and supporting the growth of creative “smartphone” still and video photography.
As smartphone photography advances with leaps in computational photography, some of todays’ accessories will become as outdated as the 200-pound TV of times past. While I plan to hold on to my DSLR as long as I can —perhaps adding mirrorless to my expanding set of photographic tools— I do embrace the new and exciting means of creating an image that keeps showing up in my news feed.
Please keep your eyes and mind open as the world of photography continues to grow and push the limits from whence we came. The vast array of smartphone accessories that are available now— and to come— will doubtless find their way into many of our camera bags.