Do you have someone on your wish list this year who has an interest in filmmaking or YouTube videos? Today's smartphone cameras are so good at taking photos and videos some Hollywood directors are shooting feature films with iPhones.
That doesn't mean you can just run out and start recording video that looks like a big production; you need gadgets and several camera gadgets are a big step forward making smartphone videos look more like something out of a studio.
Here's what you need to get started:
Camera stabilizer. Nothing is more distracting or amateurish than shaky video that you get when you hold a camera in your hands. There are dozens of smartphone and camera stabilizers on the market some of which costs hundreds or thousands of dollars.
The Smove smartphone stabilizer is a re-chargeable hand-held smartphone mount and tilts and swivels to help follow the action without shaking. The Smove works with any smartphone but I found it works better with smaller phones rather than plus size iPhones. It also has a portable battery charger built-in so it will keep the phone charged on a long video shoot. The Smove is controlled by a joystick which will pan, zoom and tilt the camera. You can also start and end a recording session without touching the phone's screen. I've found the Smove is good in certain situations but tends to lose stability. That's something I could overlook except it seems to happen the moment I need to stay steady on the subject. The Smove only works with smartphones. It is a Kickstarter project that raised over $2 million dollars. I purchased the Smove during its Kickstarter phase and the company now has a 3-axis version that should be an improvement. the Smove Pro is also advertised to work with phones and GoPro cameras. The Smove is $159 while the Smove Pro is $189. The Smove is $159 Smove Link on IndieGogo.
My choice for the best phone/camera stabilizer is the StayblCam. This is a very simple stabilizer that uses a weight to balance the phone/camera to provide smooth steady shots while shooting video. Once the phone or camera is fitted into a slot at the top of the StayblCam, you extend a selfie-type stick and balance it by extending the weighted bottom. Once you can hold the middle of the stick and have the two ends balance, you hold the StayblCam with a couple of fingers and your palm in the center of the stick. It's simple to set up and use and I've been impressed at the smooth video I've been able to shoot on both an iPhone and using a GoPro camera. The original StayblCam is around $75. They are hard to find and are often sold-out on the StayblCam website.
A wide-angle lens is another smartphone camera upgrade that makes a big difference in photos and videos. The Ollo-Clip is a favorite lens adapter by professional videographers. The wide-angle lens fits over the camera lens on most smartphones to give a much wider perspective of the subject matter. Olloclip's 4-1 lens kit includes wide-angle, fisheye, telephoto and macro lenses. link to OlloClip.
The Wide-Angle lens kit from Sandmarc Action Gear is a high quality glass lens that fits over a smartphone camera lens. I tested the new Wide Lens Edition for the iPhone X which comes with a case. The lens easily screws into a slot that provides a much wider view of the subject matter. The difference in the look of the shot is not subtle. Using a wide-angle lens makes videos look much more like films you'd see on the big screen. I found it to be easy to use by keeping the case on the phone and tossing the lens, which comes in a small carrying pouch into my pocket. The Sandmarc also comes with a clip adapter if you'd prefer keeping your phone in the case you're already using. link to Sandmarc.