Smartphones have followed an almost Moore's Law-like progression from the days when they produced terrible images to today, when they're good enough for billboards. Still, like any decent camera, smartphones could use a few key accessories to deliver optimum results.
If mobile photography matters to you, or anyone on your holiday wish list, check out some of our favorite accessories:
A versatile stabilizer forged from “aerospace-grade” aluminum, the S1 clamps securely onto your phone with a pressurized thumb screw and V-shaped rubberized plates. Smartphones and “phablets” like the Samsung Galaxy Note 4—with a width between 1.8–3.6 inches—will fit inside the clamps, even inside many cases. Shoulderpod cautions that smartphones housed in large waterproof or external battery cases may exceed the S1’s maximum width. After you’ve secured your phone in the clamps, you can mount the S1 to a standard tripod or slider with its 1/4-20 threaded base. Pop the S1 off your tripod and add the aluminum grip extension and suede wrist strap and you’ve turned it into a handheld stabilizer for run-and-gun filming. For its third and final trick, remove the grip extension and place the S1 on a table in either portrait or landscape mode. It’s now functioning as a phone stand or mini tripod. You can use the wrist strap to hang the S1 off your belt or bag when not in use.
Photojojo Phone Lens Series
Whether you shoot with an iPhone or an Android, smartphone optics aren't very versatile. Photojojo’s mobile lenses, however, can give you plenty of focal lengths to play with without weighing down your gear bag or emptying your wallet. These tiny optics are available in super fisheye, telephoto (2x, so more like “telephoto”), wide angle/macro and a polarizer to give you a fast and easy way to coax more out of your phone. The sampler pack includes all the lenses and is available in a universal package for Android as well as packs for iPhone 5/S and 6/S in black or white mounts.
The new KLYP+ accessories include a redesigned case for your phone, an LED light and a Pixi mini tripod (pictured above). There are also several interchangeable lenses for iPhones, including a fisheye, 1.5X telephoto, 3X telephoto, wide-angle and macro, super wide-angle and polarizer. The cases not only protect your iPhone but serve as a rail system for the LED and accessory lenses. The case has a built-in kickstand that doubles as a 1/4-inch thread for attaching to the Pix mini tripod or other tripods. The cases are available in red, pink, white and black. The LED is capable of casting a 60-degree beam with an output of 225 lumens. Manfrotto says the CRI Index of the light is roughly 80 percent. It's dimmable over three stops and recharges via USB. The light, with case, will sell for $80.
Price: $125 for Deluxe Kit with case, light, fisheye lens and 3X telephoto lens
Rift Labs Kick
The Kick is a fun little LED for adding effects to your video or still work. The Kick uses its LED to output just about any color of light you desire. Using the company’s free app for iOS and Android devices, you can aim your phone’s camera at a light source and the Kick will mimic the light. It’s also capable of producing effects, such as the flickering of a candle or a lightning storm. If there’s an effect you want the Kick to recreate, you can sample it—simply call up a video stored on your phone in the app, move a cursor over the effect you desire and the app will instruct the Kick over Wi-Fi to mimic the effect. These samples are stored in an effects library in the app for later use. Multiple Kicks can be controlled by the app and linked together via Wi-Fi to amplify its power. It offers a color temperature between 2500–10,000K, and is capable of pushing 400 lumens at 5400K. The light can be mounted to a tripod via a 1/4-20 standard socket. The internal battery is good for 1 hour and 20 minutes at full power, and can be plugged into an AC outlet via USB adapter for continuous use. Since it recharges via USB, it can also accept USB mobile chargers—like Mophie’s Juice Pack—to extend its battery life if a socket isn’t accessible.
Smartphone cameras always struggle when the lights go down, and while many recent models incorporate a flash, they’re not terribly powerful. With the iblazr2 connected to your iOS or Android device via Bluetooth, you can turn up the lights and shoot with more confidence in the dark. The flash has adjustable color temperature (from 3200K-5600K) and works with the native camera app on your camera for flash triggering (something other lights can’t do). You can stack multiple blazrs on your camera or tablet, too. It ships with a cold shoe mount so you can use it as a video light on your “real” camera if you’re in a pinch.