Filming with the iPhone: What professionals use and beginners need

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We know what the lenses of the new iPhone can do and how good they are. Unfortunately, this does not automatically mean that you will succeed in every recording from now on and that all your videos will from now on look like a Hollywood feature film. But it’s not just Apple that has turned the screw on quality. The manufacturers of accessories have also significantly upgraded in recent years. In addition to established companies, numerous innovative new companies and developers are also taking crowd-to-market platforms with cutting-edge accessories that take iPhone filming to a new level. As a customer, you “only” have to choose which gadgets you want to use in which purpose and how much money you want to spend. We have separated the chaff from the wheat and tested the most interesting products you need for optimal shooting days.

We have divided the accessories into those for beginners and those for advanced iPhone filmmakers, whereby the other group should also find something interesting in each area. We wanted to bring together two important product groups: the instruments that are essential when you leave the house to film with your iPhone, and the products that you can use to create extraordinary shots. An additional criterion: Everything should be as compact, fast and intuitive to use as possible.

In addition, we asked three professionals which iPhones and gadgets they use to operate in their professional life and which additional products they no longer want to miss.

Video with iPhone: These are the assistants

Before we get to the accessories, we would like to recommend two cameras that are not installed in Apple’s smartphone, but whose footage can be very useful at the latest when editing the supposedly perfect video. For one thing, you often need the iPhone for other tasks and can’t use it for filming – and on the other hand, it can’t (yet) fly. By the way, some of our selected accessories are also suitable for action cams and drones.

An important component that determines how to use it when filming is the size of a device; and both DJIs Osmo Pocket (360 Euro) and the Mavic 2 Pro of the manufacturer can score points with this criterion.

The Osmo Pocket is barely bigger than a lighter and works like a mixture of gimbal and action cam. It is stabilized on three axes and makes ergo at least as smooth shots as your iPhone when you clamp it into a larger gimbal. With the Osmo Pocket, you can film in 4K Ultra HD and rely on over two hours of battery life. A clever idea is the universal interface installed in the middle of the device, which is intended for additional accessories (such as a wheel) as well as for docking to the iPhone. The associated DJI Mimo app provides a comprehensive editor and many functions for editing and sharing videos within seconds. Other important capabilities of the camera include the so-called “First Person View” (FPV), the automatic follow-up of a person, a fast-retrievable panorama function, a time-lapse with camera speed ingeand and the popular “Nightshot”, the dark light conditions authentically brightened.

What the professionals use

(Image: Julia Mücke)

Julia Mücke is a director and cinematographer. The Berliner shoots everything from documentaries to live videos. Most recently she worked for Oxfam, Arte and the musician Tim Bendzko.

Current iPhone: iPhone 11 Pro Max, 256 GB.

In percentage terms, how often does the iPhone be used in your work? In ninety percent of the shootings. At the end of 2019, I shot a promotional film exclusively with the iPhone 11 Pro Max on three days of filming for the Sparkasse.

What other accessories do you regularly use? Don’t laugh: especially a case, a phone chain and Apple Care, as the iPhone is in continuous use and threatens to fall down all the time.

What is the most important additional instrument for you – and why? The DJI Mavic 2 Pro. Because in fact, it’s often the other way around: the drone needs the iPhone as an additional instrument.

(Image: Konrad Weinz)

Konrad Weinz is a filmmaker, director and cinematographer. His clients include such well-known clients as Zalando, VW, Sasha, MTV and Viessmann.

Current iPhone: iPhone XS, 256 GB.

In percentage terms, how often does the iPhone be used in your work?  At about twenty percent of my shots. However, I’ve already used my iPhone 11 once to shoot an advertisement for the social media area.

What other accessories do you regularly use?  Mainly I use apps to determine the sun position, for example, for engine tuning or camera framings in the course of preparation. As a by-product, Insta-Stories are becoming more and more important.

What is the most important additional instrument for you – and why? A gimbal for the iPhone because it is essential for image stabilization.

(Image: Boris Erdtmann)

Boris Erdtmann is a filmmaker and author in the fields of reportage, documentation and show. He has worked for public and private broadcasters for years.

Current iPhone:iPhone 11 Pro Max, 512 GB.

In percentage terms, how often does the iPhone be used in your work? In ninety percent of all shootings.

What other accessories do you regularly use? A Sony FS5, a DJI Osmo Mobile 2 gimbal and a DJI-Mavic Pro-2 drone.

What is the most important additional instrument for you – and why? The Cine Saddle by Cinekinetic for back-gentle camera stabilization.

The film set for beginners

With the receiver and microphone from Saramonic, your sound will be ready within seconds.
With the receiver and microphone from Saramonic, your sound will be ready within seconds. (Image: Herman)

The Citadel R2 protects your equipment in wind and weather.
The Citadel R2 protects your equipment in wind and weather. (Image: Herman)

Simply turn the fisheye lens to a corresponding case.
Simply turn the fisheye lens to a corresponding case. (Image: Herman)

  • Zhiyun Smooth Q2
    In the gimbals, Zhiyun’s Smooth Q2 features solid but surprising functions, such as a Vertigo effect. Beautifully compact and stable, the gimbal allows up to 17 hours of running time – a decisive advantage for longer rotations. The very clear operation guarantees intuitive handling with numerous retrievable camera functions. Very helpful is the quick-release function, which allows you to quickly release the iPhone from the holder and reattach it there.

    Price: 140 Euro
    Web: www.zhiyun-tech.com

  • Saramonic Blink 500 RXDi
    No less important for many turns is the good sound. But who wants to run around with a big mic on a fishing rod that is not very flexible and requires an additional person by the way? With Saramonic’s Blink 500, you get a receiver that you can easily plug into the Lightning input of the iPhone, as well as a pluggable microphone that delivers excellent sound. The Blink 500 is small and light enough not to interfere with camera travel with a gimbal.

    Price: 220 Euro
    Web: saramonicusa.com

  • Profoto C1 Plus
    The lighting conditions are essential for filming. To influence them favorably, you often need large spotlights and lamps. Not so with the C1 Plus from Profoto, a pocket-sized LED light. The light output of 4,300 lumens is impressive. Really comfortable are also magnet adhesive color foils and honeycombs (available as accessories), a screw thread for tripods and the associated app, with which you adjust the heat, brightness and much more.

    Price: 500 Euro
    Web: www.profoto.com

A gimbal that is quick and easy to use: Zhiyuns Smooth Q2.
A gimbal that is quick and easy to use: Zhiyuns Smooth Q2. (Image: Herman)

The C1 Plus is not only bright, it can shape the mood of your recordings.
The C1 Plus is not only bright, it can shape the mood of your recordings. (Image: Herman)

The film set for professionals

  • Peak Design Travel Tripod
    According to their own information, the product developers have been working on the Travel Tripod for four long years – and this can be seen in the result: the size of the tripod was reduced to the diameter of a coffee cup without sacrificing stability. In seconds, you can unfold this tripod and use various positions for your camera. One of the bars is housed with an adapter for the iPhone. Not the cheapest tripod, but one of the best!

    Price: from 330 Euro
    Web: www.peakdesign.com

  • Wiral Lite
    You can get footage of how you have implemented them with the Wiral Lite. The cable suspension, to which you attach iPhone or action cam, allows camera rides that are difficult or impossible to realize with a drone – for example, through branches, across the inside of a car or from the kitchen into the garden. There is a 50-metre-long rope, a motorized suspension with wheels running on the rope, and a remote control.

    Price: 400 Euro
    Web: eu.wiralcam.com

With Mophies Powerstation, you can do without power for a long time.
With Mophies Powerstation, you can do without power for a long time. (Image: Herman)

(Image: Herman)

  • Peak Design Travel Backpack
    Especially for professional filmmakers: A large, robust bag for the equipment is the basis of every shooting. If you need a well thought-out backpack with plenty of space, you can’t miss Peak Designs Travel Backpack: The backpack offers a lavish 45 liters of space and clever transport options. Various small, hidden pockets and many inner pockets for accessories are available as well as straps, zipper edhefis, a MacBook compartment and dusty hip straps.

    Price: 280 Euro
    Web: www.peakdesign.com

  • Dyno Equipment Trek
    For relatively small money, the “Trek Camera Slider System” provides you with the tool for clean, gentle and on request adventurous time-lapse and stop-motion recordings or professional-looking live broadcasts. You can pin your iPhone or any camera on the engine and control your straight or curved rides via the app. The Dyno rails are quickly set up, have stable feet – and the app has clear navigation.

    Price: 250 Euro
    Web: www.dynoequipment.com

  • Rollei Lumen Ring Light
    Admittedly, the compactness of other devices does not reach the LED ring light of Rollei, but it comes in a shock-proof carrying bag, is bright and versatile. With the implemented 2,827 lumens, you should be able to illuminate even the darkest corners of the world. In addition, all RGB colors are available. You can use an app to control the light ring from a distance. Another advantage: Thanks to a replaceable battery, you never get the light out.

    Price: 300 Euro
    Web: www.rollei.de

  • Freefly Movi Gimbal
    Considering the know-how of the manufacturer Freefly operates and how many Hollywood films the company has already supplied the cameras, it is hardly surprising that the in-house iPhone gimbal Movi is probably the best of its genre. Thanks to a large handle, you can control your shots precisely and with two hands, if desired, can turn off the gimbal on its rubberized wide underside and quickly insert the iPhone into the pleasantly easy-to-use clamp.

    Price: 320 Euro
    Web: www.gomovi.com

The Travel Backpack is virtually unbreakable and well thought out.
The Travel Backpack is virtually unbreakable and well thought out. (Image: Herman)

The Wiral-Lite system enables virtually impossible camera travel.
The Wiral-Lite system enables virtually impossible camera travel. (Image: Herman)

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