Gear to make better movies on your smartphone

Portable equipment to give your iPhone videos some professional polish.

Make better movies on your smartphone
Action!Aaron Burden via Unsplash

It's true that iPhones, the latest Google Pixel, and other high-end smartphones have built-in cameras capable of taking cool photos and fairly crispy video, but that doesn't mean your projects wouldn't benefit from a better setup. With the help of some lightweight pieces of gear, you can take your videos to the next level. If you've ever seen the films Tangerine or Unsane, you've seen the professional quality one can achieve with a smartphone.

Moment lenses

Moment lenses
An upgraded lens can give your shots a more cinematic feel.Amazon

Unless you’re shooting something for Instagram TV, you’ll always want to shoot in landscape orientation, since we watch most videos on a horizontal screen. When you add an external lens, you can distort, enhance, zoom, and capture shots that your iPhone camera simply can't do alone. The Moment lens works with most iPhone, Pixel, and Galaxy phones. It is available in two lens types: the first gives you a frame that's twice as wide and the second is a 170-degree fish-eye lens. Note: in order to use these lenses, you must also purchase the correct Moment Case for your phone.

Lumecube

Lumecube
Easy-setup lighting can help control the tone of your film and pick up details otherwise lost in a dark scene.Amazon

While you can purchase larger lighting kits that will certainly do the job with aplomb, if you're using your phone to shoot, it's probably because you want a portable, lightweight setup. The Lumecube is a super-bright, 1500-Lumen LED option that has 10 adjustable brightness levels. It can be controlled via Bluetooth on your phone and allows you to connect multiple cubes together. The Lumecube can be mounted to a tripod and has a battery that lasts for more than 2.5 hours. If you've got crew, or a larger budget, or want more control over the color temperature and tone of the film, I'd recommend the larger lighting kit. It's better to capture the colors you want in the footage rather than fixing them in post-production.

GorillaPod

GorillaPod portable tripod
Keep your shots steady.Amazon

You'll want to make sure you keep your shots steady, and for that, you'll need a tripod. This GripTight GorillaPod Stand fits any smartphone and has flexible legs so you can quickly adjust your shot to multiple angles. You can even wrap it around poles to get interesting angles from any position. It’s only 12-inches tall, so if you want higher steady shots, you’ll want a more professional tripod setup.

Ailun

Ailun smartphone tripod adapter
Not all tripods have holders for your smartphone, so you'll want to pick up an adapter if you're using a standard tripod.Amazon

If you are going with the standard, larger tripod, you’ll need a mount that lets you attach your smartphone to the top. This tripod mount for your phone will do the trick.

DJI gimbal Osmo Mobile 2

DJI gimbal Osmo Mobile 2
Steady your shots with movement.Amazon

When you walk with the camera, your hand will be shaky and your viewers will feel uneasy. This is why gimbals were created. Good gimbals react to your movements, keeping the camera upright and steady. If you unintentionally start to change the angle of your arm, the gimbal reacts and keeps the lens upright. This way you can focus on the shot without having to worry about the shakiness. The DJI Osmo Mobile 2 is a lightweight option that uses built-in sensors and quiet brushless motors to keep your shot steady. The Osmo 2 has a built-in zoom slider. It’s also got an ActiveTrack function that helps you follow the subjects in your shot. The gimbal can also charge your smartphone while you’re using it.

Shure MV88+ Video Kit with Digital Stereo Condenser Microphone

Shure MV88+ Video Kit with Digital Stereo Condenser Microphone

An external microphone is essential.Amazon

It doesn’t matter how beautiful the shots are, if your audio is poor, it’s going to make your film unwatchable. An external microphone will help. The Shure MV88+ Video Kit records high-quality audio straight into your smartphone. It’s super lightweight and has a built-in headphone input so you can monitor the audio as you record. Plug the digital stereo condenser microphone directly into the lightning cable or USB-C port on your phone.

The video kit includes the mic and a phone mount that fits around any phone. A standard mount allows it to easily attach to any tripod, including the miniature version that comes in the box. You can use Shure’s Motiv audio and video apps or choose something more familiar like the stock camera app or Apple’s Garageband.

Neewer dolly

A dolly
A dolly will let you take shots with smooth sideways movement.Amazon

For smooth, sideways motion—or to move a shot closer or further from without a zoom lens—get a dolly. This one is made of carbon fiber and aluminum alloy. It’s only 16 inches long, so it’s great as a portable option. Place it on an even surface or mount it to the top of your tripod. This one comes with a smartphone holder.

Insta360

Insta360
Take 360-degree footage.Amazon

If you want to try your hand with some 360-degree footage or photos, check out the Insta360 One. The camera hooks up to your iPhone via lightning cable, and includes image stabilization so you can move with the camera while filming. It records 4K or 24-megapixel footage from all 360-degrees simultaneously. It also records at 240 frames per second, so you can get slow-motion footage, too. After you’ve taken a photo or video, you’re able to pick which area of the video or photo you want to be the front and center of that image. If you want to get some distance between you and the camera, you can attach the 360 One to a selfie stick and experience what they refer to as “Invisible Selfie Stick.” The stick disappears so you get unobstructed footage. The camera case is rustproof and has an IP68 waterproof rating, making it safe for water activities.

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