Best known for its mobile media cases for videographers shooting and editing with iPads, California-based company iOgrapher recently released a case for the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5S. And I am loving it.
Of all the iPhone cases, rigs and mounts I have bought, tried and finally put back in the box, this one is a keeper. It has just the right balance of small size, light weight, precision of manufacture and secure grip to be the case I want to carry with me at all times, whether for shooting movie footage or stills. I can see the iOgrapher Mobile Media Case for iPhone becoming as essential to my career and most loved hobby as the iPhone mounted within it.
The iOgrapher Story
iOgrapher inventor Dave Basulto has quite the moviemaking pedigree. He is a stockbroker-turned-actor who jumped to the other side of the camera when he set up his own Hollywood production company. As if that wasn’t enough, Basulto then turned director, acquired VFX and editing skills, gained Adobe certification as an instructor in Premiere and then began teaching animation and media arts at San Marino High School in, you guessed it, San Marino, California.
As reported in a recent New York Times article, Basulto wanted his students to get out there and produce but there was a shortage of equipment. He had fallen in love with the iPad so set out to design and build a case that would improve the quality of his students’ shaky handheld video. And he wanted to put a stop to those tall, narrow vertical videos some erstwhile cinematographers seem compelled to shoot.
A Personal Angle
I have a confession to make. My early moviemaking career was bent out of shape by limited access to production equipment, and a shortage of funds for film stock and processing. Art school staff used these shortages in a game of favourites where only a few managed to obtain the gear they needed to complete their work and pass their units. Fairness never entered into it.
Dave Basulto, on the other hand, comes across as a teacher who would never play such games nor hamper or damage the potential careers of his students. For that I applaud and congratulate Mr Basulto on taking such a positive, proactive approach to his teaching work. He is a role model.
The iOgrapher Kit/s
The long cardboard box that arrived from California had me guessing. So much bigger than an iPhone case, surely. I discovered that the iOgrapher folks had sent me two different iPad cases and two lenses as well as the iOgrapher Mobile Media Case for iPhone. I will be trying out the iOgrapher cases for iPad Air and iPad Mini shortly but the iOgrapher for iPhone is the one that immediately claimed my attention, being the newest of the three off the block.
The two iOgrapher lenses are really three – a 2x telephoto lens and a wide angle lens that is unscrewed to reveal a macro lens as well. Both major optics are 37mm diameter screw-mounted and are lightweight and well-made. I was relieved – the only 37mm convertor lens I had managed to turn up locally was a remaindered Panasonic 1.4x telephoto that is way heavier than iPhone, iOgrapher case and 2x telephoto lens combined. As a I quickly discovered, my secondhand beauty tends to tip the iOgrapher over onto its front. Bang!
Balancing Heavier Gear
With an iPhone only inside the case, the iOgrapher is very lightweight and very maneuverable. The two side handles remind me a little of of Manfrotto’s Fig Rig that was invented by British feature film director Mike Figgis and used on many of his projects before it became a Manfrotto product.
The Fig Rig allows fast or slow, controlled or wild camera movements unrestrained by harnesses or shoulder rests and the iOgrapher is great for those sorts of movements too. Adding accessories like convertor lenses, microphones and other gear can upset the balance a little and so I added a Manfrotto PIXI table top tripod cum handle to the iOgrapher’s tripod screw. Balance restored.
Monopods like Manfrotto’s new Compact Monopod intended for compact and DSLR/DSLM cameras are also excellent options for adding weight to the base of the iOgrapher case. Every moviemaker should have at least one decent monopod – which reminds me, I really should try a few out and choose one soon.
What I would really like to see somebody come up with for balancing heavier rigs and adding extra storage space and battery life is a variation on the Space Pack by California smartphone case maker Mophie. But bigger, though not too big.
iPhones can always do with more of each – storage and power – especially when used in making movies. I usually carry a Mophie power station PRO for recharging my production iPhones but a bigger, heavier device that doubles as a weight balance and attaches to the base of the iOgrapher case would be terrific. How about it, Mophie? Imagine such a device with an optional gimbal too – that would really push iPhone videography into the bigger leagues.
Using iOgrapher for Stills
I like using the iOgrapher for iPhone for stills photography just as much as for shooting video. I use my iPhones as if they are the modern-day equivalent of Polaroid cameras, shooting off-the-hip, square snapshots of daily life in the streets and malls of Sydney. I am a little prone to accidents though and find that the iOgrapher’s handles help keep a good grip on my iPhone 5 at all times.
The iOgrapher case is great for shooting portraits with especially when a telephoto lens is attached to the case’s secure brass screw mount. I have acquired a taste for convertor lenses and am now keeping an eye out for more of them, wider and narrower in focal length than the iPhone's built-in lens. If you see me trawling through the discards box in your local camera store, say hello.
The Optional iOgrapher Lenses
iOgrapher’s recently-released wide angle and telephoto lenses are keenly priced at $19.95 each and do much to extend your range of shots. The lenses are black, lightweight, well-finished and come with front and rear caps with the rear one screw-on for secure attachment.
Both lenses have some degree of curvature – at that price who would be surprised – but about as much as convertor lenses at ten times the cost. The telephoto exhibits some vignetting in one corner when attached to my iPhone 5 but that may not be the case when used with the iPhone 5S – sadly I did not have one on hand to test against my iPhone 5. Lens-caused barrel and pincushion distortions can be corrected in editing software and third-party plug-ins though so they are no longer noticeable.
Taking the iOgrapher Everywhere
I am now in the habit of taking the iOgrapher for iPhone with me wherever I go, in my backpack or small shoulder bag so long as it is large enough. And ‘large enough’ does not have to be too large at all – the case measures 22 centimetres by 11 centimetres by 3.3 centimetres at its thickest, at the base.
Making phone calls with iPhone in iOgrapher case takes a little getting used to but I find the set-up very handy when sending texts and emails, especially in landscape mode.
I usually find myself popping a lens or two into my pack as well just in case I come across a video-worthy subject. I am also looking into extending the rig in the photographs here via a small, portable LED light and a long accessory wing so that I can attach one or two Rotolights as well as a microphone and possibly even a small digital recorder. Cam Caddie’s Scorpion Flashner plus Accessory Wing looks promising. Time to try out a Scorpion kit, methinks. All that gear sounds like a lot to attach to the relatively little iOgrapher case but it is sturdy and can take it.
Learn more about iOgrapher Here.
iOgrapher TV – Filmic Pro Basics
This tutorial will get you up and running with the FilmicPro App, our go to filming app!
(cover photo credit: snap from Karin Gottschalk)
Photo Credits: Photographs made with iPhone 4S in RØDEgrip case kindly provided by RØDE, using 645Pro app. Processed in DxO Optics Pro and DxO FilmPack. SmartMyk, Windshield and SmartLynk kindly provided by MyMyk.