In this post, I’m going to look at a camera case/cage for photographers, video shooters, vloggers, etc.
Near the iPhone 13 launch date, there aren’t many cases/cages available for the new phone. But the Beastgrip Pro works and part of its appeal is that it works with nearly any smart phone, old or new. I’ve used my own money to buy several of the popular choices and rather than waste your time discussing the cases/cages that didn’t work, I’ll cover the one that (so far) did.
I selected the Beastgrip Pro. At $139.99 it’s on the expensive end of the list, but you get what you pay for. In many situations, people who buy iPhone 13 Pro and Max do so with mass storage. That can drive the price (with sales tax and Applecare) to more than $2000.00. This is a significant investment, and one you’ll want to protect.
(NOTE: The Beastgrip Pro will fit nearly any smart phone on the market, not just the iPhone.)
The Beastgrip Pro is aptly named. It is a beast! I am pretty sure that in this rig, your iPhone will survive most, if not all, basic drops from average height. The phone is protected on all sides, except for the screen itself. But the phone would have to land on a sharp object at a specific angle for damage to occur given the wrap around design of the Beastgrip Pro.
But those who want a more minimalist approach may think this setup is too chunky. Beastgrip is working on a dedicated “cage” for the iPhone 13 Pro/Max but it’s at least a few months away.
For now, shipping today, this is the only product I could find that would act like a cage, allowing me to rig up everything I need, including mics, LED lights, and other accessories like handles, tripods, etc.
The main reason to use a rig like this (beyond protection) is to be able to affix a filter to the iPhone’s camera or to mount the iPhone to a tripod, slider, etc. Real camera filters (as opposed to software-based filters) are sometimes necessary. As a video shooter, I absolutely need neutral density filters (NDs) to control exposure.
Stills shooters may not realize it, but in video, you need to keep a constant “shutter speed” (also called shutter angle) and this needs to be roughly double your frame rate. A cinematic quality frame rate is 24 FPS so your shutter speed would need to be 1/48th of a second, or as close as you can come to that. If you’re paying attention, then you realize that the exposure triangle has just been reduced by a third. You cannot change the shutter speed, only the ISO and the “aperture” (also called the IRIS on a motion camera.)
Since the sensors on the iPhone (although larger than ever) are actually quite small, it’s imperative that we keep the ISO as low as possible. I personally prefer to stay below 100 but in some extreme cases will go to 200.
So now we have the shutter speed fixed and the ISO nearly fixed, that only leaves us with aperture to make a proper exposure. The aperture is also fixed on the iPhone camera lenses. So that cannot be changed.
On a sunny day, if you want to get shallow depth of field, you’re out of luck in this scenario because you have to stop down in order to make a proper exposure. This is where the ND filter comes in.
I use a variable ND and it in fact becomes my de-facto IRIS control. I make my exposure based on ND settings, and then am able to shoot with the wider apertures featured on all three of the iPhone 13 Pro’s camera lenses, and still get the proper exposure.
So now that I have explained all that, the next question is: “How do you get a physical filter onto the iPhone camera?”
That is where the Beastgrip Pro comes in. It comes with a lens mount that allows you to screw on filters (or even external lenses that mount over the iPhone lens) and it does so in such a manner that you can accomplish high-quality results without light leaks, heavy vignetting, out of focus images, etc.
Along with the Beastgrip Pro, I purchased the 58mm Filter Adapter for 37mm Mount. This allows me to put 58mm filters over the lens.
Combined, I spent $16.99 for the filter adapter, and $139.99 for the rig.
I spent more on filters and a lens. I added the Beastgrip 58mm Pro Series Variable ND Filter (ND2 to ND512) and the Beastgrip 58mm Pro Series Black Mist Filter (#1). Both screwed on easily and perfectly to the 37/58 filter adapter. They did not hamper image quality at all.
I did try other methods to “clip” the filter over the iPhone camera lenses but the other methods were not optically sound and felt too much like a kludge. The Beastgrip solution offers one of the best ways (right now) to accomplish that goal.
As far as lenses go, I have used add-on lenses with smart phones before and to be frank, sometimes they are more trouble than they are worth.
I did decide to add one lens to my iPhone 13 Pro / Beastgrip Pro combo. The Beastgrip Kenko Pro Series 0.75x Wide-Angle Smartphone Lens is sharp and controls distortion well. I have had issues using the iPhone 13 Pro’s super wide camera lens. It tends to introduce a lot of noise in the shadows while shooting in high contrast situation. I decided that I prefer working with the iPhone 13 Pro’s standard camera lens which is the iPhone Wide. It’s fast, super sharp, offers amazing color and clarity and I’d rather modify THAT lens than use the Ultra Wide which is built in and doesn’t have near the specs.
The Kenko Pro is a quality piece of glass, made in Japan and priced like it at $169.99. Since I plan to do some serious filmmaking with my iPhone 13 Pro, I decided the investment was warranted. The specs on this lens prove out what I see with my own eyes. Just look at the key features.
For Use with High-Resolution Smartphones
37mm Rear Threading
58mm Filter Mount
Minimal Distortion/Chromatic Aberrations
Three Coated Glass Elements
Anodized Aluminum Housing
Includes Lens Caps, Pouch, Cloth
The versatility and utility of this setup makes it an easy yes. While it seems like a lot of hassle to go through to people who haven’t worked with fully rigged-out cinema cameras, it really isn’t. By comparison – using the iPhone (and its ProRes 422 HQ output) is much easier (even with rigging) than using a cinema camera for the same shot.
It’s easy to get your phone in and out of the rig and easy to adjust it to your favorite smart phone camera as well as other accessories.
The emphasis on this article is TODAY. Meaning that which is available TODAY to help you grab cinematic footage or publication quality stills using an iPhone 13 Pro or iPhone 13 Max. As I write this Moment, SmallRig, and PolarPro are beginning to ship their iPhone 13 specific cases and cages and I’ll be testing all of them in the coming weeks and months.
Beyond those brands I just mentioned, every day there are more iPhone 13 dedicated phone cases coming onto the market. Some will even allow you to bayonette a filter or lens onto the iPhone. That will no doubt also work.
Regardless of what comes next, a strong argument can be made for the Beastgrip Pro because it is NOT camera specific, but yet, works very well with the iPhone 13 Pro. As you upgrade your phone, dedicated cases and cages become worthless. The universal approach of the Beastgrip Pro never goes out of style and makes it a more cost-effective solution.
Either way, having used both cases and cages in the past, I can say the Beastgrip solution is better from a content creator’s perspective. It offers more protection and more ways to rig up mics, lights, etc. On the other end of the spectrum cases (not cages) from companies like Moment and PolarPro will be more convenient because you don’t have to do as much to add a lens or a filter and you can just walk around with those attached to your phone as an everyday case.
I believe that the Beastgrip Pro offers more protection against drops since it really acts more like a cage than a case. Your choice between the two will relate to availability and how much back and forth you do treating your phone as a serious camera.
The products from Beastgrip are well thought out, well made, solid in construction, easy to use, and deliver on the promises made by the company. What more could you ask for?
If you’re interested in more information on iPhone photography and video, make sure to check out my new podcast with Jefferson Graham – the iPhonePhotoShow – it’s available wherever you get your favorite podcasts – or you can get the exact links over at www.iphonephotoshow.com