NOTE: I purchased this kit with my own money and received nothing from PolarPro as compensation for the review.
The PolarPro iPhone 13Pro case is very well-made, and very sturdy. It is MagSafe compatible. There is a nice felt covering inside to protect the phone. The phone fits in easily but securely. I do find the part of the case over the power button sticks a bit – maybe that will work itself out after the case is broken in. The system includes a proprietary filter and lens mount. In previous versions of the case, you could use M-mount lenses from companies like Moment. However the new case won’t accept those lenses because PolarPro wants to sell you their own add-on lenses. At the time of this review, those lenses were not shipping so I don’t have a clue as to whether or not they work well.
I haven’t confirmed this, but it appears that PolarPro had quality (and/or) supply issues with the lenses that were intended to work with this case and the company refunded most (or all) pre-orders because they want to rework the lenses. I commend them for demanding high quality from their manufacturer and I assume that this is all at least somewhat related to the pandemic and the supply chain issues that have seemed to plague most companies during this trying time. When they DO ship, PolarPro is promising a wide and two different anamorphic lenses. They aren’t talking about a telephoto and that is a shame because a good telephoto add-on lens is high on my personal list.
I can say that the PolarPro filter mount for the case is very simple to use. It’s one of those things where you say chocolate and I say vanilla – meaning you’ll either like it or you won’t, but I found (with a little practice) that putting the filters onto the case was pretty easy. I prefer it to some other mounting methods I have tried.
When it comes to the filters, you’re not paying top dollar here, but you are getting close to top quality. These filters are more expensive than some for sure, but I’ve paid a lot more for other brands. I have used PolarPro filters on my DSLRs and mirrorless cameras so I was already familiar with their quality. I would rate them as very well-made, and they (in general) do a good to great job.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I like the cases for the filters and the lens-cap that comes with each one. This is simply the best design I have ever seen for a camera filter. The filter comes in a little case that is a clamshell affair and is clearly marked with the filter inside. When you remove the filter, it already has a very nice (and perfect fitting) rubberized lens cover that goes over the glass. There is also a little micro fiber cloth included. What this means in the real world is that you can walk around with your filter already attached to the phone case with the lens cap on and have no fear that you will scratch the filter (side benefit – or the actual lenses) while the filter is mounted. It’s very nicely executed.
I purchased the Director’s Kit. It retails for $249 but I got it on sale for $199. I note that the sale is no longer running but get the sense that they discount SOME of their products monthly so you just need to be a careful shopper and watch for sales.
The Director’s Kit came with the phone case, the hand grip, a circular polarizer (CP) filter, a 3-5 stop variable neutral density (VND) filter and a 3-5 stop mist filter. It also came with a Bluetooth shutter release which mounts on the grip handle.
You can get the handle with or without the the Bluetooth shutter release and my first advice is to skip adding the PolarPro Bluetooth shutter release UNLESS you shoot handled most of the time. In that case, it’s probably a good idea to buy it but you will need to get used to the placement. It is in an awkward position that requires you to wrap your index finger all the way around the grip to press the button. I found this uncomfortable but after getting used to it for a few days, I stopped hating it, but I still don’t love it. If you mostly work on a gimbal or a tripod, I’d purchase someone else’s Bluetooth remote.
One other change for this year’s case is there is now a cold shoe on top of the grip which is a good thing, because if you don’t want to have a cage, it makes it easier to mount a mic or a light. There is a tripod mount on the bottom of the grip. I note that some reviewers complain that the tripod socket on the bottom of the grip is barely deep enough, and the threads on some tripod heads and quick release plates, etc. are just a little too long to tighten them on properly. A small washer would fix that, but it’s not an ideal solution. I personally didn’t experience this but maybe my tripod heads are just a better match for this system than others. I wanted to mention it because you may hear it from other reviewers – but I think they are talking about older versions of the system, i.e., for iPhone 12 and older.
The way this grip works is kind of cool. You slide the grip around on the case and there are notches designed to hold it in place. For me personally, the only notch that made sense was all the way to the end of the phone. Some reviewers have complained that these notches aren’t sufficient to hold the grip in place but I didn’t have that experience either. It comes off with a press of a button so if you want to go as minimalist as you can, this design makes that possible.
The filters fit well and are very large, covering all three of the iPhone 13 Pro lenses. I note that the filters are now 20-30% larger than they were when PolarPro sold this kit for the iPhone 12. I think that is a good thing.
I tested the VND filters and found they worked very well and thankfully did not exhibit any X pattern from cross polarization. This is a problem on some of the cheaper filters I have tested.
I found that the 3-5 stop VND filter wasn’t quite strong enough in some situations so I sprang the extra $80 for the VND 6-7 stop, VND – which brought my total charge to just more than $300 with sales tax for everything.
I next tested the CP filter. It does a good job of cutting down reflections, but I typically also use CP filters to darken the sky and here, I found the PolarPro CP filter to be less than satisfactory. So if you need a CP that darkens the sky, you may want to pass on this one. If all you need is something that cuts through reflections, the PolarPro CP filter is a good choice.
I haven’t tested the Mist filter much. I played with it for a minute and it works best when you’re shooting into the light – not something I do often but I’ll add to this review if I end up finding this filter to be more valuable than I suspect it will be – for me anyway.
Well-constructed case that both offers good protection for the phone along with ability to attach filters (and eventually lenses.)
Filters generally are very high quality and fairly priced.
Add on grip allows for cold shoe mounted accessories like mics and lights while the bottom of the mount allows for fit to a tripod.
Case can be used all day even when not using the phone for photo or video.
PolarPro promises that its products are free from manufacturer defects in materials or workmanship for the lifetime of the product.
Proprietary lens mount means you’re stuck in the PolarPro eco-system.
Bluetooth trigger is in poorly designed position making it hard to reach.
On/off button on the phone sticks a bit through the case.
Model specific case – which means you’ll need a new case if you get a new phone.
I feel like these filters and this kit are fairly priced. (Okay, if I am gonna niggle, I’d say 10-15% lower would be MORE FAIR.) Quality costs money and while you can find cheaper filters, you may regret buying them when you see the results they provide. Not all filters are created equal. The PolarPro filters (and other products) are absolutely a step up from typical smartphone accessories in quality and ambition. In general, I think they hit the mark. I will note that if you bought EVERYTHING they make for the iPhone (Including the lenses that aren’t shipping yet) you’d spend about $1000! I don’t see many people doing that but if you are one of those people, email me when you get everything together and we’ll talk about whether or not you feel like the investment was warranted.
One advantage to this case is that it’s the kind of case you can run with all day, even when you’re not doing photo or video work. Adding the handle makes it “camera-ready” and the installation of the grip just takes a few seconds. You can also run this case even if you’re using a cage – depending on the cage.
My pros and cons list comes out pretty even so it really just boils down to whether or not the features I am talking about are important to you.
I will be keeping this case in my kit and in some situations where I don’t want to carry a full cage, I’ll probably default to this case because I really like the filter mounts and as a plus, when their new lenses do come out, they claim their filters will fit on to the lenses which is hard to do securely with some other third-party lenses for iPhones.
My recommendation ratings go from HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (The best of the best) to RECOMMENDED (Not quite perfect but darn good) to ACCEPTABLE (Something that performs as promised but may be too expensive or have other problems that make it sort of a MEH recommendation) to NOT RECOMMENDED (Self-explanatory.)
I rate this system as RECOMMENDED.
If you have products for mobile photography and filmmaking that you’d like to see reviewed, please email me at email@example.com and be sure to check out the iPhonePhotoShow podcast – https://anchor.fm/iphonephotoshow