A couple of years ago, I was talking to a friend of mine who is a Video Producer at a major university. I told him I was wanting to shoot an interview with someone and asked what gear he recommended. I was envisioning a visit to Mike’s Camera to rent a video camera, some softboxes, maybe a microphone. He said that many times, he’ll just use his iPhone. He showed me some of the interviews he had done, and I was floored. With a decent amount of light and some impromptu backdrops, you can quickly pull off a semi-professional looking interview with your mobile phone.
To see just how far mobile video technology has come, here are two videos, both shot with mobile phones. The first is ca. 2005 and the second was from last month.
When MeFOTO sent me a SideKick360 to review, I decided to put away the Nikon for one month and shoot our unboxing videos with my Nexus 5x. The result is the video above. While I still captured the audio separately with my Blue Yeti microphone, given the simplicity of shooting with my phone, I believe the Nikon has been retired for good from unboxing videos. Obviously the phone did a fine job, but what about the SideKick360?
Mounting the adapter to my tripod was effortless. The SideKick360’s base fits any Arca Swiss style quick release clamp and also has threaded holes for 1/4″ or 3/8″ screw mounts. The base is also wide and deep enough to stand on its own, even when my phone was unbalanced, although a good bump of the table would likely topple it over.
Mounting the phone was a little trickier. It seemed simple enough: put the phone between the clamps and screw it down. However, I did run into a couple of issues. First, my phone has its power and volume buttons all along one side. To clamp it down, I had to be sure the clamps were not on top of these buttons. That meant sliding the phone way up in the clamp. This was not a problem in portrait mode, but in landscape, it made the phone unbalanced.
Like I said, though, it wasn’t unbalanced enough to topple without some assistance, and mounted on a tripod, this becomes a non-issue. As for the clamping itself, I would advise caution. The knobs to tighten the clamp are very large and ergonomic. While this makes it simple, it also allows you to administer a bit more torque than you perhaps intend. Keep in mind you’re not clamping a mower blade to a bench vice. This is a delicate piece of electronics that weighs a few ounces, so you don’t have to tighten it down much. Including a clutch would be nice so your $600 smartphone doesn’t accidentally end up looking like one of Popeye’s discarded spinach cans.
The range of motion on the ball joint is also impressive. Looking at the phone screen, you can rotate it 360°, tilt it back about 90°, and pivot it left and right about 45° in each direction, all independently of whatever range of motion your tripod itself has. While there is an adjusting knob on the back for how stiff the ball joint is, don’t expect smooth movement during video by using the ball joint alone. Use the movement on your tripod for this, or you’re almost certainly going to get some jerk.
The SideKick360 comes in the same 12 colors as their tripod systems. While it’s great for shooting videos, it also works well for Skype calls, macro photography, or anywhere you need a steady shot. You can pick up the MeFOTO SideKick360 or the 360Plus for larger phones from Amazon.
I was supplied a SideKick360 for review purposes. All opinions are my own.