Camera phones have taken over as the go-to image maker for most folks. Now that the quality of the pictures created is good enough to replace your old point-and-shoot, there’s still one thing that hampers good photographic technique: holding the camera in landscape mode. Most cameras – I mean smartphones – tend to be set up to use in portrait mode – with the long axis vertically. But most photos – and especially videos – are better viewed in landscape, with the long axis horizontally. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some type of holder that would let you easily hold your iPhone and trip the shutter with your phone in landscape? Well, oddly enough, there is just such an animal, and it solves both issues. It’s the Grip & Shoot System from gripandshoot.com. Let’s take a closer look at this aptly named device.
Note: Images may be clicked or tapped for larger sizes.
The package consists of a belt clip, which contains a pair of phone frames and a handle that can clip onto either frame. The two frames will fit either the iPhone 4/4s or the iPhone 5. (No word yet on availability of frames for other phone form factors.) The frame has a “T” shaped clip on the center of the side just below the buttons, with a solid back with a hole for the camera lens and flash LED to peek through.
The handle has a button-locked socket that the “T” clip fits into solidly, so that when holding the handle like a pistol grip, the camera is in landscape orientation, firmly held for shooting. This alone has been done by other companies, but the unique proposition with the Grip & Shoot is that there is a shutter trigger on the grip, and two thumb-operated buttons on top of the handle for zooming. You can completely control these aspects of the camera without having to touch your screen to zoom or to engage the shutter. You can’t hold down on the screen for focus or exposure lock, so some of the most important features of your camera are not controlled by this device.
Currently, the device only works with a single free-to-download app, but, hopefully, other apps will incorporate the APIs and bring many other features into the functionality of this tool. Syncing with the handle is quick and solid, and the device stays paired (through Bluetooth without any problems, even through many other apps and devices being used. It uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), which means there is a small coin battery in the handle, which will last for quite a while. I can run the app, squeeze the trigger once, and see the pairing indicator light up (that’s the little blue dot in top center of the screen shot at the top of this review), and know I’m good to go.
In addition to using in a handle-grip mode, the other end of the handle has a standard tripod threaded socket. The T-clip is the exact size to fit on a hotshoe of any standard camera, so you can use your iPhone to take spot shots or clips from the same perspective of your pro rig, if desired. The bottom part of the handle can detach, so you could set your iPhone up on a tripod and use the handle as a wireless remote for shooting. You can also add the bottom clip to another phone photo frame that has a tripod thread and get a hotshoe-type connector. It’s quite a versatile little package.
Above, you’ll see the pieces of the Grip & Shoot. On the left is the phone holder (this one contains my iPhone 4s. There’s also one for an iPhone 5 in the package.) On the right is the handle, which has two thumb-operated buttons for zoom on the angled top piece near the center, and a shutter trigger in front of the top grip screw. (The grips are a soft, very comfortable rubberized material.) The small piece in the lower center is normally clipped into the handle, but it can also be used to hold the camera-phone, while the rest of the handle can be used to zoom and shoot hands-free.
So, what are the drawbacks? Well, it does require placing the iPhone in a case that may or may not be to your liking. (I guess require is too strong, but if you’re gonna hook the phone to the grip, you’ll need the case, or another with a tripod connector you can screw the hotshot adapter into.) And the only app that currently works with the handle trigger and zoom buttons is the Grip & Shoot app, which, while functional, doesn’t have the instant-on home screen ease of use of the built-in Camera app, or the many useful features of the dozens of other third-party apps designed for the iPhone photographer. While I had no issues with photos shot with this software, I did notice the video shot with it was kind of “twitchy.” I shot a similar test a few days later with the regular camera app, and put them together for you to judge the differences yourself. The color differences are due to different lighting conditions on the two days. Notice the smoothness or lack thereof in the video as the camera pans. That’s what bothered me.
The company has developed an API that any developer can use, but none have currently decided it’s worth the programming pain, at least to my knowledge. This could change in an instant, and, if you’re the programmer type (or know anyone who is), this functionality would be a market differentiator.
The last issue I have is the price. This whole kit (two phone shooter cases, the handle, and a leather belt case that can hold the pieces together) costs $100. It’s well-engineered, and very well thought out, but I’m not sure it’s worth that much to me. I have another portrait-orientation device that incorporates a threaded tripod, and also works with my existing case and non-iPhones. It’s got a ball joint as well. Cost: $20. I’m working on a review for another clamp device that works as well and is very adjustable, and it’s $40. I’m not sure the BLE-powered trigger/handle is worth $60-$80 more, especially when it’s (currently) limited to a single app.