Let us start with a simple declaration: we like Rode products here at Tubeshooter. And that’s not because they just sent us a new one to review (honest), it’s because they seem to be well designed and reasonably priced. For example, we’ve got one of their lavaliere mics and it’s just very well made, comes in a super carrying case, has a sensible clip to attach the XLR connector to a belt, and the tiny, tiny cable ‘twixt mic and XLR is phenomenally strong.
But already we’re getting distracted. The point of this page is to review the new Rode Grip and GripPlus – an interesting accessory for the iPhone 4 and 4S (Rode assure us that a version for the iPhone 5 is coming soon which is obviously going to be required).
It’s really just a handle for the phone but to describe it thus is to do it a bit of an injustice. The Grip provides a means of mounting an iPhone to a stand; holding it with a pistol-style handgrip; or attaching it to any standard cold shoe. The Grip+ has the addition of four tiny lenses which screw (via the handle) over the iPhone’s built-in lens to provide various options when filming.
We mentioned already that Rode is good at design and the Grip is no exception. Three elements spring from the compact body, starting with a pistol grip into which the other two parts are clipped. One of those is a tray containing the screw-in lenses (assuming you have the Grip+ model), the other is a scissored device of plastic and metal construction, which folds out then snaps into place over the iPhone.
The scissored part has a cold shoe mount underneath which thus can be connected to the pistol grip either to hold it pistol style (duh!); or to use it on a desktop; or to place it on top of a DSLR or indeed any other device with a shoe.
Cunningly, it also has a 3/8″ screw thread so you can alternately fasten it to the top of a suitable stand, such as this Dedo light stand we tried it with, for hands-free operation.
If pushed, we must admit we’re in two minds as to the benefits of holding your iPhone in the pistol handle, especially since you have to remove any outer casing on the phone in order to clip it into the Grip. And the Grip obscures the iPhone’s video LED / flash which may prove to be troublesome.
On the other hand, holding it this way does prevent you accidentally putting your finger over the lens and ruining the shot which has happened to Tubeshooter on several occasions. It’s arguable that it also makes the camera steadier when filming. Certainly, the Grip is a more comfortable way to hold the phone than just by its edges.
A clearer benefit then is probably in its use with the cold shoe mounting, either on a stand – in which case a roving journalist could happily set the phone up to shoot a first-person Skype type of live report – or on a DSLR with which to record better audio than the stills camera would do itself. Note that for this to work you’ll also need a decent mic plugged into the iPhone and Rode conveniently make one, though it is not supplied as part of this bundle.
Should you consider that a phone towering above your DSLR is too unwieldy, Rode have a solution which involves unscrewing the cold shoe plate with a supplied key and re-attaching it at another point on the Grip, thereby enabling the iPhone to lie flat. Clever design, as we said. It’s all very ingenious.
That’s the Grip itself; the Grip+ has the bonus of three small lenses which screw into the Grip, where it has a convenient metal thread clamped over the iPhone’s existing lens. The supplied lenses are a 2x zoom, a standard and wide macro which screw into each other then into the Grip, and a fisheye.
Beware! The lenses are very small and very, very easy to drop while you’re screwing them in. Not only does this mean you’re likely to get them covered in muck but if you’re filming outdoors you could easily lose them. Also, whilst it might be that we’re very clumsy, we apparently managed to cross-thread the macro while screwing it in so that now it almost refuses to unscrew without a bit of cajoling. Take care!
It’s best to demonstrate their effect in pictures, so here’s a standard iPhone shot without any lens:
And here’s what it looks like with the 2x zoom. Notice some vignetting in the corners:
There’s also a fair amount of distortion on the 2x, as you can see from this image of a window frame. Yes, those lines are actually straight in real life:
This is the fisheye – quite dramatic!
As for the macro, we weren’t quite sure if we were using this properly as the iPhone had great difficulty focusing at short, macro distances. But here’s the shot without any lens:
Then here’s the first macro lens added:
And here’s the wide angle, screwed into the first macro:
Rode are welcome innovators in the video industry and an international success story for Australia. The Grip is cleverly thought out and enables you to fasten your iPhone in various means where you simply cannot with the phone as supplied by Apple.
Therefore, like the Padcaster device which we reviewed here, the Grip may be of interest to DSLR users, audio and video journalists, and phone filmmakers. Whilst the Grip+ lens attachments are interesting, they’re probably only for certain specialised shots (eg the fisheye), especially given the distortion seen in the 2x zoom. We give the Grip+ a thumbs up overall.
If you fancy buying a Grip for the iPhone 4/4S, here’s a link to do so: http://amzn.to/1pZ3f5O and if you want the iPhone 5 version, it’s at http://amzn.to/1nISYxH. Both of these are Amazon associate links which means we get a bit of commission of you buy through them (for which, thank you!)
Here’s our video review of the Grip (and also the Padcaster)