As part of 9to5Mac’s ongoing iPhoneography gear series for the holiday season, we looked at a slew of iPhone 5-compatible accessories, but some of you may still own the iPhone 4S or older, so we got our hands on the Swivl for iPhone 5/4S/4 and the Lens Dial for iPhone 4S/4.
First of all: Yes, iPhoneography is an actual name (it even has a Wikipedia page). It essentially, as one might guess, involves shooting and processing with an iOS device. Photojojo.com offers an impressive, mouth-watering catalog of photography and videography gear for the iPhone 5 and older generations, so we decided to take some of the website’s hottest accessories for a spin. And, over the next few weeks, we will continue to test and review only what’s best for helping creative folks step up their iPhoneography game.
Check out a hands-on review of the Swivl and Lens Dial below:
The iPhone Swivl is a personal camera crew-like rig that rotates 360 degrees, tracks movement via a three-in-one sensor as the iPhone shoots video, and it comes with a remote that allows users to control their recording and tilt the rig up and down. The box also includes a tripod accessory, batteries, lanyard, and a USB cable.
The Swivl sports a hefty $179 price tag, but it is compatible with the iPhone 5 and older generations. However, to use it with an iPhone 5, a 30-pin Lightning adapter is required. Users also need to download Swivl’s free app to start and stop recordings with the remote, but it is able to record video, track movement, and tilt without the app.
I personally loved this little device; although, I used it with my old iPhone 4S because I haven’t bought a Lightning adapter yet (gasp!). It was very fun to attach the remote to my pants—or walk around with the remote— and watch as Swivl followed my every moment (see video below). It also panned and recorded smooth video as it rotated and captured crisp audio.
The remote has two buttons: Action, for tilting; and Camera, for powering on and off or recording. The Swivl responded to the remote, during my testing, up to 15 feet away—as long as the sensor was not blocked. That’s perfect, though, because the iPhone is ideal for close-range recording. My only gripe with the Swivl is its app; folks absolutely must download the latest firmware update or else the app is glitchy and practically unusable.
With that said, the hardware and functionality of the Swivl is superb. It feels sturdy, oozes quality, and does everything as advertised. Vloggers and amateur filmmakers/videographers will find the Swivl most useful, but it definitely makes a nice Christmas gift for anyone interested in the video-side of iPhoneography.
Lens Dial Front
The Lens Dial has a whopping $249 price tag (knock-off version is $90+ at Amazon) and features three coated glass lenses—wide angle, fisheye, and telephoto— in an aluminum jacket that further allows for portrait or landscape tripod mounts. The Lens Dial only fits the iPhone 4S and 4, but Photojojo said an iPhone 5 version is coming soon, and the box comes with lens covers and a black protective pouch for the entire setup.
The Lens Dial is essentially a rotating disc that easily switches between 0.7x wide angle, 0.33x fisheye, 1.5x telephoto, or three open holes for normal shooting. Most lens/camera accessories need to be removed and reattached to shoot between effects and normal mode, but this device is much more versatile; it is super easy to snap a fisheye image, for instance, and then dial over to one of the three blank spots to capture the same image without any lens effect. This is ideal for folks who want to shoot on-the-go without having to carry multiple lens accessories or quickly change between lenses to snap a brief image in time.
As for the lenses, they all work beautifully: the fisheye doesn’t distort too much, the telephoto zooms in without blurring, and the wide angle, well, widens the shot. However, as noted above, the telephoto lens only offers 1.5x zoom. So, although you can get closer without the messy pixilation of digital zoom, it isn’t exactly a dramatic close-up. The wide angle is similar, as it is 0.7x, so the shot only stretches a little. For $249, I would have preferred much more dramatic lenses; check out more example shots in the gallery below.
My second gripe concerns the Lens Dial’s heftiness and functionality. It is quite a heavy jacket, and I had to grab it from the top and bottom—not the sides— to capture images without getting my fingertips in the view. This, obviously, was hard to accomplish because of the Lens Dial’s size and weight.
While the Lens Dial is an amazing tool for iPhoneographers, I would recommend getting the $49 Photojojo Lens Set instead. It is $200 cheaper and comes with an extra lens—Macro. The Lens Dial, however, allows you to keep the jacket on at all times with seamless switching between lenses and normal mode, where as the Lens Set requires constant changing of the lenses and does not provide instant access to them for instantaneous photographing.
Where to buy?
The Swivl is in stock at Photojojo.com for $179, while the Lens Dial is also in stock at Photojojo.com for $249. They are able to ship through First Class, Priority Mail, UPS Ground, UPS 2-Day, or UPS Overnight. I suggest First Class, as it is only $2.80 extra, while PayPal, Google Checkout, and typical credit cards are accepted for payment.
Now, I also found a counterfeit version of the Lens Dial at much cheaper price points on Amazon.com. If you don’t care about buying knock-offs and want to save roughly 60-percent, check out the link below. Amazon offers the Swivl, too: