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Leaving the DSLR at Home: Ten Smartphone Travel Photography Accessories

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As a child, I remember looking forward to summer vacation all year. Two months without responsibilities, roaming free until the leaves began to change color. It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t get the same time off as an adult! Today, I know the truth: most people don’t get anywhere close to that kind of vacation time so, if you’re like me, most of your trips are weekend jaunts and the occasional longer trip. No matter where I’m going, though, I don’t like to be weighed down, and as a decidedly non-pro photographer, there’s no need to lug around a bulky DSLR or fancy point-and-shoot: the camera on my phone is more than adequate for capturing memories.

However, the ol’ smartphone camera could use some sprucing up, especially to make it travel-ready. Here are a few accessories to improve your vacation photos and videos.

1. miggo Pictar

One thing the point-and-shoot has over smartphone photography is ergonomics. A nice grip helps you frame your shot perfectly, and analog controls let you adjust exposure and take shots with good old-fashioned muscle memory. miggo’s Pictar puts all that functionality on every iPhone since the 4 (if you’ve still got a 3GS, it’s time to upgrade. Seriously.) and more, with a physical shutter button, zoom ring, exposure/ISO ring, and preset wheel, so you can fine-tune your shot and capture it without fiddling with the touchscreen. It’s got a cold shoe and ¼"-20 threading, too, and since it only covers 2/3 of the device, there’s room for a…

miggo Pictar Camera Grip for iPhone

2. Moment Lens

With very few exceptions, smartphone cameras save space by using fixed lenses that can’t zoom in and out or change their shape. That limitation has spawned an entire industry of smartphone attachment lenses, like the ones from Moment. Available in fisheye, macro, telephoto, and wide-angle, these glass lenses ship with your choice of mounting plate (available for many phones and tablets) and have metal housings for durability.

Moment Wide Lens

3. LifeProof frē Case

If there’s one thing that we as a species can probably agree on, it’s that beaches are fun but getting water and sand into your devices isn’t. That’s where the frē case comes in. Made by LifeProof (OtterBox’s even more rugged sister brand), the frē is dustproof, dirtproof, snow proof, and waterproof in 6.6' of water for up to an hour. It’s even shock resistant so you can toss your device to a friend without worrying about breakage. The frē has its own screen protector, camera cover, and sound-enhancement system so you don’t miss phone calls or your music.

LifeProof frē Case for iPhone 6s

4. Xuma Waterproof Pouch

Need to go deeper? Xuma’s Waterproof Pouch has a double-sealed enclosure capable of withstanding over 26' of water pressure while still permitting access to your phone’s buttons and touchscreen. It’s also fully transparent so you can make use of your device’s cameras deep beneath the waves. It’s available in two sizes and comes with a detachable lanyard.

Xuma Waterproof Pouch for Smartphones

5. Revo Selfie Stick

“Excuse me, could you please take a photo of us? Here’s my phone!” isn’t a great thing to say when you’d rather not have your device stolen. Hence, the selfie stick. Sure, they’re not exactly suave, but they get the job done without relinquishing your precious smartphone. Revo’s selfie sticks can be extended to 28" long but fold down to just 7" and hold devices up to 3" wide. There are two versions, one with Bluetooth and one that uses your phone’s headphone jack, but both have a convenient shutter button on the rubberized grips. I prefer the wired one: there are no batteries to charge and no Bluetooth pairing process to fiddle with.

Revo Wired Selfie Stick

6. Joby GripTight XL Gorillapod Stand

If you’re looking for more angles than a selfie stick can produce, try a Joby GripTight XL Gorillapod stand. Combining the famous, ultra-flexible Gorillapod mini tripod with the GripTight XL phone mount, this stand holds devices 2.7 to 3.9" wide. There’s also a non-XL version that’s good for phones 2.1 to 2.8" wide. Just take the rubberized, ball-jointed legs and wrap them around tree branches, signposts, or even your arm to get exactly the shot you need.

Joby GripTight XL Gorillapod Stand for Smartphones

7. Feiyu G4 Pro Gimbal

How times have changed! Back in my day, you could get a gimbal for a nickel in the arcade. Wait. No. That’s a gumball. A gimbal is a device used to stabilize your camera while recording video, and this one, from Feiyu, uses motors to keep it in place along all three axes of motion so you can smooth out your shots while in motion. It can tilt 320° and roll 100°, but the G4’s real party piece is limitless 360° panning, so you can rotate your phone in all directions for perfect panoramas. It fits most smartphones, lasts up to four hours on a battery charge, and unlike a gumball, it doesn’t lose its flavor no matter how long you chew it.

Feiyu G4 Pro 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer for Smartphones

8. Bower Smartphone LED Video Light

There’s still plenty of fun to be had after sunset, but smartphone lighting is pretty hard to get right on its own. Most phones have an LED or two, and their shots tend to be harsh when close and dim from far away. Bower’s light adds 50 LEDs to your device with eight brightness levels so you can light your scene perfectly every time. It’s also got diffusing, warming, and cooling filters so you can adjust tone, a variety of mounting options (including a cold shoe so you can use it with the Pictar), and a battery that lasts for up to eighteen hours.

Bower Smartphone LED Video Light

9. Kingston MobileLight Wireless G3

If you’re a serial photo-taker (or just have a ton of apps), your device is probably low on storage. Just pop a flash drive or SD card into Kingston’s MobileLite Wireless G3, which generates its own Wi-Fi network so you can offload your pics and vids onto mobile storage over the air. It’s also available with 64GB of storage built in, if that’s more convenient. A built-in battery powers the G3 but also lets you recharge your devices via the USB port.

Kingston MobileLite Wireless G3

10. RAVPower Power Bank

Power-hungry? You may not be but your devices are, and RAVPower has just the thing to get them the sweet, delicious electrons they crave. It’s jam-packed with 26,800 mAh of juice, more than enough to keep a smartphone going for over a week (with normal usage patterns, of course). It’s got a USB Type-C port so you can charge compatible smartphones laptops, including some MacBooks, and a pair of 2.4A standard USB ports for pretty much everything else.

RAVPower 26800mAh USB Type-C Power Bank

Now that you’re all equipped, get out there and see the world!

2 Comments

Surely you are aware that Moment now makes cases, not just attachment apparatuses, to hold its lenses. For the 7 Plus case there are mounts for both cameras allowing you to do a 4X zoom on the larger camera or a super wide  on the smaller camera. 

Thanks Paul! I went with the mounting plate version because it works with the Pictar. I'm not sure if your device would fit inside if it had the Moment case attached. 

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