The Best Mobile Filmmaking Gear for Making Videos on Your Phone
Check out this list of our favorite mobile video gear to find the right lenses, mics, gimbals, and more for your on-the-run kit.
If you’re thinking about building a completely mobile setup for your next project, it’s important to answer this question as early as possible: What kind of gear do I actually need in order to accomplish my goals?
One of the main benefits of using your phone to go mobile is the freedom offered by an agility-enabling setup that’s light and tight. Remember, you can still pull off cinematic shots with only a tripod and lens. You don’t always need gimbals, ND filters, and camera cages, especially if adding them makes your rig unnecessarily bulky.
Light and tight. Keep those words in mind as we go through the list of gear below.
You’ve got some options when it comes to external lenses for your phone. And, just like when shooting with a camera, having different types of lenses and focal lengths on hand will help you ensure a wider variety of imagery and looks.
Moment 18mm: $119.99
This might be the best external mobile lens on the market. Period. I know several people who carry this lens with them everywhere they go.
If you’ve shot on an iPhone 11 (or newer), then you know the device’s built-in ultra-wide lens option is — well, it ain’t great. It does horrible in almost every type of low-light scenario, and the wide distortion is a little too much.
Good news — you don’t have to worry about any of that anymore. The Moment 18mm external lens lets you capture wonderfully crisp image using the phone’s standard camera with an aperture of f1.8.
bitplay Telephoto Lens: $99.99
Phone zooms are the worst. Over the past few years, most of the upgrades to phone cameras have been focused on the main fixed camera, while “zoom in” features get only minor improvements. No worries — bitplay’s telephoto glass can ease your zoom pains.
This lens is for longer shots — specifically, shots that require 2x magnification. Because of that specificity, you won’t need this lens for your entire video, so consider whether you can get by without it. Tight and light. That said, if you need the shot, then you need the shot, and this telephoto lens will get you a good-looking shot.
Moment Anamorphic: $149.99
As a proud owner of the Moment Anamorphic lens, I can tell you right now — it’s great. This lens gives images an undeniably cinematic quality due to how it reacts to practical lights and the distortion it creates around your subject. If you’re looking for the “anamorphic effect,” this lens can pull off some solid organic-looking flares. However, don’t expect too much oval-shaped bokeh.
Really, the only downside to owning this lens is that you’re kind of limited to just video. I mean, obviously, you can take photos with it, but it’s not a traditional photography lens, and most of the other lenses on this list work better for that need. So, consider that factor when choosing this lens over something like Moment’s 18mm or 58mm options.
Most of the phones available today have some form of optical internal stabilization built in. So, if you need to get very smooth, short movements, you don’t necessarily need a gimbal or stabilizer. Nonetheless, if you’re in the business of mobile video production, slapping your phone onto a gimbal is a guaranteed way to get beautiful cinematic footage.
ZHIYUN Smooth 4: $99
There’s a case to be made that ZHIYUN is making better stabilizers than DJI, and there’s no question their gear is more budget-friendly. Their foray into mobile filmmaking is no exception.
The ZHIYUN Smooth 4 is going to be your best friend. On top of its ability to make your footage look butter-smooth, the gimbal charges your phone while you use it. This is a wonderful feature if you’re using battery-draining add-ons like third-party recording apps or a Moment lens.
DJI Osmo Mobile 3: $119
Moment’s products and reviews make them a dominating force the mobile filmmaking space. Their review (see video above) of the DJI Osmo Mobile 3 covers everything you need to know about the gimbal — accessibility, performance, and battery life. This gimbal is a stunner in all three of those departments.
If you need to quickly get to a location for a shot, you can keep this thing in your bag without it taking up too much space. Which is to say it has the tight part of tight and light locked down. Admittedly, I’ve never used the Osmo Mobile. But I have used DJI’s Ronin, so I’m confident when I say DJI is a reliable brand, and their weightier pieces of gear haven’t failed me yet.
Soeaking of “weightier,” remember that using external lenses adds weight to your phone. DJI offers a set of “counterweights” to help prevent heavier lenses from throwing the Osmo Mobile 3’s balance off. You can purchase the set of weights here.
Ikan Fly-X3-Plus 3 (for Smaller Phones): $74.99
This is an older option for your phone gimbal, as it’s been available for a few years. Nevertheless, it’s a fine piece of equipment. The three-axis stabilization is perfect for smaller smartphones like the new iPhone SE. One of the best things about this gimbal — it can hold your GoPro! So, even if you’re not doing a ton of mobile video production, you can use this on a normal shoot to get GoPro coverage. On top of all that, it’s the cheapest gimbal on this list.
The great news about the worst part of production? Audio is a breeze with mobile. I should say, audio is the one area of video production you absolutely can’t skimp on, so if you’re trying to make a feature film or feature documentary, you’ll want to invest in a good audio recorder. However, the following microphones are good alternatives for collecting quick soundbites or room tone to use in post-production, after you’ve captured all your footage.
Samson Go Mic Mobile — Lav Mic: $199.99
I feel like RODE gets most of the attention in the on-the-run microphone space, so this mic is a bit of an underdog. The Samson Go Mic Mobile plugs into your phone and records audio directly to it. The receiver attaches to the back of your device, and it comes with every cord you might need — Lightning cable for iOS, USB Micro B and USB-C for Android.
RODE VideoMic ME-L (Shotgun Mic): $79
This little shotgun mic from RODE is handy for anyone who doesn’t want to use lavs or deal with a receiver connected to a phone. The mic’s 3.5mm jack provides a headphone output for audio monitoring and playback. Plus, it’s light, cheap, and the opposite of janky. If you need something that sets up quickly, the VideoMic ME-L won’t let you down.
We’ve actually published a complete list of worth-your-money audio recorders. check it out: Affordable Audio Recorders for Filmmakers.
Oh, tripods. How I love thee. Let me just say this right off the bat — mobile filmmaking is 10x easier if you just keep your phone attached to a tripod. The internal stabilization of most new cameras is incredible, so you can actually pull off some decent “gimbal-esque” footage if you just hold the tripod with your camera attached. Plus, they’re a lot cheaper than gimbals.
JOBY GripTight PRO Video: $49.95
Our first option is a powerhouse of accessibility and flexibility. Acting as both a tripod and a way to attach your phone to uneven surfaces, this GorillaPod is a perfect match for anybody looking to capture footage quickly. It’s cheap, it’s light, it’s durable, and, most importantly, it gets the job done.
If you’re looking to take your phone on a trip and film a travel video or documentary, this little guy is an absolute legend for mobile workflows on the road. Plus, there’s even a handle for pulling off some super-slick pans and tilts!
Manfrotto Compact Light Smart Tripod: $59.99
This established tripod manufacturer is always going to be a safe bet when choosing your three-legged buddy. Weighing in at just under two pounds, this aluminum tripod fits almost any smart phone on the market. The added bonus here is the 1/4″ screw attachment, meaning you can throw on a small DSLR camera if you’re looking for something that can handle both production styles.
Filters, Cages, and More
In addition to essentials like lenses and microphones, it’s important to consider add-ons that you might not even think about when you think “mobile filmmaking.” For instance, you can still use ND filters with external lenses! You can also buy a camera cage to add more accessories, basically turning your mobile setup into something like you’d see on a real movie set — kind of like this.
Tiffen Clip-On ND Filter: $21.94
Starting with the most accessible filter ever, the Tiffen Clip-On ND is exactly what it sounds like — an ND filter you clip to your phone. This is extremely beneficial because you don’t need to purchase an external lens to reap the benefits of using an ND filter. The glass just slides over whatever camera system (phone) you’re working with. This ND will slow the camera’s automatic shutter speed, taking it down to something that looks a little more like an actual film.
Moment ND Filter Set: $39.99
Moment has been selling ND filters for their lenses for a while now. (You can check out the stellar filters and attachments they’ve released here.) They recently announced these new filters that require nothing but a Moment case to screw onto. So, just like the Tiffen Clip-on, you don’t necessarily need to spend money on an external lens.
In my opinion, it’s still worth spending just a little bit more to get some Moment lenses to use the ND kit with, even if you already have the case, just because you’re going to get a better image.
Here are some other worthy mobile ND filters to check out for your next shoot:
BeastGrip Pro: $139.99
This monster of a rig is the most brilliant invention of the past few years, and it’s so simple. The BeastGrip Pro allows you to treat your phone like a cinema camera. You can connect a bigger mic (like the RODE VideoMic Pro), attach external lenses, mount it to tripods, and even attach small lights to the rig, like the Aputure AL M9. The best part? It’s not awkward to hold at all, giving you a friction-free workflow while out in the field.
If you’re interested in what it takes to build out your iPhone for mobile shooting, check out this video for a little inspiration. Worth noting — while the video’s title mentions the iPhone, the info applies to any phone that’s capable of recording high-quality video.
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