Smartphones as cameras keep getting better and better. And, as it turns out, I used my iPhone a lot to make images on my recent trip to Germany! In fact, almost one-third of all the images I have from the trip I shot using my iPhone 7 Plus. And many of them were shot using either the HDR mode in the default camera app or the TrueHDR app. The default camera app makes several exposures very quickly to capture the "high dynamic range," or HDR, of the scene but doesn't render a resulting image as good, in my opinion, as one created using TrueHDR. TrueHDR makes three exposures - one exposed for brightest areas in the scene, one for darkest, and a third for mid range exposure - but the capture is slower. Therefore, if you handhold the iPhone, you have to be very steady and still! I wasn't always successful at that and I never pulled out one of my support system devices to help
And, not using the equipment I had right there in my bag was very stupid of me! The ShoulderPod S1 is the best smartphone holder I own and I always carried that in my bag. Along with a DIY PVC pipe extension, I used it when I recorded video with my iPhone. In addition, I had in the bag my LolliPod tripod and my HandlePod support. I can attach the ShoulderPod to either of these. The problem? I never experimented with either setup before I left for Germany! In my defense, I would decide to make an iPhone HDR image on the spur of the moment, so I didn't think to pull out other gear to help me. I felt I could hold the iPhone steady enough. But, in reality, and especially when using TrueHDR, I could not! So, you'd think after I noticed several images that were a bit blurry, that I would think to use some help. But, no, I didn't!
So, now that I'm home I'm trying all the possible combos for securing my iPhone to get better HDR images with it. In all cases, I'm using the ShoulderPod S1 to hold the iPhone. My goal is to determine which setup is most flexible and easiest to get in place even for those spur of the moment shots.
Of the three stabilizing systems I have tried for this test, the LolliPod is probably the lightest. It doesn’t require a separate ball head. It is easy to set up, but even at a mere 12.6” (320mm), it can stick out of one’s bag if it can’t fit horizontally in the bag. Attaching the ShoulderPod S1 is quick and easy but you can’t really leave the ShoulderPod attached if you’re going to put it back in your bag, because the whole setup is just too long. That said, this setup is pretty flexible. When using some kind of stabilizing support system for the iPhone, the important thing to me is being able to easily shoot both vertical and horizontal. With the S1 attached to the LolliPod this is no problem.
The PlatyPod itself is super lightweight and compact. However, in order to use the ShoulderPod on it, you really need to use a ball head so that you can position the iPhone in a vertical and horizontal orientation. Horizontal is no issue but vertical is because in order for the iPhone 7 Plus to stand vertical in the ShoulderPod attached to the PlatyPod, the three screw-in feet must be attached and as high as possible. And, even then, there's no guarantee that it will work. I had hoped that the PlatyPod would be the solution, since it's so light and easy to carry, even with a substantial ball head, but this limitation takes it out of the running.
The HandlePod is the winner in this first round of tests. It is really the most flexible of the three systems I tested for this report. Like the LolliPod, it doesn’t require a separate ball head. The standard attachment screw works fine without one. The arm onto which you attach the smartphone support (again, the ShoulderPod S1), is very flexible and can be twisted in a variety of positions. It can be raised and lowered so that vertical vs horizontal is no issue either. In some positions, the setup can be a bit off-balance, but the attached, expandable strap on the HandlePod can be used to steady the whole setup. The folded up HandlePod is small enough to fit in a jacket or bag pocket so it's always at the ready! This is, for right now, my go-to solution for stabilizing my iPhone to make HDR images.