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iPhone accessories: Shiftcam's SnapGrip power bank, light and tripod boost your photo options

Spending some time with the Shiftcam SnapGrip family of cameraphone accessories.
simonbisson.jpg
Written by Simon Bisson, Contributor on

I've been fond of Shiftcam's add-on lenses for mobile phones for some time now; especially the macro lenses. Recently the company moved into a new market, launching a DSLR-inspired professional grip case for iPhones. The lessons learned from that case have been used in a new range of consumer camera phone accessories -- its SnapGrip system. 

The SnapGrip's magnetic connector means it can be used at any angle

The SnapGrip's magnetic connector means it can be used at any angle.

Image: ShiftCam

Getting to grips with SnapGrip 

The most obvious member of the Snap family is the SnapGrip. This mixes a battery, a Qi wireless charger, and a Bluetooth shutter button in one device that adds a good-quality handhold to your phone. 

Getting started is easy enough. First, charge the battery using the USB connector, then press the shutter button to start Bluetooth pairing with your phone. Once paired, simply line the grip up with an iPhone's MagSafe magnetic ring and you're ready to go. The SnapGrip will boost your battery while you're taking photographs: it's quite small compared to many phone batteries, with only 3200mAh of power, and while it's not enough to completely charge a phone, it is good enough to keep you going when you find something you really must photograph.

The shutter button on the SnapGrip maps to your phone's shutter function; on an iPhone this is the volume control. If you're not in the camera app and press the shutter button it will change the volume, so be careful if you're listening to music while out taking photographs. There is another issue with the shutter button that could be a problem: it's clearly designed for right-handed use and is hard to use left-handed, with the shutter button at the bottom of the grip and awkward to press.

Usefully the SnapGrip also acts as a stand for your phone, so you can be using it while it charges. It's a little unstable in this mode, so be careful you don't knock it over.

More than a hand hold 

The other two accessories in the Snap family are a ring light and a handle that converts into a tripod. All three stack one on top of the other, with the SnapGrip at the bottom, next the SnapPod, and finally the SnapLight. You can mix and match the devices you use, picking what's best for your current shoot. 

The SnapLight is an LED ring light with a central mirror, designed to be the final item in a stack of Snap devices. The light is on a stiff hinge, so can be placed at an appropriate angle to get the best light for a selfie or as an alternative to a flash. Opening it up also exposes the charging port, which is a little awkward for charging on a desk. It's charged over USB-C and has four different brightness levels. Battery life is good; I've been using it for a few weeks now and I'm still on my first charge.

While it's not as bright as a traditional flash, the SnapLight does give a good amount of light and works well as a fill in low-light environments. The mirror helps you center your face on the device, letting you use your phone's main lens for vlogging rather than the lower-resolution front camera.

SnapPod

The SnapPod bridges the gap between tripod and selfie stick.

Image: ShiftCam

The SnapPod uses the same magnetic grip to add a tripod to your phone. As it fixes using a magnet you can mount it at any angle (a useful option when you collapse the SnapPod's legs and use it as a handle or a mini selfie stick), which gives quite a comfortable alternate grip. You can use it with the SnapGrip to improve your phone's balance and stability when using it two-handed for video. Usefully the SnapPod's stalk unscrews, revealing a standard camera mounting screw so you can use it as a tripod for any camera. Alternatively you can put that adapter on a full-size tripod, adding a MagSafe connector to your existing equipment, and letting you use it with your phone. 

Mix and match, with magnets 

I've actually found myself using the SnapLight with the SnapPod as a standalone light for miniature and macro photography. It gives me additional lighting options beyond my phone's flash when photographing products or using my mirrorless camera with macro lenses. That's perhaps an unexpected benefit of this accessory family: elements can be mixed and matched so you only use the accessories you want to use, when you want to use them.

SnapPod and SnapLight

The SnapPod and SnapLight pair up to give you an easy to use desktop light for all kinds of photograpy.

Image: ShiftCam

While the Snap accessories are clearly designed to work with iPhones and their MagSafe connector, you can use them with other devices thanks to a bundled magnetic sticker. It's a good idea to work out where the Qi charging coils are on your device before fitting the magnet, so you get the best possible charge. You may also want to put the sticker on the back of a case rather than on the phone, to ensure you have a good grip and won't lose your phone the first time you pick it up using the SnapGrip or the SnapPod. 

The various parts of the Snap system come in five different colours: charcoal, navy, blue, champagne, and coral. They're a good match for most phones, so you can choose the colour that fits best with your phone or case. 

All three accessories are available as a single kit for $129.99, the SnapGrip alone is $69.99 and the SnapPod $39.99, with the SnapLight also $39.99. A fourth accessory, the SnapShoe is also available, offering a standard cold shoe for fitting lights or other camera accessories. 

The result is an interestingly useful mix of devices. You're unlikely to want to use all three at the same time, but that's the benefit of this approach. Simply connect the hardware you want to use, and away you go. After all, it's the photographs we take that really matter.

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