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This $19 iPhone accessory is my secret to taking the best photos

Forget the fancy lenses and gimbals, my most-used iPhone photography accessory costs under $20 and does exactly what I need it to do.
The Ulanzi ST-03 aluminum tripod clamp on a gridded background
Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Smartphones have horned aside the big names in digital cameras such as Nikon, Canon, and Sony, and the iPhone is now without dispute the most popular camera in use.

Also: How to take better iPhone photos

And given how many iPhones are out there right now, there's a massive market in accessories -- everything from clip-on lenses to grips.

But my most used, favorite accessory is something far simpler. It allows me to take much better shots than I could without it.

It's the Ulanzi ST-03 aluminum tripod clamp which allows me to securely attach my iPhone to all sorts of tripods and holders. 

View at Amazon

Ulanzi ST-03 tech specs

  • Holds any smartphone from 2.28 to 4.1 inches wide.
  • Machined from T6061 aerospace aluminum alloy.
  • Cold shoe mount allows you to mount a microphone or LED light to the clamp.
  • Compatible with a wide range of tripod ball heads, including Benro, Gitzo, Manfrotto, RRS, and Arca Swiss.
  • Also features a standard 1/4-20 tripod screw.
  • Comes in black and red.

Made from T6061 aerospace aluminum alloy, the ST-03 will work on pretty much any smartphone, from 2.28 to 4.1 inches wide (equivalent to screen sizes ranging from 4.3 to 7 inches). 

It'll take the iPhone 14 Pro Max in a chunky case, but also works for all sorts of Android smartphones, from big to small to ruggedized.

Also: The 5 best rugged phones

The ST-03 doesn't care what operating system your smartphone uses. 

Ulanzi ST-03 aluminum tripod clamp holding iPhone 14 Pro Max outside

Big, thick smartphones are not a problem.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

The ST-03 can be clamped to most tripods without the need for an adapter or plate.

Closeup of ST-03 clamps

The ST-03 clamps directly to most tripods.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

This makes the ST-03 directly compatible with ball heads found on professional tripods.

Ulanzi ST-03 aluminum tripod clamp holding iPhone 14 Pro Max outside

ST-03 attached to a professional ball head tripod.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

There's also a thread that fits the standard 1/4-20 tripod screw (1/4-20 is a shorthand way of saying 1/4-inch screw with 20 threads per inch), such as the one found on this tiny yet handy Insta360 tripod.

Ulanzi ST-03 aluminum tripod clamp holding iPhone 14 Pro Max outside

The ST-03 can accommodate the standard 1/4-20 tripod screw to make it compatible with pretty much any small or budget tripod out there.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

The 1/4-20 thread also fits things like my magnetic mount, such as the 3 Footed Monster Pro.

Ulanzi ST-03 aluminum tripod clamp holding iPhone 14 Pro Max on car

The iPhone 14 Pro Max held in the ST-03, attached to a 3 Footed Monster Pro magnetic mount.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

The ST-03 clamp also folds down small when not in use, and can easily slip into a pocket or bag without snagging on things.

Hand holding the ST-03 clamp

The ST-03 clamp also folds down small when not in use.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

For under $20, the Ulanzi ST-03 aluminum alloy clamp is essential in my photography kit, so much so that I have several. 

Also: This tiny smartphone accessory gives you a fantastic superpower

They're not only useful for situations such as the above, where I need to photograph the clamp itself but also for filming or photographing multiple angles simultaneously.

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