What is the best budget Smartphone filmmaking equipment?
As a budget filmmaking tool your Smartphone is a great device for making movies. Only a few years ago if you wanted to make professional looking videos you would have had to invest in a very expensive video camera to get a good result. Now your average Smartphone will produce incredible videos for a fraction of the cost.
But to get the best out of this compact moviemaking powerhouse you will need to add a few items. Microphones, tripods, tripod adaptors, lights and other filmmaking equipment can often be expensive. You can easily spend hundreds of dollars to get the best moviemaking gear for your Smartphone.
But if you are a bit cash-strapped there are some cheaper alternatives. There are some great budget items out there that are a fraction of the cost of their more expensive counterparts. Of course budget equipment is never going to be as good as the more expensive options that cost hundreds of dollars. But you may find it surprising at the quality of some of the equipment available that is a fraction of the cost. So here are some of my budget equipment choices for Smartphone filmmaking.
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Takstar SGC-598 Condenser Microphone
The Takstar SGC-598 is a low cost shotgun microphone with a shock resistant mount. It also comes with a windsock and a handy carrying pouch. Reviewers often compare this microphone next to more expensive microphones like the Rode VideoMic Pro that can cost hundreds of dollars more. The Takstar is not as good as the Rode VideoMic Pro but in various tests it stands up well to this competition and is a fraction of the cost.
The build quality is decent and it also has +10db audio boost and a low-cut switch. The frequency of the Takstar SGC-598 is 50kHz which is a pretty good for a budget microphone of this type. It does lack bass for low-end frequencies but you can solve this by adding the bass back into your sound when edit your video.
It also has a cardioid polar pick up pattern which is common for a shotgun microphone and it does a good job of only picking up sounds are that in front of it. Please note though to get it to work with your Smartphone you will need to add an adaptor like the Rode SC4. As far as shotgun microphones go, it’s excellent value for money.
Boya BY-M1 3.5 mm Lavalier Microphone
A good lapel or clip microphone is essential for doing a sit down interview. The Boya BY-M1 clip microphone is budget friendly with good quality audio for sound recordings and great for interview work. It comes with a six metre long cable that is great if you want to get your Smartphone further away from your subject.
It is an omni-directional condenser microphone which means it will pick up sound equally well from all around the microphone. It comes with a standard 3.5mm jack that you can switch between Smartphone and DSRL. This means you can even plug it in to your DSLR camera as well as your Smartphone.
The Boya BY-M1 does need a small battery to give the microphone phantom power, which isn’t much of a problem, but be aware that there is no battery light to tell you if it may be running out of power. So you will need to keep an eye on your audio levels in case the battery runs flat.
Rode Wireless Go Radio Mic
If you need a low budget wireless microphone for your Smartphone movies you cannot go far wrong with the Rode Wireless Go Radio Microphone. The Rode Wireless Go includes a transmitter and a receiver which both measure just 44mm x 45.3mm x 18.5mm in size and weigh a mere 31g.
The transmitter has an omni-directional condenser microphone that is right inside the unit. You can use this as a lapel microphone or you can add your own TRS lapel microphone, which you can plug into the transmitter’s 3.5mm microphone socket.
The receiver has a range of up to 70 metres but be aware that you must keep a line of sight with the transmitter or you may get reception problems. The receiver has a clip mount and you can also attach it to cold shoe mount above your Smartphone. You can set the TRS output socket to lower the audio signal by -0dB, -6dB or -12dB if you need to bring down the audio gain into your Smartphone.
However, to get the receiver to work with your Smartphone you will need to use a TRS to TRRS adaptor like the Rode SC7. Both transmitter and receiver have built in batteries that you charge with the included USB-C cable. On full charge they should give you up to 7 hours continuous use.
Ulanzi U Rig Pro
If you are looking for a low cost Smartphone stabiliser grip the Ulanzi U Rig Pro is great budget answer. This is the newer version of the Ulanzi’s Smartphone grip and it has many improvements over the older version. It has two cold shoe mounts for you to add a light or a microphone. So it’s handy for adding equipment to your Smartphone.
The Ulanzi U Rig Pro has two large handles for you to use if you want to go hand-held. It also has a 1/4 inch screw mount on the bottom so if you tire of carrying it about you can also mount it on a tripod. The universal Smartphone grip will fit most Smartphones such as the iPhone 8 or X but you might want to check it fits some of the larger Smartphones before you buy it.
Ulanzi adjustable Smartphone mount
One of my favourite Smartphone mounts is the Ulanzi adjustable Smartphone mount with cold shoe adaptor. This tripod mount is made of solid aluminium alloy and incredibly robust. It is fully adaptable and will fit all models of iPhone.
It has a ¼ inch screw socket at the base so you can mount it on to any standard tripod. It also comes with a cold shoe mount so you can add a microphone or a light above your iPhone if you need too.
Godox LED64 Video Light
The is an excellent compact budget video light for your Smartphone. It’s lightweight and portable and provides high brightness and an accurate colour temperature. It has a lux of about 1000 so it will be good enough for subjects that are close to your Smartphone. You can also add other Godoz LED64 lights together by interlocking them. This will give you more lights without using another cold shoe mount.
The light itself has 64 LED bulbs and you can adjust these for brightness with the built in dimmer. It’s powered by 4 AA batteries, but you can also plug in to an AC power supply if you need to use the light for long periods. The universal cold shoe mount means it will fit most Smartphone tripod adaptors or stabilisers that support the cold shoe mount.
K&F Concept 70″/177cm Travel Tripod
The K&F Concept Travel Tripod is the ideal solution to reduce the camera shake of your video. It has a standard quarter-inch screw so you can add your favourite Smartphone tripod adaptor or you can use the Smartphone adaptor that comes with it. It has a minimum height of 20.9″/53cm and a maximum height of 70″/177cm with the extended centre column.
This tripod can also convert to a monopod in seconds with a height that ranges from 16.1″/41cm to 57.9″/147cm. The maximum weight at 3.7Lbs/1.7kg and it comes with a storage bag so it’s easy to carry and transport. If you want to do pans and tilts there is a handle attached to the tripod head so you can perform smooth camera movements with your Smartphone.
DJI Osmo Mobile 3
The DJI Osmo Mobile 3 is the newest Smartphone gimbal for mobile that follows DJI’s other successful Smartphone gimbals, the DJI Mobile 1 and 2. It is a Smartphone gimbal that helps you to record smoother and more professional looking videos. It also helps in making it easier to capture shots like time-lapse and panoramas.
The Osmo Mobile 3’s has big improvements in its hardware. It now combines the best features of its predecessors but now has a new re-engineered body. Some of the biggest complaints about the Osmo Mobile 2 were its bulkiness and that is was hard to store and carry. The Osmo Mobile 3 now has a folding arm which means it takes up far less room when it is not in use. The new standby mode, that’s activated by pressing the M button three times, allows the gimbal to fold up without being fully turned off. This means you can go from compact mode to filming in a few seconds.
The new Mobile 3 has a new clamp to hold your favourite Smartphone. It no longer has a horizontal grip but a new vertical mount. This means it can now hold various makes of Smartphone. It also features new anchors for counterweights so you can counterbalance any lenses you may wish to add to your Smartphone.
DJI have put back the trigger grip on the handle that was originally on the Osmo Mobile 1. This means you have instant access to controls right at your fingertips. You can also now switch from portrait to landscape mode by simply double tapping a button. You no longer have to make this adjustment by a dial on the back of the gimbal that was present on the Osmo Mobile 2.
Other improvements include a USB-C port to recharge the gimbal’s internal battery and you should get up to 15 hours of use from a fully charged battery. You can also charge your Smartphone from the Osmo Mobile 3 if your Smartphone runs low on power. The new DJI Osmo Mobile 3 also doesn’t block the lightning port or phone jack found on older Smartphones as the first two gimbals do. Which means you can plug in a microphone.
The price is good too with the Osmo Mobile 3 costing less than the Osmo Mobile 2 at $119. There is also a slightly more expensive package that adds a mini tripod that you can screw into the ¼ inch socket on the handle of the Osmo Mobile 3. This package also includes a padded case for the gimbal.
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