As a longtime fan of Manfrotto products I was pleased to be able to get my hands on their TwistGrip solution – a universal clamp for iPhones and other smartphones which allows you to easily attach your phone to a tripod. It has the added advantage of allowing you to connect other accessories to its cold-shoe located at the top – such as an LED light or a microphone for video work. This makes it a really versatile, compact, portable, creative and stylish solution which fits in your pocket.
I’m also pleased to have the opportunity to share with you how I’ve been putting the TwistGrip to use – and why I won’t be letting it out of my sight anytime soon! The TwistGrip’s ability to attach your smartphone to a tripod opens up so many photographic possibilities. In this review I’ll share some of these.
The unobtrusive, Italian-built TwistGrip is made from aluminium and attaches securely to any ¼” tripod mount and, in turn, securely clamps your smartphone in place. With a maximum device thickness of 8.2cm it’ll easily work with larger smartphones such as the iPhone 7 Plus. A neat feature is the way the jaws which grip your smartphone twist around 45 degrees making the clamp much lower-profile for storage in your pocket or handbag – ready for those spontaneous moments requiring a tripod. It’s simple to use – open the TwistGrip’s jaws, insert your smartphone, clamp the jaws, then tighten the knurled wheel to lock it in place.
If you don’t already have a tripod I’d strongly recommend that you get one. Manfrotto have an incredible range for all purposes and budgets. For the smartphone photographer who doesn’t want to haul a large tripod around with them all day long I’d recommend the Manfrotto Pixi tripod which is compact, easy to use and, when folded up, fits into a jacket pocket or handbag. Folded up, it also doubles as a great way to hold your smartphone when shooting video on the move. When used in conjunction with the Manfrotto TwistGrip you have the perfect creative solution to enable you to respond spontaneously, staying ‘in-the-moment’ and capturing that moment. For the more experienced photographers who will most likely have at least one tripod already, the TwistGrip fits right on no problem.
1# Shooting In Low Light
I live in Wales, UK and we are rarely blessed with bright, consistent weather conditions – so most of my photography happens on overcast, darker days. Using a tripod is often essential to avoid camera-shake during the longer exposure times required to get a good exposure in low light conditions. However, connecting a smartphone to a tripod is nearly impossible without some kind of adaptor. I wasted lots of time creating my own makeshift solutions from metal brackets, elastic bands, etc. Now, with my smartphone secured to my tripod with the Manfrotto TwistGrip, I can work more confidently in low light situations and capture sunsets like this.
2# Long Exposure Photography
Using slow shutter apps it’s possible to simulate a long exposure effect with your smartphone, but it’s essential that your phone doesn’t move during the process. I use the TwistGrip to attach my iPhone to my Manfrotto 190XB tripod (now replaced by the 190X) with Manfrotto 390RC2 head (now replaced by the 391RC2) when shooting long exposure photos.
When shooting the picture below I had to deal with the challenges presented by the tricky, wet terrain of a small waterfall. I also needed to keep my iPhone perfectly still as I was using a 4-second shutter speed in the Slow Shutter app to create a ‘veiling’ effect on the water.
This kind of photo wouldn’t be possible without a tripod to keep my iPhone absolutely still throughout the process – and, with my precious iPhone positioned above the water, I was glad I could trust Manfrotto’s TwistGrip to let me get on with the job in hand without worrying about whether my phone was going to take a swim.
3# Photographing Wildlife
Another practical situation where the ability to mount your smartphone on a tripod is when photographing wildlife. I’m sure we all see birds in our gardens or parks but without the impressive zoom capability of some dedicated cameras and expensive lenses we’re unlikely to be able to photograph our feathered friends ‘up-close and personal’ – they tend to fly away.
Smartphones don’t generally have sufficient optical zoom to yield good results from a distance – the subject invariably ends up being a speck in the distance and the impact is lost. One solution I often employ is to locate my iPhone on a tripod very close to where my furry subject will be – leave some tempting food (crumbs, nuts, etc.) and retreat to a safe distance with my Bluetooth shutter release. When my subjects return I’m able to photograph them remotely as they feast on the food.
My bird-feeder is about 10 feet away from the back of the house and I’ve often photographed its visitors with my dSLR and a long lens. But the photo above has to be my favourite so far – and it was taken with my iPhone. I positioned the phone about a foot away from the feeder – mounted on a tripod using the Manfrotto TwistGrip – while I fired the camera shutter from inside the house using my Bluetooth shutter release.
I’ve also used this technique in more spontaneous circumstances. For example, when I spotted a family of peacocks strutting down a path I quickly attached my iPhone to my Manfrotto TwistGrip (which I’d already attached to my Manfrotto Pixi tripod) and positioned it on the ground facing towards where I anticipated the birds would shortly walk.
I threw down some sandwich crumbs – making sure they could see what I was doing – then retreated into some bushes about 10 metres away. Shortly afterwards the birds obliged by walking cautiously into the frame, pecking at the crumbs while I fired the shutter remotely.
I was able to get lots of usable images this way. It’s wonderful to be able to capture these beautiful creatures up close without distressing them and without having to purchase additional lenses – some of which compromise image quality.
4# Macro Photography
With the huge range of third-party macro lenses for smartphones it’s no surprise that macro photography is becoming more and more popular. One obstacle to taking great macro shots is the incredibly shallow depth of field. Hand-holding the smartphone while taking macro shots is a hit-and-miss affair because the slightest hand movements change your smartphone’s distance from the subject – putting the subject out of focus. The solution is to attach your smartphone to a tripod – with a TwistGrip! Finding and maintaining the correct distance from the subject is now much easier.
5# Getting Low Down
As you’ve seen with the peacock photos above, the ability to mount your smartphone onto a small, portable tripod like the Manfrotto Pixi allows you to take great photos from low down – almost from the perspective of your subjects themselves. The following photo of a pebble arch was taken on the beach in poor light conditions and I wanted to get a low down perspective through the arch. Being able to use my Manfrotto Pixi tripod with the TwistGrip clamp meant I could maintain the right shooting angle and benefit from the lack of camera shake while taking the picture.
6# Self Portraits
Willing portrait models aren’t always available, so many photographers hone their portrait skills on themselves – but a “selfie” at arms-length just isn’t going to cut it. Being able to mount your smartphone on a tripod using the Manfrotto TwistGrip makes this far simpler. Set your tripod up, attach your smartphone, and set the timer to give yourself time to get back into position – and you’re done!
Many of us use our smartphones to shoot video – whether it be family videos or promotional. Creating stable, smooth footage is always desirable and, with the TwistGrip, achievable.
8# Time-lapse Videography
Another practical application for the TwistGrip is time-lapse video. Typically you’d want your smartphone fixed in one location as it captures the clouds, cars or people passing by. You could do this with a regular tripod, but if you’re feeling adventurous why not attach your phone to a cookery timer (as shown below) which automatically rotates a full 360 degrees in 60 minutes. Securing the TwistGrip to the top of such a timer is relatively simple using a cheap adaptor plate.
You’ve probably guessed I’m inseparable from my Manfrotto TwistGrip. It’s well designed, versatile, portable and perfect for attaching your smartphone to any kind of tripod. Once your smartphone is secured you can easily tackle more challenging shooting scenarios with confidence.
Rob Dunsford is a writer for iphonephotographyschool.com as well as an equestrian event photographer and singer-songwriter living in Mid Wales, UK.