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iPhone 4 Tripod Mount Shootout

UPDATE: I also reviewed the glif and compared it with these mounts.

If you’re like me then you justified getting an iPhone 4 (on top of the original 2G, 3G and 3GS) by telling your wife “honey, this has an HD camcorder BUILT IN. By getting this we actually SAVE the money for an extra device.” And then on the second or third video you’re shooting you’ll find that you have the hands of a programmer and not of a surgeon. Meaning that it is next to impossible holding the iPhone perfectly steady.

Yet once more we see that technology has advanced to a level where it is no longer the limiting factor, but instead the human body is. For all intents and purposes of my iPhone business I deem the quality of the iPhone 4 video recorder more than sufficient. If only there was something that would help me steady my aim and frame. Well, there is, because this problem is one that photographers and videographers have been having for a long time. And most of the solutions revolve around contraptions that allow you to levitate your lens in a fixed distance from the floor.

I am of course talking about the tripod. You might remember from geometry that any surface can be described by 3 points. Tripods define a point by three feet. The point where you can mount a camera usually has two or three degrees of freedom which you an restrict by tightening screws. One or two of these screws might be attached to a handle that would allow you to move the tripod head around and adjust the tightness of one scree by turning your wrist.

I shopped around for a 3-way tripod to mount my iPhone 4 on and ended picking the Cullmann Nanomax 250 which is a sturdy but extremely lightweight tripod that almost fits into my backback. Because it is made out of aluminum it weighs only 2.3 lbs (1 kg). So it’s ideally light and compact to work for a blogging developer like myself. Cullmann in Germany grants you 10 year warranty on the tripod if you register on their website.

But this article is not about my choice of tripod. Once you got one you are presented with the challenge to somehow mount your pretty iPhone on it. That’s where special cam mounts are necessary. I asked around on Twitter and two options were recommended to me. I purchased both and now I’m going to compare them so that you don’t have to.

Mosy Mount

When I received the Mosy Mount package they made it as much an Apple experience as possible. You receive a metal box with a clear window at the top that presents the mount. Or rather, A mount, because inside the box you find another one to make TWO mounts for the price of one. One is already attached to a clear case that fits the iPhone 4’s rectangular frame. The other is affixed to a temporary piece of cardboard with instructions on how to mount this on your own case. Disclaimer: nothing sticks to silicone. You also get a foldable mini-tripod for use on tables.

You have a choice of three motives that all are basically a rectangular foamy plastic piece with an embedded 1/4″ screw. Once the iPhone is in the case there is no chance in hell that it can fall out, removing the case takes a bit of fiddling which is a good thing if you worry about that. A bad thing if you are impatient and are not planning to use it on rough rides. Through the Mosy Mount the mounting screw is placed near the center of gravity on the back of the iPhone. This is the reason why out of the box you require a 3-way head on your tripod. With 2-ways all you can hope to film is the heavens.

With the 3-way head of my tripod I can have the camera point at a target with the handling sicking out to the right side. That’s fine for shots that don’t require an up and down movement. Horizontal panning and steady shots work perfectly if that’s all you require. When I ranted on Twitter about this the maker of Mosy Mount contacted me and sent me a list of materials plus plan on how to to convert the Mosy Mount with an right angle bracket. He’s a very friendly guy, an incredibly personal level of support. He warned me not to tighten the mount screw too much or else I would pull out the metal piece of the mold.

The clear case tightly grips the sharp edge of your iPhone 4. The 3D mold is a piece of art but it has a bit of a drawback. The surface is not flat and thus you don’t quite feel how much you can tighten the screw. Also it does not feel like there is a good contact which still permits a bit of rotation around the screen. That’s another con. You might feel that your iPhone is safe in the case when mounting it onto a moving vehicle, but you should take extra precautions because of this weak spot.

U+G4 Holder

I found the website for the U+G4 holder even before Mosy Mount because they are more SEO-savvy: www.iphone-tripodholder.com. My first impression was to think that the screw is on the wrong place, namely on the small side. Wouldn’t that mean I can only shoot portrait video?

I received the holder without any trimmings in a padded envelope. But what the packaging understates the holder itself talks all the more loudly. You find the holder to be made out of strong plastic with a professional screw embedded in the smaller side and 2 small 3M Bumpon pads to keep the iPhone from sliding out once you moved it into place. You can slide the iPhone in both ways due to a small window in the mount, a sort of rail fits the device perfectly.

The bottom of the mount is flat to allow for good fastening of the mounting plate which is standard with all modern tripods. It’s a plastic rectangle that you screw onto the 1/4″ thingy which itself can be fastened to the tripod by a simple lever. You feel that some thought went into this method, enough to be pending a patent.

Having the mounting screw at the side allows for the tripod handle to be where it should be: in the opposite direction of the lens. Mounted like this you can pan vertical and sideways with ease. In this case tightening the handle will restrict the up/down motion. It’s logical and intuitive this way which makes this mount my favorite for any kind of moving targets.

What remains to be seen is how the life of the pads will go. That’s only something that repeated use of a longer time span can show us. If you’re planning to use the U+G4 on a moving vehicle you might want to add an additional rubber band to secure your phone into the mount. While it stays inside against gravity a short jerky movement can move it out of its secure position inch by inch.

Conclusion

For both cases you will need to remove any Bumper or other case you might have to fit. The Mosy Mount itself is a case that will protect your phone a bit, at least from scratching and it comes with the benefit of letting you transform a protective case of your choice into a mount (as long it’s not silicone). The U+4G is way less artsy, straight to the point and gives me more confidence in the screwing. Also it costs half as much as the competitor.

After having evaluated both mounts for some time in direct comparison I formed my opinion. Personally I prefer the U+4G over the Mosy Mount because of the more logical way of “steering” via the handle and because of the tighter fit with my tripod mounting plate. You might have noticed that I have a red sticker around the edges of my iPhone (by :blueMac) to protect it until I get my official bumper. The Mosy case threatens the life of this sticker because of how tightly it hugs the device.

My summary of the pros and cons of both mounts follows below.

Mosy Mount

Pro: Stylish, 3 Motives, two mounts let you convert your existing case, great personal support, foldable mini-tripod included

Con: area around screwing hole not flat, inconvenient mounting position for moving targets

$19.95 by Art4Media LLC

U+G4

Pro: Sturdy plastic, professional screwing hole, allows usage of “steering handle” in tripod, patent pending

Con: Open side might allow iPhone to shake out, not designed for protecting iPhone

$9.95 by G Design LLC


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