Before going on holiday, friends often ask me for advice on what photographic equipment to take with them and, even more often, when I utter the magic word “tripod”, they look at me as though I were an alien trying to make contact with the earthlings. If I then take it too far by talking about interchangeable lenses or flash heads, I am certain to be classified as hostile alien form.
The most common forms of resistance vary from “but I use my iPhone to take photos”, to “but mine has an integrated flash anyway”, to the classic “it’s not as if I’m going to go around with a tripod over my shoulder”.
It pains me to admit it, but what they say is true, after all. Whereas, for me, the automatic response my brain gives to the word “travel” is “photography rucksack with at least two cameras, four lenses, all necessary accessories and a carbon fibre tripod”, the same can’t be said of everyone. And nor should it be, because one of the great things about photography is that everyone can develop his or her own passion and style individually. And is it not true that the best camera is always the one you have with you at the time?
Thus I asked myself the question: is there a middle road between the rucksack full of photographic equipment and having just your phone in your pocket?
The answer to this question was provided by Manfrotto, with a brand new range of products that seem specially designed for people who love to travel and who want to get the best out of their photographs without necessarily having to double their luggage volume: we’re talking about Klyp+.
If you ask me to describe Klyp+ in just a few words, the answer is really easy: it’s your iPhone’s perfect travel companion. Klyp+ is, in fact, a phone cover that transforms your much-loved smartphone into a complete photographic system. It looks like an attractive and simple bumper cover made of robust polycarbonate, but once it is in place, the things you can do with it are simply fantastic. Within the structure, it has four hidden attachment points, one per side, which you can use to attach additional components. Exactly, it’s a bit like a Transformer, only it’s more slimline! On the back, over the iPhone camera lens, there is also a thread connection.
But what do you need all these connection points for?
Let’s start with what may seem to be the most curious: the thread connection on top of the iPhone camera. The mystery is soon revealed: Klyp+ allows you to use three small lenses that can be screwed onto the cover!
There are three available lenses: Fisheye, Portrait and Landscape. Once in place, they give you some fascinating optical effects. The Fisheye lens transforms your iPhone lens, which is the equivalent of a 35 mm, into an ultra wide-angle 9 mm lens. This type of lens is capable of taking in the entire 180 degree hemisphere in front of you, projecting it on to your sensor as a circular image.
The Portrait lens transforms the iPhone lens into a 50 mm. It is therefore particularly useful for those shots where you need to photograph a person as though seen through the human eye. Indeed, with a wide-angle lens, facial features would be distorted, whereas with a telephoto lens, the features would be flattened out. So the Portrait lens is perfect for when the main subject of the shot is a human face and you aren’t happy with the partially distorted result given by the iPhone that has no lens.
Lastly, the Landscape lens, which happens to be my favourite, transforms the iPhone into a 24 mm. This lens is particularly suited to landscape photography, in that it allows you to capture a larger proportion of the scenery than with a standard 35 mm.
These three little lenses are of really good structural quality. Although we are not talking about professional lenses for a reflex camera, which costs at least double the price of an iPhone, they are nonetheless made with an aluminium body and a lens of high-quality glass that doesn’t produce chromatic aberration or loss of image clarity. They also come with two caps: one for the front and one for the thread connection at the back, in order to keep the lenses protected whilst they’re in your pocket!
Another great attachment for your Klyp+ cover is the amazing 220 lumen LED light, with a 60° angle of illumination, allowing you to take pictures in very low light conditions whilst still keeping colours bright and skin tone natural, unlike the small integrated iPhone flash which transforms any human face irremediably into that of a Smurf. With a choice of three levels of intensity, it really can be adapted to all situations. The light has an internal battery that can be charged via USB, thus saving your iPhone battery life. The final detail is that, although this accessory can be attached to both the long and short sides of the Klyp+ cover, it also works well separately, allowing you to create true mini photo shoot sets. Absolutely not to be underestimated for Light Painting evenings!
The last rail-attachment accessory, which comes with the Klyp+ cover, is truly brilliant, in my opinion: it is a small but ingenious handle that allows you to prop up your iPhone on any surface… a sort of miniature tripod. Yeah, OK, it might be useful, but why go so far as to describe it as brilliant? Well, on top of being undoubtedly useful for normal shots where you can’t hold the phone in your hand, or simply as a prop on the table when you’re reading the screen, it has an amazing hidden feature: in the lower part, it has a thread connection that allows you to mount your phone on a separate tripod, such as the fantastic Manfrotto Pixi.
For me, this truly was a first: an iPhone on a tripod. And if, on this iPhone, you can then mount interchangeable lenses and even incorporate a light source, well the possibilities really are endless: you can go from a romantic evening meal out to watching the sunset whilst sitting by the sea.
Of course, the attachment is universal, but Pixi is definitely the recommended choice. It is fabulously robust, compact and lightweight. Not much more than a hand span in length, it weighs less than 200 grams and, when you slip it in your pocket, you can almost forget you have it with you. It’s only when you put a Mirrorless or a Bridge on it, and you see that it’s as stable as a rock, that you begin to think about putting a Reflex on it too. And the funny thing is? It holds it just fine! It’s available in 4 different colours and, although not important on a practical level, it is really pretty to look at! Once you have your camera or iPhone mounted on top, the ball head allows you to adjust the position both quickly and with precision. The position is held by a friction lock that is released by pressing on the Manfrotto logo. The three legs are adjustable individually, thus it is possible to position the tripod on the most improbable and uneven surfaces (rocky coastlines included!)
But we’re not finished yet…
In order to manage everything in the best possible way, Manfrotto also thought to create an interesting application: KLIPAPP. I will be honest: immediately after downloading it, I thought it was a classic attempt to cross Instagram with some other mobile editing app. However, after a few minutes using it, I realised that I couldn’t have been more wrong: instead, it is a true photo management system, taking you from prior to creation to sharing on social networks. Of all its features, the one that amazed me the most, without a doubt, is the one that lets you take a photo by clapping your hands: once you’ve activated the feature, you set up your shot and then all you have to do is clap your hands to take the picture. So useful in solving the problems of micro blurring that every good photographer wants to avoid! Another fantastic feature is the option of separating the focus point from the metering point: indispensable in difficult light situations, such as sunsets or inside a bar or club.
So, in summary: a phone cover, a set of lenses, a powerful LED light, universal tripod attachment, a complete management app… all it doesn’t do is talk! Maybe it’s best that it doesn’t… after all, we all know that a good photographer doesn’t like to be disturbed whilst at work!
All in all, Klyp+ truly is the Swiss Army knife of mobile photography. Would you really go on holiday without it? I wouldn’t.
Guest blogger: Francesco Gola