Beastgrip Review: Mobile Photography Gets Serious

There has been a lot of chatter about mobile photography lately, with more than one clip-on lens maker attempting to stake claim to your phone. At the end of the day, what you get is a slightly upgraded picture, but probably one that is more novelty than actually good. Can mobile photography be great, though? The answer is yes, if you have a Beastgrip.

Hardware

3D printed components give the Beastgrip its charm and compatibility. Metal rods pulsing through in every direction bring in some necessary rigidity. If I would get one thing across here, it's that Beastgrip is unique, but it's no toy. There's "beast" in the name for a reason.

Using 3D printed parts, Beastgrip mastermind Vadym Chalenko worked tirelessly to bring the right mix of elegant style and hardcore utility to the mix. What you end up with is solidly manufactured components, and a seemingly endless array of use-cases where Beastgrip could dominate.

Any phone will do

Let's understand one thing about Beastgrip ahead of moving along: you can use just about any phone wit it. Whether it be iPhone, Galaxy Note, Moto X, Windows — or anything else — Beastgrip can probably fit it.

That's really the beauty of Beastgrip. A series of sliders and adjustments make it usable for any phone, though I will say your mileage may vary. A Nexus 4 ended up recognizing the lens cutout, but in extensive testing of many, many smartphones — that was the only instance in which a bad picture was given off. An HTC One (M8) complained of having the secondary camera blocked, but the pics were just fine (I just couldn't use the HTC editing tools).

All about add-ons

Beastgrip isn't just a housing for your phone, it's a jumping-off point for great mobile photography. Lenses, like those from Polaroid made for camcorders, can easily be screwed in. Beastgrip is also working with Neewer to provide lenses as a package deal, getting you up and running faster, out of the box.

The basic add-on lenses are like those cute clip-on lenses on steroids. These types of lenses are where those manufacturers got the idea to begin with, and the bigger footprint makes for a truer experience.

Take a fisheye photo with a clip-on lens, and it looks distorted. Take one using Beastgrip and a larger, screw-on fisheye — and the pics look a lot more polished. Beastgrip lets you skip the toys and get right to the gritty stuff.

Down the rabbit hole we go

Slap a phone in and screw on some lenses — that's it?! Not. Even. Close.

Beastgrip has a cold shoe, as well as a myriad of attachment points for peripherals. A Cadillac video, which went viral for being shot entirely with mobile devices, used Beastgrip. A professional crew using Beastgrip to shoot a commercial for a major car manufacturer speaks more to just how great Beastgrip is than anything I could say here.

To discover just how far the rabbit hole went, I purchased a few add-ons for myself. A lighting kit, and a tripod or two. Some microphones, and a few extra lenses and such for good measure.

What I ended up with was everything necessary for shooting great pics and video. I'm no professional photographer, not by a long shot — but Beastgrip made me a much better mobile photog, that's for sure.

Rather than take a jerky panorama shot by moving my phone, I took to the wide-angle lens. Instead of trying to get up close and awkward with an iPhone, I used a macro lens. The lighting kit added needed backlighting on occasion, and the UV filter made outdoor shots much better. Let's not forget the ability to use a tripod, which is endlessly handy here.

A do-it-yourself project gives Beastgrip the ability to use normal SLR lenses you'd find for an expensive, standalone camera. If you're willing to drop about $50 on materials, there is a comprehensive step-by-step guide on accomplishing the feat.

From there, you can use a myriad of lenses that accelerate the experience you get with Beastgrip out of the box. It's a unique way to bridge the gap between mobile and standalone cameras, and while you can't really duplicate the experience a dedicated camera will provide, the DIY kit and Beastgrip come really, really close.

Software

Beastgrip has no app — but you do. Maybe several. I won't spend a lot of time on which apps I used with Beastgrip, because it's subjective (and better for a breakout post with images shot using Beastgrip).

Still, the ability to take an app like Manual or SlowShutter and enhance what they offer with hardware is amazing. With a little experimentation and work, you can get really, really close to the experience you'd get with a much more expensive set-up. We will be running Beastgrip through its paces with several apps soon to give you a better idea of just how the software and hardware work in unison.

Conclusion

Mobile photography has come a long way. We've got really good flash on our phones, the ability to edit pictures in a nearly professional way, and pixel counts we only dreamed of a few years ago.

Beastgrip is the skeletal framework your phone needs to take the next step, both figuratively and literally. You get a shell that lets you make your smartphone's already amazing features the baseband for more, and that's pretty exciting.

Add a flash, a tripod, and some lenses — and your pics are approaching something very close to ones you'd get from an expensive camera. Taking better pics also makes editing that much easier later on. Apps bring variety to the mix, and add a layer of ease to harder shots than you may have previously imagined.

Perhaps the neatest thing is that once you're done shooting pics or video, you just slip your phone out of Beastgrip. You don't have to lug around an expensive, delicate camera, or worry about one being stolen from your car.

For what it is — and does — Beastgrip is an easy recommendation. Take better pics and video via the smartphone you already have, and when you upgrade your phone — Beastgrip will be there for you. You might have to turn a few screws, but that's a lot better than buying a whole new set of lenses or learning a new UI.

Beastgrip is available on the company website. A kit is $75, and is highly recommend. Polaroid lenses are available via the Polaroid store, and offer the best availability of add-on lenses for Beastgrip we've found.