A couple of years ago the idea of using your iPhone, or any other smartphone, as a video camera for making legit, feature-length films would have been crazy. But as phone cameras continue to evolve, it's clear that camera phones are the future for creating small, low cost, independent films. Look no further than Steven Soderberg's Unsane , which was created using an iPhone 7 and FILMiC Pro and was, according to Soderberg, filmed entirely on an iPhone because, the film was better served by, "... my ability to put a lens anywhere I wanted in a matter of seconds."
Putting a lens anywhere in seconds requires tools to make that easy. The Sevenoak SmartCine by Movo (pronounced smart sinny) puts a full set of smartphone filming tools in your hand at an excellent price.
- Well-balanced with a solid build
- Very good built-in mic
- LED light ring
- Aperture lock doesn't lock well
- Thumbscrews are hard to use
What's In The Kit
SmartCine comes complete with a case, the SmartCine rig, a detachable handle with wrist strap, 2 lenses, one wide-angle and one fisheye, cables to connect your iPhone or Android device, a charging cable, and a windscreen.
The SmartCine rig is hefty, and I mean that in a good way. It has a solid build that feels weighty in your hand, but not so heavy that you'll tire when using it for several hours at a time. With a phone attached the weight is centered such that it stands on its own without any balance issues, although it's designed to be held in your hand.
You attach your phone to the rig using an adjustable grip that you place your phone into and then turn an adjustment knob to cinch your phone into place. The rig supports phones from 2.2" to 3.8" wide, each of which is likely to have cameras in different locations. To accommodate camera locations there's an adjustable viewfinder, which is also where you can attach lenses. You lock the viewfinder into place using two thumbscrews.
The SmartCine rig offers a couple of interesting features. It has a built-in mic that, when attached to your phone, records high-quality stereo sound with your video. On iOS devices, you'll need an RCA to Lightning adapter to make that work. The mic has a switch that will give you a 10dB gain on the audio it's recording. There's also an LED light ring with three brightness settings. It's good for minor light fill on closeups, but it's not good enough to light anything serious. So be sure to bring your lighter along.
One of the things I didn't expect when I opened the box was lenses. I know that this unit was capable of having lenses added, but I fully expected them to be an add-on. Bonus!
Both lenses that come with the SmartCine are wide-angle, one a fisheye and the other a standard wide-angle lens. Both worked well, creating a much broader field of view than my iPhone's built-in camera. But I did notice a significant amount of light spotting when I used the fisheye lens, so you'll want to pay attention to how you're lighting something when you use it. Note that lots of ceiling lights aren't optimal.
The SmartCine's viewfinder locking mechanism is the weakest link in an otherwise solid system. Even after being tightened the viewfinder seemed a little wonky and always appeared to be a little bit out of alignment. That's not a problem with no lenses attached, but the moment you attach a lens, if your camera's lens isn't centered perfectly or is slightly out of alignment, your shot's center of focus is going to be out of alignment too. Additionally, the thumbscrews you use to tighten the aperture are too short to tighten comfortably and offer no options for using a Phillips head to tighten it. So, fat-fingered folks such as myself may not find it easy to lock the aperture down.
Should You Buy This?
You bet! The SmartCine is an excellent portable rig for your smartphone. And it has features that you won't find in much more expensive rigs. While I'd like a little better build on the aperture adjustment and larger thumbscrews, that's definitely not a deal killer. Everything else about the SmartCine is excellent.
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