When the iPhone 4 came out users were pretty happy about the new 720p HD video recording for the occasional moment you need to record. But over time people became aware that the iPhone does make some pretty great videos, which can easily be used in a more professional environment. A number of apps exist to further build on these video features, and users can be very creative with this little device. For example – take a look at Flare – an app that allows you to take realtime HDR videos with your iPhone (even if you hate HDR, it does make some interesting videos). Of course, limitations still exist – the device pretty small to handle, so the videos can easily be a bit shaky, and the user has very little control over the lens.
This is where the OWLE Bubo comes in – it aims to fill in the usability gaps of using a phone for video recording.
Its made of a solid piece of billed aluminium steel, and the phone just slides into place (provided you use the included iPhone rubber case). On the Bubo you will find a threaded mounting point on each of the 4 corners, and a coldshoe onto which you can mount flashlights or a microphone. This enables the Bubo to become a mounting point for a whole number of accesories you might need to shoot a great video.
Holding this thing in your hand makes you realize that this an incredibly well built piece of hardware. It is heavy yes, but not in a way to make your arms tired after long hours. The iPhone fits like a glove inside (but I do not recommend having any extra films on the device, because the steel billing is clearly made to very fine tolerances for a good fit). On the front you will find the lens thread, which enables you to chop and change the supplied macro and wide angle lenses. Sound quality is also handled by small (well built) microphone which can be twisted into any direction, which uses the iPhone’s headphone jack. The iPhone’s dock connector also stays open when placed in the Bubo, so if you have accesories that might powered from the port, you still use them.
As a plus, it is possible to use your existing SLR lenses, should you be so inclined. Of course you will have to manual focus, but if you decent aperture settings, it might be worth your while. A company called Vid Atlantic worked together with OWLE to build a kit to allow you to use Nikon or Canon lenses (no Olympus love yet). For more info look at http://www.vid-atlantic.com/iphone35.html.
So what is it like to use?
I tried it out on a few occasions – and its pretty great for wide angle shots where the small size of the kit might be beneficial. Images were crisper, and there is a noticable lack of video shake when handheld, which dramatically improves iPhone video. The add on lenses do not immediately create a noticable difference to the iPhone lens – after all, the Macro and Wide angle abilities of the iPhone 4 is pretty great already. If you have a sharp eye, then yes you will notice. On landscape shots you will notice an even wider view angle, which some people might prefer. Of course, you can simply remove the lenses altogether.
Does it improve video?
Yes. But then one has to take into account the effort that goes into placing your iPhone in the Bubo, and following all the steps. But if you are using the iPhone for Videography for very specific reasons, then the Bubo is worth the effort. The mounting options make a truly useful device, which cancels out that whole “taken with a cellphone” excuse. Videos are stable, and it just further improves upon existing plus points of using the iPhone for video.
There is no two ways about it – the OWLE Bubo is a pretty niche device. It is meant for a very small group of users, and for those users it will be great add on to use. It transforms a device which is very small and somewhat difficult to handle into a rigid go-anywhere device. Build quality is top notch, and videos do indeed look better with the Bubo. But is it worth the money? If you are serious about using your iPhone for professional looking video, absolutely.
The OWLE Bubo Enthusiast Kit is available for R2000 from 790tv.