Hands-on review: SnapGrip Creator Kit
Image credit: ShiftCam
Turning smartphone users into professional photographers.
ShiftCam has introduced several products aimed at making the most of the phenomenal photographic power of modern smartphones. The latest is the SnapGrip Creators Kit.
So, what’s in the SnapGrip Creators Kit? Principally there are three components to what ShiftCam rather grandly calls an ecosystem: SnapGrip, SnapPod and SnapLight.
SnapGrip is a device that magnetically docks to a smartphone. Upon making a Bluetooth connection, users can hold the phone more like a camera, with no fingers getting in the way of the picture. It also charges the phone – which could be viewed as useful backup or a way of prolonging your photo session.
It’s a well-balanced device as well and can act as a stand, although not tested on the biggest phones.
For sturdier and more flexible mounting we have the second component, the SnapPod. This is a selfie stick and/or tripod, but for most photographic users it is going to be the latter that is of more interest. It seems reasonably robust and balanced for a mid-sized smartphone. It feels that if any touchscreen operations were going to be used, then it would be a two-handed operation – one hand holding the phone.
One word of warning is that the mechanism to lock the upper shaft in position wasn’t that strong. Strong enough to hold a phone in the right position when being used as a static tripod, but not reliably so when the SnapPod is used as a selfie stick; anything approaching a sharp movement can loosen the position. As the maximum angle of tilt is only about 15 degrees this is not a huge problem and can easily be accounted for, but it would have been nice just to have a tighter lock to hold position.
The SnapPod doesn’t need to be used to support the phone, it could provide more creative lighting. This introduces us to the third element, the SnapLight. This also clicks magnetically onto the SnapPod or the phone. It opens up 180 degrees like a locket, therefore providing extra lighting whether the phone camera is forward or back facing.
SnapLight, like the SnapGrip, is charged using the supplied USB-C cable.
Superficially, this system could be replicated by buying a separate tripod, selfie stick and light – basic versions of each component could easily be sourced for around £10, giving a self-made ecosystem costing around £30. Does the SnapGrip at £129.99, therefore, represent good value? Obviously, it is not a fair comparison.
First, the SnapGrip has a substantial feel without being heavy, and the magnetic force is sufficiently strong to not worry (or even think) about dropping the phone – if you were leaning over a waterfall you might feel differently! The ability to move the phone around in the SnapGrip to get a comfortable angle without fingers or sleeves spoiling the picture is good for both front and rear cameras.
Using SnapGrip as a stand is moderately useful, as much for viewing as for photography, although is completely non-adjustable. It also, by virtue of its shape and the position of the shutter button, genuinely feels like the phone has become a camera.
Also, SnapGrip can be used separately from the phone as a remote controller (for shutter only) hence allowing more stable pictures when using the tripod or for when using SnapPod as a selfie stick.
SnapPod, lacks a bit of flexibility that is typical of a small tripod, especially when it is supporting SnapGrip and the phone, but it is perfectly adequate. The arm with a magnetic disc can support SnapGrip, the phone, and the lighting module at the same time, allowing flexibility in positioning and lighting for both rear and forward camera uses.
Testing was done using a Google Pixel 4a – mid-range size-wise. It might seem obvious that larger phones will be less stable when mounted on the SnapPod, but among the phones listed as compatible are modern-day giants such as the iPhone 14 Pro Max and the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.
One of the selling points of the Google Pixel phones is their exceptional cameras, so using one of that family, albeit a few generations old, to do the testing can make it difficult to determine what advantages there are to be gained, specifically with the SnapLight. The Pixel’s camera sensor is pretty good in low light, and even on the brightest setting (there are three levels of brightness) Snaplight made little difference to the quality of the end picture, even if ambient lighting is gloomy. The exception is when it is dark and close-up objects can be lit from different angles rather than direct from the phone or using the flash.
That is perhaps the main benefit of the system – it allows flexibility; it is a Creator’s Kit after all. It provides stable and convenient camera positions with options for lighting that can be extended with other products in the range, including supporting devices, lighting, and lenses.
As previously stated, the nut that tightens the tripod arm position could be stronger, but apart from that this pack offers a step forward for those wanting to do higher-quality content creation using their smartphones – probably more so for video capture than still photography.
All components come in a range of five matching colours.
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