There's been great debate whether an iPhone can be considered a 'serious photography' tool. If you come down on the side against, go talk to K-Tek - hopeful makers of the Quarter20 Aluminum Tripod Mount Case (Kickstarter Campaign until 9-17-2012) - they'll probably change your mind!
The iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 have amazing 8-megapixel cameras in an extremely portable package, but in order to use them for anything more serious than family snapshots, you need a tripod mount and a strong protective case.
K-Tek has stepped out into the market with lots of experience manufacturing audio and camera accessories. They sent us a prototype Quarter20 case for the iPhone 4/4S and it's nothing short of solid, industrial-strength design.
Everything about the Quarter20 screams 'professional' and 'tough.' Aside from the amazingly heavy and massive Owle Bubo grip, there's really no other iPhone tripod mounting solution machined from solid aluminum.
That's where this Quarter20 case gets serious. All of the plastic iPhone tripod mounts we've tried were plenty nice... but always required a healthy dose of caution for run-and-gun shooting. With an iPhone hanging off a monopod or suction-cup mounted to a car, it always feels like you're one bump away from cracking that plastic mount and sending an iPhone crashing to the pavement. Plastic does not equal professional. Why not use Apple's favorite material, aluminum? And so K-Tek did.
From the moment you slide an iPhone into the Quarter20, those fears are replaced by cold confidence. This is the case Tony Stark would've invented to mount his iPhone. It feels totally a part of the iPhone and like you could easily use it to defend yourself in case of an attack.
Our test unit is an early prototype version and doesn't include this, but the production case that K-Tek has put up on Kickstarter includes a clever cut-out for use with the ever-popular OlloClip Lens system. Pair that with one of their excellent boom poles and you have a steady and sure shooting platform for photo and video. There's also a second 1/4"-20 mount (see what what they did: 'Quarter20?') so you can position the iPhone in portrait or landscape orientation or mount additional accessories - like a mic, or an LED light.
Pictured here is the Quarter20 attached to a popular friction-arm, LED light, Zoom audio recorder/mic, and the K-Tek mini Tadpole. With the exception of the LED light, you could break all of this down and pack it easily in the pockets of a jacket or cargo pants. Talk about portability.
Suddenly, the iPhone is a viable camera for getting real work done. I think that was K-Tek's goal and if it's your goal too, you can help get the Quarter20 to market and score a great deal over on Kickstarter while the campaign lasts. The production Quarter20 will cost $49 but for $35 you can get in on the first run, plus a hat. Other pledge options include one of their excellent Tadpole extention boompoles.
What about iPhone 5 support? K-Tek says:
"We've been asked if we are going to make a version of this for the upcoming iPhone 5. The answer is we will if this campaign is successful. The reality is that even though the iPhone 5 will be out this fall, there will still be millions of people using the iPhone 4 and 4s. Getting the ball rolling on this now will allow us to easily create a version for the iPhone 5."
What's not to like?
The only downside to the Quarter20 design is that it's shape is not as practical for everyday use as a phone case. It somehow feels heavier than the sum of the case and the 4S, although it does help it feel extra solid. The slide-on design is so amazingly tight that typical screen protectors won't fit. There are 'case-friendly' protectors out there but we didn't have access to one for our test and so we simply removed our existing screen cover. Phone calls seem fine with this case on too, but one call in a fringe area did seem to suffer slight signal loss. While it's totally functional and all buttons and ports accessible, we'd expect typical users to remove this case when the iPhone is in everyday use.
Speaking of removal, the Quarter20 doesn't come off easily at all! This is mostly a good thing. But in order to separate the two interlocking case parts, you need to attach a handle (a monopod or a K-Tek Tadpole) to the bottom tripod mounting hole in order to work the case pieces open. This allows the necessary leverage to wiggle the case back and forth as you pull.
(Manfrotto quick-release plate attached to the Tadpole for this shot)
We'd really like to see this product hit their goal because it's definitely the most rock solid solution we've tested. We highly recommend it for both it's craftsmanship and for it's value.
We're giving this brilliant case and mount solution 4.5 leaves.
K-Tek was good enough to hook us up with a GIVEAWAY of a Quarter20 case and grip for one lucky ModMyi.com reader! Use the widget below to gain entries, and we'll pick a winner this weekend!
Review by Larry Wiezycki. Larry works in TV and media production as part of an Investigative Team for a consumer advocacy law firm, James-Hoyer. He’s received 4 Emmy awards and has been an avid iOS and OS X user for years. Larry shoots motion and still photography for polyphonicimage.com.