After over a decade of making videos about tech, my kit bag's been shrinking while my video resolutions have been climbing. Some of today's best camera phones, like the iPhone 13 Pro and Google Pixel 6 Pro, are shooting crisp 4K footage. By comparison, my first vlogging cam – the Canon S90 – capped out at 480p in 2009.
Since then, I've upgraded to a bulky Canon EOS 7D for Full HD video, and now use a still hefty Canon EOS R6 for 4K, full-frame footage. There's no doubt about it – I'm living the interchangeable lens life, and it'll take a lot for me to downsize my setup too much.
But with the rise of smartphone photography, compact vlogging accessories have flooded the market. Among the most notable is the MagSafe mounting collection from photographer-favorite, Moment.
Matched with an iPhone (or Pixel 6 or 6 Pro with a Moment MagSafe case), there's arguably never been a stronger case to ditch my dedicated rig and switch to a phone-first setup. After all, with a MagSafe cage, I can clip on my wireless mic, LED light and hook it all up to a tiny tripod. And that's an increasingly tempting proposition, particularly if you already own one of the best camera phones.
What's MagSafe again?
MagSafe was introduced by Apple to keep wireless chargers in place. It's hardly rocket science, consisting of a magnetic ring around the back of iPhone 12 and 13 that latches onto any magnet. That said, it's still a genius solution when it comes to simplicity and effectiveness.
What's really exciting is the way third-party phone accessory makers have jumped on the MagSafe train, and few have been more creative than Moment at eking out its vlogging-friendly functionality.
Given Moment's photography heritage, it's little wonder the brand's MagSafe kit is tailored to photo and video fans, but can it really revolutionize a vlogging setup?
I've been using it for the last month with a few trusty gadgets – a cold-shoe Manfrotto LED light and a Rode Wireless Go or DJI Mic to see whether phones have finally caught up with a fully-fledged, traditional vlogging combo.
To really understand the power of Moment's MagSafe kit, you need to understand the wider Moment smartphone collection – specifically lenses and filters.
Moment makes cases that have lens fittings on them, and it makes the lenses, too. I've tested out the anamorphic lens as well as the 58mm telephoto – the latter being perfect for tripod-vlogging.
Moment has upgraded its new line of cases, too. They don't only take Moment lenses, but now add MagSafe functionality to non-MagSafe phones, like the Pixel 6 Pro.
This explodes the scope for MagSafe accessories from just Apple's ecosystem to Androids. Better still, Moment's MagSafe collection includes a sticky ring mount, which adds MagSafe functionality to virtually anything with a flat surface.
Part of the struggle when it comes to vlogging is the fact you probably don't have a film crew with you while you're chatting to the camera.
Back in the day, OG vloggers like Sir David Attenborough out in the Serengeti would need a wireless receiver, audio recorder, film camera, tripod, lenses and likely a separate camera and sound person to get a decent take. That's way more than most vloggers could bear (or afford) nowadays. Nevertheless, the logic for carrying all that kit is sound – the goal is great audio and video capture.
With this in mind, if you want to get a smartphone vlogging setup off the ground with Moment's tech and you're a solo vlogger, you can pick up some choice accessories to make a mini version of the Sir Attenborough Serengeti setup.
Of course, you can shoot vlogging video handheld when you're using your smartphone. There's a casual quality that a slightly shaky camera can add to a clip, but it can also get distracting if overdone.
When vlogging becomes a profession, hand shake can also put you in danger of putting out unprofessional-looking footage. That's why the first Moment accessory we'd pick up is one of three mounts – either a Tripod Mount ($44.99 / around £38 / AUS$65), a Pro Tripod Mount ($59.99 / around £50 / AUS $85), which adds a cold shoe to the mix, or a Mobile Filmmaker Cage ($119.99 / around £95 / AUS $ 170).
All of these accessories will thread onto a tripod of your choice, and the Filmmaker Cage in particular adds tons of versatility with its two cold shoe mounts, and 1/4-inch, and 3/8-inch attachments.
So in addition to a microphone and light, you can mount external storage, an external monitor if using a phone like the Sony Xperia Pro-I with a MagSafe converter, and even a second or third MagSafe phone. Hook up a couple of Moment's Multi-thread Mounts ($49.99 / around £40 / AUS$70) to articulating arms and the sky's the limit.
Moment's magnetic kit also covers more casual needs – wall mounts, car vent mounts or bike handlebar mounts, and these are great ways to make your smartphone life that bit more hands-free.
Is smartphone video quality good enough?
As wonderful as these Moment MagSafe accessories are, they only work for vloggers if smartphones capture good enough footage in the first place.
When it comes to resolution, phones can climb all the way up to 8K today – so that isn't the limitation. Smartphone footage shot in well-lit scenes, and held together nice and steady on a tripod, can look very sharp.
The real challenge with smartphones is size – they need to be thin, so there isn't much room between their camera lenses and sensors. This lack of space makes two things difficult to achieve – good low-light performance, and expensive-looking background blur.
Both Apple and Samsung have made portrait-mode-style video modes (like Apple's Cinematic Mode above), which artificially blur out the backgrounds when shooting video. As impressive as this is, given the huge amount of computing power involved, the results aren't perfect.
I shoot a lot of casual vlog content in my kitchen, and thanks to my camera's big lens and sensor, the background looks pleasingly blurred, despite the fact my kitchen isn't anything fancy.
When trying the same set-up with the iPhone's Cinematic Mode, which tried to blur out everything on my work surface, objects would occasionally flicker in and out of focus, shattering the illusion of DSLR-style filming.
So when shooting smartphone footage, for now at least, traditionalists will likely want to give these newfangled modes a miss. Instead, don't shoot in a cluttered kitchen like me – choose simpler, less busy backgrounds and use framing to help you pull focus.
If you do, you can even shoot in flat 'log' formats on some phones, dialing the in-camera video-processing way back, and with apps like Filmic Pro, shoot with control over manual settings.
This all means you can really edit up your vlogging footage to look great. Not quite to the levels of the best vlogging cameras, but still clean, crisp, and balanced – perfect for beauty vlogging, for example.
After a month of using it, the MagSafe line has earned a place in my day-to-day life –and not just my filming workflow.
I have a magnetic mount by my bed, the tripod mount lives on a Manfrotto Pixi mini tripod and is used for filming and as a fancy phone holder, and the multi-thread mount is fixed on an articulating arm.
The line isn't cheap, so identify your needs and choose wisely rather than buying the whole range if you aren't sure if the MagSafe life is for you.
As for complaints, my main one is that the magnet on the MagSafe cage isn't super-strong. In turn, I was very paranoid about knocking my pricey iPhone 13 Pro Max off it when shooting out and about. Other than that, using the whole line has been a generally positive experience.
So am I ditching mirrorless?
As good as using MagSafe accessories with an iPhone 13 Pro has been, it won't be replacing my mirrorless vlogging setup.
I've invested over a decade in building up my lens collection. Even with the latest iPhone or Pixel, I can't emulate the high-quality clips I can capture on my Canon EOS R6, and I'm a sucker for a blurry background, soft-focus shot.
That said, I do have an additional vlogging setup at my disposal thanks to Moment's MagSafe line and my smartphone.
Perfect for impromptu content, the MagSafe cage, in particular, matched with a quality mic and a portable light should cover most vloggers starting out, or make for a lightweight option when space is at a premium.