The holidays came a little bit early for me this year due to a shipping address mistake (it should’ve been a surprise from my geek-girl wife) and when I saw the box label’s return address I was indeed very surprised! Thankfully she really knows me and allowed me to open my gift early so I could play with it.
What is it? The OWLE bubo, an iPhone camera rig. The OWLE bubo is a stabilizer and lens adapter, allowing you to get more stable shots and a wider angle of view than with a stock iPhone 3Gs. Since it also includes a stereo mic, the audio is much improved as well. Let’s take a look!
Made of solid aluminum, this thing really has some heft to it. In fact, in a dark alleyway, this would make a very potent self-defense weapon! There are some sharp edges on the cold shoe mount, but you can avoid them easily enough.
With the supplied rubber case the iPhone fits very snugly into the OWLE bubo, with virtually no chance of it slipping out by accident. In fact, there is a port through the device just for pushing the iPhone out of the bubo from the front with your thumb. The iPhone “slot” has notches for accessing the headphone jack (for the microphone) and for accessing the iPhone connector port. Sadly, the bubo has no access to the iPhone’s power switch. A big oversight in my opinion.
The bubo fits comfortably in your hands, although the left hand grip is a bit awkward due to the microphone’s position. You’ll get used to it, however. It really does allow for more stable shooting of photos and video.
Each corner of the bubo has a 1/4″ threaded receptacle for a tripod/support mount, an accessory (mics? lights? neck strap?), or whatever you come up with. This is quite smart in my opinion.
The lens mount is a 37mm threaded size and I was able to successfully mount some old Sony camcorder lenses on the OWLE bubo.
The OWLE bubo features a 37mm threaded lens mount and comes stock with a combo macro/wide angle lens of .45x size. To use the macro lens, simply unscrew the wide angle lens and store it in the supplied lens bag. Both lenses work great.
The Sony camcorder lenses I tried on the bubo fit well and worked fine, although the old 2.5x teleconverter I have assumes you can zoom through the barrel and, of course, with an iPhone you cannot do that. It does make for some interesting spy/telescope look to the video if you have such a need.
The hinged stereo mic, the VeriCorder, works a treat with the iPhone. Having the internal microphone on the end of the iPhone means you get mediocre (at best) audio when recording video at any distance without an external mic. Since you can point the bubo’s mic in any direction the quality of captured audio is better than the stock microphones. It does not, however, eliminate the need to be aware of your audio levels — audio over a certain decibel level will still break up and fail to record properly. Also, audio within arm’s reach may tend to peak and clip with the stereo microphone so test it out and consider the distance to your subject.
The OWLE bubo is a very well built iPhone stabilizer and lens adapter that will improve your shooting of photo and video with your choice of 37mm lenses and a good stereo microphone. Lots of flexibility thanks to cold shoe mount and four 1/4″ mounts. Lack of access to the power button is a strike against the current model, however.
I’m eager to use the OWLE bubo with a future version of the Hitchcock Storyboard Composer storyboarding iPhone app. I imagine the combination will make a fabulous pre-visualization pre-production tool for indie filmmakers and other creative types.
For those of you who like the whole unboxing process, check out my OWLE bubo unboxing photo set on flickr.
Now I’m eager to get my hands on the Steadicam Smoothee!