Kit Review: Gymbl Pro iPhone Mount

The Gymbl – makes your iPhone not quite a good phone or a good camera

Jon Hickman reviews iPhone tripod Gymbl Pro.

Jonathan Ive didn’t design my iPhone with a pistol grip. Instead of a hard, brittle feeling, bumpy, plastic case, Jonathan Ive fashioned a fetish object wrapped in perfectly smooth flat glass. Jonathan Ive did not design the Gymbl Pro, by Youbiq.

Would Jonathan Ive use a Gymbl Pro in pistol grip mode to shoot a video?

No, he wouldn’t. Jonathan Ive would use an iPhone 4 to grab short informal videos. If he was in the field and had a chance to grab an important interview with somebody, he’d not hesitate to use his iPhone 4 in the hand. Jony would know that informal handheld shooting would add a sense of urgency or intimicay to his media file – he’d say: “There’s no need for handheld slickness, we’re over that now”.

Would Jonathan Ive use Gymbl Pro in tripod mode to take a photo?

No, not until he’s tasked the iOS team with putting a self-timer into the camera – then he’d say, “Hey this is pretty cool for family portraits”.

Would Jonathan Ive use the Gymbl Pro’s adaptor, so that he can mount it to a professional tripod?

No, if Jonny was going to go to the trouble of lugging around a heavy Manfroto tripod, he’d be sure to take a D-SLR with him too – in for a penny in for a pound.

Would Jonathan Ive pay for the optional Gymbl Pro app?

No, Jonathan Ive wouldn’t pay an extra £1.99 for the Youbiq app. He’d wonder why he needs another cloud storage solution for photos, and he’d wonder why Youbiq didn’t think to offer this app (which does have a neat panorama stitching feature) for free as a promotional tool to drive sales of the Gymbl (after all, a tripod makes stitiching panorams much easier).

What would Jonathan Ive do if his phone went off with a Gymbl Pro attached?

He’d have to stop his film shoot to answer or reject the call. I imagine he’d find hitting the wake/sleep button to mute the ringer a little tricky due to the case thickness. He’d also find talking on the phone slightly tricky because his phone has grown a load of spiky metal.

In Summary

  • What is it?
    • It’s a tripod system for an iPhone 4. You put your phone in a case, the case clips onto a mini tripod which also doubles as a pistol grip.
  • Why would you use it?
    • To provide a comfortable grip for shooting longer videos, as a stand for face time calls, or to provide a tripod for photography and video. But really you’d use it because you’re a bit of a geek.
  • Positives
    • Comfortable holding for longer shoots; pretty stable as a table-top tripod.
  • Negatives
    • Seems pricey for what boils down to a gimmick; turns your phone into a camera, reducing ease of use as anything else other than a camera – so really you’d be better off with, you know, a camera.
  • In a nutshell
    • Smartphones are great for production when you’re in a tight spot, cameras are great for producing something more polished – this gets lost somewhere in the middle.
  • Price: $99.00
  • Rating: 2/5
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4 thoughts on “Kit Review: Gymbl Pro iPhone Mount

  1. Gordon Fowler

    Hi Jon,

    Thank you for the review, I’m disappointed in your conclusions of course and we will take them as a challenge to keep improving the product.

    The one feature that I think you missed was the whole reason I designed the Gymbl.

    The Gymbl includes a “gimbal”, or panoramic head, which eliminates parallax error when the nodal point of the camera moves between photos. This parallax causes ghosting and blurring when those images are subsequently stitched together. This allows the photographer to combine any number of images without artifacts of stitching – the fidelity of the resulting image is remarkable. With the Gymbl, the limitations of the iPhone Camera’s field-of-view and sensor size disappear in many situations.

    If the features we added to make it more useful to mobile professionals in other ways seem gimmicky to you well, if those are what you’re buying it for, then perhaps they are.

    In reading your review however, I was surprised that you didn’t looked at the Gymbl from the standpoint of mobile journalists. Then I looked at your tag cloud and realized the category didn’t exist.

    It should.

    The iPhone’s current 5 megapixel produces excellent images and supports broadcast quality HD video. The iPhone 5 will purportedly have an 8 megapixel camera that supports 1080P and coupled with 4G broadband network access can distribute media realtime. This is clearly a powerful tool for journalists. Recent events suggest that iPhones also draw much less attention to the journalist as well allowing them to operate in situations with less risk of becoming the story.

    Unless publications are happy with Instagram snaps and jittery YouTube videos, then mobile journalists will kit their iPhones out with professional Apps and yes, accessories like the Gymbl that gives them one handed or hands-free use of their iPhone on a stable platform to take great photos and video in demanding situations.

    You see Jon, we didn’t design the Gymbl for Jonathan Ive, we designed it for those amongst your readers who are serious journalists and increasingly want to rely on their iPhones to help them tell the story.

    By the way, I agree with you Jonathan probably wouldn’t use the Gymbl, but I have a feeling that he would approve.

    All the best,

    Gordon

    1. jonhickman Post author

      Thanks for a very useful reply.

      Your comment seems a little defensive – I wouldn’t be too worried about what I’ve written here, I don’t think it would put off the sort of person who likes mods of this sort from buying your product. The additional thoughts and explanation of the rationale behind the product are really useful, and help balance the review out a little – they’re really appreciated.

      There were a few points that arose in your comment, but rather than fisking your response, I’d just like to pick up on this point:

      “In reading your review however, I was surprised that you didn’t looked at the Gymbl from the standpoint of mobile journalists”

      The whole review was written from that perspective. When I used the kit, I was thinking through how it applied within the context of mobile /online journalism. I think the kit doesn’t apply well to that context.

      I think that a smartphone (of any flavour) is a useful tool for a mobile journalist, a social reporter, whatever you want to call them. I think that smartphones allow for a great deal of content to be captured (and filed) in the field. I also think that in some circumstances those workers might want to produce some long form media, or capture something of a quality that can be used outside of website publishing. In those instances the right tools and the support of colleagues who can use those tools are the best solution – trying to put the square peg of a smart phone into the round hole of film production isn’t.

      After market add ons like a Gymbl actually reduce the usablity and portability of kit. The use of such acessories unhelpfully suggest that we can capture “professional” material through simply acquiring more kit (it also contributes to a breaking of some demarcation lines that we should consider as important). It also suggests that journalists producing for online should be making TV for the web, rather than working out their own langauge and approach to telling the story online.

      I decided to write the review based around the question “what would Jonathan Ive do?” as it provided a useful rhetorical device to frame a discussion around the way we use equipment. I was hoping that it would be a little more entertaining than a run of the mill field test. I may have over egged it a bit, but I’d rather try something different – like those online journalists should.

  2. Daniel

    Sorry, you have completely missed the point of this device.

    Panorama heads that rotate around the nodal for dslr’s cost $500 to $4000 bucks, then you add a dslr and its all very bulky, will this fit in my car as opposed to my pocket is a bit full.

    This is not a simple video grip for mums and dads, and not a useless gadget for geeks. Ask your cameraman to explain it to you.

    Daniel

    1. jonhickman Post author

      I think really I’ve answered this point in previous comments, but to summarise that position you need to read this review in the context of this blog.

      I’m happy to accept that in your use case it might be a useful tool, but I still stand by my position that it’s not something that really adds to the toolkit for a digital journalist or social reporter.

      Ask your cameraman to explain it to you.

      Indeed. In my previous comment I mentioned that should the timescale allow the production of some higher end material, the journalist should look to those with expertise and equipment to support their story.

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