Beastgrip, a camera grip system for Windows Phone
To call Beastgrip a camera grip for your Windows Phone would be an understatement. Beastgrip is more of a systems foundation for your Windows Phone camera that has a cold shoe to mount lights from, a lens mount for accessory lenses, and five accessory mounts that can be used with tripods, rails, stabilizers and more.
Beastgrip is the product of Chicago-based inventor/photographer Vadym Chalenko. He took his idea to KickStarter (opens in new tab) and is about a month away from filling orders. We were able to get our hands on a pre-release model and found Beastgrip to be an impressive, well built, photography accessory for Windows Phones.
While Beastgrip expands your Windows Phone capabilities, the concept is rather simple. You have an adjustable clamp that slides horizontally on rails and a camera port that adjusts vertically on rails. Along each corner and close to the center of the base of the grip you will find the five 1/4 inch accessory mounts.
The clamp that holds your Windows Phone in place is lined with a thin strip of foam to cushion the Beastgrip’s grip. The foam in the top part of the clamp has a gap to accommodate the camera hardware button on our Windows Phone and avoid it from being pressed. The base of this clamp can also be re-positioned to accommodate narrower phones.
Beastgrip Mounting Clamp
Once you have placed your Windows Phone in the mount, you can position it horizontally to line up with the camera port and move the port vertically into position. Tension screws are scattered about the Beastgrip to keep everything nicely in place.
While ruggedly built, the Beastgrip is not a protective device for your Windows Phone. I think the Beastgrip could survive a hefty fall but your Windows Phone screen is exposed and wouldn’t be so fortunate.
Volume and Power Buttons remain exposed
Looking at the Beastgrip solely as a grip, it isn’t as sleek as the Nokia Camera Grip for the Lumia 1020 but offers a very grippable handle. The design is level enough to be free standing both horizontally and vertically.
It is a bulky accessory for your Windows Phone and pants pocket carry goes out the window. Then again, you aren’t buying the Beastgrip for its pocketability.
Accessories, accessories, accessories…
Where the Beastgrip separates itself from the Nokia Camera Grip is the accessory mounts. The cold shoe will let you mount a video light, you have the 1/4 inch accessory screw mounts and the lens port is threaded to accept 37mm screw mount lenses and filters. You can even purchase (or build) a depth of field converter to use SLR lenses with the Beastgrip.
Beastgrip 1/4" Mounts
The ability to mount accessories lenses is a tremendous asset to the grip. For under $20, you can purchase a set of close-up filters and give your Windows Phone camera’s macro/close-up abilities a hefty boost in magnification. Then there are the wide-angle and telephoto accessory lenses that will open up your field of view or get you a little closer to your subject. Prices for these lenses range from $10 on up with the wide angled choice out-numbering the telephoto options. I did notice that with a wide-angle lens the Lumia 1020 generated a good bit of vignetting. It is not the fault of the Beastgrip, just a odd match-up with the lenses. The vignette isn't too dramatic on the .45x wide-angle (opens in new tab) lens but extreme with the .16x wide-angle (opens in new tab). You can eliminate it by zooming in ever so slightly with your Windows Phone camera until the image fills your viewfinder.
Vignetting with .45x Wide-Angle Lens
The SLR lens converter is a little more involved than the screw-on lenses. In a nutshell, you are building a converter that will project the image from the SLR lens to a focusing screen. The Windows Phone camera will then focus on the screen for the image. The pre-built DOF Converters can be rather pricey but you can build your own (here’s Beastgrip’s DYI instructions (opens in new tab)) for just over $100.
Beastgrip Macro Sample
We haven’t put a DOF converter to the test with the Beastgrip but in using the close-up filters and accessory lenses, the image quality is rather nice.
Lastly, on the accessory front, keep in mind the Beastgrip is fitted with a cold shoe mount. It is simply a mounting point for a light and lacks the electronic contacts a hot shoe mount (like the one on a DSLR) would have.
Beastgrip Cold Shoe Mount
While not a connected mount, I can see it coming in handy for videographers who want to shed a little light on their subjects.
A few things to point out
While Vadym did a really nice job in designing the Beastgrip, there are a few things that should be pointed out.
First, you do not have access to your camera hardware button and will rely on the on-screen mechanics to capture images and record video. You do have access to the power button and volume rocker when your Windows Phone is in the Beastgrip though. Answering calls is a little challenging, or at least with the Lumia 1020, in that the earpiece sits under the left handle. I do not think either issue is a deal breaker but worth noting.
Beastgrip Camera Port
Second, the camera port blocks your camera flash. I do not see this as a major issue (never been a big flash user) but you will need to make sure you disable the camera flash or you may get light reflection off the plastic, which will muck up your photo. Granted if you did have a flash port you might be able to use a remotely triggered flash in the cold shoe but still, I don’t see it as a major issue (although I recognize some may feel differently).
I would not mind seeing a hardware shutter button incorporated into the Beastgrip but with it being a “universal” grip that may be a difficult task.
Additionally, I did notice that with the Lumia 1020 that the left grip handle brushes up against the speaker of the Windows Phone. The Beastgrip does come with a set of spacing plates that can be installed to level out the fit of the Lumia 1020. This will to give the Lumia 1020 just enough clearance to avoid brushing up against the handle. Still, I would not mind seeing another millimeter or so of clearance just to be on the safe side.
In using the Beastgrip over the past few days, it is hard to find any major flaws in the grip. The design works and really adds to your Windows Phone camera's potential. When you combine the hardware potential of the Beastgrip with all the fantastic photography apps available for Windows Phone, you get a very proficient camera set-up.
Is the Beastgrip a must have accessory for your Windows Phone?
Beastgrip with Nokia Lumia 1020
While I really like the Beastgrip, it isn’t for everyone. If your Windows Phone photography is mostly snapshots and casual photos, the Beastgrip is likely not for you. If you want to elevate your Windows Phone photography or are an avid shutterbug, the Beastgrip will definitely come in handy.
The Beastgrip has fabulous versatility with its accessory mounts, lens options and cold shoe mount. Personally, I like macro photography and the ability to use close-up filters with the Beastgrip is great. Combine the close-up lenses with Nokia Camera’s zoom later feature and you can really dial in close to your subjects.
Sample Image with close-up filters (left) and without (right)
And the Beastgrip’s versatility isn’t restricted to still images. Videographers will appreciate the mounting options that can accommodate stabilizing rigs, rails, rollers and other rigs. The cold shoe mount will help with lighting and the lens options will help you widen or tighten up those shots.
Beastgrip should be available sometime in March but you can pre-order the grip now. The cost is $75 and you have a wide variety of choices for the accent colors with the base color being white, gray or black. Out of the box, the Beastgrip fits everything from the Lumia 920 to the Lumia 520. Sizing plates and rods are included to increase the Beastgrips size to accommodate larger phones (such as the Lumia 1520) or fine-tune the fit for other Windows Phones such as the Lumia 1020. The accessory lenses are not included with the grip but can be picked up at various online retailers such as Amazon.com (opens in new tab), B&H Photo (opens in new tab), or Adorama (opens in new tab).
Beastgrip Macro Sample
I will still rely on my DSLR for my photography heavy lifting but the Beastgrip definitely increases the capability of my Windows Phone camera. I really enjoyed using the close-up lenses and will likely lean on the Beastgrip for the times I want to travel light and leave my DSLR at home.
You can find out more about ordering the Beastgrip here at the Beastgrip website (opens in new tab) and if you feel like chatting it up about the Beastgrip, you can head over to this discussion in the WPCentral Forums.
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George is the Reviews Editor at Windows Central, concentrating on Windows 10 PC and Mobile apps. He's been a supporter of the platform since the days of Windows CE and uses his current Windows 10 Mobile phone daily to keep up with life and enjoy a game during down time.
For me - the perfect fusion of things is the standard 1020 camera grip, with a collapsible lens hood/filter ring. What more do we really need?