Hands-on with OWLE's Bubo mount for the iPhone 4

The iPhone 4's simple design, 720p HD video, and in-camera editing capabilities make it a blank canvas for camera and video accessories. Unfortunately, the form factor doesn't allow users to easily attach many external gadgets. A solution for serious iPhone video enthusiasts is the $170 OWLE Bubo mount, which we had some hands-on time with in the office this week.

The OWLE Bubo is a metal mount and stabilizer that gives iPhone 4 owners a way to attach powerful accessories to their device, including lights, tripods, and lenses. To get you started, the OWLE kits come with a 37mm wide angle/macro lens and a small directional microphone that plugs into the iPhone's headphone jack. Similar kits are also available to fit the iPhone 3G/3GS ($160) and the iPod touch 4G ($170).

The aluminum mount itself is a heavy and solid chunk of metal shaped for a two-handed grip, eliminating shake and giving the rig stability. An iPhone 4 in a soft case fits snugly into the iPhone-shaped recess in the back. (There's a compatible silicone case included with the OWLE, though the company also has a list of third-party options that will work.)

We shot one test clip with just an iPhone 4 (left), and a second clip in the exact same position using the OWLE with the included lens and microphone (right).

The OWLE Bubo is ready for action out of the box, but that's really just a starting point. The various standard mounts will accommodate all kinds of fun third-party gadgets. There are four tripod mounts, two on the top and two on the bottom. On the top is a "cold shoe" or accessory mount that can hold external light sources like a Rotolight or a Litepanel, as well as a host of other gadgets that fit the generic mount like the Suction Cup Camera Mount from Filmtools. The OWLE has been carefully designed not to cover any usable ports on the iPhone—there's easy access to the 30-pin dock connector if you're packing an external power-source, a gap for attaching and adjusting external mics, and all external buttons are reachable except for the Sleep/Wake button.

Finally, the kit's 37mm threaded lens mount can be used with other optics and filters. To take the entire set-up to an entirely different level, there's a DSLR lens adapter from Vid-Atlantic that results in a film-like look.

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