If you’re snapping a quick selfie for social media, the lower quality camera on the front of your smartphone is usually just fine. But what if you want to use the higher quality lenses and camera on the back to film yourself? It means you can’t see the screen and no longer have a live preview of yourself for framing. The solution? A simple clamp attachment for iPhones that turns the Apple Watch into a tiny viewfinder.
At first, the $US20 ($27) Ulanzi ST-09 Phone Tripod Mount for Apple Watch seems like a foolish use for the $250+ smartwatch strapped to your wrist. But as you think about it more, you realise the mount solves a problem that many amateur vloggers who rely on their smartphones for all of their production needs run into: using the back camera to film yourself is all but impossible (unless you’re standing in front of a mirror.)
It’s a problem that’s plagued other camera devices too, prompting GoPro (following DJI’s example) to finally add a second front-facing LCD screen to its Hero9 action camera so that it can be used to easily film selfie videos. But don’t expect smartphone makers to follow suit. The screen is a smartphone’s biggest battery drain, so companies like Apple have little incentive to put a second screen on the back of the iPhone that will further reduce the smartphone’s battery life, just to cater to a small group of users. Ulanzi’s solution is the next best thing.
The mount works in a similar fashion to the mounts that allow a smartphone to be attached to a tripod. Its expanding design clamps onto the sides of a smartphone and can accommodate devices ranging from 58 to 89-millimetres in width, so it will work with both the new iPhone 12 Mini and the iPhone 12 Pro Max. On the other side the Ulanzi ST-09 features a mount to hold an Apple Watch with its straps removed. The Ulanzi doesn’t specify which versions of the Apple Watch the mount is designed to hold, but specifically mentions the Series 5, so it might only be compatible with that and the newer Series 6 which are virtually identical in size.
Once mounted and paired to an iPhone, turning the Apple Watch into a live viewfinder is as easy as popping open the Camera Remote application on the watch, and then ensuring the iPhone’s camera app is using one of the rear cameras. For added usability, the Ulanzi ST-09 also features a standard screw mount on the bottom so it can be perched on a tripod or attached to a selfie stick, as well as a cold shoe mount on the top for attaching lights or microphones. Of course, using it at all assumes you have both an iPhone and an Apple Watch, but given Apple’s smartwatch market share, there’s a lot of people already with both.