When it comes to tiny format, there is a lot of gear, software, and services out there to choose from. Variety is great, but it can sometimes makes it hard to separate the signal from the noise. That’s why I’ve put together this list for you. I only recommend things that I use myself, so consider this your shortcut to finding the best stuff out there.
Just a quick note… if you are serious about tiny format photography, do yourself a favor and get an iPhone that has dual, built-in cameras. Wide angle shots are great, but having a separate telephoto lens is so transformative, you’ll wonder how you you ever got along without it.
Best: iPhone X
The iPhone X is Apple’s top of the line iPhone with dual cameras (wide angle and telephoto). Its got a sleek new form factor that finally does away with the top and bottom bezels as well as the dedicated home button. This new iPhone is all screen – edge to edge. In fact, it uses OLED screen technology which produces a lot more image contrast compared to other iPhones. There is a lot of new tech in this phone, but when it comes to photography, this iPhone has the best camera we’ve seen to date. I wrote a detailed pre-review of the phone that details all of the new camera upgrades Apple packed into this beauty.
Better: iPhone 8plus (Apple)
Camera wise, the iPhone 8plus is almost identical to the iPhone X with one notable exception: it only has optical image stabilization in the wide angle lens (the iPhone X has OIS in both lenses). Other than OIS, image quality is going be identical to the iPhone X because they both use the same image sensors and chips. The form factor of the the 8plus is the same as the iPhone 7plus so all your existing lenses, cases, and accessories should work out of the box. This is the camera I’m shooting with now (before the iPhone X becomes available in November) and I love the better image quality and other camera improvements.
Really Good: iPhone 7plus (Apple)
This was Apple’s first generation dual camera iPhone. I’ve shot thousands of photos with the iPhone 7plus and continue to be impressed with it’s image quality. Now that the iPhone 8plus is here, the 7plus has become my backup camera. That said, it’s still a wonderful choice for anyone looking for a less expensive way to get serious about tiny format photography with an iPhone.
Google Pixel & Samsung Galaxy Note 8
I don’t shoot with Android phones but if i did… I would have a Google Pixel XL (Amazon) or a Samsung Galaxy Note 8 (Amazon). The Samsung has dual cameras (wide angle and telephoto), as well as the latest camera sensors. But Google is crazy committed to mobile photography – so I expect a new Pixel to be released any day. Google even makes my favorite editing program: Snapseed. If you want shoot with an Android phone, these are the ones to watch.
I’ve been using Moment lenses for a few years and they just keep getting better. The folks at Moment recently redesigned the optics of their wide lens (which I use all the time) as well as the entire mounting system. These are very well built lenses with incredible optics. Best of all, they are so tiny, you can carry them all in the side pocket of your bag.
- Moment New Wide Lens (Amazon) – If I could only have one add-on lens this would be it. It’s wider than the wide angle of the iPhone, but not wide enough to distort the image.
- Moment New Macro Lens (Amazon) – This lens allows you to get tiny things in razor sharp focus as close as one inch away from the camera! That’s what you need when trying to photograph the texture of a leaf, a grasshopper, or the iris of your best friend’s eyeball. I keep finding new creative ways to use this lens.
- Moment New Superfish (Amazon) – this is a crazy wide-angle lens that gives you a 170 degree view. It’s so wide that the horizon or any straight lines will appear curved. I use this lens when the Moment Wide lens isn’t wide enough or when I want a “fisheye” effect.
- Moment New Tele – (Amazon) – this lens is for you if your phone doesn’t have dual built-in cameras. It will get you 2x closer to the action and really change up the perspective of your tiny format photos. I shot this lens extensively before I got my iPhone 7plus and love the telephoto effect it gives to images.
- Photo Case (Amazon) – all the Moment lenses now attach to the phone via their photo case. I actually hate cases but this one is very thin. I’ve also grown fond of the walnut wood they use which provides just enough texture to grip and shoot the phone one handed.
Tripods & Stabilization
Sometimes having a tripod is essential for shooting at slow shutter speeds, making a shake-free video, or the occasional selfie (no-selfie sticks allowed). Here’s what I use most:
- Joby GP3 Gorillapod (Amazon) – this odd looking thing is the swiss army knife of table-top tripods. You can stand it upright or bend the legs to create different shapes. It’s perfect for places where you aren’t allowed you to use a tripod (like most tourist vantage points). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve contorted this thing to wrap around a railing or mount the top of a park bench.
- Gitzo Traveler (Amazon) – When I need to travel with a full height tripod I bring my Gitzo. Gitzo has been the gold standard for travel tripods since as long as I can remember. They aren’t cheap, but this tripod will literally last you forever. I bought mine over 20 years ago, and in that time, Gitzo has made some amazing improvements – including getting the weight down to just over 2 pounds and shrinking the compacted length down to a mere 14 inches! It’s easy to strap this thing to your shoulder bag and forget it’s there.
- Really Right Stuff BH-25 Ballhead (RRS)- the ballhead is thing that allows you to fluidly position the camera while it’s attached to the tripod. It’s also the thing that keeps your expensive camera from falling off the tripod and into a river. Most tripods come with crap ballheads – which is just crazy to me. That’s why I use ballheads from Really Right Stuff (RRS). These fine folks make rock solid ballheads, clamps, and a whole lot more. I love the BH-25 for tiny format because it’s small and doesn’t weigh much.
- MeFoto Sidekick 360 Plus (Amazon) – this is the clamp that secures your smartphone to the ballhead. Its got a dovetail foot that fits right into the clamp on any RSS ballhead. I like the MeFoto because it’s not too expensive, is all metal, and can be used asa stand on it’s own when you don’t need a tripod.
Here’ s a photo of the Gorillapod, BH-25 and Sidekick in action:
- Snapseed – my all around favorite editing program. I used this to edit everything I shoot with my phone. Thank you Google!
- VSCO – I love this program for color grading images. It comes with a bunch of great tools but you can buy tons of cool preset styles that will give your photos hip new looks.
- Noiseware – great program for reducing noise in your images.
- Adobe Lightroom – another great editing program that I’ll sometimes use when I need to move a series of images between my phone and the desktop version of Lightroom.
- Social Print Studio – my favorite way to print images directly from my phone.
- PhotoCard – high quality way to produce and send post cards of your images through the mail.
Bags, Cases, Organizers
Tiny format gear doesn’t take up that much space but we still need a few bags for storage and travel. Day to day I like to use a small shoulder bag or pouch.
- Domke F3X Super Compact Bag (Amazon) – this is my favorite “Go Bag”. You can fit a ton of gear in this tiny bag but still have plenty of room for other essentials. Lots of pockets and compartments make it easy to work out of but it isn’t bulky. In fact, because the bag is all canvas with no rigid walls, it molds itself to your hip or flattens nicely when you need to pack it in your luggage. The bag also has bottom mounting loops that are perfect for lashing a Gorillapod or Traveler tripod to it using a few Red Whips.
- ThinkTank Little Stuff It! (Amazon) – My favorite pouch. You can wear in on your belt or just throw it in your bag. They are great for holding a power pack plus any other little bits of gear. Sometimes I’ll leave the bag at home and just take one or two of these. Other times, I’ll use them for organizing gear inside my Domke.
- ThinkTank Red Whips (Amazon) – I use these little cable wraps for a lot of things. First and foremost, they keep my cords and cables from becoming a tangled mess. I also use them to lash my tripods to the bottom of my should bag or whenever I need to secure one piece of gear to another.