SmallRig x Brandon Li Mobile Video Kit for iPhone 15 Pro Max review

The SmallRig Brandon Li Mobile Video Kit enables you to capture smooth pans, tracks and tilts whatever the weather

Man holding the SmallRig x Brandon Li Mobile Video Kit
(Image: © George Cairns / Digital Camera World)

Digital Camera World Verdict

The SmallRig Brandon Li Mobile Video Kit’s branded aluminum cage makes your iPhone look more professional as a camera, so people will take you more seriously as a filmmaker. The quick-release handles and remote shutter button help you work more quickly and efficiently and the VND filter enables you to capture better-looking results in contrasting lighting conditions (or achieve a slower shutter speed). It’s just a shame that the edge of the VND filter can appear in ultra-wide-angle shots (but it does a great job using the iPhone’s other lenses).

Pros

  • +

    Works well in wet weather

  • +

    Triggers recordings remotely

  • +

    Quick-release handles for portrait or landscape clips

  • +

    Variable ND filter for sky detail

  • +

    Strong but light aluminum cage

Cons

  • -

    VND filter is visible in ultra-wide-angle shots

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With powerful video shooting features (such as the ability to shoot in LOG color), the latest iPhone models are very useful tools for moviemakers. Built-in features such as optical image stabilization (combined with software stabilization solutions such as Action Mode) mean that you can shoot gimbal smooth footage with a handheld iPhone. 

However, the Brandon Li Mobile Video Kit still has much to offer filmmakers. Created in collaboration with filmmaker Brandon Li the kit consists of an aluminium cage that you slot your iPhone 15 Pro Max into. By using the kit’s side or top-mounted handles you can hold the iPhone in a more comfortable way and capture tripod-steady static shots or perform smoother pans, tilts, cranes, and tracking shots. 

The kit has other tricks up its sleeve as we’ll explore in this full review.

The quick release handles can be quickly deployed in two-handle mode for landscape or portrait oriented filming. (Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)

SmallRig x Brandon Li: Specifications

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Cage Dimensions176.6 × 95.5 × 17.1mm
Handle Dimensions120.6 x 31.7 x 30.79mm
Filter Kit Dimensions67.0 × 67.0 × 6mm
Material(s)Aluminum Alloy, Plastic, Silicone
Product Weight476.0g (+/- 5g)
VND filter 421567 x 67 x 6mm
Filter adapter 3840C55 x 55 x 5.3mm

SmallRig x Brandon Li: Key Features

There are many similar cages and cases available for smartphones but the Brandon Li Mobile Video Kit brings some stylish variations to the traditional cage set-up for iPhone 15 Pro Max users. 

When shooting landscape (horizontal) clips you hold the handles at either side of the cage (like you do with other cage setups). However, if you need to shoot in portrait (vertical) orientation the cleverly designed quick-release clips enable you to remove the handles from the sides and clip them to the top and bottom of the cage in seconds. 

With other smartphone cages such as the SmallRig All-In-One Kit for Smartphones, you need to spend much more time unscrewing and remounting the handles (which could result in you missing a shot!). 

Another key feature is the remote shutter button that is mounted on the right-handle cold shoe mount. This enables you to start and stop shooting with the press of your thumb while you hold the handle securely (rather than having to tap the iPhone Camera app’s onscreen button which can cause your shot to wobble). 

The kit also ships with a VNDR (variable neutral density) filter so you can capture more detail in a landscape’s bright sky (or force your iPhone’s Camera app to use a slower shutter speed.)

The quick release handles can be re-deployed in seconds. Here the ‘top handle’ mode enables you to capture low-angle clips. (Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)

SmallRig x Brandon Li: Design & Handling

The cage is a thing of beauty, with its sleek aluminum frame graduating from a subtle dark green to black. The side handles also bear the same graduated colours plus the cage is branded with film-maker Brandon Li’s signature and the SmallRig logo to illustrate the collaboration between creator and manufacturer. 

Our iPhone 15 Pro Max slipped smoothly into the cage (while being secured and protected by silicone pads). It was clipped safely in place by a one-click locking system. All the iPhone’s buttons were accessible behind the cage’s silicone protective buttons.

The aluminium cage is lightweight but provides protection for your iPhone. Two cold shoe mounts on the cage enable you to attach third party accessories. The magnetically attached variable ND filter also protects your iPhone’s lenses (and keeps the rain off them). (Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)

After unboxing the kit we needed to spend a few minutes setting up the handles’ quick clip release system. Supplied Allen keys could be accessed by flipping open the bottom of each handle. Once the quick-release connectors had been attached to each handle there was no need to use the Allen keys again. By simply pressing a spring-loaded button we could unclip a handle and re-clip it to mounts on the top or side of the cage. 

This innovative quick-release system enables you to shoot in a vertical or horizontal orientation using two side or top handles, or you can mount one handle on the top for low-angle action sequences. There are also cold shoe slots on the edges of the cage, so you can attach third-party accessories such as LED lights or mini shotgun mics (such as the Joby Wavo PRO).

The silicone handles give you a firm grip on the cage so that you can make smooth camera moves. The shutter button on the right helps you snap a shot or capture a clip with ease (and you can swap the button to the other handle for left handed shooting.) (Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)

SmallRig x Brandon Li: Performance

To test the SmallRig Brandon Li Mobile Video Kit I filmed a walk in the countryside with friends and family. While walking, the tactile silicone surface on the handles made it easy for me to carry the iPhone 15 Pro Max, even when the rig was covered in rainwater. I was also able to deploy the iPhone in landscape mode to film interesting events without worrying about it slipping from my grip. 

A gimbal might have struggled on a wet and windy shoot like this (especially if rain got into its motors) - but the SmallRig cage and iPhone 15 Pro Max weren’t as vulnerable to water and I was able to capture gimbal-smooth camera moves with ease thanks to the firm and comfortable hold offered by the kit’s handles (see our supporting video). 

The 5-stop VND (variable neutral density) filter that clips onto the front of the cage was useful in two ways. It enabled me to adjust the amount of light entering the iPhone’s lenses by simply rotating the filter, so I could capture more detail in the sky. The filter could also be detached and re-attached magnetically so it was useful for keeping raindrops off my iPhone’s lenses. This saved me the hassle of having to constantly wipe the lenses. 

You can slide the Bluetooth trigger off its cold shoe mount and start/stop recordings from up to 10 meters.  (Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)

On the downside, the edge of the VND filter was visible in the top left corner of the frame when I shot using the .5x (13 mm) Ultra Wide lens. This wasn’t a huge problem as I was shooting in 4K and could easily crop the edge of the frame to lose the filter - see our supporting video. I could also quickly remove the VND filter when shooting at Ultra Wide thanks to its magnetic properties. The VND filter didn’t obscure the shot when I was using any of the other lenses and it was very effective at capturing bright sky detail in my high-contrast landscape location.

The variable neutral density filter enables you to adjust light by 5 stops to use a slower shutter speed or stop highlights from blowing out. (Image credit: George Cairns / Digital Camera World)

SmallRig x Brandon Li: Verdict

The SmallRig Brandon Li Mobile Video Kit should be an attractive accessory for filmmakers who have invested in an iPhone 15 Pro Max. It enables you to maneuver your iPhone with ease and comfort, capturing gimbal-smooth moves even in adverse weather conditions. 

I especially appreciated the removable Bluetooth shutter button so we could trigger video recordings (or capture stills) from 10 meters away - perfect for vloggers who want to film themselves on location. You can also mount the cage on a tripod (in social-media-friendly portrait or widescreen TV landscape orientations) thanks to ten 1/4-inch threaded holes around its edges. The quick-release handles are a very welcome feature and you can store them and the cage in a supplied soft carry bag after a shoot. 

The branded cage itself looks so sleek and striking that you may be tempted to leave your iPhone in it when your shoot is over.

Alternatives

The branded Brandon Li video cage is only available for the iPhone 15 Pro Max, but if you have an iPhone 15 Pro there is a non-branded SmallRig version that includes similar accessories such as the removable Bluetooth shutter and the handy quick-release handles. SmallRig also sells a SmallRig Creator Kit which consists of a larger and chunkier cage that boasts a universal mount to suit any smartphone model. This Creator Kit also ships with a handy LED that you can slip into one of its cold shoe mounts (plus a mini shotgun mic to improve your production’s sound.)

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George Cairns

George has been freelancing as a photo fixing and creative tutorial writer since 2002, working for award winning titles such as Digital Camera, PhotoPlus, N-Photo and Practical Photoshop. He's expert in communicating the ins and outs of Photoshop and Lightroom, as well as producing video production tutorials on Final Cut Pro and iMovie for magazines such as iCreate and Mac Format. He also produces regular and exclusive Photoshop CC tutorials for his YouTube channel.