While iPhone photographers and videographers can add lights, lenses, and other accessories to their devices with special cases like the Phocus, those planning to use the iPad for video journalism, livestreaming, and filmmaking have been left out. That's about to change, with the imminent arrival of the Padcaster (US$149.00) and Padcaster/Lenscaster combo ($189.00) from The Padcaster, LLC. We first posted about the Padcaster when it debuted at NAB this past April.
In order to provide a way of placing the iPad and accessories onto a tripod, Padcaster CEO Josh Apter and his design team realized that they'd need a large, rigid frame that still protects the iPad from shocks and bumps. They did that by creating an aluminum frame riddled with threaded holes for mounting accessories, then cradling the iPad in a flexible urethane insert. That frame and cradle makes up the Padcaster, which is used with the built-in iPad camera for basic filmmaking.
But what if you want to use other lenses, like those that come with traditional news and film video cameras? No problem -- that's where the Lenscaster piece comes in. It's a separate add-on that can be used with readily available adapters to connect your existing lenses to the iPad (no lenses are included).
I had an opportunity to test a pre-production version of the Padcaster / Lenscaster combo, and I have to say that I'm impressed. I put the Padcaster atop a Manfrotto monopod/tripod that I have, screwing it into one of the many mounting holes around the exterior or the frame. The iPad slips securely into a hard-backed shell with a rubber lip that holds it in place. Around the sides of the Padcaster I attached a small Sima LED light and a mount for a microphone; you could load it up with much more equipment.
Padcaster supplied me with a Lenscaster and several sample lenses as well so I could see how they work for shooting video on the iPad. The aluminum frame is quite rigid, and feels like it can hold up to any amount of weight from accessories dangling hither and yon. And seriously, there are a lot of threaded mounting holes on it -- fourteen 3/8-16 holes and ten 1/4-20 holes. The aluminum frame and interior "case" also have gaps for access to the iPad's headphone port, the power switch, speakers and Dock connector.
The Padcaster folks note that you can remove the urethane iPad insert, which turns your Padcaster into a DSLR cage. Although I didn't try this for the purpose of the review, I can see where the additional utility provided by the design really adds to its value for professional videographers and photographers.
Choice of your favorite filmmaking app is up to you. I used both the iMovie app and Ustream livestreaming app to shoot some video, and with the borrowed wide angle lens, the Padcaster / Lenscaster duo did a great job. Apter noted that Manhattan Edit Workshop will soon be offering online and in-person training on the use of the Padcaster for video production; we'll be sure to let you know when those classes begin.
Anyone who is interested in using an iPad for filmmaking or broadcasting -- either as an amateur or professionally -- should consider getting the Padcaster. It's a brilliantly conceived and well-built accessory that should be extremely popular with the video and filmmaking crowd.
Rigid aluminum frame allows attachment of an array of accessories and mounting on tripods, monopods, or shoulder mounts
Flexible urethane insert cradles the iPad and protects it from shocks and bumps
Optional Lenscaster accessory lens mount allows use of your own existing lenses for wide angle or telephoto videography and will not distort even when used with heavy lenses
Reasonably priced, especially in light of traditional camera accessory pricing
Thin enough to be easily packed into an equipment case for transport
None to speak of
Who is it for?
Professional or prosumer videographers and photographers who want to use their iPads for capturing video and photos or as a mobile broadcast station.