Reviewed by Josh Pederson (Pop Culture Cosmos)
SMART PHONE PHOTOGRAPHY
The rise of smartphones have kickstarted quite a few technological revolutions, giving ordinary people the ability to do things we never before thought we could do, at least not outside of certain industries and tax brackets. Things that were once exclusive to filmmakers, photographers, music engineers and analysts are now not only within our grasp, but all available on the same device. And while those fields might always be one step ahead of the capabilities of smart phones and tablets, you no longer have to spend an arm and a leg to open that world.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Bitplay, they’re a company from Taiwan who have grabbed the smart phone revolution by the horns and harnessed it into something new entirely. With the various accessories they’ve put out on the market, you no longer have to go out and spend hundreds of dollars on a DSLR camera and everything you need to make it work, because you can physically transform your iPhone into that very thing.
SOME INFORMATION ABOUT THE PRODUCT
At first look the Bitplay SNAP!7 case looks like your average iPhone case, minus the attachment at the bottom that allows you to attach more attachments. While it comes in either black or white and can certainly take a beating (which it did when my dog knocked it out of my hands), it’s not your typical case in the fact that it doesn’t exactly compliment the sleek design of the iPhone when all of the accessories aren’t attached. That’s not say you can’t use it as a case, it’s just not very sexy. As for the lens, Bitplay has a variety of them to choose from, ranging from wide-angle to fish-eye and if you want to go full hipster you can get ultra wide-angle and full frame fish-eye. Or, if you want to stay in the middle of that spectrum, there’s the telephoto lens, which I had the privilege of reviewing.
Here’s a rundown of the specs on this particular lens. It has a 3x magnification, 13mm threads that allow it to mount safely to the SNAP!7 case, and a minimum focus distance of 230mm. As far as durability goes, you would have to literally drop this lens out of an airplane or shoot it out of a cannon to get it to break, assuming you keep the lens cap on. It’s made of high quality aluminum, weighs about 15 grams and is about 29mm x 19mm. So yeah, it’s pretty small, and when you’re not using it you can take it off of the phone and stick it safely in your pocket without fear of breaking or scratching it.
The SNAP!7 case is both an innovative idea and well executed. The photographs from the website don’t really do it justice. Everything from the ergonomic camera grip to the shutter button placed conveniently above the grip allows your phone to not only do the things that a regular point and shoot camera can do, it also makes your phone look and feel like a regular point and shoot camera. You can even mount it on a tripod if you wanted to.
The telephoto lens takes your iPhone pictures to the next level, by not only allowing more light into your pictures, but it also refines the subjects of your pictures, giving them a more crisp and vibrant quality. As mentioned above it’s durable and can be easily removed and stored without fear of breaking or scratching the lens, as long as the lens cap and sensor cover are put in place.
Unlike some of the earlier attempts at cell phone lenses and accessories that have stayed on the market for only a few months and ultimately ended in the dissatisfaction of consumers, Bitplay has created something truly unique. Don’t let the bad stigma of lackluster phone accessories prevent you from checking these out. And certainly don’t let the size of the lens make you think that it’s a cheap piece of junk. It’s actually far from it.
Before we kick this section off, let me reiterate this, the product is great. Both the case and the lens are very durable (unlike some point and shoot cameras) and it really takes the concept of smart phone photography to an entirely new platform.
However . . .
Like most companies that make accessories for smart phones, Bitplay wants you to buy as many things as possible. That being said, in order to really get the most out of their unique and innovative accessory lineup, you have to buy several of them. For example, you can’t use the lens without the SNAP!7 case, and if you want to really experience what these lenses can do, you have to buy them all because they each come separately or in a kit that has everything you need. And with the cost of the case starting at $50 and the lenses landing anywhere from $25 to $100 depending on where you’re buying them, it can add up pretty fast.
Then there’s the fact that at the end of the day, it’s still an iPhone camera. While the lenses and accessories open up and entirely new world of quality picture taking, there are several things that you don’t have at your disposal that many professionals do. You still can’t adjust things like Iris, white balance, ISO, there aren’t any focus rings on the lenses, and unless you have trained eyes, there’s no way to tell what’s over-exposed in your photos. And these things certainly aren’t the fault of Bitplay, they’re just unfortunate circumstances of smart phone photography.
Bitplay has gone where few smart phone accessory companies have gone before. As mentioned above, the idea is unique and innovative, opening doors for all kinds of photography enthusiasts and might even ignite some dormant passion in those who didn’t know they liked this kind of thing. Not only are these products a cheaper alternative to a DSLR camera, they’re durable and built to withstand more than your average smart phone impact.
Would I recommend Bitplay accessories over a standard point and shoot camera? Absolutely. Would I recommend it over a DSLR camera? It all depends on what your interest is and what you’re trying to do with it. As a cinematographer I would say no, and it’s not due to anything on Bitplay’s part, it’s the unfortunate limitations of the smart phone. However, as somebody who likes to take pictures at times when it’s inconvenient to lug all of my gear around, these accessories are definitely nice to have.
The Bitplay SNAP!7 and telephoto lens are perfect for turning your iPhone into something more. And anybody who’s just starting out would do well to take a look at what Bitplay has to offer. It’s the first time something like this has been done right and is actually worth spending the money on.
(Please note that for this review, Pop Culture Cosmos did receive a review model for the game from the Public Relations Firm, Developer and/or Publisher responsible for distribution to the press.)