Turn your iPhone into an even better digital camera

Bitplay accessories add grips, lenses and protective case to enhance your shooting experience

Bitplay Professional Camera case for iPhone 6/6S

Since the time a mobile phone vendor first added a camera lens (creating the ‘camera phone’), we’ve seen improvements to the lenses, megapixels and software, but not much else on the outside. While you’ve likely given up using a regular digital camera in favor of your smartphone, for truly professional photographs you likely have invested in a larger DLSR-style camera (with the costs associated with that).

If you’re looking for something that helps enhance your existing iPhone but not to the level of the DLSR space, Bitplay has some accessories that can help. The company recently sent me a bunch of their Snap! line of camera cases and accessories – the SNAP! Pro, the Snap! 7 and one add-on wide-angle lens.

The Snap! Pro Professional Camera case (About $270, ships from Japan, tested with the iPhone 6S) includes a variety of accessories:

  • A protective case that includes a physical shutter button (that pushes the lower volume button used in photo apps).
  • Two types of ergonomic grips that slide onto the case (one a very nice walnut wood version), giving your three fingers on your right hand (middle, ring finger and pinky) more stability when taking a shot.
  • A “steadiness-enhanced thumb rest” that slides into the case next to the physical shutter button, giving the thumb on your right hand more comfort when shooting.
  • Two types of wrist straps (including one leather) that tie onto the strap hole on the case.
  • One wide-angle Macro lens (0.68x); other lenses are sold separately (up to 6 choices)
  • Lens bag, a screwdriver (for replacing the grips) and some extra screws.
  • The case is compatible with tripods, but only if you use the ergonomic grip, not the wood one.

If you don’t want to mess around with screwdrivers and the wooden grip, the second option is the SNAP! 7 Professional Camera case ($50, we used the one for the iPhone 7). This version includes a quick-install hand grip (it screws into the side of the case with a dial for easy installation), the physical shutter button on the case and the steadiness-enhancing thumb rest. It’s also tripod compatible with the screw thread on the bottom of the hand grip. No extra lenses here – you have to buy those separately.

Bitplay lens options Bitplay

Lens options (sold separately) for the Bitplay Snap! cases include things like polarizing lens, HD wide angle and fisheye.

While the additional accessories are great to help steady your hand or put on a tripod, the main reason you’d want this system is to use the add-on lenses, since they greatly improve some of the shots you can make with the iPhone. The lenses (up to six different types available, ranging in cost from $25 up to $100 per lens) easily screw into the back of the case. This differs from other lenses I’ve tried, which usually clip onto the side of the iPhone, covering the lens. That’s a nice idea but then the lenses become useless once Apple changes the width of their new phones. The theory here is that if the case design has to change for future iPhone models, you can still use the older lenses because they would screw into the case, not rely on the width of the phone.

Bitplay camera case with hand and lens attachment Bitplay

The ergonomic grip lets gives you solid support for taking one-handed photos with your iPhone (physical shutter button on top; not shown: thumb rest)

Getting the case onto the phone isn’t overly complicated – it’s tight enough to create a good seal (although it’s not waterproof, and there’s nothing to protect the display), but still not too tight that it’s hard to slip on or off (although once it’s on you’ll probably want to keep it on for a while). The extra items like the grip and the thumb rest will cause some additional weight to the phone, and if you use a docking station to recharge your phone you might need to think of another option (like charging via regular cable).

While you can use the Camera app on your iPhone to take pictures (or any other app that utilizes the lower volume button as a shutter), the company also offers its own free app – Snap! Pro – which includes a bunch of extra filters, layouts and frames for your photos, as well as pro settings such as shutter speed, ISO, exposure rate and white balance. Using the app along with the accessories can help you become a more professional photographer by just using your regular iPhone.

Some photo examples:

Here are some photos I took with my iPhone 6S, with some of the lenses used:

Spiderman Funko Pop salt shaker close-up Keith Shaw

Image taken with the macro lens from Bitplay on my iPhone 6S (object is a Spider-Man salt shaker).

IDG Enterprise editorial cubicles Keith Shaw / Network World

Row of cubicles taken with the normal iPhone 6S lens.

IDG edit cubicles wide-angle lens iphone 6S Keith Shaw / Network World

Row of cubicles taken with wide-angle lens attachment from Bitplay on iPhone 6S.

Bottom line: For iPhone owners looking to go beyond the standard photo settings and try to see whether they should make the jump to the next level of camera, these accessories can be a great way to take a small step first.

Grade: 4.5 stars (out of five)

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