Nova: Bluetooth flash for iPhone

The Nova Bluetooth flash for iPhone is a great idea and some people are really pleased with it, others less so. It's got lots of potential but when will it get there?

iPhone camera

There are many times when your iPhone camera flash just isn’t up for the job. Either you need light from a different angle (ever notice how phone-based flashes tend to wash out the subject?) or you need a warmer or cooler flash than your iPhone provides. You, my friend, might be interested in the Nova, a Bluetooth LE flash.

The Nova is a small panel (3.375 by 2.125 by 0.25 inches) that houses 20 LEDs which are split into cool and warm groups. The panel is powered by a built-in rechargeable battery via a mini USB port on one edge.

Nova BT Flash Nova

Using the companion NovaCamera app (the only app so far that can work with the panel although there is an API for developers) you can select the specific quality of light the flash should produce when it takes a picture. Your choices Gentle, Warm, Bright, and Custom (the latter allows you to set the intensity of both groups of LEDs).

Nova BT flash iOS app

The camera app is OK but not great. It provides filters and effects as well as the ability to change image attributes such as focus (which produces an adjustment that mimics the depth of field of an SLR), cropping, orientation, etc.

That said, as one review in theApple App Store pointed out, when you change from portrait to landscape orientation, the capture button moves to the middle of the long side of the screen making it difficult to take a photo with one hand (note that the Apple camera app doesn’t move the button when the orientation is changed; looks like Apple thought it through).  

As an app review in the Apple App Store pointed out, there’s no option to keep the panel lit which means there’s no possibility to set up a shot without repeatedly triggering the panel in test mode and it can’t be used for video (the app only supports taking stills). The lack of a trigger button on the flash panel is obvious as is the lack of a builtin camera mount.

All of those criticisms withstanding, the app still has a 4+ rating on the Apple App Store which means that despite the product’s failings it does a reasonable job that many people appreciate.

The Nova is now available for $59.99 at While I like the product concept, in common with the more critical reviewers on the Apple App Store, I can't give the Nova a Gearhead rating of more than  3 out of 5 ... so close, guys; just get your code polished and out there and I'll gladly take another look.

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