Even when the iPhone camera was “just an afterthought,” it was compelling. Enough to spawn thousands of iOS camera and photo-editing apps. Enough to spark a new iPhotography movement and iPhoneography art form. And, enough to inspire a slew of inventive iPhone camera add-on accessories — from snap-on iPhone wide-angle, fish-eye and macro lenses, to special iPhone cases, grips, mounts, tripods, dollies, and external flash and memory card attachments.
When tech reviewers describe the most notable of these iPhone camera add-on accessories, you’d think they were talking about the newly unveiled iPhone all over again. Mashable calls them unique, Macworld dubs them cool and Mac|Life hails them as awesome. Gigaom counts them among their favorite things, PCWorld declares them must-haves, and ZDNet, ABC News/Tech This Out (video) and Wired/Gadget Labs say they’re the best.
But now comes an emerging line of app-enabled or app-enhanced iPhone camera accessories — a.k.a, app accessories or appcessories. Each of them comes with a special iOS app that enables the camera accessory to work with your iPhone and deliver a promise. At the moment, their promises are focused on giving you:
- 360° panoramic photo and video imaging;
- Robotic panning and framing of subjects; and,
- Remote trigger control of an SLR or DSLR camera.
So here’s a snapshot of these app-enhanced or app-enabled iPhone camera accessories, organized by function. You’ll see that many of them came to life on community-funding sites, such as Kickstarter, and a few have yet to hit retailers’ shelves in 2012. Some can be used with an iPod Touch camera, but most have yet to adapt to the iPad camera.
For your guidance, I have included links to helpful technical and user reviews, where available. Since I will be doing this dynamically going forward, be sure to link to or bookmark this post so you can return for an update from time to time. To get more information or purchase an item, simply hover over, tap or click its name or purchase options. An affiliate or other link should take you to a place where you can do both.
Panoramic 360° Imaging
iPhone Camera Add-on Accessories
What it is: Dot is a pocket-sized 360º lens attachment and app for the iPhone 4 and 4S.
What it does: Dot lets your iPhone capture immersive, navigable and panoramic video in real-time. You can share your panoramic photos and videos with friends on your iPhone, as well as on Facebook and Twitter, or stream them online using Kogeto’s web platform and player. For more info, see Dot’s successful Kickstarter campaign, Kogeto’s website or any of the sites listed on their media page.
Companion App: Looker, free.
Reviews: Laptop Magazine, The Gadgeteer, USA Today, Macworld, TechCrunch, PCMag and Canadian Reviewer. This iPhone camera add-on just misses reviewers’ perfect ratings due to its less-than-stellar video quality, some handling awkwardness and the inability to snap over iPhone cases. However, these flaws have not stopped it from making it to multiple reviewers’ top, best, must-have and essential iPhone camera add-on accessories lists since it launched in 2011.
What it is: GoPano micro is a lens that you can snap onto an iPhone 4 or 4S that enables you to create 360° panoramic videos.
What it does: GoPano Micro funnels light from all directions into the iPhone’s camera and then transforms this image into a live 360° interactive scene that you can control. Using its companion app , simply swipe across the view on your iPhone screen to pan or spin the iPhone around you. Then instantly upload and share your 360° videos on the GoPano website and beyond. For more info, visit GoPano Micro’s successful Kickstarter campaign, GoPano’s website or any of the media sites listed on GoPano’s “As Seen In” Facebook page.
Companion App: GoPano, free.
Reviews: Macworld, The Gadgeteer, Gear Diary, ChipChick, Technology Tell, Engadget (Video, via 5mintech), Lazy Tech Guys and Technopolis TV (video). Most reviewers give this iPhone camera add-on high marks, shaving points only for its non-commercial video quality, arguably unstable lens-to-case fitting, lack of better mirror protection, and share-ability with other iOS devices that do not have the GoPano app installed. Nonetheless, this small iPhone camera accessory gadget seems to be making giant waves everywhere it lands.
What it is: The BubbleScope is a 360° imaging accessory for the iPhone and other smartphones. It captures 360° panoramic views — both stills and video — in a single click.
What it does: BubbleScope and its companion app create immersive 360º video and still photos of your immediate environment. It captures the entire environment panoramically in a single moment — no stitching or waiting required. For more info, check out BubbleScope’s successful Crowdfunder campaign, the BubblePix app website, BubblePix on Facebook, and the hands-on impressions of Pocket-Lint.
Companion App : BubblePix, free.
Reviews: No reviews as of yet.
Purchase options/Updates: Will be commercially available in the summer of 2012.
Robotic Mounts & Platforms
iPhone Camera Add-on Accessories
What it is: Swivl is an interactive, hands-free controller with wireless mic for your iPhone, iPod Touch or other pocket camera. It has two main hardware components: a motorized, swiveling base to carry your iPhone and a small external marker for you or your subject to carry.
What it does: Mount your iPhone on Swivl’s robotic platform, carry the Swivl marker on your person and then watch the iPhone camera follow you as it videotapes — panning and tilting as needed, and recording sound with the marker’s built-in wireless mic. The companion app enables you to remotely control video recording and easily share your videos. This iPhone camera add-on is tripod-compatible. For more information, visit Swivl’s successful IndieGoGo campaign, and Swivl’s website and Facebook page.
Companion App: Swivl, free.
Reviews: PCMag, All Things D, Revision3 (video), Laptop Magazine, Web Video University (video), Digital Savant, Tech Savvy Agent, BestStuff.com. Reviewers seem genuinely impressed by this iPhone camera add-on and enjoy it uniqueness and versatility. They comment on its occasional tracking stutter, especially with vertical tilting, but also think it is a great tool for video conferencing, classroom lectures and personal use. They also question its price. Overall, they give it an enthusiastic thumb’s up, along with some constructive advice.
Purchase options: Satarii recently announced a new model called Swivl-it, priced about $50 less than the original. It retains most of the features of the original except for a built-in mic (which you can purchase later) and automatic tilting or vertical framing (which you can now control manually and remotely using the marker). You can order Swivl-it on the Swivl website.
What it is: The Galileo is an iOS-controlled robotic iPhone mount capable of orienting an iPhone or iPod Touch camera to remotely and precisely follow a subject with a finger swipe on another iOS device or mouse slide on a computer.
What it does: Dock an iPhone or iPod touch on Galileo, then remotely control its pan and tilt using another iOS device ( iPhone 4+, iPad 2+ or latest iPod touch), desktop or laptop. Capable of infinite 360º pan-and-tilt at speeds up to 200º per second in any direction, Galileo enables remote time-lapse photography, interactive video chats, conferencing and surveillance. It also serves as a charging station and is tripod-compatible. For more info, visit Galileo’s successful Kickstarter campaign and the Motrr website.
Companion App: Galileo, free. Not yet available for download.
Reviews: No reviews as of yet.
Purchase options/Updates: Begins shipping to Kickstarter backers at the end of June 2012, after which price will be set at $129.95. Until then, the Galileo Kickstarter site will still take orders from backers at a discounted $85.
Remote SLR/DSLR Camera Triggers
iPhone Camera Add-on Accessories
What it is: Triggertrap is an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch attachment that enables you to trigger your SLR camera in more than a dozen ways. It converts your iDevice into a configurable remote release for your built-in or SLR/DLSR camera.
What it does: Attach the Triggertrap dongle to your iOS device’s 30-pin connector and then connect it with a cable to your SLR camera. A free companion app then enables you to shoot your SLR in three modes: Cable release, seismic and time lapse. The premium app gives you nine more trigger modes: Eased timelapse, sound sensor, metal-and-magnetism sensor, facial recognition, HDR, HDR time lapse, distance-lapse, motion detection and star trail. Both apps can be used to trigger your iDevice camera independently of the dongle. For more information, visit Triggertrap’s successful Kickstarter campaign and the Triggertrap website.
Reviews: DIY Photography, App Advice, TogTech, Cult of Mac and TRSmoothie (video). Not too many reviewers out there yet with hands-on reviews of Triggertrap, but even those who venture a preview review opinion are nodding in approval. Three app accessory features impress them the most abou this iPhone camera add-on appcessory: Its sheer number of trigger modes, some never-before-seen trigger modes, and the ability to use the app with the iPhone camera. It would seem that Triggertrap has a hands-down winner here.
Purchase options: Besides the (optional) premium app and dongle, you would also have to purchase a camera cable that connects to your specific SLR/DLSR camera. At $10 apiece, an all-out investment would come to $30 for this iPhone camera app accessory.
What it is: TriggerHappy is a cable-and-app combo that enables the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad – as well as their Android counterparts — to control many different kinds of SLR/DSLR cameras.
What it does: With the companion app downloaded and the meter-long cable connecting your iDevice and camera, you can trigger the camera for one shot or set off a finely-configured time lapse trigger mode to get the precise shutter length, interval, duration and number of shots per interval that you want. You can also manipulate exposures and bulb ramping (bramping) for day-to-night and other varying light time lapses. TriggerHappy has an HDR mode and plans to add accelerometer, face, lightning and audio waveform-driven trigger capabilities. For more information, visit TriggerHappy’s successful Kickstarter campaign and the TriggerHappy website.
Companion App: TriggerHappy, free. Not yet available for download.
Reviews: No reviews as of yet, but a great deal of anticipation.
Purchase options: TriggerHappy will begin shipping out July 2012. Until then, you can still pre-order the app accessory from the TriggerHappy website at a 30 percent discount.
IOSHUTTER CAMERA REMOTE by Enlight Photo
What it is: The ioShutter Camera Remote offers a cable and app combination that lets you control your SLR/DSLR camera’s shutter with an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch.
What it does: Plug one end of the ioShutter 90-cm cable into your iDevice’s headphone jack and the other into the camera’s remote terminal, launch the companion app and start shooting. You get six trigger modes to work or play with: A standard trigger, time-lapse, sound trigger (ClapToSnap), motion trigger (ShakeToTake), bulb and timer. For more information, visit ioShutter website.
Reviews: TogTech, App Advice, The Digital Story, Cult of Mac. This iPhone camera add-on is unanimously praised by reviewers, with very little complaint. They especially praise its attractive interface, straightforward set up and use, fun motion and sound trigger modes, and highly configurable trigger settings. Only having to pay for the pro app version seems to cause heartburn.
Purchase options/Updates: Together, ioShutter Shutter Release Cable for Canon (E3) and ioShutter Shutter Release Cable for Canon (N3) cover Canon, Hasselblad, Samsung and Pentax cameras. Nikon camera cables will be released in the summer of 2012.
Have I missed other great app-enhanced iPhone camera add-on accessories? Let me know below.