Shoot, edit, share – the mantra of modern photography in our instant world and the mission statement of nearly every hardware and software developer in this genre. Incipio, a southern California-based designer and manufacturer of mobile device accessories, recently provided GearDiary with the new Incipio Focal Camera Case for iPhone5/5s, a device promising to make you photograph like a pro.
As a professional photographer I was quite interested in this assertion by Incipio and jumped at the chance to review the unit provided by them. Reading further into the press release that accompanied the device I determined the $69.99 Focal Camera Case was more realistically going to turn the phone into a point and shoot camera but hey, even some of us pros carry point and shoot cameras these days as those have gotten pretty darned good themselves.
On quick examination after opening the package the case is a two-piece, snap-together design that is easy to attach around the phone and just as easy to remove. It is constructed of a fairly rugged polymer (aka, plastic) and features a vegan leather grip on its face for more convenient one-handed use. A wrist strap is attached for additional security.
The case works via Bluetooth with the downloadable free inCAMERA app from Incipio Technologies. A battery in the case powers the unit and is rated for some 300 hours of use. External controls on the case include power button, zoom controls and shutter button, all on the top of the case when used horizontally. And of course the case provides access to all of your phone’s jacks and controls and has a large cutout for the device camera lens and flash. On screen the inCAMERA app offers selectable grid, level, flash, front/rear camera and timer functions.
We gave the Focal Camera Case a good shakedown on a cruise through a wildlife safari park while we were recently testing a new convertible. I primarily used my phone one-handed and the shutter button made it very easy to do this. I rarely use the zoom function on my phone as it is not an optical zoom but a digital one so all that happens is the image loses resolution and clarity but at normal range one can shoot some very interesting images, especially when safari animals are in hot pursuit of a bag of feed pellets.
Upon review of my first images I quickly realized the Incipio app shoots an image that is very wide, comparable to that of the widescreen movie aspect ratio. I am not a big fan of this as I prefer more traditional aspect ratios (width compared to height of the image), something more like what I get when using my professional DSLR cameras or even my point and shoot. I found myself cutting heads off quite a few animals with the ultra-wide Incipio ratio. What worsens this is the fact the image on screen of the device is not the image you will see in your camera roll, the Incipio app will crop the saved image on its narrow aspects.
On digging a bit deeper into the actual image sizes I found the iPhone iOS camera app saves the image as 3264×2448 pixels for an image size on the range of 3-4MB. The Incipio app saves the image at 1920×1080 (HD ratios) at around 600KB, significantly smaller for me and other professionals using our devices. Another big scowl came to my face when I realized the iPhone’s HDR functions do not work with the Incipio app and inCAMERA does not offer HDR mode.
I also discovered the inCAMERA app does not focus as fast as the iOS camera so some of my Focal Camera Case images were not sharp where every one of the images I shot with the iOS camera were.
One thing I would have liked to see on this camera case is a tripod mount but I realize that would have just added girth to its design and there are aftermarket spring-loaded clips that can hold this case should I need to use it with a tripod. Since there is no electrical connection between case and device I realized the Focal case could be used as a remote trigger for the camera function. I stepped off a range of just over 30 feet that the Bluetooth would function and trigger the camera when removed from the case. Nice unexpected touch.
Users can edit the images they shoot from the inCAMERA app. This opens up a very flexible photo editor that allows enhancments, cropping, tone and contrast adjustments and just about every other feature found in most of today’s device photo apps. Incipio also features the ability to add text, stickers and frames to your images before saving and sharing them via the many modern social media outlets.
Shoot, edit, share. Yes, the Incipio Focal Camera Case and inCAMERA app allow users to do all of these fairly well within the guidelines I mentioned above. If this were the first device I had ever come across for my iPhone I might give it serious consideration but as I have been using the iOS device for several iterations now I would not give this case another look. Apple has gone to great lengths to give iPhoneographers high-resolution image capability, HDR and a host of other features including quick use of the device from the lock screen that Incipio defeats with this system. Get yours here! www.Incipio.com
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample of the Incipio Focal Camera Case with inCAMERA photo app
What I Like: Real shutter button, access to all camera controls, Bluetooth connectivity, free camera app
What Needs Improvement: Image aspect ratio (although this can be altered in the crop menu of the edit app after-the-fact), Image size, HDR function, auto-focus speed