Here at The Phoblographer, we get plenty of emails from folks with ideas for ways to trick out your phone in order to help it take better photographs. These ideas almost always come with a Kickstarter link attached. Yet, most are variations on things that already exist. What you see above is the first item that made us take a step back and say, “There’s something there.” The case resting on top of my iPhone 5 is called the COVR Photo, the brainchild of Thomas Hurst, a Seattle-based photojournalist with a wealth of experience. The COVR Photo is a case designed for the iPhone 5/5S, with a 6/6+ one in the works, that has a prism lens for making iPhone photography a little more candid. Essentially, you can hold the phone like you do when you text, but you can make a photograph of whatever’s in front of you.
Pros and Cons
-Clean prism lens provides excellent image quality
-The lens slides down, which makes it easy to use the regular lens, and it’s flush with the iPhone to prevent dust from collecting underneath.
-Complimentary COVR app flips the image right-side up
-The case is a bit too snug, which makes it a bit complicated should you need to take it off.
-The prism is fixed so that you can only take vertical images. If you want to make horizontal images, it would have to be to the left or the right. Essentially, a prism lens that can rotate out would be a fantastic addition.
-When a photo’s made, the screen flashes white, which can prove distracting. It would be better if the screen would black out, like the dedicated camera app.
I used the COVR Photo with an iPhone 5.
The COVR Photo has a sliding prism lens that allows the iPhone to be held like a remote control. The prism reflects what’s in front of it, so that the camera can see forward while technically pointing down. The prism’s design, however, causes the image to be upside down. The complimentary COVR Photo app flips the image right side up.
What sets the COVR Photo apart from every other case on the market is its prism lens. Since it isn’t collapsible, it’ll add a slight bump to your phone, which’ll be just fine in your pocket. The glass manages to stay clean, though a quick pass with the fabric of your shirt will get any smudges off.
The back of the prism has a depressed area that makes sliding it down rather easy. It slides snugly into place at both ends, and black felt on its underside guards against any scuff marks on your phone.
It’s worth noting the clever design here. The prism is designed in such a way so that in order for the prism to be perfectly parallel with your image, you have to tilt your phone slightly towards you. This way, anyone in front of you won’t necessarily catch sight of your screen.
The COVR Photo is mostly a hard plastic shell for your phone that can be a task to both put on and take off. There’s very little give with the case, so once you get it on, it’s there to stay. Thomas Hurst, COVR’s creator, told me over Skype that he had gone through hundreds of designs before settling on the current one, favoring stability and security over potentially compromising the prism’s integrity.
Should you need to, there is a way to get to get the case off. Slide the prism all the way back and push up a bit to pop that corner out. Halfway down the right side of the case, there’s a slight gap. Use your thumbnail here to get a bit of leverage, and pop the body out a little more. Alternatively, you could pop out the bottom right corner, and gently wiggle the whole thing out. It takes a bit of patience, but it is possible.
Ease of Use
Pop it on, and shoot better street photos with your iPhone to your heart’s content. Just be sure to download the corresponding app first. Otherwise, you’ll be composing images upside down–but you can always flip it later on. It’s also important to note that the COVR app retains the camera’s ability to make photos with the volume buttons. The case couldn’t be simpler to use, and the sliding prism makes it easy to revert to the dedicated camera if you need to. The only sticking point is the process by which you have to take it off. With the mini-tutorial above, though, you should be okay.
Look at that fashionable lady. A number of friends have asked about the optical quality of the prism, if it degrades the image quality. I can safely say that the prism has no impact on image quality. Its impact is in its ability to make mobile street photography far easier than its ever been. Any slips in image quality are on the iPhone, not the case.
Extra Image Samples
-Prism provides a great way to practice mobile street photography
-The sliding aspect makes it easy to revert to the original camera
-The app retains the ability to make photos with the volume buttons
-No rotating lens
-Case is a bit too tight
This is the first mobile product to really hold our attention. Personally, I recognized what it could do almost immediately upon reading the email, and I laid claim to the review as soon as I could. The COVR Photo is a great modified case that is a boon for mobile street photographers everywhere. Of course, it’s not just for street photographers. Anyone who wants to practice candid photography or who doesn’t always have both hands free will get a lot of this case.
The COVR Photo could benefit greatly from a design with a little more give in terms of getting it on and off, and a rotating lens would make landscape-oriented images much easier. Tangentially, the app would benefit from blacking out, rather than whiting out, when making a photograph.
Any iPhone 6/6+ users looking at this with interest can rest assured that variations for those phones are in the works.
All things considered, we award the COVR Photo four out of five stars and our Editor’s Choice Award.
Get yours at COVR Photo.