The rise of smartphone photography in recent year has been transforming how people think cameras should look and work. Instead of pulling out a single-purpose device that has dedicated controls for picture-making, legions of consumers are now content with pushing a single button (whether physical or digital) in order to preserve a moment in time.
One of the emerging ideas that directly results from this shift is the modular camera. Since smartphones provide all the computing power a camera needs (as well as apps and wireless capabilities), why not simply treat smartphones as a brain, and use lens, sensor, and interface attachments to give the brain a body? That’s what Snappgrip is trying to do (the interface thing, at least).
It’s an accessory that slides onto a special smartphone case and provides physical controls that make your phone feel much more like a dedicated camera.
On the top side of the device is a shutter button, a zoom lever, and a mode dial that lets you select shooting mode (portrait, landscape, flash, and video):
Flip it upside-down, and you’ll find a standard tripod mount, a power switch, and a microUSB port used for charging it (it’s a standalone device that doesn’t interface with the phone itself).
At the moment you’ll need to use a special companion app for iOS and Android in order to make use of the Snappgrip, but the developers are also building an API that will allow developers of 3rd party camera apps to take advantage of the grip as well.
The device is currently compatible with the iPhone 4/4S/5 and the Samsung Galaxy S3, though the list is likely to grow as time goes on. It uses Bluetooth as its method of communicating with its host phone, and has roughly 60 hours of battery life on a single charge.
Founder Lee Harris is currently raising funds through Kickstarter to begin mass producing the product based on a working prototype they have, and is hoping to have the Snappgrip shipping by February of next year. You can preorder one for £29-£69 (~$47-$110), with the cheaper prices available to early bird backers.
Regardless of how you feel about this particular accessory and idea, the idea of wrapping smartphones with camera shells seems to be picking up steam. Just a few week ago music artist Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas launched his own “camera enclosure”, including one that adds an independent lens and sensor to the iPhone:
These new accessories may annoy many a photography purist around the world, but it remains to be seen whether the general public will embrace the idea of having a camera when you need it, and a phone when you don’t.