SNAP PRO review
What I am about to write is rather odd. Not that it’s something that’s rare and in fact, you will find similar products flooding the entire globe at the moment. So why am I writing a review for this? Well, you will have to read on to find out.
What is SNAP PRO?
SNAP Pro is a new lens conversion system with a snap on case for the iPhone 6/6s. Invented by BitPlay from Taiwan, this is a totally new and ingenious system. For those who likes to use their iPhone 6/6s to photograph or video everything, then this new SNAP Pro is the PERFECT companion for your iPhone, period. To find out why, you will have to read on!
Sexy or what?
Sexy??? Yes, you heard that right. Among the very crowded lens conversion system market for the iPhones, the Snap Pro is probably the best SEXY looking system around. There is a choice of either Crimson white with pearl panel or stealth black with carbon fiber panel (sorry I made up these names :D) but you get the idea. They are both pretty looking for sure. When adding the optional high raise wooden hand grip, you are turning your iPhone into a serious looking photo snapping machine! But the completed pimped up iPhone isn’t just for look, it’s functional too. I find it extremely comfortable to hold and to shoot with, much much better than anything I’ve tried before.
Ok, so far, I haven’t mentioned why the SNAP Pro system is so unique. In fact, when you first open the box, you may scream “what the heck??? It’s not another snap on case thingy???” Well, it’s true. Before you pimp up the Snap Pro, it’s just an ordinary and blend looking case for the iPhone. But what makes it so different is that button. I repeat, THAT BUTTON! Somehow, BitPlay managed to design a shutter button for the case that instantly transforms your iPhone into a snapping machine. I really never like the virtual shutter button on the iPhone. I prefer a physical button that I can feel. Even though Apple gave us an option to use the volume down button as the shutter but it never feel too right and due to its location, you will find that you will often block the lens with your hand when shooting with your right hand.
So this magic shutter button is by far the most ingenious part of the entire system. It’s on the right lower end of your phone and leave the camera lens far away from your shooting hand and grip position. So you will never interfere with the camera and have a clean shot every time. More over, this magic button creates a physical connection to the volume button and making snapping the easiest experience ever. During the time I used it, I actually found my hit rate increased dramatically. The fact is that for some strange reasons, the virtual shutter button on the screen isn’t as responsive when compare to the physical button. I am also using the latest iPhone 6s so it isn’t about hardware speed but perhaps it’s more to do with iOS 9. There’s always some lags in between shots. But using with the button, there are not lags at all.
Overall optical quality.
Ok, operability is one (and may be a BIG) thing, but the ultimate question is optical quality? Will it embarrass the superior iPhone’s latest 12 megapixel sensor and lens combo? I’ve written a short review about just how good the latest iPhone 6s/6s Plus as a camera but adding a conversion lens is always a risk when it comes to image quality. I’ve tried a few different lens systems for iPhone before and they all have more bad than good. As iPhone becomes more popular, there are more big names entering the iPhone ecosystem, even the big German optic brand, Zeiss, is about to introduce a range of conversion lenses for the iPhone. Will SNAP Pro’s optics good enough to rival some of these big names? Zeiss may not be out yet but I do own the Manfrotto’s popular Klyp system. As I am going to write a separate comparison review between the two systems, I won’t be bothered to talk in detail for now. But all I can tell you now is that the SNAP Pro optics are quite good. There are still a few drawbacks but in terms of overall quality, they are probably the best that I’ve tested so far. BitPlay sent me three lenses to try, the kit ultra-wide and macro lens, the fish eye lens and the 3x Tele lens. I also have a polariser to play with too!
0.68x ultra wide angle and macro lens – I think that this is my go to lens as I quite like wider angle to get even closer to my subjects and do some hip level shots, it’s even more useful during videoing as yo know that iPhone doesn’t use the entire sensor for video and it means there’s a crop. By converting it to ultra wide, you will get a normal iPhone camera field of view in video mode too!
This ultra wide can also get you closer to your ‘chosen’ subject and get a real close up macro too! At this close, you will also benefit from some degree of separation ~~~~ BOKEH!
Overall, I found that the central sharpness is excellent and matching the iPhone’s original lens. Though it suffered from edge coma and softness. It also had a severe barrel distortion which is very visible! The latter can be corrected in post with the expense of losing some pixels however.
3x Telephoto lens – I usually like portrait lens and this one is also one the best around. In terms of optical quality, it’s much better than Manfrotto’s telephoto lens which is a disaster. While the central sharpness is excellent, it’s softer than the ultra wide. It also suffers from edge coma and softness but it may sound strange, it actually helps in creating a virtual separation for a shoulder and head portrait shots. Again, this telephoto suffers from distortion but it’s the total opposite of the ultra wide.
Fish-Eye lens – Ok, this is a odd ball. I was actually thinking about a full circular fish eye but when I put it on my iPhone, it turns into a super ultra wide with heavy barrel distortion. It’s more like a 2x the ultra wide lens. It seems to share the same traits of the ultra wide too, having good central sharpness but suffers from edge softness again. On the other hand, Manfrotto’s fish eye has a full circular coverage.
Circular Polariser lens (CPL) – This is actually a gem of the iPhone. It helps to get rid of the annoying reflections and you ends up getting a much more vibrant photos. It’s best for landscape or cityscape. I totally love it.
So it’s perfect? NO.
There isn’t a thing perfect in my book.
First, when the conversion lens is attached, you can forget about flash. This isn’t a SNAP Pro’s fault and every single system out there suffers the same thing. It has to do with the proximity of the iPhone flash and the lens. As the conversion lenses are often wider than the original iPhone lens, they tend to block the flash completely. You may still use it but as it’s blocked by a black metal in front, most of the light was ‘absorbed’ so you ended up with a much weaker light. There’s nothing you can do about it but you have to know that.
Even though the Magic button is brilliant on its own, it doesn’t always work. Ok, let me be more precise, for those who love taking food photos top-down-style, you will soon find out that the button will stop functioning as soon as you turn your iPhone camera facing flat down. You will end up using the screen button again or the awkwardly positioned volume button.
As mentioned earlier, since the built-in flash becomes redundant, there’s no way to to lit up your subject in the dark, there’s a need for an artificial light. At present, SNAP Pro system does not have a accessory port or a cold shoe mount to attach any lights, nor it has any proprietary lighting system, you will have to rely on an external light source, completely detached to the system. As there’s no control over any flash systems, the best lighting option is external LED.
Finally, the tripod mount. While there’s an option to have the tripod mount, you need to use the Premium kit’s included plastic grip. The case itself nor the nice wooden grip has it. This may not be very critical but there’s always some people out there would love to use the iPhone for some serious amateur videoing. A way of attaching the SNAP Pro kit to a fluid head or tripods would be very advantageous.
Despite these little niggles, I am truly impressed by Bit’s SNAP Pro kit. The case is gorgeously designed and not only it looks great, it functions well too, especially with the wooden handgrip. Coupled with the high quality optics, it’s by far the best iPhone lens system out at the moment. Oh, a final complaint, please make a 6/6S Plus case too so I can utilise it’s optical stabilisation system. Two thumbs up to Bit for such brilliant design and I hope their future generations will be even better. Competition is heating up with Zeiss’s forthcoming system and no doubt that Manfrotto is already designing something better in the background too. But for now, and for all those iPhone 6 or 6S users, this is THE BEST thing for you if you want more lens options and SNAP Pro really turns your iPhone into some serious shooting machine!
- Excellent and ingenious design
- Well built and does offer impact protection, can be used as a normal iPhone case with the slim grip installed
- Turns iPhone into a serious snapping machine with the nice raised grip and shutter button
- Good quality and sharp optics, all mental and glass construction
- Compatible with all camera apps
- No wireless connection needed for controls
- The button doesn’t seem to work too well when the iPhone is facing downward
- Heavy barrel and pin-cushion distortions for wide and tele lenses
- Only compatible with iPhone 6/6S and not the Plus models
- No cold shoe for mounting external lightings
- iPhone’s built in flash is compromised when used with BitPlay lenses
- No tripod mount (except on the plastic raised grip included in the Premium kit)
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