Ever wanted to grab your smartphone to snap a quick photo, but didn’t want to be obvious about it? COVR Photo has you covered with a freshly launched iPhone 6 case that includes a tiny periscope.
It enables you to use your phone and camera as usual most of the time, but if you want to slip into sneaky, spying sleuth mode, slide the mirror assembly across the lens and you’ll be able to pretend to text while snapping your photos.
Developed by seasoned photo journalist Thomas Hurst, the COVR Photo device is marketed as the perfect tool for street photography. Which sort of makes sense, but I can’t help but think that even with the rapidly increasing quality of smartphones, the iPhone isn’t really the right tool for the job.
As a street photographer myself, I’m a little bit torn about this innovation, too. Yes, candid shots are often better than semi-posed photos on the street, and there is definitely something to be said for capturing moments unobserved. As DIYPhotography points out, you can already achieve a similar effect with cameras that have an articulating screen, enabling you to shoot from the hip with a quick glance down to help you frame your images.
There is a point, however, where your photography slides from sneaky to downright creepy, and as a candid photographer, you’re always toeing the line between capturing a genuine moment and being just a tiny bit creepy. To wit: In some countries, including Japan and South Korea, sneaky photos became enough of a problem that they passed a law that a phone camera has to make a sound (even if it’s switched to silent mode) so it’s clear to the people around you.
That slight ethical niggle aside, the COVR Photo case looks like a solid design, and the prism element doesn’t really do the photo quality much harm. The design has been around since it launched as a Kickstarter campaign for iPhone 5 a little while ago — and the original design should still work fine on the recently launched iPhone SE model.
There are two small problems with the COVR Photo accessory. One downside with the prism is that when you use it, the image on your phone will be flipped upside-down (that is how mirrors work, after all). There is a companion app that helps you flip your preview image right-way up again, but it does mean that if you prefer to shoot with the stock app or another photography app, you’re out of luck.
The other minor issue is that the prism only points up, which means you’re stuck with shooting portrait-orientation photographs. Maybe it’s the old-school photographer in me showing, but I prefer my images in landscape orientation, something COVR Photo doesn’t allow without doing some heavy cropping after the fact — at the cost of image resolution, of course.
The bigger problem, in my mind, is that the prism juts out from the case. It would have been nicer if it flipped out of the way; it looks like that should have been possible, but then again, I’m not a product designer. With the little triangular sticky-outy-bit (forgive me for the technical jargon here), your phone effectively doesn’t go in your jeans pockets anymore, which would be a deal breaker for me; it’s a shame they didn’t revisit that design decision when re-designing the device for iPhone 6.