Shuttercase Review

Get a Grip on Your iPhone Photography

UPDATE: Please note that I’ve updated this review to reflect an improvement to the lens mount on Shuttercase. Updated content will be in italics.

When I first got into mobile photography, or more specifically, iPhoneography, I was dead set against using any accessories with my iPhone. Whether it was add-on lenses or detachable devices that made my phone work more like a traditional camera, I was having no part of it. 

As my journey in iPhoneography progressed, I slowly warmed up to the idea of using accessories. Now I have way more than I would ever have imagined. I mean, I’m not overwhelmed with accessories, I just have ones I would actually use, from an Osmo Mobile to Moment lenses to what I’m going to write about in the paragraphs to follow.

In 2016, some folks from the US and Sweden got together and tried to come up with a case for the iPhone that would, according to one of the guys, have the look and feel of an old Ricoh GR to get away from having their fingers all over the screen while they took pictures. This was the inception of Shuttercase. After many attempts to produce a successful design, the team decided to cancel their plans. However, when the iPhone X was released, they felt the photographic capabilities of this newly designed iPhone warranted another effort and they revitalized the project.

They started an Indiegogo campaign and although they didn’t reach their funding goal, they believed in their idea so much that they took whatever funds they received and went ahead with production. And quite frankly, I’m glad they did. I backed the campaign when I had an iPhone 8 Plus, and thanks to their awesome customer service, when I asked if I could change my order to fit my new Xs Max, they didn’t hesitate to make the change. I received my Shuttercase a few days ago and I had thought of doing an unboxing video, but as usual, I forgot about making the video and just tore into the Shuttercase. What can I say? I’d been waiting for this case for months!

The Shuttercase packaging is very well done.

I want to start this review by saying how impressed I am with the packaging. The black box with silver embossed lettering and imagery is very elegant, and the diagrams on the sides of the lid accurately represent the case, though not to scale, in vivid detail. There’s just enough branding on the box, including their website, so there’s no mistaking who they are or what their product is. The lid fits nicely over the bottom half of the packaging and is similar in fit to any of the Apple products I have purchased over the years. It’s like Shuttercase took a page out of Apple’s packaging notes… if there is such a thing.

The first thing I see once the lid is off is a booklet with instructions for how to use the case, etc. That’s something that I don’t need to go into, other than to say it’s informative and useful. Next is the case itself. It sits in a form fitted plastic tray. Remove the case and the tray and underneath is a foam pad with three cutouts for the camera handle (I like to refer to it as the battery pack), a felt pouch for carrying the battery pack when you aren’t using it, a small micro USB to USB charging cable (in with the pouch), and a low profile hand grip that slides in where the battery goes when not in use, plus there are two small cutouts for the thumb buttons (they provide a spare).

So let’s get to the case. The build quality is excellent. It fits the phone as good as any well made case and is easy to put on. Since this review is for using the case for photography, I’ll address using it with the camera handle installed as opposed to the hand grip. The camera handle slides into place along a pair of grooves and finishes with a click. It fits so well it looks like it’s part of the case body. There’s a small cable that hides nicely in the bottom of the camera handle and when you want to charge your phone, simply remove the handle, flip the cable out, and after reinstalling the handle, plug the cable into the Lightning Port of your iPhone. The battery in the camera handle is a 3,000 mAh unit that takes about 6 hours to recharge. The literature in the box says the battery will take about 2 hours to charge an iPhone X from 10 percent to about 70 percent. For my Xs Max, I’ll have to try it out to see how much of a charge I can get.

Once the phone is snapped into the case, there’s a small groove on the side of the body where the thumb button slides into place. It also goes into place with a slight click. The thumb button is there to make holding the phone ergonomically correct, but it juts out over the screen by about 2 mm. However, I haven’t found it to be in the way of anything yet.

The Thumb Button and Shutter Button

As for using the volume and lock buttons on the phone, they’re fairly decent in the way they operate through the case. The volume down button is a little soft but that’s because it’s mechanically connected through the back of the case body to the shutter button on the other side. The little mute switch is difficult to switch to silent and because of the angle of the case body going from back to front, I couldn’t get my finger in the opening to switch the ringer back on. I think Shuttercase would be doing us a favour if they made the opening a little bigger.

The secret sauce of Shuttercase is the shutter button itself. I mentioned that the shutter button and the volume down button are mechanically connected through the back of the body. I think this is genius. It allows you to use Shuttercase with any camera app without the need to connect to the case via Bluetooth. I also mentioned that the volume down button was a little soft to the feel because of the mechanical connection to the shutter button. Obviously, the same soft feel is present in the shutter button which makes it feel more like the shutter release of a DSLR without the half-press-to-focus function. Having to use a little pressure to take a photo with this kind of button isn’t a problem; as an avid tapper of the virtual shutter on the screen, I just have to get used to using it.

My thumb rests naturally on the thumb button

Holding the phone with Shuttercase feels decent in the hand. Wrap the lanyard around your wrist and there’s no worry of dropping your iPhone. Shuttercase makes one-handed photography a breeze and would come in handy for those who like to take selfies. One thing I’ve noticed is how convenient it is to work some of the camera functions in Halide (my go-to camera app) while holding Shuttercase. Switching from the 1x to the 2x camera on my Xs Max is a breeze.

Shuttercase promotes their product as a modular case. This is not only because you can remove the camera handle and replace it with the hand grip, but also because the lens mount plate is interchangeable. I use Moment lenses so the mount plate is designed to accept Moment lenses. For the Shuttercase that fits the iPhone 7 Plus and 8 Plus, they have a mount plate that will accept SIRUI lenses, which have a mount similar to Moment, and the Shuttercase website promises there will be more to come.

The lens mount plate made to fit Moment lenses
An updated lens mount with reinforced openings, and it’s available in white! The new version of the case body continues the oval-shaped opening you see on the white lens mount, but the straight edge of the original body does not impede the lens when mounted.

The mount plate may or may not arrive at your door already installed on the case but mine was. My Moment lenses fit the plate nicely, although a little tighter fit would be better, I feel confident they won’t fall off. The immediate area around the lens mount opening on the Shuttercase is thinner in construction compared to the Moment photo case I have. This is something the guys at Shuttercase will need to work on, and I’m sure they are. When I attach a lens, the thinness of the mount area gives a little in the centre on the part between the cameras, which makes the lens sit slightly askew. This affects the picture quality in that there is some aberration along the sides of the photo. If Shuttercase are able to beef up the sturdiness of this component and make it more like Moment’s cases, they could sell a newly designed mount that can replace the current one. However, if you aren’t using any lenses, it’s obviously a non-issue.

The folks at Shuttercase are continually working on improving their product and to this point the focus has been on the lens mount portion of the modular case. As you can see in my original post, the Moment lenses did not fit square, which made the case unusable with these lenses. Shuttercase went to work on redesigning the mount and they hit it out of the park! The lenses fit perfectly and I couldn’t be more pleased. As soon as I heard they had redesigned the mount, I went to their website and ordered one. The white one looks great and compliments the case very nicely. You can hear me discuss the upgrade on the Tiny Shutter Podcast at the 24 minute 15 second mark.

Shuttercase is a small company. They had an idea that they almost completely gave up on but thankfully, they decided to see it through. Their product isn’t made to improve your photography — that’s our job — but it will make taking photos a little easier and perhaps more fun, and with the battery pack, we can have more fun longer. If you ever thought you’d like your iPhone to feel more like a camera when you’re out taking photos, Shuttercase is the way to go. I’m glad I bought one.

A Bold Move – Why I Sold My Canon Gear

Sometimes people do the craziest things. I tend to be a pretty conservative fellow — you know, err on the side of caution, that sort of thing. But recently I made a decision that will, in a small way, change my life. Well, the photography side of my life at least. I have decided to become an iPhone only photographer, or an all out iPhoneographer.

I’ve had some sort of Canon DSLR for that past thirteen years and have enjoyed them immensely. My Canons have been great tools for capturing some pretty nice photos and there are much better cameras out there than the ones I’ve owned but I have also been having a lot of fun taking pictures with my iPhone, and the challenges that come with it.

You might say taking photos with an iPhone couldn’t be any easier. I mean really, you just point… and click, or tap, and voila, you have the shot, right?

 

Edited with Polarr Photo Editor

This photo was in a gallery exhibition

 

Well, let me tell you, if you’ve never tried to get a really good photo with an iPhone, it isn’t that easy. Sure, it isn’t rocket science, but getting a shot that has the potential to be confused for a DSLR image has its challenges and using an iPhone has its limitations.

Speaking of limitations, some of you reading this might be thinking I’m off my rocker for leaving the DSLR scene with all of its possibilities to a very limited one in that of the iPhone. I knew that full well going into this. And believe me, this isn’t a spur of the moment decision. I have been mulling over this for probably two years now. I was just waiting to see if that “ah ha” moment would ever come to push me over the edge of uncertainty. That moment has been manifesting itself in a few different ways over those two years.

I began this thought process when the iPhone started to get good at taking photos. For me that started in October of 2013 when the iPhone 5s was released. The technology in that thing was very cool. It was the first iPhone that, when you tripped the shutter, would take a series of four images almost simultaneously, instantly analyze them and give you the sharpest one. I was impressed, but what impressed me more was the quality of the photos I was taking. And no, I realize they aren’t DSLR photos, I get that. But for images produced from a PHONE, they were pretty good. The continuing evolution of iPhone cameras kept increasing my faith in them as something I could use exclusively. The increase from 8 MP to 12 in the 6s was all but the icing on the cake for me and since I get a new iPhone every two years, I’m very excited to see what the 2017 model will have. Oh, and that’s a good point too. I get a new camera every other year!

Digging deeper into why I took this plunge, there are my reasons for taking photos in the first place. I’m not a professional so I don’t make a living doing photography. I don’t often print my photos, although I’m a firm believer that it helps to improve one’s photos. For the type of photography I do, I really don’t need a fancy full frame DSLR and big, expensive, top quality lenses. My memories and my works of art are generally reserved for my own menagerie of pixels stored on a hard drive both at home and abroad (my backups), and the ones I deem worthy are shared for you and anyone else who cares to take a look at them on a small handful of online portals. A good friend of mine once referred to me as a “social media” photographer, which is arguable, but I prefer to be called a “photographer,” just like anyone else who creates photos with a camera.

With an iPhone I can explore various types of photography all on the same device, and a versatile arsenal of apps allows me to do things like instant HDR, black and white, or even an upside down view camera style of photography just to name a few. It’s like having a darkroom right in my pocket. The limitations of the iPhone with regard to taking photos is, in my opinion, balanced quite nicely with the ever expanding possibilities for creating art provided by the thousands of people who create the apps available to us.

I spoke earlier about not needing expensive lenses and such. I don’t. But I have acquired a set of lenses that I can attach to my iPhone to expand my photographic experience. Again, the quality is not like that of my Canon stuff but I’m ok with it. The close up work I can do with the macro lens was probably the final deciding factor for making my switch to iPhoneography. I never did own a macro lens for my Canon so I hadn’t experienced the world up close but I’m loving it, and this little kit of lenses cost less for all five than the cheapest of Canon lenses.

 

IMG_2157

Taken with a 10x Macro lens.

 

I could go on and on about what I like about iPhoneography but I’m sure a lot of those who began reading this have already moved on. If you are still here, thank you for your interest. I want to close by saying that I hope my peers don’t think any less of me as a photographer. I still know the craft. I’ll still help those in need whenever I can, and I will still learn from other photographers just as I have for most of my life. I know there will be times when I won’t be able to do what my peers are doing in their photography, but that’s okay, I’ve already accepted that. Currently I have two goals for my iPhoneography. Well, okay, one goal and one dream. The goal is to capture an image of the milky way. The dream? Well, it’s a long shot, but my dream is to be featured in the Apple World Gallery where, if selected, one of my images will occupy billboards around the world and be printed on the back cover of thousands of magazines. The goal is more likely to happen than the dream but hey, there’s nothing wrong with “shooting for the stars” now, is there?