The future of photography is in the palm of your hands — literally.
It's normal to get high-quality photos using just your phone, and there's been a huge growth in computational photography. This is phone photography that uses advanced software to gather and combine data from images or sensors to produce a photo that would otherwise be impossible to capture with film or digital photography.
Companies like Taiwan-based tech company Bitplay are embracing computational photography with specialized phone cases and lenses to help smartphone users capture stunning shots without needing a professional camera or even editing software.
Read more: The best DSLR cameras you can buy
The SNAP! 8 phone case was easy to install and use, but it's only compatible with iPhones
The SNAP! 8 includes the case, hand grip, thumb rest, wrist strap, and user manual. Note that it's currently only compatible with the iPhone. If you're not an iPhone user, Bitplay has designed a universal gadget called AllClip, which I also review below.
The case has a sleek and minimal yet protective design, and sits at approximately 14.4 centimeters long, 7.4 cm wide, and 1.65 cm thick, and weighs close to 2 ounces. The outer shell is made of polycarbonate and the interior is soft and shock-resistant plastic TPU. I have a black case, but there are different colors for different iPhone models.
The exterior of the case includes your normal power and volume buttons located on the top. However, the standout features are toward the base — the case is designed with a gripping system (a thumb rest and hand grip) so you feel as if you're holding a real camera versus your smartphone. There's also an interchangeable grip that includes a standard tripod mount and a physical shutter, which offers an easier and quicker way to snap photos, and works without the use of WiFi or Bluetooth.
Last, the case can be used with a wide collection of Bitplay lens clips — just position over the camera and click.
The AllClip was a little harder to use but it's still pretty helpful for non-iPhone users to take amazing photos
Using the AllClip took a bit more effort to use compared to the SNAP! 8 case, which was intuitive.
The AllClip Photography Set ($114.99) includes a universal AllClip ($19.99 if sold separately), HD wide-angle lens ($99.99 if sold separately), clip holder, neck strap, and storage bag. The AllClip is basically a clip that can be used over the front or rear camera of your phone, with a sliding door design for accurate camera positioning. It's compatible with smartphones that are 58 to 80 mm wide, which means it works with most.
I found myself having to reposition the clip to align with my phone camera several times on both the rear and front-facing cameras. Once I got it where I wanted, it was easy enough to take photos. But aligning the clip into the correct position could be an inconvenience if you're on-the-go and want to quickly capture a photo.
I used several different Bitplay lenses while traveling and the quality was so good that they actually replaced my DSLR
Bitplay offers a wide array of lens clips for iPhones and Androids.
I tried four clips from Bitplay's extensive collection — Premium HD Wide Angle Lens ($99.99), Full Frame Fisheye Lens ($29.99), and M52 GND ($80.99) and Star Filter lens ($35.99), which is compatible only with the Premium HD Wide Angle Lens. All the lenses come with a lens cap or is secured in a protective lens case.
The Premium HD Wide Angle Lens weighs 36 grams, magnifies the frame by 0.6x, and uses six lens elements to prevent distortion. This was perhaps by far the best and high-quality lens in Bitplay's collection.
The Full Frame Fisheye Lens ($29.99) weighs 16 g and magnifies the frame by 32x with a minimum focus distance of 70 millimeters. This was another favorite lens I constantly used during my travels.
The M52 GND and M52 Star Filter lens are great but fall under what I would consider "specialty lens attachments" that aren't really necessary. The M52 GND filter lens corrects unwanted contrast, while the Star Filter lens creates a dramatic star-like effect using natural light reflection. Both lenses weigh close to 10 g and come with a protective carrying case.
During my travels, I didn't feel a need to use these two lenses, though they're definitely fun. I believe a variety of apps and social media filters can easily accomplish the effects you'd get from either lens.
The Bitplay accessories are a great investment for everyday use, content creators, and even professional photographers
I love how seamless it was to carry around my Bitplay SNAP! case and the different lenses versus carrying my DSLR and equipment during my travels.
The SNAP! Case is compatible with various iPhone models, and because it's quite slim and lightweight, can still be used with a tripod. Unfortunately, there isn't a case for Androids, but the AllClip solves that issue with a universal gadget. However, the design of the AllClip lacks a locking feature for the sliding design, so it can be annoying if you're trying to take a photo really quickly.
Regardless of whether you use the case or clip, the various lenses themselves closely matched the quality of my photography taken with my DSLR camera. This is perfect when I don't want to carry around a bulky camera for both convenience and safety reasons, or risk damaging expensive equipment.