A lot of people don’t carry cameras anymore, now that they have smartphones. But that means that you could miss opportunities to capture great moments, especially when you’re missing out on the great optical zoom available on some more expensive or specialized dedicated camera devices. That’s what Snapzoom hopes to fix with its binocular mount for smartphone cameras, and the best part is that it’s completely universal, meaning it fits a wide variety of both phones and binoculars.
The project got started when Hawaii-based co-founders Daniel Fujikake and Mac Nguyen started using their own smartphones to film their surf escapades via a completely DIY, garage-made mounting device that they hacked together. They saw the utility, and other surfers asked them about it every time they went out, so they partnered up with a professional designer to form HI Resolution Enterprises and build a proper prototype using 3D-printed materials.
The duo took to Kickstarter to fund a production run for Snapzoom, and has already blown past its $55,000 goal in just over a week. The funding will help the two turn the 3D printed prototype into a glass-filled nylon injection molded retail product, which the company hopes to manufacture both in the U.S. and overseas.
“It’s going to be extremely tough, since it’s something that’s meant to be used outdoors,” Fujikake told me. “You can put it in your bag, you don’t have to worry about babying it, you can get it wet, you can drop it, it’s very very tough.”
Already, before even closing its Kickstarter funding, Snapzoom has had a lot of interest from well-placed retail partners, including U.S. camera equipment and accessory retailer B&H Photo. Based on funding interest and prospective retail partner enthusiasm, the team seems to have tapped a strong, unaddressed consumer desire, even if it is a bit niche. And it’s not just voyeurs who are interested; this is great for nature photography and action sports, too.
Snapzoom is looking to ship in September, and retail price for the mount is expected to be around $79.99, but currently pre-order backers on Kickstarter can get one for just $70. The team is working on stretch goals now, since it has already earned almost $10,000 more than its original goal.
The team behind mobile video app Socialcam just keeps on trucking. The company, which is now part of Autodesk, is releasing a new version of its app today, adding a bunch of features that users have asked for, like expanded profile pages, as well as the ability to switch back and forth between front- and rear-facing cameras and hashtags and @ mentions that actually do stuff.
It’s been nearly a year since Socialcam was acquired in a deal that was worth about $60 million. Since then, the team has added a few members, boosting its ranks from four to seven. And that team continues to iterate on the app, posting eight updates across its iOS and Android apps since acquisition, some bigger than others.
That said, Socialcam co-founder Michael Seibel wants to increase the rate at which the company puts out updates, getting it back to its pre-acquisition pace of an update every three weeks or so. With that in mind, the company just issued a pretty major update today which answer some of the demands its users had from previous version.
That includes better support for hashtags and @mentions of other users. See, people were hashtagging their stuff all the time in Socialcam, but being able to search or follow or click through those hashtags wasn’t as fully built out as some would like. So users can now search via hashtag, and hashtags are now clickable. Socialcam has also added autocomplete for hashtags and @mentions, so users can get at what they want sooner.
And if what they want to get at is another user page, Socialcam has given them a little more to look at. According to Seibel, the company found that its users weren’t just leveraging the app to share their videos with other social networks, but were actually using it as its own little social network, following and interacting with the other folks there.
One of the requests the team got was to expand user profiles. So it did that, giving them more that they could do to express themselves and tell strangers on the platform who they are and why they should be followed. Socialcam also has added the ability to switch between front- and rear-facing cameras on its iOS app, allowing users to shoot a video intro with the front-facing cam, and then switch to the other one to show people what’s going on around them.
Unfortunately, not all the new features are available on both iOS and Android. Some, like the ability to switch between cameras, is an iPhone-only thing. But Android continues to come along, just a little more slowly in some areas. After completely rebuilding the Socialcam Android app a few months ago, it’s been working on getting feature sets between the platforms at parity. Or near-parity, at least.
Obligatory mention of Vine.
A new Kickstarter campaign from San Antonio-based Ubertronix, Inc. aims to turn your Android smartphone into a wireless trigger for your DSLR. The project follows others that offer similar devices, but this one, the brainchild of Josiah Leverich, who founded Ubertronix a little over a year ago to build camera remote hardware, has some unique elements, including a way to use your smartphone as a lightning sensor for capturing impressive storm photos.
Ubertronix began as a way for Leverich to build and market his Strike Finder camera trigger product, which is a dedicated piece of hardware that features built-in sensors to help capturing high-speed photography, and lightning specifically. The ShutterBox is an extension of that tech, which features a hot shoe-mounted receiver box that communicates wirelessly with your Android smartphone via Bluetooth. It uses the phone’s built-in sensors for triggering automatic shutter activation, including light sensors for lightning, as well as motion detection for capturing wildlife or other movement-based events.
The ShutterBox can also be used as a standard wireless remote for triggering single shots, time lapse, bursts of exposures and more. It’s even designed to be able to work with multiple slave units for capture across multiple cameras at once, or for triggering remote flashes in a studio setting.
The idea behind ShutterBox is to leverage the devices already in users’ hands instead of making them invest in and learn new proprietary hardware. The ShutterBox receiver will still cost you $199 as a pre-order (or $249 retail), but since a lot of its features are app-based, there’s ample potential for later capability improvements and expansion.
Ubertronix has already manufactured hardware in the past, and has already penned an agreement with a Texas-based company to build the PCBs required for the ShutterBox. It’s got a wide range of camera compatibility, and the startup is only seeking $25,000 in initial funding with an initial target ship date of June 2013. More cameras are coming with Wi-Fi remote functions built-in, like the Canon 6D, but if the ShutterBox can truly leverage smartphone sensors as well as it claims to be able to, that would add considerably to the value of a remote trigger app.