Despite smart devices replacing point-and-shoot cameras in the mainstream, there still seems to be many people confused by the transition to an app-based camera. Every time I am out and ask someone to take a picture of my wife and me, it seems to be a shot in the dark, so to speak. People always fumble around with the screen, trying to zoom, or change the flash, or even take the picture.
I run into people that push the software button to take the picture instead of using the volume button. Either way, there always seems to still be an unfamiliarity with the way an iPhone takes pictures. Unless you were born in 2007 when the iPhone launched, there is a transition from point-and-shoot cameras to the iPhone, and it continues to be a struggle for some.
In that light, Incipio developed an app and hardware combination bringing point-and-shoot characteristics to iPhone. Focal is a camera case providing easy snap picture taking. Dedicated shutter and zoom buttons prevent screen pecking while trying to setup the perfect shot.
The tag line of the Focal is “transform your iPhone into a point-and-shoot camera,” and I couldn’t agree more. The Focal app and case system provides app-side photo editing, quick access hardware zoom buttons, and a dedicated shutter button.
As highlighted in the video, major features are driven by the companion Incipio inCAMERA App. The app provides, alignment guides, shutter options, camera/video toggle, and flash options. Alignment guides are similar to the Photo.app grid lines. They help you level and line up your subject in a 1/3 gridded system. Shutter options allow single shot and burst mode, as well as a timer. Battery level can be found in the settings. Settings also allow the user to determine how the case’s function button operates by programming the operability. Flash settings toggles on/off/auto and lamp, which constantly shines the flash.
Edit, allows frames, filters, cropping, and stickers to modify the image. The additional edit features are surprisingly extensive, even offering redeye reduction, whitening (mostly for teeth), blemish rendering, and meme top/bottom text. Once edited, the inCAMERA app will automatically save the image to the stock Camera Roll. Note, the app features will not work without the Focal case paired.
Bluetooth connectivity is required between the companion app and Focal case, which happens very quickly. Both the case and app provide a connection indicator. Speaking of Bluetooth, power comes to mind. I am both frustrated and excited by the way Focal is powered. A small Li-ion watch battery powers the case, which means it cannot be charged. This does mean, no dragging around a micro-USB charging cable, but it also means if you run out of battery, you are searching for a very specific battery type. Thankfully, the settings section via the inCAMERA app provides a battery indicator. Considering the case turns off after a brief period of inactivity, you should be good on power.
I am going back and forth on this device. There is limited added functionality with the inCAMERA app, or even the hardware. However, it does make taking pictures easier. I have almost dropped my iPhone trying to hold it steady with one hand and tap the screen controls for focus, lighting, and the like. Even people I have handed my iPhone have almost dropped it. Considering I am an iPhone nudist, it is a very risky proposition.
The Focal case wrist strap and added size make holding iPhone much easier while taking pictures. It is reminiscent of an old 35mm style with the grip bump in just the right place. Of course, you could always use the volume button to take a picture, but this case over emphasizes the hardware button.
Who is this device for? I cannot really put my hand on it. There is no optical zoom enhancement. Truly, the case is for people looking for a point-and-shoot experience, just as Incipio advertises. It is great for people that tend to drop their phone while taking pictures. The case quality is fairly limited, but it would save you from a fall and the inside is padded to prevent scratches. At $46.92 on Amazon, it is certainly an investment purchase. Buying a camera case that merely replicates existing functionality from other free apps is difficult to swallow.
For more details about taking great iPhone photos, take a look at our iPhone Photography curated section.