The phrase “this goes all the way to the White House” can officially refer to selfie sticks, now that President Barack Obama has been featured in a Buzzfeed video taking pictures of himself with a telescoping monopod. Meanwhile, smartphone camera accessories, in general, are in the throes of a turbulent adolescence.
The selfie stick seems to be telling the story of a larger trend with smartphone accessories: some are made for some bizarre purpose that seems unapologetically bizarre, while others are actually so useful that you should consider adding to your bag of tricks. As smartphones now dominate casual photography, expect the number of accessories that users can buy to “enhance” their photo-taking to skyrocket. We’ve assembled a list of some of the unconventional smartphone camera accessories out there – from the ridiculous to the brilliant.
Related: The best digital cameras
HTC RE Camera ($200)
Why use a periscope-esque device to shoot mobile photos? For starters, it’ll totally go with your Captain Nemo beanie. HTC Re is waterproof up to 10 feet (30 feet with included rubber case) and enable quicker snapshots. HTC Re captures 16-megapixel images or 1080p videos with the touch of its one button. Seriously, there’s no “on” button. Instead, the Re Camera is enabled when it senses being held.
Review: HTC RE Camera
Sony QX 1 ($400)
Sony wants to shake up the photography industry with the QX line of “smartphone partners.” The QX1’s price seems a little high until you realize what it is: an adapter with a large 20.1-megapixel APS-C sensor that effectively turns your smartphone into a mirrorless camera. Simply attach a variety of Sony E-mount lenses (optional, and it’ll add significantly more to the price), and you open up a new world of focal lengths and capabilities your smartphone only dreamt of. But it touts impressive features like a shooting speed of 10 frames per second and 1080p Full HD recording. The QX1 is ideal for those who own Sony lenses, but if you’re looking for a point-and-shoot option, check out Sony’s QX100.
Narrative Clip ($150)
Ever wonder what it would be like to have photos from every moment of your day? The narrative clip does just that. The tiny device snaps a photo every 30 seconds with its 5-megapixel camera. It has 8GB of built-in memory and is small and light enough to clip onto your shirt. We dig it. A new version, the Narrative Clip 2, has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, so it can communicate with your smartphone for quicker sharing.
DT Review: Narrative Clip
Muku Shutter Remote ($39)
The Muku Shutter Remote, for both iPhone and Android phones, uses Bluetooth to take pictures remotely from up to 30 feet away. Place your device on a tripod with a phone mount, set up a shot, and take a picture of your group – with you in the photo. There are quite a few shutter remotes for phones out there, so if Muku doesn’t seem like a good buy then you could check out something like Hisy.
Holga iPhone Lens ($30)
Resembling a rotary phone, the Holga iPhone Lens Filter Kit is an iPhone case that comes with 9 different lenses in a rotating disc that, aside from a prism effect, take basic camera filters and put them onto the back of your phone. The cases come in different colors, and the lens kit can be purchased from places like Amazon or Photojojo.
Got your squat game on lock? The stick is bent in such a way that you can take belfies, or “back selfies.” Essentially it’s a normal monopod with a bendable arm and a remote button (Bluetooth) on the bottom of the handle. Absurdity aside, the Belfie lets you shoot selfies from unique angles, but it’s your backside, not your face, that it’s designed for. We wish this was a joke, but it’s so real it’s actually sold out.
This throwable, 36-lens panoramic ball camera gives your photos a unique perspective. The camera automatically snaps a 360-degree panorama at the height of its toss, and then reveals a 108-megapixel resolution photo that can be viewed via the Panono app for Android or iOS. If you’ve got butterfingers, you can simply hold the camera and press the button to capture a shot, or mount it to a handheld stick to take more precise pano shots. For what it is, however, it’s an expensive gadget.
Smartphone Ring Light ($55)
The Smartphone Ring Light is a case for your iPhone that holds a detachable, swiveling LED ring light on the back that can be used either in its resting position on the back of your phone, swiveled so that the ring is around your phone’s camera lens, or detached if you need the light somewhere particular. It runs on AAA batteries, so you don’t need to drain your phone.
The action camera is pretty much the domain of GoPro, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck if you want to use your iPhone to achieve the same POV function. Film your epic lines with this iPhone chest mount from HitCase, which frees your hands from having to hold the phone so that, you know, you can concentrate on not wiping out.
Kogeto Dot ($39)
You don’t need a throwable ball like the Panono to take 360-degree shots. The Kogeto Dot is a add-on lens that let you shoot panoramic videos. Snap the lens over your iPhone and hit record on Kogeto’s downloadable app (free), and the phone will record videos in 360 degrees (you will need to physically pan around, naturally). It’s like the iPhone native camera app’s built-in panoramic feature, but with video.
Steady your iPhone footage with the iOgrapher case made from polycarbonate. It has mounts-galore to attach lighting and audio gear. We think it looks a little like a childproof tablet case or your 7th grade soccer trophy. But it’s far more practical and less expensive than other, iPhone camera accessories. It also has a port to attach your iPhone to any standard tripod and has a enough space to attach a converter lens from iOgrapher.
If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it, right? Well, it seems a lot of people think the selfie stick is broken, and are looking to reinvent the wheel or build on top of it. One is the SoloCam, which is currently running an IndieGoGo campaign. Besides a telescoping pole to attach iPhone or Android phone, the dual-grip handle consists of a built-in high-definition, old-school-looking microphone that’s synced with the SoloCam app via Bluetooth. With your phone’s display acting as a teleprompter, you can use the SoloCam to essentially create one-man, in-the-field videos, whether it’s a video podcast or Periscope broadcast.
Like the SoloCam, the Cliquefie attempts at perfecting the selfie stick – and it may have succeeded. Described as “chic, lightweight, and ultra-portable,” Cliquefie’s makers seem to be targeting the female demographic (never mind that a photo of the Cliquefie in a pink purse resembles a feminine hygiene product). But compared to bulky selfie sticks you buy at the drugstore, the Cliquefie is stylish. But there are other ingenious features: It has a detachable Bluetooth remote, an inconspicuous phone mount, and a retractable tripod! A Mini version is available for smaller cases, like said purse, but lacks the removable remote. We still think selfie sticks are annoying for most situations, but at least the Cliquefie can be quickly stashed away when the museum guard steps into the room. It comes in a variety of colors.