Last year I was intrigued by the announcement of a new product on the Kickstarter website. Its name was COVR, an unusual iPhone case with a built-in lens. COVR offered something no other product on the market did (that I am aware of anyway), the ability to capture photos or video whilst holding the iPhone horizontally as you would if you were naturally using your phone to read or type messages or emails.

COVR Case is the brain child of Thomas Hurst who came up with the idea after his wife was diagnosed with cancer. Not knowing what lay ahead the couple decided to document as much of their life with their children as possible. However, one of their biggest frustrations in photographing their youngest son, Reilly, who was mainly in the arms of Thomas’s wife, Angela. This made it very hard for her to take photos with one free hand. From this initial frustration the idea behind COVR case was born.

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First impressions

As someone who has an interest in street photography I instantly saw the potential that COVR offered the street photographer. There are many photographers that I have spoken to who prefer to take a more discreet approach to their street photography. I fall into that category. I do not take an in your face approach to the street photography I shoot so COVR was a product that instantly appealed to me. It would mean I could get a lot closer to my subject without it being obvious that I was taking a photograph.

Street photography isn’t just the only situation where the COVR case would come into its own. I know every time I try to take a photo of my children they always seem to stop doing the thing that first attracted my eye, they stiffen up and the moment is therefore lost. Being able to be less unobtrusive in any given situation has made it so much easier to capture precious moments as they happen naturally.

I finally got hold of an COVR iPhone case and for the last week I have been putting it through its paces. Here is what I found.

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How does the COVR photo lens case work?

The COVR case is just like other iPhone cases in that it clips around the phone. However, COVR differs from your normal iPhone case due to the presence of a small prism lens that is situated over the iPhones camera lens. This lens slides forwards and backwards to allow you to quickly change between the COVR lens and the normal camera lens.

Construction and Durability

I found the construction of the case very sturdy and provides an extremely snug fit around the phone. The materials used are strong and durable. The phones buttons can still be accessed easily and are recessed in by the surrounding casing.

I haven’t tried intentionally dropping my beloved phone but I’m sure the case would do an excellent job of protecting it. It would be interesting to see how the lens section would stand to such wear and tear as it does look a little exposed and care does need to be taken not to scratch or mark the lens itself. However, the COVR case comes with its own drawstring pouch.

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The COVR app

To effectively use the COVR case you will need to download the accompanying app. Without it the scene in front of you will be upside down due to the lens prism. The COVR app reverses this effect and makes shooting the scene in front of you much easier. It would take a lot of practice to get use to shooting upside down. I guess it would be akin to trying to write with your other hand, its doable but very awkward to do well.

The app is simple to use and has a minimal, uncluttered interface. At the top of the screen is the flash on/off control, a button to reverse the orientation of the viewfinder from the right way up to upside down and another button to switch between the front and rear facing camera.

At the bottom of the screen you will find a button to access the camera roll gallery, a button to toggle between the photo and video mode and in the middle the shutter release button.

Tapping the screen sets the focus and exposure point.

COVR App Screenshot

One frustration I had with the app was that I couldn’t split out the focus from the exposure and lock these points independently of one another. This is one of the main reasons why I love apps like ProCamera. Consequently I noticed at times that the app would refocus at the last minute especially when dealing with an unexpected moving foreground subject but on the whole this didn’t happen very often.

The photos the app took had a good depth of colour to them and it seemed to cope with situations that had a wide dynamic range of lighting very well.

Where to buy the COVR case

The COVR case is currently only available to buy for the iPhone 5/5S models. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models are expected to be released later in 2015. COVR case prices start at $55 and the COVR case can be bought online at www.covrphoto.com

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Final thoughts…

To summarise my thoughts about the COVR case, it is strong and durable and as a case I’m sure it will do a great job in protecting your phone. The lens is good quality and the images the case captures are a reflection of this.

The accompanying app is easy to use however my only gripe would be the inability to operate out the focus from the exposure. I’m sure this might be something on the wish list for future app updates.

Overall I love the case and the photographic opportunities it has opened up. I found COVR has really boosted my confidence and enabled me to get more up close and personal than I would have before. If you are a street photographer then I would highly recommend you consider giving COVR a try especially if your approach to the photos you take is to blend into the background rather than being an in your face type of photographer.

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