One of the key components of photography is good lighting although in low light conditions, the smartphone can struggle unless you use the built-in flash. However, the flash of a smartphone can be harsh and unforgiving. When shooting portraits it can strip the colour and skin tone from your subjects face, thus making for a very unflattering photo. One of the reasons for this is that the flash’s light is quite intense and originates from the same point as the lens.

The light doesn’t bounce off surrounding objects but is directed straight at the subject. The results of which flattened a photo and make the skin look washed out and shiny, highlighting imperfections and can also create unsightly shadows in the background. It’s no wonder that many mobile photographers will advise against using your phones flash and suggest seeking out natural sources of light which are less intense and give a more natural glow to your photograph. That is until now, thanks to the makers of Nova, a new off camera, wireless LED flash.

How Nova begin

The Nova is a recent Kickstarter funded project, which, thanks to backers is now on sale. The Nova is a small wireless remote LED flash that’s about the size of a credit card and fits neatly into a pocket or wallet. Consequently, it is very portable and as it is wireless, can be positioned off camera providing an adjustable, in-direct light source.

Nova is the brain child of Joe Walnes and Alex Lukashevich who were inspired to create this innovative flash unit as they both have young children and wanted to capture all those precious moments. They didn’t always have their DSLR’s to hand, so started using the camera that’s always with them – their iPhones.

However, trying to take a decent photo of a kid in low light conditions with the built-in flash just wasn’t creating the memories they wanted. One day when comparing photos they said to each other “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a really decent off-camera flash for the iPhone?”. Joe, a former Google mobile and photo employee said ‘I can do that and what if I made a device that anyone can use, is really affordable and fits in your wallet?’. And that, as they say, was the start of something special.

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How does Nova work?

nova-camera-app-2When it comes to using the Nova it couldn’t be simpler. The Nova unit itself has no controls or buttons. You simply plug it into a USB port to charge then you’re all set to go.

The next step is to download the Novacamera app from the iTunes App Store. The app is free and enables you to connect to and control the Nova unit via bluetooth.

The Novacamera app is essentially a simple and easy to use camera replacement app that will connect using bluetooth to the flash unit. The Novacamera has a simple, uncluttered interface that gives full control over the flash settings, the choice of using the front or rear facing camera and access to the photo gallery and editing suite.

There are three preset flash settings to choose from, gentle, warm and bright. Alternatively you can adjust the settings manually to alter the warm or cool brightness of the flash.

Pressing the shutter release button will trigger the Nova flash which is powered by 40 bright LEDs, diffused through a white plastic panel. The cool thing about the Nova is it can be triggered from a distance up to 20ft. This opens up a whole host of possibilities as you are no longer restricted to using a light source that is emitted directly from the same location as your camera itself. You can position the Nova anywhere you want.

The Novacamera app also offers an in app editing suite that will allow you to add filter effects to your photos, control focus, adjust brightness, contrast and saturation levels as well as crop, sharpen or rotate.

How does the Nova perform?

I like the Nova, I found it to be very versatile and easy to use. I especially love the fact that you can position the unit away from the camera and subject.

I found I got the best results when the flash light was either positioned away from the subject or bounced off a wall. Sometimes at close quarters the lighting was a bit harsh but then again you get that with any flash and as the Nova is adjustable this wasn’t a problem for very long.

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Where to buy the Nova

The Nova is currently only available in the US on Amazon and retails at $59 plus shipping. There are a few other retailers who will ship the Nova worldwide, for more information on retailers visit www.wantnova.com

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