(This review first appeared in the MobiTog Community Boards. AlyZen has graciously let us reprint it here in its entirety.)
I’ve been lucky enough to receive the Gizmon iCA System from the manufacturers themselves, Adplus of Japan, to review. There are already other reviews written about the System, however I’ve decided to write mine from a user’s, and not a technical, viewpoint.
So, this is what Adplus sent me: the Gizmon iCA case for iPhone 4S/4 (I received the black and silver version, however there are several other colours available, as well as a limited edition in black called the “military”), 3 lenses in their individual clip-on holders and a leather handstrap. There’s also a handy grey drawstring bag in which to stow away the case.
The iCA case itself is made from polycarbonate and, whilst light, is surprisingly sturdy. The set comes with 2 mock lenses, a thick and a thin one. It took only a few seconds to unscrew the mock lens, unclip the top bit that holds together the two halves of the case, remove the thick foam insert and replace that with my iPhone 4. Less than 5 seconds, actually.
The Gizmon iCA system is unique amongst other iPhone cases, in that it comes with two fully functional buttons that allow control of your iPhone’s volume and also acts as as a real camera shutter button. There is also a functional viewfinder. So you can take pictures with your Gizmon iCA System, as well as answer your iPhone!
The thick and thin mock lenses can be used as a mirrored surface for self-portraits.
At the bottom of the case is an opening where the iPhone’s camera lens peeks out. This part, I discovered, is made of metal. A very useful discovery, of which more later! The 3 lenses Adplus provided me with are a Fish Eye lens, a CPL lens and a Mirage lens. The Fish Eye lens needs no introduction. The CPL (which stands for Circular Polarizing Lens) basically cuts out on reflections and fog or smoke, and is useful when photographing lakes and ponds. The Mirage lens has 3 planed surfaces, and gives an image split into 3. Depending on how one twists the lens, the 3 images can be close together, or slightly apart. Each lens can be unclipped from its holder and screwed into the Gizmon iCA System. Incidentally, if you keep the lens in its holder, it will clip easily over an iPhone 4 or 4S, over the camera lens. This is useful to remember, if you’ve decided to only buy the lenses and not the Gizmon iCA System.
I have the CPL lens permanently screwed onto the camera lens mount on the case. It’s early days yet, but I do believe the polarizing lens has allowed me to take pictures that are clearer, by cutting out on reflections and other noise.
Now, a word about prices. The Gizmon iCA System case can be purchased through the many retailers listed on the official website: http://gizmon.com/shoplist/
You can also find the Gizmon listed on eBay.
Prices for the case range from US$65 for the standard black and silver version, and also the brown version, whilst the handsome all-black “military” version retails for about US$70. The lenses can be purchased from US$25-35 each. The leather handstrap costs US$25. If you find these selling cheaper online, they may be counterfeit. Caveat emptor! Http://gizmon.com/counterfeitgoods/.
The System also comes with a useful tripod stand. This seems to be a universal fit; I’ve used the tripod of my son Jack’s LED mini table torch, and it works a treat. If you have a JOBY Gorillapod with the standard tripod mount that takes DSLRs, that will work too. The tripod stand is fully detachable.
On either side of the case are lug holes where the handstrap can be attached. I’ve seen a Gizmon iCA leather case on Four Corner Store, and have sent off for it. That was
US$50. (It’s currently on sale now for $55 USD. The regular price of the Gizmons from Four Corner Store seems to be $65 USD. =M=)
The handstrap comes with a steel keyring, which incidentally I found a tad difficult to put on the case, as the lugholes are really tiny. I had to use pliers to open up the keyring spiral, and thread it through the leather bob into the lughole. For those considering a lighter approach, I would suggest using the thin strings that come with lanyards, as they would thread through far easier.
All week I’ve been field-testing the Gizmon iCA System. Initially it felt strange to be holding it in my hand, and a bit unwieldy. It still fits in my jacket pocket, but only with the thin mock lens on (not the thick one)…so for those of you contemplating stashing this in your back pocket, I would recommend using the thin mock lens and saving the thick mock lens for show only. On my daily train commute to work, I’ve noticed the looks that the Gizmon gets, mainly quizzical ones, and quite a few raised eyebrows when my iPhone rings and I hold this retro-looking rangefinder camera to my ear! Colleagues at work ask me if it’s a camera or just a case, and I have to explain to them that it’s more than just a case, but not a camera as such, although it has functional buttons that control the volume and the camera shutter.
The Gizmon iCA System offers a range of lenses, including the 3 already mentioned above, but also a Macro lens, Tunnel effector, Tele lens and Wide lens. At the time of writing this Review, these 4 other lenses are currently unavailable, but I’ve been told it’s only a matter of time before they become available for purchase. This link shows the wide range of accessories planned for the System.
When all the accessories become available, I believe the Gizmon iCA System will be the most comprehensive amongst the plethora of other case covers out there in the market. What excites me about the lens mount on the System, is the fact that it is magnetic … and any of the magnetic iPhone lenses available online will fit in it. I’ve tried a generic Macro lens bought on eBay in the mount, and although it is marginally smaller than the Gizmon lenses, it works a treat. I’ve ordered a generic Telescopic lens for the iPhone, and can’t wait to try that out on the System!
I would recommend the Gizmon iCA System for those who want something a bit retro, with good looks harking back to the rangefinders of old, something quirky that combines form and function beautifully. Apple has a habit of changing the design of its iPhones drastically every couple of generations, and I would be interested to find out how Gizmon adapts its next generation of the System to fit the iPhone 5? But for now, I’m loving the Gizmon!
31st May 2012
AlyZen Moonshadow is an iPhoneographer whose outstanding dreamscapes and other abstracts have been featured on Life In LoFi before. She’s a regular contributor to the Mobitog Community. You can check out her Tumblr at alyzenmoonshadow.tumblr.com.