11 Cool Photography-Related Kickstarter Projects
Mike Perlman | Photography and Photographers | Published Oct 19, 2012
If you've got a one-of-a-kind, innovative invention, one of the best routes to bring it to market these days is through Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a website that allows dreamers to showcase their unique product concepts via images, videos and descriptions for all to see, and generate funding.
When a project receives enough capital, it is brought to market and begins shipping. Of course, the number of photography-related product concepts is significant, ranging from unconventional iPhone lens attachments to indestructable DSLR camera cases, but we've sifted through a huge number of Kickstarter photo product concepts to bring you our favorites. With any luck, all of the 11 projects listed in this article will end up on dealers' shelves - virtual and actual - very soon. You can click the product names in the following list to jump straight to the relevant section of this article, or start reading from the beginning.
- iZZi Orbit - a case and lens solution for iPhone 4/4S & iPhone 5
- Quikdraw - an innovative lens holster
- CameraMator - a wireless tethered photography solution for iPhone/iPad
- Cam Crate - a life-proof DSLR case
- Rhino Slider - an affordable 48" DSLR/video dolly
- Lens/Focus Shifter - a lens-mounted follow-focus adapter
- SnapFocus - a modular follow-focus system
- EZ-Steady - a video stabilizer for phones and cameras
- Trygger - an iPhone case with integrated polarizing filter
- Cineskates - an affordable DSLR/video camera dolly
- Astro - a programmable time-lapse and motion controller
Note that some of these products aren't available for purchase yet. The prices given in this article are either the manufacturer's recommended price (if the device is available) or the projected retail price if it's still in the pre-order or shipping-to-backers phase. Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments.
iZZi Orbit by Jayson Guzman
A case and lens solution for iPhone 4/4S & iPhone 5
$229.99 (iPhone 4/4S) $239.99 (iPhone 5)
The iZZi Orbit is an iPhone 4/4S/5 case concept that incorporates a bullet chamber-style lens roulette, enabling the photographer to quickly shoot in Fisheye, Wide-angle or Telephoto focal lengths. I, along with other photo-obsessed iPhone owners, have longed for a case design that bolsters the phone's ergononomics and enhances its lens capability. The iZZi Orbit could be the answer. Constructed of anodized 'aircraft grade' aluminum the iZZi Orbit housing features a prominent right hand grip marketed as a 'Sure Hand Stabilizing Grip'. This prominent grip design seems reminiscent of several Panasonic Lumix point-and-shoots of yore. The Orbit case is also equipped with three tripod mounts and holes to string a wrist strap through.
|The iZZi Orbit adds a substantial grip to the iPhone, three tripod mounts, and a choice of three lens converters, allowing you to swap quickly between fisheye, wideangle and telephoto focal lengths.|
But that's not the iZZi Orbit's primary feature. The iZZi Orbit has a trio of different conversion lenses that rotate along a spindle using 'Peripheral Motion Lock Technology'. This means iPhone owners will have access to a 180-degree fisheye, 0.67X wide-angle and 2X telephoto lens to shoot with on the fly. Compared to some similar multi-lens accessories, the iZZi Orbit promises to be more versatile and considerably quicker to use.
iZZi is also offering the Solo case, which is the same thing as the Orbit, but without a choice of lenses. You kjust get one - a wideangle. Personally, think the Orbit will be the moneymaker. The iZZi Orbit will come in Black, Red and Silver, and the only kicker at the moment is its price of $230 (add $10 for the iPhone 5 version) which puts it in the same price bracket as an iPhone (with a contract).
Quikdraw by Riley Kimball
An innovative around-the-belt lens holster
$80 (per single lens unit)
Have you ever imagined yourself as Rambo during a photo shoot, quick on the draw with your lenses and machine-gunning away at high fps rates? The Quikdraw lens belt holster system could be the answer to your battlefield prayers. Compatible with any standard-size belt, the Quikdraw is basically a dummy lensmount, which allows you to attach your lenses just as if you were mating them with your DSLR, using the same twist-lock mechanism. It enables photographers to keep several different focal lengths on their person at once, secured by their lens-mount attachments. The product will be sold singly.
|The Quikdraw modular lens holster system allows you to get very quick access to your lenses, without needing to fumble about in a camerabag.|
Made of aircraft-grade aluminum (that term again...) and precision molded plastic, the inventor claims that when hanging vertically, lenses will stay in place and will not disengage. To mount or remove a lens you must hinge the mount up, pulling the lens parallel with the ground. A single Quikdraw can hold up to 20 pounds, which will suit most telephotos. A tactical belt will also be offered as part of a Quikdraw package if you don't trust the structural integrity of that old leather thing you've strung around your pants for years. For now, Quikdraw is only being made in Canon EOS and Nikon F-mount versions, but that could change if the product ships.
Speaking of which, the Quikdraw has now exceeded its pledge goal and will most likely become a reality. We can't wait.
CameraMator by Usman Rashid
A wireless tethered photography solution for iPhone/iPad
Tethered photography and location shooting go together like peanut butter and jelly [not on my home planet... Ed.] but the creator of the CameraMator wants to take things to the next level. How about wireless tethering via an iPad or iPhone? Yes, CameraMator is a wireless tethering module that will enable photographers to use an iPad or iPhone as a remote viewfinder and wirelessly transfer images to the aforementioned devices during shoots.
|The CameraMator (pictured here mounted on the hotshoe of a DSLR) allows you to use an iOS phone or tablet computer to wirelessly control your camera, and preview the scene you're capturing.|
So how does it work? The CameraMator unit connects to a DSLR (no mention so far of other camera types) through a USB connection and attaches via the hotshoe. Since the hotshoe's power is not needed, an L-bracket can be used to free up the camera's hotshoe for an external flash or other device. The CameraMator creates its own wireless network for the iPad or iPhone to connect to. Using the CameraMator app, photographers can then control the camera, view images, set the self-timer, execute HDR bracketing and more.
Currently, the CameraMator is compatible with a handful of Canon and Nikon DSLRs, though its designer claims that when commercially available, it will be compatible with all major DSLRs of the past five years. CameraMator has exceeded its pledge goal, and the finished product will be shipping to its kickstarter backers next month. Hopefully we'll see a production run very soon.
Cam Crate by Matthew Geyster
A life-proof DSLR case
The Cam Crate is a 'life-proof' DSLR case that promises to keep your DSLR safe from pretty much anything. If you were the Incredible Hulk (bear with me) and you were looking for a DSLR case that could withstand your sudden outbursts of rage, the Cam Crate would be the most likely candidate for the job. Billed as a 'life-proof' DSLR case, the Cam Crate is 100% element proof, and it even floats. By element proof, the we mean water proof, mud proof, crush proof and drop proof, though performance parameters have yet to be measured. The Cam Crate is constructed of a composite outer shell and features a Quick Action door for rapid opening and closing.
|The Cam Crate is designed to keep a medium-sized DSLR safe from pretty much anything, whether it be shock, or dirt and water damage.|
The Cam Crate will fit most 'small format' DSLRs, i.e., those without an integral battery grip, with a moderate telephoto lens attached. The inventor of Cam Crate has plans to release a larger version of the Cam Crate at a later date that will accomodate professional models with integrated vertical controls or smaller models with a battery grip attached. Cam Crate has recieved its intended funding and will most likely be shipping soon, with a lifetime warrantee - most appropriate.
Rhino Slider by Kyle Hart
An affordable 48" DSLR slider
Fluid motion is a difficult thing to achieve in the film industry if you're on a budget, but the Rhino Slider could change that. The Rhino Slider is an affordable 48" DSLR slider that operates via 12 bearings inside of six self-lubricating rollers upon stainless steel or carbon fiber rails. The Rhino Slider also accommodates other cameras like the GoPro, iPhone and RED with adapters, but it should find most of its success in the DSLR cinema market. The inventor of the Rhino Slider saw that conventional cam sliders fell into two primary camps: cheap and not as smooth or expensive and smooth. So, he found a way to incorporate 12 self-lubricating bearings inside six individual rollers on stainless steel or carbon rails at a retail cost of less than $400.
|The Rhino Slider allows you mount a small video camera, or DSLR for fluid movement without the massive outlay of conventional specialist equipment.|
Rhino Slider is lightweight and has the ability to adapt to any camera or enviornment. The standard Rhino Slider comes with locking all-terrain legs with micro-adjustable rubber feet that fold up for travel. However, suction cup feet will be avialable for setups like mounting on a car (pictured above).
There will also be three different flavors of Rhino Slider to choose from. There's the standard Rhino Slider with stainless steel tubular rails (holds up to 7 lbs. of gear, weighs 5 lbs.), Rhino Slider Carbon ($425) with carbon fiber rails (holds up to 10 lbs. of gear, weighs 3 lbs.) and Rhino Slider Pro ($475) with stainless steel rails and a center mounting plate for tripods (holds up to 35 lbs. of gear, weighs 10 lbs.).
The Rhino Slider has finished funding and it's projected that everyone who pledged will get their Rhino Sliders before Christmas. If you're not among this number, you can pre-order here.
Lens/Focus Shifter by Daniel Bauen and Microfacturing
A lens-mounted follow focus adapter
Truly smooth focus with a DSLR lens can be difficult to achieve, especially with cheaper lenses. The Lens/Focus Shifter is basically a steering wheel for your DSLR lens focus adjuster that provides much more leverage for smoother operation. The apparatus cinches to the lens ring and supports a clip-on dry-erase focus marker board for indicating hard stops.
|The Lens/Focus Shifter is a simple adapter which allows you to smoothly manipulate focus and/or zoom without needing to twist the lens. A built-in marker board lets you mark 'hard' stops for zooming or focussing on pre-determined points.|
The Lens/Focus Shifter fits lenses with outer diameters that range from 56mm to 98mm, but a custom size can be ordered if your lens measurement falls outside of those specifications. Not only will the Lens/Focus Shifter be ideal for DSLR filmmakers, but the unit can also be used by photographers to fine-tune focus to an exacting degree. The Lens/Focus Shifter has already recieved its intended funding, and you can click here to order one.
SnapFocus by Brandon David Cole
A modular follow-focus system
Midas Mount's SnapFocus takes follow focus to the next level. Aimed at DSLR-weilding videographers, the SnapFocus places precise focus control right at the fingertips of the user. By simply regulating the amount of force on each cable-driven bicycle-style lever, the focusing apparatus will shift the lens ring to a finite degree. This level of adjustment is achieved via a gear system that feeds off of the resistence from the cables. The SnapFocus is paired with Midas Mount's Hitchhiker shoulder mount, which steadies the camera.
|The SnapFocus from Midas Mount allows you to take extremely precise focus control in video shooting by means of levers and adjustable gearing.|
The main idea behind the SnapFocus is to do away with an assistant cinematographer, as the unit enables videographers to become a one-man band. The Hitchhiker shoulder mount is fully adjustable, and the SnapFocus system can accommodate a wide spectrum of lenses and cameras. The SnapFocus can even be used on larger cinema cameras like RED and Alexa models.
The SnapFocus is one of the most high-profile Kickstarter projects. In fact, well-known American TV and movie producer JJ Abrams has gone on record as saying that he 'love[s] the product'. Inventor Brandon David Cole set a pledge goal of $20,000, and funding has now reached more than $110,000. He informs us that the SnapFocus will likely look a little different in production form, but will still offer the same level of funtionality. You can pre-order the SnapFocus now, and it will start shipping in December.
EZ-Steady by Kyle Hart
A video stabilizer for iPhone, DSLR, GoPro
Kyle Hart has been busy. He's the guy that designed the Rhino Slider, mentioned earlier, but before he laid out the blueprints for that idea, he designed the EZ-Steady camera stabilizer. The EZ-Steady is a run-and-gun type of stabilizer that is compatible with the iPhone, various DSLR cameras and GoPro cameras. To be honest, we've seen this sort of design before in products like the Tiffen Steadicam Smoothee, but the EZ-Steady provides a bit more versatility than most of the competition.
|The EZ-Steady is a simple stabilizer for keeping video nice and smooth when hand-holding the camera.|
First off, the EZ-Steady can be configured with a camera in under 5 minutes. That claim is due in part to the EZ-Steady's staged mounting system, which enables the camera to be set far forward or backward on the mounting plate. There are two areas for mounting weights along the EZ-Steady, which can be screwed in or out to acheive an exact balance point. The handle of the EZ-Steady can also rotate an impressive full 360 degrees at a sharp angle to accommodate tight shooting situations.The EZ-Steady is also constructed of a high quality aluminum and uses Mr. Hart's patented 'Rhino Skin' covering on top of the mounting plate.
The EZ-Steady is nearing $80,000 in pledge money, which is about $75,000 more than Kyle Hart hoped to recieve, so this project is definitely flying. Backers should receive their products early next year.
Trygger iPhone Case by Scott Phillips and Joel Kameraman
A case with integrated polarizing filter for iPhone 4/4S
Constructed of 1.8mm-thick polycarbonate, the Trygger case is nice and rugged (unsheathed, if you drop the iPhone 4/4S in the wrong place, that beautiful glass panel will turn into transparent confetti), but its most attractive feature if you're a keen iPhone photographer, is its built-in, adjustable polarizing filter.
|The Trygger iPhone case offers a substantial protective shell for your phone, but also incorporates a 'slide-up' polarizing filter for enhancing the appearance of certain scenes.|
The filter is moved into place over the iPhone's lens by sliding the rear of the case upwards, and a circular dial along the side of the case rotates the filter, which does not block the flash. There will also be a Trygger application that allows users to calibrate the polarizing filter accordingly via an onscreen histogram.
The Trygger is already shipping, thanks to the fact that the project received double its intended pledge money. You can pre-order yours here.
CineSkates by Cinetics
An affordable Camera Slider for video
$285 (bundle includes CineSkates with case, GorillaPod Focus tripod, and BallHead X)
Cineskates turn your Gorillapod into a complete camera dolly system via the use of skateboard wheels. It's common knowledge that your camera's stabilization system can only take you so far, which is quite a short distance. The Cineskates system aims to place professional grade video quality in the hands of the budget filmmaker via the use of skateboard wheels.
|It might look odd, but if you're shooting video on a budget, CineSkates will let you move a DSLR or small video camera smoothly, close to the ground.|
The Cineskates system allows the camera to pan smoothly and symmetrically, thanks to plush wheel bearings and fully adjustable multi-segmented tripod legs. The wheel modules snap onto the bottoms of the supplied Gorillapod tripod arms in a split second for quick fitment. Numerous tripod heads can be attached to the top of the Gorillapod, such as the Joby Ballhead X and Gorillapod Focus.
Video samples taken with the Cineskates system are very convincing. We think this will be a big seller, and you can order yours here.
Astro by Oscar Ramrez
A programmable time-lapse and motion controller for cameras
If you have a special affinity for time-lapse and panorama photography, the Astro will be a must have. This 2x AA battery-powered hockey puck-sized time-lapse tool is capable of setting the duration, range of movement (0-360 degrees) and interval of shots taken all at once. The top of the Astro features a standard tripod screw that doubles as the Power button, while the bottom has threads to attach to a tripod. Any camera with a Remote jack will be compatible with the Astro, and a cable is provided with each order. The two buttons on the bottom ring of the Astro will start the panning to the left or right.
|The Astro is the Swiss Army Knife of panorama photography accessories, and comprises a fully programmable motorized turntable, and an interval timer.|
A smartphone application is currently being developed to expand upon the Astro's capabilities with features like ramping, continuous movement, presets and HDR. The Astro is constructed of aluminum and molded rubber for durability and will fit unobtrusively in a camera bag, thanks to its compact size.
This is another wildly popular Kickstarter project that recieved nearly 10 times the intended pledge goal, so we should be seeing the Astro available for sale pretty soon. Backers should start recieving their Astros in December.