If you’re only interested in an iPhone case that offers minimal protection while maintaining a sleek profile, look elsewhere. If you’re interested in not only the best possible protection for your phone, but also a wide angle lens and a pretty cool app to go along with it, you may want to look into the Hitcase Pro.
Hitcase is a fairly new product on the market, and a unique one at that. There are a ton of lens accessory options out there for the iPhone 4/4S. And plenty of heavy-duty cases, as well. A plethora of options is available for action sports cameras. But Hitcase is one of the few out there who are attempting to combine all of those things in one high quality package.
- High impact ABS construction
- Waterproof to 30 feet
- Wide angle, two-element glass lens
- Audio jack
- Mountable to almost any surface
OK, so a case that does everything probably isn’t going to be the hottest new accessory when you’re out at the club this weekend. But the Hitcase isn’t built to impress your fashionable friends. It’s built to function. It could stand to weigh a little less, and be little less bulky, but those both come at the cost of protecting your phone from not only impact, but water down to 30 feet. Until they come out with a newer, slimmer version, we can probably deal with a few drawbacks for the ability to transform an iPhone into a wearable action camera.
A few months ago, I started training to become a member of Search and Rescue here in Washington state. The training is a rigorous, multi-weekend process that involves 30-48 hours at a time spent outside in rain, snow and freezing conditions while bushwhacking for miles, tromping through water and over downed trees. So, along with my 30 pounds of camping gear came the Hitcase Pro.
The Hitcase Pro is made of a high-grade ABS/Polycarbonate plastic. All of the buttons and hinges are made of stainless steel and are large enough to use with gloved hands, while the screen cover is made of a thin plastic that maintains touch functionality. My only gripe here was that the plastic screen cover scratches easily – but if this thing is strapped to your chest or riding atop your helmet at 40 M.P.H., you probably aren’t going to be that concerned about needing to see your screen clearly. It never got bad enough that I wasn’t able to ensure accurate focusing while shooting photos or video.
The inside of the case is lined with soft rubber that doubles as the water seal and shock absorber. The rubber liner is removable which facilitates easier and more thorough cleaning.
I’ll admit that straight out of the box, I put my phone in the Hitcase, clipped it shut, walked outside and promptly tripped, dropping my enclosed iPhone from waist height on to the street. Upon impact, a piece of plastic shot across the concrete. I panicked for a moment before realizing that one of the three clips that holds the case securely shut had simply snapped away from the metal hinge holding it on. I picked it up and attached it back in to place. Not a big deal as long as it doesn’t go far, and better that than a broken case, or worse – broken phone. It made me think of how a car is meant to crumple on impact – except this can be put back together.
Aside from putting my phone into the case backwards the first time I used it (don’t ask), using the Hitcase is a straightforward process. Open it up, put your phone inside with the back facing the rubber mat inside, close the case, and snap the three latches shut. You’ll find that the phone doesn’t budge when inside the case, thanks to the sticky rubber lining.
Hitcase maintains all touch screen functionality and even allows calls to be made through a thinner layer of plastic over the phone’s earpiece. Hitcase recommends unclipping the bottom clip during calls, to let more sound through. Still, everyone I talked to on the phone while the case was installed complained of slightly muted sound. Texting is still about the same, but the extra layer of plastic between your fingers and screen might mean pushing a little harder.
Hitcase offers an app called Vidometer. Along with your videos, it records things like speed, G-force, altitude, etc. On the iPhone 4S and 5, it reportedly gives an additional 20 degrees of view as well. It’s a great concept, however, both times I attempted to use the app for short clips, it did not save my video and/or crashed. I did manage to get one video saved, but it disappeared days later.
Thanks to the two-element, wide-angle glass lens, image quality is retained in both photos and video. Even my underwater photos came out as sharp as I could hope for.
A nice touch is that the screen cover – so effectively, your iPhone’s screen – is recessed from the surface of the outer case, in order to help avoid impact with the phone’s screen during use.
Included in the box along with the Hitcase are a few mounting accessories to get you started: a StickR mount allows for a semi-permanent mount on helmets and other flat surfaces. The TiltR tripod mound allows for use on a tripod or any other accessory with a standard-size tripod screw (especially handy with something like the iStabilizer Monopod). The Railslide Mount is what attaches to the Hitcase, interfacing it with all of the mounting accessories, and is compatible with GoPro mounts as well, in case you already have a GoPro.
Other available accessories include the suction cup mount (SuckR) and the chest mount system (ChestR).
The Hitcase Pro held up well to my weekends of outdoor training. I took a a ton of photos with it (a few underwater), fell on it, dropped it in mud, spent the night with it in the open air in below-freezing temperatures and fell in to a waist-deep swamp with it in my pocket.
While it may not sound appealing to wear your smartphone on your head or strapped elsewhere on your body while snowboarding or mountain biking, there are certainly a few benefits to it when compared with using a GoPro or other wearable action camera:
- Having an LCD to instantly review video clips is convenient and comes at no additional cost.
- The ability to share photos and videos instantly, rather than having to wait until you get to a computer.
- Phone and camera in one – just like before, but now you have a wide angle lens and your phone is fully protected.
- At $130 USD, more affordable than most action cameras.
The Hitcase/iPhone combination may not offer a comparable resolution to a GoPro and it may be a bit larger, but what Hitcase does for your phone is pretty impressive. Plus, it’s one less camera you have to carry on the mountain.
What we like: The ability to instantly transform your smartphone into a wearable action camera. Durable enough to stand up to rigorous conditions while maintaining image quality.
What we don't like: Can feel bulky and heavy. Plastic screen cover scratches easily. Accompanying app did not perform under our testing. Not currently available for platforms other than iPhone.
Nate Watters, @nate_watters, is a commercial and editorial photographer based in Seattle, Washington. He spends much of his time documenting the Northwest music and arts scene for City Arts Magazine and photographing his wilderness adventures for Scenic Washington State. Nate has recently worked with clients like Degree Men, Theo Chocolate and PureVolume.