Traveling with a giant, professional camera isn’t always the best option. Some amazing photos and videos have been made on cellphone cameras, including the video above that Miguel Endara shot solely on an iPhone 4S while on his honeymoon in the Galápagos Islands. The short film not only captures some of the most famous species on the islands – including the cobalt flippers of the Blue-footed Booby, the domed shell of the giant Galápagos tortoise and the highly adapted marine iguana – but it also demonstrates the impressive evolution of cellphone camera technology.
These days, a smartphone is an indispensible item on most travelers’ packing lists, but if you’re heading abroad you need to make sure your phone will work – and work cheaply at that. One idea we’ve suggested before is to switch out your phone’s SIM cards so you don’t get hit with massive international roaming charges.
That’s still excellent advice, but the problem many of us face is how to get our SIM cards out of our phones, and how to keep them safe when they’re not being used. This is the dilemma that two avid travelers are hoping to address with the SIMPLcase, an iphone case designed especially for international jetsetters.Unlike most iPhone cases where the focus is on the decoration or “bling” on the outside, what makes the SIMPLcase special is what’s on the inside. The interior of this durable plastic iPhone case holds a special tool that’s used for easily ejecting your phone’s SIM card tray, so you don’t have to mess around with pins or other pointy objects that might scratch your phone. There are also three padded slots to store spare SIM cards so there’s no need to worry about losing or damaging the delicate, fingernail-sized memory chips.
Despite the internal storage, the SIMPLcase still has a sleek profile, which is great for minimalist travelers. Another bonus is the ability to turn the iPhone case into a phone stand by slotting a credit card into the groove on the back of the case. Propping the phone up this way makes skyping with friends back home or watching videos that much more comfortable.
If you’re interested in the SIMPLcase, you can pick one up for $12 by jumping on board the company’s Kickstarter project. Right now, the case is only available for the iPhone 5, but if there’s demand, the company also plans to make cases for the iPhone 4 and 4S.
This is just another one of the many great travel innovations we’ve already seen come out of Kickstarter. Click to check out images of the SIMPLcase below.
[Photo credit: lgcldesigns]
The iPhone is beyond a doubt a beautiful piece of technology. Over the past few years, Apple’s iconic device has set the standard by which all other smartphones are compared. But that beauty comes with a price, as anyone who has ever dropped their iPhone onto a hard surface can attest. A good case can alleviate that heartbreak, however, providing extra protection when you need it most.
Some of the best cases available today are designed and built by a company called SYSTM. They are durable, rugged and provide more protection than just about any other case I’ve found. Better yet, they’re attractive, thin and don’t detract from the look of the iPhone in any way. Here are two unique options that will ensconce your iPhone 4/4S or 5 in a protective shell that will keep it safe from just about any kind of danger.
SYSTM Vise ($49.95)
If you’re looking for the ultimate in iPhone protection then the SYSTM Vise is the case for you. It provides three distinct layers of padding by first wrapping the phone in a soft rubber sheath, which is then covered in two pieces of outer armor that lock tightly into place around the device. This hard external shell is smooth, yet easy to grip, and features access points for the volume buttons and mute switch without obstructing the camera lens in anyway.
The Vise provides a fantastic level of shock absorption, which protects both the front and back of the iPhone, keeping it safe and secure when accidentally dropped, even from a substantial height. The corner and side pads are also reinforced to keep the fragile edge of the smartphone from suffering damage as well. Those areas can be especially susceptible to damage.Considering the level of protection the Vise delivers, the case is actually smaller and lighter than you would expect. It does, however, add a measure of thickness and weight to the iPhone that is undeniable. Still, frequent travelers will probably be willing to give up a bit of size and weight in order to keep their device secure while on the road. This is the kind of case that is equally useful in an urban environment as it is on a backpacking trip into the wilderness, and unlike a lot of other cases, it is easy to remove when you don’t feel it is needed.
It should be noted that the Vise comes with a detachable belt clip, which I’m sure some people will appreciate. While it does do a good job of holding the phone in place, I found it to be a bit larger than I would have liked and didn’t use it much after initial testing.
SYSTM Hammer ($29.95)
There is no denying that the Vise provides unprecedented levels of protection for our favorite smartphone, but not everyone is willing to sacrifice weight and thickness for that level of security. SYSTM has those users covered too however as they offer a thinner, lighter case in the form of the Hammer.
This case consists of a form-fitting, soft rubber sleeve that closely resembles the inner lining that comes with the Vise. Unlike that case however, the Hammer consists of just this single layer of protection and doesn’t include the hard outer shell that makes the Vise so unique. The Hammer does have reinforced corners and is made of shock absorbing materials, which combine to provide an overall excellent level of protection without adding any undue bulk.
Much like the Vise, the Hammer is incredibly easy to add or remove from the iPhone as needed. But unlike its bulkier counterpart, you probably won’t feel the need to take the Hammer off your phone quite so often. Since it is so much thinner, and does an excellent job of enhancing our grip while protecting the device, you’ll probably just want to leave it in place at all times. After a day or two, you’ll come to appreciate the qualities that it delivers and will likely forget that you even have it on the phone anyway.
Both the Vise and Hammer are great products and would make excellent holiday gifts. The Vise provides a high level of protection for those who take their tech toys to demanding environments or are just simply hard on their phones. The Hammer, on the other hand, isn’t quite so rugged and durable, but it still provides plenty of protection in a thinner and lighter package. Either one will keep your smartphone safe from harm and just as beautiful as it was the day it came out of the box.
I own a Nikon D200 with some extra stuff, including a 28-300 telephoto lens that weighs a ton. I have a Panasonic Lumix (that’s what I used to shoot this picture of dusk in the Serengeti), and an iPhone. I have a video camera, too (the only thing on my list of gear that I did not pay for – I got the video camera in a promotional scheme two years ago). I’ve traveled with all of this stuff and used it all, though I’ll confess that I never did fall in love with the video camera.
I have some formal training in photography, some hardcore classroom time combined with some unofficial apprenticeship with an architectural photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am no stranger to the darkroom (oh, I just gave away my age). I used to shoot, develop and print my own work, though I don’t miss the darkroom. Digital photography has made me love the art even more, though I decried the clumsiness of my first 3-megapixel camera – the metering was bad, the battery life atrocious and the optics, second rate. Digital gear has eaten film now; the quality is just as good and the optics in my phone are 97 times better than that of my first digital camera.
And while I’m not sorry I hauled my full kit to Antarctica and the Serengeti, I am dead tired of carrying all that weight around. A day behind that heavy SLR with the telephoto, and my arm aches. I hate the hassle of carrying around a pack full of lenses, batteries, maybe a flash, a tripod, and whatever extras I’ve packed in preparation. Sometimes, a full pack of photo gear is what keeps me from traveling carryon only. And there’s the added concern about the value of all that gear – a need to keep it safe and under my watch.
I’ve been shooting with my iPhone 4s for about six months now, and with a Panasonic Lumix for maybe two years. When I headed overseas last month, I decided to make a leap of faith and leave behind the big guns and travel with gear that I could fit in my pockets or the little Swiss Army shoulder bag I like to carry when I travel.
%Gallery-160397%Did I miss having my DSLR? Not at all. I felt surprisingly light and taking pictures was easy – easier than on any trip I’ve ever taken. I split my use about 50/50 between my new Lumix and my iPhone, and the work I got was as good as on any trip that I took with my DSLR. Here are some of the reasons I loved shooting light:
- Low light: I don’t own the lenses for my DSLR to shoot in low light without a tripod. Night shots – I could never get them right before. My phone and my pocket camera handle low light much better than my SLR.
- Point-and-shoot: Good photography is about the eye, not about the gear, and my point-and-shoot lets me do just that, fast. Read a little Cartier-Bresson on the decisive moment, and you’ll see what I mean.
- Super smart settings: Yes, you can tweak the settings like crazy, but you can also shoot in auto. Go ahead, call me lazy – whatever. I’m using the brain inside the camera to enable my eye. I like being able to do that.
- Display over viewfinder: With my SLR, I was always stopping, steadying, framing – with a camera stuck to my face. It interrupts the conversation. Shooting from my solar plexus allows me to watch and listen and shoot at the same time.
- Ease of access and use: My camera was always right there, not zipped away so it was padded and protected, so I simply shot more pictures. It fits in my back pocket; it’s about the same size as my wallet, so it’s easy to take anywhere.
- Serious zoom: The 20x optical zoom on my Lumix is rated as equivalent to a 35-500 lens. That’s some range for optics that fit in a camera that’s the size of my wallet and weighs about the same.
- Bright light: It’s hard to see the viewfinder in brightly lit settings. At a few locations, I wished for a viewfinder and this camera does not have one.
- The menus are insane: Sure, I’ll figure them out. But I know all the controls and what they do on my DSLR and I can tweak them fast. The navigation system viewfinder-based pocket cameras are basically a computer and you navigate through it as such. This is a learning curve issue that I’m sure I’ll master.
Lots of companies are making higher-end pocket cameras – my favorite is Lumix by Panasonic, but Olympus makes them, and Nikon and Canon too, as well as a number of other electronics brands. We’ve upgraded the Lumix three times at our house – not because it was broken, but because we wanted the improvements. I can’t speak to the other brands, I simply don’t know them, but I can say that yes, it is possible to get thoroughly satisfying shots with only a pocket camera. I loved traveling that much lighter, and what did I sacrifice? Not much. Not much at all.
Even if you own the iPhone 4S, you may not know ‘Siri’. And if you don’t already have the 4S, you might only know about Siri, if you do at all, through hearsay, abundant resources online introducing you to Siri, or a phone belonging to someone else. You may, on the other hand, use Siri regularly and effectively and, in that case, you’re ready to optimize your Siri use for travel. Siri is, in a nutshell, a voice-driven, personal assistant software built into the 4S. Siri doesn’t know the useful answer you’re looking for to every question you ask and calling upon Siri doesn’t always save you time – it depends. But Siri can do most things a real-life personal assistant can do, and more. Some of Siri’s functions can and will help you to make your travel experiences less stressful, more efficient, and, I daresay, better. By simply pressing and holding down the home button on the 4S, Siri comes to attention. And if you get to know Siri well enough, Siri will help you to travel smarter in 2012.Navigation and safety
While traveling, you’re not always in a safe position to be fussing over your GPS, especially not if your GPS is built into your phone. Distracting yourself with GPS can lead to avoidable accidents, no matter what sort of vehicle you’re captaining. Siri is hooked up with Maps and can walk you through step-by-step directions, from beginning to end, all through voice command.
No matter how much preparation you do, wasting time while traveling is nearly inevitable. You will, pretty much invariably, find that you need something in an area you are unfamiliar with while traveling and, if you’re anything like me, waste time trying to find it. Unlike a lot of voice command systems, Siri doesn’t need you to use specific phrases. If you need to find the nearest gas station, Siri will quickly present a list of nearby gas stations when you simply say, “gas station.” This feature isn’t just for filling up, though. Siri will just as quickly aid you in locating the nearest restaurant, day care, bar, or whatever else you need to find. Siri takes this process a step further by offering you results sorted by ratings. Command Siri to find you the “Best Thai restaurant in Austin” and you’ll know what I mean.
“Call 911.” Say that to Siri and Siri will do just that. When in less dire need, Siri can easily pull up lists and reviews of nearby medical professionals, car mechanics, vets, or anyone else you may need to contact in an emergency situation.
Siri can help you figure out where to go and how to get there. Phrases like these can possibly work well with Siri:
Traveling personal assistant
Siri is recognized, most generally speaking, as a robotic personal assistant. Relying on Siri to perform such tasks yields a decent job done. Having a personal assistant traveling with you can help ease the common stress associated with travel. Phrases like these can work with Siri:
“I am seeing a show on Friday night at 9 p.m.” Siri will put this in your calendar.
“Remind me at 10 a.m. to book my flight.” Siri will put this in your reminders.
“Wake me up at 7 a.m. to check out.” Siri will set this alarm for you.
“Add toothpaste, umbrella, and socks to my packing list.” Siri will add these items to a list in your notes.
More than anything, Siri seems to me like what Siri actually is: the iPhone’s first attempt at creating a little robot that any iPhone 4S owner can use to better manage traveling, and, of course, life in general.