If you’re like me, you probably use your smartphone camera more than a real digital camera. And while smartphone cameras have made big advances in quality, they still have a number of limitations. The lack of viewfinder, for one, can make shooting in bright light a guessing game, as even the brightest LCDs can be foiled by direct sunlight. To remedy this, Sig Innovations created the Daylight Viewfinder ($29.95 direct) for iPhones and iPod touches. The Daylight Viewfinder uses a suction cup eyepiece and a free app to help you shoot better shots in bright light that might otherwise obscure LCDs.
The Daylight Viewfinder is a collapsible, plastic column that attaches to iPhone and iPod touch screens using a suction cup. A ring around the suction cup tightens and secures the Viewfinder on the glass, while a rubber cup extends outward from the opposite end. It’s basically a small telescope, with two plastic lenses on either end that magnify the image on your iPhone or iPod touch screen. The plastic construction feels a bit flimsy, though, and I noticed that some debris made its way inside the Viewfinder chamber and caused an annoying speck when peering through the eye hole. I couldn’t find any way to take the Viewfinder apart and clean the speck. The suction cup held firmly to screens, but I wouldn’t try to pick your iPhone up by the Viewfinder. The Viewfinder also comes with a small cloth carrying pouch.
To use the Viewfinder, you’ll need to download the free accompanying app from the Apple App Store. Once you fire it up, you’ll get a brief walkthrough on properly attaching the Viewfinder and using the on screen controls. Half of the app has a white guide ring for attaching the Viewfinder, with a small live view feed from the camera in the center. The Viewfinder magnifies the live view feed, while the other half of the screen shows a slightly larger feed and camera controls. You can change from photos to video, change flash settings, use a digital zoom, and activate the shutter. Pressing the Volume Up button on the iPhone will also activate the shutter.
I tested the Viewfinder with an iPhone 5 outdoors and under bright studio lighting, and while it does what it claims, I still have my doubts about its usefulness. Smartphone cameras are great for their convenience—just pull out your phone and snap a quick pic to capture the moment. Attaching the Viewfinder seems like overkill, unless you know you’ll be in a scenario that renders the LCD useless, like at a beach or ski mountain. It’s a bit unsightly too, but if you do find yourself squinting at your iPhone or iPod screen to get that perfect shot, the Daylight Viewfinder is a decent solution and reasonably priced at $30.
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