Crowdfunded Campaigns

How flashes are less and less likely to kill you

If you're up to date on your photography history, you'll be aware that some of the stuff we used to have to do to get artificial light was basically the same as setting off fireworks next to your camera to capture the photos. Quaint as that feels, this is still the reality for high-speed photographers... If you want a swift way to kill yourself with photography equipment, the high-voltage flashes used to stop fast-moving objects is an easy way to go.

Let me explain. When we're talking about 'high speed' photography, we're not talking about the time it takes to trigger a flash. With a good high-speed flash trigger, you can go from trigger event (say, a laser beam being broken, or a loud enough sound) to strobe flash in a matter of microseconds.

What's the deal with high-speed photography

The challenge lies elsewhere: If you're trying to take a photo of something that moves very quickly indeed—say, a bullet—you need a very short burst of light. Now, what photographers traditionally think of as a very short burst of light—like the strobe from your studio flash—is actually a very long burst.

The problem is this: A standard .22 bullet has a muzzle velocity of 340 metres per second. So, if your very high-end camera with a shutter speed of 1/8000 second were to try and capture this bullet in flight, you'd be out of luck. Even at 1/8000 second, your bullet will travel 4.2 cm / 1.6 inches. That means you get a tremendous amount of blur in your photo — you certainly couldn't stop it.

So, what is a poor photographer to do? Well, a flash has a much shorter duration. A PC Buff Einstein (known to have a very short flash duration) will be about 1/13,000 second—but, when translated to our flying bullet, we're left with a blur again—2.6 cm / 1 inch is still a streak of blur. That's no way to stop a bullet, photographicaly speaking.

Even really short-duration strobes—like a Nikon SB-80DX at its lowest power output—has a duration of 1/22,000 second. Impressive, but no match for our trusty bullet — 1.54 cm / 0.6 inches. That's more like it, but still results in a rather blurry image.

So, what's a poor high-speed photographer to do? Well, Harold Edgerton, who was the father of high-speed photography, used an 'air gap flash'. If that sounds fancy, trust me—it really isn't. Imagine an electrode and a cathode, with a spark jumping between the two. In essence, you've got lightning—yes, real lightning—happening in your photography. It isn't difficult—anyone with a basic knowledge of electronics can build one—but it's incredibly dangerous. As in, could-very-well-kill-you-type-dangerous. We're talking at least 20,000 volts to create a spark that's bright enough to use for photography.

There are some slightly-less-likely-to-kill-you solutions out there, but they cost the earth: Upwards of $2,000 for basic short-duration strobes. Interesting, yes, but you'd really have to love high-speed photography to lay down that sort of money to embrace your hobby.

Is there a safe way to do short-duration flashes?

The solution, it seems, might be in technology. The clever lot over at Vela Labs have come up with a device they call the Vela One. It's not available to buy yet, but a Kickstarter campaign is aiming to rectify that situation.

To solve the 'this thing might kill you' and the price-tag issue, they're using LEDs designed for architectural use (i.e. mega-bright LED bulbs), and then they blink them very, very briefly.

The Vela One is a sexy piece of kit. About the size of a toaster, it incorporates nine super-bright LEDs.

By dumping a ton of power (in fact, 2000 times what they are designed for) into the LEDs for a brief period of time, they're able to get a lot of light out of the LEDs, for a very brief burst. How brief? Well, guys at Vela Labs claim it can be done in 1/2,000,000 of a second—which translates to 0.017 cm—or about twice the width of a human hair. To a photographer, this means pin-sharp photos, even of objects of moving at high speed.

Of course, this doesn't come for free: The cost of super-brief flashes of light is brightness. That is true for an air-gap flash, but also for the Vela One; but it looks as if the One offers a pretty good trade-off between flash duration and brightness. The photos speak for themselves.

At £550, it's not cheap, but it's a lot more affordable than some of the other high-speed options out there (although there's a VIP Early Bird offer of £400, but you need to be quick with only ten available)... And at least it's unlikely to kill you as you use it, which I find is always a feature I look for in most of my photographic kit.

The results? Well, let's take a look:

Compared to a Speedlite, LEDs can be 100 times faster. The result speaks for itself

'tis the season... To shoot Christmas baubles with guns, clearly.

If you want the Vela One to exist, you'll have to head over to Kickstarter, and be quick about it, too. The campaign ends in only 22 days, so get a wriggle on!

Going back for more with Easy-Macro's latest Kickstarter campaign

If at the beginning of last year you'd asked me if one of the best $15 that I'd spend in 2013 might've been on a macro lens attached to an elastic band to use in conjunction with your smartphone, I probably would have looked at you askance. It's not so much that it's a ridiculous idea; actually it's pretty sensible – portable, flexible, affordable. But would it be effective? It wouldn't slip, would it? And it would actually magnify the subject, wouldn't it? And would I really make use of it? It might only be $15, but if I never use it, then it's $15 wasted. In 2014, the answers to those questions—would it work, would I use it, and would it be $15 well-spent—are very definitely yes. I pledged $15 for an Easy-Macro band on Kickstarter and it works a treat. It lives in my wallet, I use it regularly, and I love the results. If I choose to upgrade my iPhone or switch to a different manufacturer, my Easy-Macro will remain compatible. Fabulous!

I don't have a caterpillar farm, but I did take it with my smartphone, because it's what I had to hand

There isn't just the review here on Photocritic, but I have lots of pretty close-up photos taken with my iPhone to show for it.

Portable, and compatible with smartphones up to 10 inches wide

And now due to popular demand, Easy-Macro is expanding its product line. Woohoo!

Photo 04-10-2014 15 41 24

In addition to the original 4× magnification band, a 2× and a 10× band are being put into production. Pledge $30 to the Easy-Macro Kickstarter campaign and you'll receive a triple pack of magnification bands if it successfully reaches its funding goal. You can then use them individually or stack them one on top of each other for some serious close-ups.

Smartphones galore!

All of the details are available on the Easy-Macro Kickstarter page.

Glowing in the light of Cubee: the illuminating photo cube

How often do you print your photos? How often do you place your printed photos on display? I bet you should do it a bit more often. Image sharing platforms are great, but there's something special about seeing your photos in a tangible format. Digital images can be ephemeral; hang a photo on your wall and it's a little harder to ignore it. And placing five of your favourite images in a softly glowing cube, reminiscent of a 1970s acrylic photo cube but thoroughly more modern, is definitely a good way of showing them off.

Cubee is based on the Instagram idea, but the images don't have to be Instagrams

This is precisely the aim of Cubee, which is nearing the end of its Kickstarter campaign having smashed its $9,000 funding goal. Cubee is an LED-illuminated, USB-powered, acrylic cube measuring 3.25” along each edge. You select five of your images to be printed on Kodak Universal Backlit Film, which are then inserted into your Cubee before its shipped to you. Want to change your chosen images after six weeks or six months or even six years? Not a problem, any of them can be replaced with new prints.

Choose your five prints and check them out as a 3D rendering before finalising your order

You can read about the development process and the technical aspects of the Cubee over on Kickstarter; what you most likely want to know is that you can pick up one Cubee for a pledge of $30 and that you have until Tuesday 21 October 2014 to do so.

Ideal as a night light?

I think I might send a pair to my niece and nephew, to serve as stylish, personalised night lights.

Do you have your Rihanna yet? The digital Diana camera

If you've not already pledged your money to Cyclops Cameras' Digital Diana Camera Indiegogo campaign, there's still time—it ends on 15 July—and there are still cameras available—250 of the 1,000 units have been assigned, even though it has already met its £13,500 target—and there are no plans to put it into commercial production. Toy camera look, digitally made

The Digital Diana is exactly what it sounds like: a 1:1 replica of a Diana mini fitted with a 12 megapixel CMOS sensor and a plastic lens. There's a 1.8" LCD rear screen for composition and review, the ability to adjust white balance and ISO, and to apply some effects.

Greg, the brains behind Cyclops Cameras has already enjoyed success with limited production runs of quirky cameras, notably the 'Little Cyclops', which was a tiny fisheye camera. The community that has grown up around these cameras has suggested the Digital Diana be known as a 'Rihanna'.

You can have a Rihanna delivered to you around Christmas-time for £65, but for £60 you can pick up one at the invite-only launch party in London that will probably be sometime in September. If you feel the need for double Rihanna trouble, a bundle of two costs £115.

In action!

The Rihanna looks like all the fun of a toy camera without the analogue inconvenience. And it's limited edition. Groovy!

All the details are on The Digital Diana Camera Project's Indiegogo page.

MBLOK: a cross-platform memory cube for many devices

One memory across multiple devices that doesn't involve the cloud? I think I could be tempted by that idea. It's precisely what MBLOK is attempting to achieve via a Kickstarter campaign that launched yesterday. MBLOK is a small, local memory device that connects to PCs and Macs like a flashdrive or communicates with smartphones and tablets via Bluetooth. It should function cross-platform and can connect to upto seven devices simultaneously. There are Android and iOS apps in the works to help you manage your files stored on an MBLOK and keep a track of its battery life. It's meant to last for upto 300 hours. It comes in 128 and 256GB storage capacities.

MBLOK's biggest appeal, for me, is its ability to connect to a variety of different devices without the need for an internet connecton. This makes it ideal for when you're on the move and might want to back up Raw images from your laptop and other photos from your phone, watch films on your tablet, and keep copies of documents, but can't guarantee access to the cloud.

A quick run-down of capability

MBLOK needs to raise $120,000 (Canadian) to reach its Kickstarter goal. That's £65,700. You can pick up an early-bird special 128GB MBLOK for $189 (about £105) or 256GB version for $279 (£155); rising to $249 and $349 respectively when the limited numbers special prices have been snapped up. I was slightly concerned that at these prices and with few lower-tier backing options, MBLOK might struggle. But it's already raised over $15,000 and it isn't even 24 hours into its campaign yet.

Connects to a laptop via USB, to smartphone via Bluetooth

I'm also inclined to regard the MBLOK timeline with scepticism. It seems highly ambitious to me, with a great deal to be accomplished before shipping the product in the first quarter of 2015. This includes establishing suppliers and component production, app development, and a great deal of testing. If I were putting my money into this, I'd be prepared for my device to arrive a little after the anticipated delivery date.

Managed via an app

If you're interested, you can read more and pledge money over on Kickstarter.

Lensbaby adds an Android option to its Kickstarter campaign

When manufacturers and purveyors of not-quite-toe-curlingly-expensive optically fun lenses Lensbaby launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring a Sweet Spot selective focus lens and companion app to mobile photographers, a few eyebrows were raised. First, because a well-established company was looking for Kickstarter funding for a project that felt nailed-on to succeed and second, because the Sweet Spot lens and app was iPhone-only. At least, I don't use an Android phone but I felt indignant on behalf of Andoid phone owners. Sweet Spot + iPhone, but now coming to Android (photo by Ben Hutchinson)

It sounds as if Android users have made their demand for an equivalent sufficiently for Lensbaby to take note. It has just announced a $50 pledge for an Android-compatible Sweet Spot lens and app, that will ship and be availble for download in October this year.

You can go lay down your money on Kickstarter now.

Click, snap, hang: showing off your prints with Fotobit

You've created a stream of several hundred, maybe even thousand, Instagram images that you love. There are landscapes and portraits and birthday cakes and bumble bees and holiday photos and you're really rather proud of a few. Now what do you do with them? Fotobit thinks that you should print them and display them in its nifty interlocking, extendable frame system that its launching on Kickstarter right now. You start with one 4×4" frame to which you can attach more frames—left or right, up or down—creating a block of images on a wall, a line of them around a room, or a zig-zag pattern of pictures. As you take more photos you can extend your display or re-arrange it to accommodate the new images.

Arrange and re-arrange with Fotobit

Fotobit has already achieved its Kickstarter funding goal, but you can still pledge $30 for a three-pack of frames, $45 for a six-pack, or $65 for a nine-pack (but there aren't many of those left; when they're gone, the price goes up to $80). And there are much larger packs of frames available for even bigger pledges. The Fotobit team has signed-off on the final design and production samples; it's waiting on the Kickstarter funds to place a minimum order of frames with its manufacturers, which means that if everything goes to plan, backers should have their frames by the end of May.

First it came in black, but there are white options now, too!

'There’s nothing better than the nostalgic feeling you get when reliving a memory through a photo and I was looking for a way to share and display the countless photos I’ve taken with Instagram in a more permanent way,' says Alan Yeung, Fotobit co-founder. 'Traditional frames made the task too daunting, so that’s when I came up with Fotobit, which I hope inspires people to get photos out of their phone and onto their walls.'

You've until 24 April to make a pledge via Kickstarter.

Lensbaby turns to Kickstarter to fund a selective focus iPhone lens

There's already an array of additional lenses to augment our mobile phones, and quite a few of them have their origins in Kickstarter, too. There are telephoto and fisheye lenses that screw on or clip on as well as macro lenses on elastic bands, but now Lensbaby, known for its creative optics for dSLRs, is joining the fray with a campaign to fund a selective focus lens for iPhones 4s, 5, 5s, and 5c. It's called the Sweet Spot, and it will render images with a sweet spot of focus surrounded by blur. By pledging $50 to the campaign, you can pick up a Sweet Spot and start composing dreamy, selectively-focused shots. The Lensbaby attaches to an iPhone using both adhesive and magnets. One stainless steel ring sticks to your phone, around its lens, and the Lensbaby is mounted to that using magnets. The Lensbaby lens has magnets on both ends, meaning that it can be combined with other magnetic iPhone-compatible lenses, such as fisheyes and telephotos, for even greater control over your photos.

Sweet Spot + iPhone (photo by Ben Hutchinson)

As well as the lens, there's an accompanying app. It's been developed to provide an optimal shooting experience with a Lensbaby lens. Primarily, it ensures that the image you see on your screen is the right way up, because the optical design of the lens means that it renders upside-down with the iPhone's native camera.

The catch is, of course, that these are only some-iPhone-models-friendly. If you're an Android user, or an iPhone 4 user, you're out of luck.

Lensbaby Sweet Spot for iPhone

The question quite a few people might be asking is why has Lensbaby, a well-established company with a significant turn-over, opted to seek Kickstarter funding for a mobile-oriented version of its product? The answer's in the question: this is a departure from Lensbaby's dSLR stomping ground and it wants to be sure that this is a product consumers want. An iPhone-only offering with a modest $20,000 goal suggests that Lensbaby is using Kickstarter to dip its mobile toes in the water. With 199 backers and over half of its goal achieved within roughly 24 hours, I'd say that people are interested in a selective focus iPhone lens. Android users might even be interested in a version for their phones, too.

If you'd like a Lensbaby Sweet Spot for your iPhone, you can pledge over on Kickstarter.

Getting back to basics at the Silverhill Darkroom

The Silverhill Darkroom is a community darkroom based in Hastings, East Sussex, that is looking to provide affordable facilities to anyone living its environs. As well as providing members and non-members with the chance to develop their own prints, they'd also like to offer lessons in darkroom techniques, whether to school children or adults. The darkroom is looking to raise £1,000 to put towards renovating its facilities, providing some of the materials that it requires to get its workshop sessions up-and-running, and to establish a portable darkroom that can be used in schools and other off-site learning environments.

silverhill-darkroom-redlight copy

Although the project isn't a charity, it isn't exactly profit-oriented, either. Its goal is sustainability. Mostly, it's about creating an inclusive, affordable, and educational environment, ideally with the support of a part-time staffer.

While they're primarily asking for cash to help make their plans a reality, if you have any serviceable darkroom equipment in need of a good home, do get in touch with them as they might find it useful.

You can read more about the darkroom, what it offers, and about becoming a member on its website; if you're able to contribute something towards its funding goal, you can do that via Sponsume. For a £25 donation you can get a day's printing in the darkroom.

Stretcher Prints: making art from old plastic bottles

What can you make from 140,000 already used plastic bottles? I have a pencil that once upon was a plastic bottle. (It says so on it.) Probably quite a few of those. Or a gajillion combs. They seem to be popular recycled products. Headphones, too. They can be manufactured from recycled plastic bottles. But what about pictures? Apparently, yes. Co2nscience, a UK-based start-up wants to transform 140,000 bottles into enough felt-like canvas material suitable for photographic reproductions to cover a football pitch. (A European football pitch, not an American one.) That's 10,851 prints measuring 960mm by 710mm. Co2nscience is looking for £12,000 in Kickstarter funding get their Stretcher Prints project out of the ground and onto people's walls.

Stretcher Prints aren't framed; as the name suggests, they stretch over your wall and are secured through eyelets. Without a frame and because of the flexibility of the material, they're not restricted to flat walls but can decorate spiral staircases, for example. Oh, and they can go in the washing machine.

There are four different sized stretcher prints on offer, the cheapest starting at £49 if you want to have your own image printed on it. There are off-the-shelf prints available, too, but I'm guessing that you'd prefer to see your own pictures on one!

They come in all shapes and sizes, some ideal for panoramas

Co2nscience's Kickstarter runs until 10 April and they need another £9,000, or thereabouts, to make it happen. Who knew that a plastic bottle could become something so pretty? And it's so much better than going to landfill.

From bottle to picture

LifePrint, a wireless, social photo printer is looking for a Kickstarter start

Portable printers, wireless printers, and smartphone-connected printers aren't anything new, but LifePrint is looking to bring something new to the market. It's seeking Kickstarter funding for its portable, wireless, instant, and socially networked printer that'll be both iOS- and Android-compatible. It comes in white, too. And there's a Kickstarter special in black and chrome.

We get the portable, wireless, and instant bits; but what do they mean by social? It means that LifePrint isn't just a printer, but there's an app, too. This will allow you to follow your family and friends and be followed by them in turn, wherever you all are in the world. Anyone you follow can send an image to your printer that you can choose to print, or not. Likewise, you can send your images to your followers' printers, if you're so inclined. Grandmother in Italy should be able to print images of grandchildren in the UK without a hitch. Not that you have to acquire followers if you don't want to; you can remain an undiscoverable recluse if you prefer.

From smartphone to printer, wherever you are

Provided that you have a connection to the Internet, it doesn't matter where in the world your phone is and your printer is. They can be thousands of miles apart, but once you click 'Print' your image should be ready in about 60 seconds.

You can print any photo on your camera roll, and use the LifePrint app's editing tools before you print if you want. It's got the usual filters and borders, as well as speech bubbles and picture-stitching. Once you've printed, you can share your photo to the social media of your choice from the app, too.

Filters, borders, and stitching come in the app

All of this is, however, a long way off. LifePrint needs to raise $200,000 before 25 April 2014 to reach its Kickstarter goal, with Earlybird rewards starting at $99. If and when it reaches its funding, the projected shipping dates for printer units is January 2015 for iOS and mid-April 2015 for Android-compatible devices.

Will it make it? Well, according to Kicktraq, if pledges continue at the current rate, it'll get there.

LifePrint: Wireless, Social Photo Printer for iPhone/Android -- Kicktraq Mini

And then the hard work for the LifePrint team really will begin. They have an app to develop and hardware to finalise, manufacture, and ship. If you like what you see, you know what to do over on Kickstarter.

Ember looks to light up iPhone photos

In December last year we featured a Kickstarter project called Lightstrap, which aimed to bring better lighting to smartphone photos. About a week into the campaign, Brick and Pixel, the team behind Lightstrap, pulled the plug on it citing that a better offer had come along. While quite a few people were disappointed by this decision, it has proved to be something of a small mercy for Ember, a new night photography tool that is looking for Kickstarter backing. Ember slides over your smartphone like a case. It comprises 56 LEDs and a diffuser, with the ability to adjust its brightness using a slider and a range of filters to control for light temperature. This should make for more evenly lit photos that don't wash-out people's skintones or give them evil red eyes.

Ember onthe iPhone 5

By removing the top of the Ember case, it's possible to continue to use add-on lenses, for example Olloclip or Moment. It's charged through a micro-USB port, making it independent of your phone's battery, and capable of providing light for about four hours of shooting.

Compatible with additional lenses

Embers are only iPhone 5 and 5S compatible, which is a shame for any other type of smartphoneographer; it's not as if we don't take photos or would appreciate some better lighting options. If, however, you're an iPhone 5 or 5S owner and interested, you can help make the Ember happen with an early-bird Kickstarter pledge of $59. Should you miss out on that level, it's $79 for one Ember.

Adjustable brightness and filters for colour temperature control

Ember needs to raise $30,000 to make it a reality; with 25 days to go, it's raised just over $4,000. At this rate, it's touch-and-go if it makes it.

Slidestrap: a simple and stylish camera strap

I'm not a great fan of the strap that came with my camera. For a start, who wants to walk around advertising their camera make and model to all and sundry? It's a siren to wannabee muggers that I have an expensive piece of kit on my person. 'Oh yes! Do come over here and relieve me of thousands of pounds-worth of photography gear. I don't mind at all!' Neither is it especially practically designed. Usually, I sling my camera across my body, which means that a 70-200mm protruding from my hip is uncomfortable and has the potential for damage, either to the lens itself or someone or something else. And there's an awkward moment of readjustment when I bring my camera to my eye. Lazily, I've not done anything about this yet. I suppose it's an 'I've coped for this long, so why change my habits now?' mentality. But there's a Kickstarter project in town that might convince me to get my credit card out of my wallet and get a new strap.

VU's Slidesrtrap

It's called the Slidestrap and it has been developed by Glasgow-based start-up VU Equipment. They couldn't find the strap that suited them (or me): not covered in repeated corporate logos or bright patterns, simple and didn’t require constant adjusting, yet made from high quality materials. The solution? To design one themselves.

The Slidestrap has been designed to be worn across the body but without the need to readjust it to take a photo: just slide the camera along the strap. Its mounting plate ensures that lenses are carried downwards and not outwards, making them less vulnerable to knocks and scrapes. And it's made from cotton and leather: hard-wearing, comfortable, but understated.

From hip to eye in one slick movement

With 17 days to go the project is 78% funded. With a Slidestrap pledge valued at £29, it needs another 73 backers to get it underway. I hope it makes it.

Moment wants to bring more variety to smartphone additional lenses via Kickstarter

How many different lens manufacturers can you name in the next ten or fifteen seconds? Quite a few, I bet. We're accustomed to being able to choose between our camera manufacturers' lenses as well as third party lenses manufactured by the likes of Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, Samyang et alios. Now that smartphones are the snapshot-camera-du-jour, and a vertaible feast of apps and accessories are springing up to help people make the most from them, why not a selection of additional lens manufacturers? Moment is aiming to bring some diversity to the smartphone lens accessory marketplace with its Kickstarter project that launches today. If it successfully raises $50,000, it should be shipping wide-angle and telephoto lenses, suitable for iPhones (4s, 5, 5c, and 5s), iPads (third and fourth generation iPad 2), and Samsung Galaxy smartphones (S2, S3, and S4), to its backers around June 2014.

Available for iPhone and Samsung Galaxy phones

The wide-angle lens offers a 35mm equivalent focal length of around 18mm (it varies slightly according to phone model); the telephoto lens' focal length equates to approximately 60mm, again depending on the smartphone model, in 35mm equivalent. Pledge $49 and you put yourself in line for one lens; $99 will secure you a pair.

iPhone 5 + Moment tlephoto lens

The mounting mechanism attaches a metal plate to your phone—either with or without a case—and to this you secure the lens with a bayonet fitting. The Moment team thinks, after lots of prototype testing, that this is the easiest, quickest, and most secure mount around.

And with the wide-angle lens

Moment is convinced that it offers the best quality lens you can attach to a smartphone. Some of its developers have worked in the manufacture of cinema lenses, and they've applied that knowledge to Moment's smartphone attachments to minimise distortion and chromatic aberration and maximise sharpness. Without a model to test, you have to take the manufacturers' word for it; but that's the gamble of Kickstarter.

You can check out the Moment video down below, or wander over to its Kickstarter page for a closer look!

Update! Moment reached its Kickstarter funding goal in under 24 hours. But that shouldn't stop you from taking a look!

What happened to the Lightstrap Kickstarter project?

Just over a week ago we featured a Kickstarter project called Lightstrap: a temperature- and brightness-adjustable ringlight set into an iPhone case, which aimed to bring better lit iPhone photos to everyone and rid us of the curse of evil red-eye. The project needed to raise a fairly sizeable $245,000, but only six days into its campaign it appeared to be well on course to achieve that with $67,197 pledged to the cause by 540 people and quite a lot of press coverage to boot. So why did Brick and Pixel, Lightstrap's developers, pull the plug on the Kickstarter campaign? In a message to its Kickstarter backers, Brick and Pixel stated that while the project appeared to be on course to hit its goal, it wasn't a slam-dunk. When it was offered the opportunity to put the Lightstrap into production through traditional channels, Brick and Pixel didn't feel that it could refuse. The campaign has been cancelled and anyone who pledged money to it won't have it debited from their accounts. Instead, they're going to have to wait for the Lightstrap to go on sale in stores and online.


As you might expect, there are quite a few disgruntled punters out there. Several of them are deeming the Kickstarter campaign a disingenuous attempt to raise the Lightstrap's profile and prove its viability as a product, lure in an external investor, and then dump the backers when a better offer came along. Quite a few would like to have been acknowledged for their support and perhaps offered a discount on the Lightstrap if and when it does make into full production. Even with those backers who remain hopeful for a positive outcome for the Lightstrap, there remains a sense of unease and there's certainly been an erosion of goodwill towards Brick and Pixel.

When I contacted Cassidy Crawson, one of Lightstrap's developers, he told me that he feels the backers' frustrations, but that it's a complicated business and they're doing their best to bring Lightstrap to fruition: 'We are deeply invested in this product (personally and financially) and we are making hard decisions with the goal of bringing Lightstrap to market successfully.' Brick and Pixel really do want the Lightstrap to make its way onto people's phones, but in one way or another they've managed to make a mistake.

Reading between the lines, it would seem that Brick and Pixel somehow underestimated what it takes to bring a product to reality, and how hard it can be to accomplish that through Kickstarter. Even when you have backers on your side, there are a great many other factors that need to be considered and you really do have to be prepared for anything. Furthermore, they also seem to have misjudged the depth of feeling that backers have for campaigns that they support. When we pledge money to projects, we're putting faith in the people behind them to deliver what they say they will. If a project doesn't reach its funding goal, that's all well and good and thems the breaks of Kickstarter. But if the project lead hasn't got it right, it's more than a sense of disappointment, there is, perhaps, an erosion of trust, too. For Lightstrap, I hope the it doesn't have a negative impact on its potential availability. For prospective Kickstarter project leads: check, check, and check again. And be prepared for anything.

In whichever way that the Lightstrap makers didn't get it right, it's a shame. I hope that they can somehow redeem themselves and finish what they've started.

Better looking iPhone lighting with Lightstrap

The flash on the iPhone is a notoriously unflattering beast. It throws out harsh shadows, crazy colour casts, and can leave your photos looking less than beautiful. The flash on the iPhone 5s has seen some improvements, but plenty of people aren't using a 5s and even then, it could still be better. There are a few ways of getting around the terror of terrible flash. Only last week I found myself lighting Einstein the hamster with the torch app on my phone while my brother's housemate's girlfriend (got that?) took a photo with her smartphone. Or you can buy yourself an add-on flash from numerous sources. They work well, but they're something else that needs to be carried around in a bag or pocket, something to be forgotten or dropped or just have to be schlepped. Wouldn't an iPhone case with an integrated light source be better? Enter the Lightstrap

That's exactly what Brick and Pixel has developed with its Lightstrap. It's looking to bring it to the masses with the help of Kickstarter.

The Lightstrap slots over an iPhone similarly to a protective case, but offers you a temperature-controlled and brightness adjustable ring light. The ring light should give flattering shadows and avoid the curse of evil red-eye, the brightness adjustment should stop you blowing out your background, and the six temperature options will help to prevent colour casts that make everything look wrong.

Too dark; not great; much better!

You won't drain your phone's battery using the Lightstrap; it charges independently via a micro USB cable. You can expect about 500 flashes or 30 minutes of video recording time from one charge. Unfortunately for people like me who are still kicking about with an iPhone 4 or 4s or have gone for the colourful 5c choice, the Lightstrap won't be of any use. It's only iPhone 5 and 5s compataible, which is a shame given that there's still a sizeable chunk of us still using older models, and we'd definitely benefit from some advanced flash assistance.

Brick and Pixel needs to raise $245,000 by 3 January 2014 to bring the Lightstrap into production. Pledge sums start at $87 to lay your hands on an early adopter model. What do you reckon? Worth the outlay? If you think so, the Lightstrap's Kickstarter page is here.

Let's go fly a Sparrowscope! Kite photography comes to Kickstarter

Ori Barbut has loved electronics and tinkering with things since he was a kid. He fixed things for his friends and his parents' friends; then he took two degrees in engineering; and now he's a freelance engineer in the aerospace and energy industries. But he's also developed a project on the side, combining all of these skills and interests, inspired by a picnic in a Toronto park in 2012. Someone asked him and his friends if they could help secure a camera to a kiteline, for a spot of aerial photography. It got Ori thinking: there has to be an easier way to have a go at kite photography. Within a few days of thinking about it, Ori had knocked together a balsawood prototype. And now, after 16 months of development, he's about to launch the Sparrowscope on Kickstarter.

The Sparrowscope comprises a kite, a harness for a picture-taking mobile device, and an app for communication. The theory is that you launch the kite, fly it into clean air where it's easier to control, and then attach the harness to the line and send your mobile device up to start taking photos.

Barn from above

The Sparrowscope uses an easy-to-fly kite, so even if you're not a kite-flying expert, you shouldn't have too many problems. The harness uses a three-point design, meaning that if one strap fails there are two more to hold your phone in place. And the frame that takes the harness up the line is designed so that regardless of the angle that your kite plummets ground-wards, your phone shouldn't hit it. You won't need to catch it in your hands.

All the details

You'll need two devices, both running the Sparrowscope app, to operate the Sparrowscope: one in the harness and one on the ground. The one in the harness will be your picture-taking device; it will also send tone pattern signals to the tilt-pan motors through its headphone jack, allowing you to direct your camera using your device on the ground. The aerial device and the grounded device communicate using a wi-fi generated by a wireless hotspot. The device in your hands will give you a live view of what the aerial device is recording as well as allow you to direct the pan-tilt function to help you get the shots you want.

Panning, tilting, and taking photos

You can send a fourth or fifth generation iPod Touch (running iOS 5 or later), an iPhone 4 or later, or an Android phone running 4.0 or later up into the sky. On the ground, you've a greater range of device options:

  • a third, fourth, or fifth generation iPod Touch running iOS 5 or later
  • an iPhone 3GS or newer
  • any iPad model running iOS 5 or later
  • an Android phone running 4.0 or later
  • an Android tablet running 4.0 or later.

Barbut needs to raise $75,000 (Canadian) from his Kickstarter campaign to bring kite photography to the masses through the Sparrowscope. The cheapest pledge that you can make and get your hands on a kite and harness rig is $249 (Canadian). As luck would have it, the project is launching on a day when the winds are so high in the UK several train companies have been forced to cancel services because of the risks from falling trees, but you shouldn't let that put you off. This sounds like far too much fun to pass up!

Palette: a tactile interface to edit your photos

When you're beavering away in your editing suite, converting images to black and white, tweaking the colour balance, and adjusting the levels, how do you work? Graphics tablet? Mouse? Keyboard shortcuts? A mixture? The team behind Palette is looking to provide a new, more tactile means of making adjustments and applying presets to our images. They're hoping that Kickstarter can help bring to life their customisable, modular, hardware interface for editing. Comprising blocks that fit together like Lego, a palette allows you to edit your images using tactile controls. Different functions are assigned to different controller blocks; these include buttons, sliders, and dials.

Palette in aluminium

If you decide that you need to reconfigure your palette, switching your toy camera preset to a black and white preset, you can do that via the Palette web app.

Assign your most used adjustments their own controllers

The Palette team is looking for CA$100,000 in Kickstarter funding. Pledges for Palettes start at CA$99 for the brushed aluminium four module starter kit, comprising a master block, a button, a dial, and a slider. Then come six module apprentice kits and 16 module professional kits as well as some limited edition cherry wood ones, too.

Palette might not be so great for editing on the move, but I like the idea of having physical controls over my edits, rather than relying on mouse, keyboard shortcuts, and trackpad. I also find Palette's flexibility and reconfigurement and expansion capability appealing. It's also worth pointing out that Palette isn't just for photographers: the controllers can be assigned to interact with music production suites and video editing programmes; if you've another idea, get in touch with the team.

Interested? There's a heap more information on Palette's Kickstarter page!

Triggertrap Redsnap goes live on Kickstarter

When Haje Jan Kamps (that is the very same Haje Jan Kamps who publishes Photocritic) launched his first Kickstarter project to deliver the Triggertrap universal camera trigger, back in 2011, little did he know that it would spawn a mobile app with 14 ways to trigger your camera, a high-speed triggering device, and an actual company with offices and employees. Now, Triggertrap is returning to Kickstarter to bring you Redsnap: an infinitely expandable high-speed camera triggering tool. Redsnap is a modular system, offering photographers the ability to build the camera trigger that they need for each shoot.

Triggertrap Redsnap 19

The base block includes the time-lapse options Triggertrap is known for: timelapse, TimeWarp (timelapses that include acceleration), long exposure HDR, and star trail mode. On top of that you can add a high speed laser sensor, great for capturing a bullet in flight; a high speed sound sensor, to capture bursting balloons and smashing vases; a high-speed light sensor to make sure you snap a lightning strike; and a passive infrared sensor (PIR) that's ideal for stalking lions and tigers and bears. Or butterflies, if you feel like something a little less adventurous. That's the initial offering of modules; more are in the works.

Redsnap has three outputs to connect it to three cameras, three flashes, or a combination of both. There's also a connector that allows it to communicate with the Triggertrap mobile device, bringing its triggering options into play, too.

What do you get for your Kickstarter backing, then? The timelapse kit is £35; the wildlife kit is £120; and multiple-sensor kits are priced between £125 and £190. If you're really, really desperate, you can pledge £1,000 and be first in line for a pre-production prototype.

Even more information awaits you on the Kickstarter page, and of course there's a video, too.

Triggertrap Redsnap 16

Pinhole, Printed - a 3D printed pinhole camera on Kickstarter

So much of the fun of pinhole cameras, apart from the pictures that they produce, is their simplicity. They're the very basis of photography: light, a box, and something to capture your image. What's more, they're simple enough that you can make them yourself, out of coffee cans, cardboard boxes, or canibalise a bodycap to make one for a dSLR camera. But what about if you introduced new world technology to old school simplicity, and you 3D printed a pinhole camera? Step forward Clint O'Connor and his Pinhole, Printed project on Kickstarter. By backing his project you can snap up a print-it-yourself kit that comes complete with the items that can't be printed—pinhole, O-rings, red window, screws—for $29. If you're not endowed with a 3D printer, you can buy a ready-printed camera along with two rolls of film and the STL files for $49. Whichever reward you opt for, it includes a guidebook to help you get your exposures right, too.

The pinhole camera you'll produce is the Flyer. It is printed in ABS, Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene—the same material used to make Lego—making it light but sturdy. It takes 120 format film, has a 70&deg field of view, an ƒ-stop of 133, and can be mounted on a tripod. Old school meets new world.

Pinhole, Printed

Pinhole, Printed managed to achieve its Kickstarter goal within 13.5 hours of going live on 10 October 2013, so now it's a case of staking your claim on one of the limited edition Kickstarter versions of the Flyer (they're marked with a 'K') or on the files so that you can print own (they don't come with a 'K'). You've until 10 November 2013 to make a pledge.