A lot of digital cameras have LCD screens that can be swiveled around independent of the camera body, making it a lot easier to get high- and low-angle shots. Photographers using an iPhone or iPad, however, are stuck with an unswivel-able screen. That’s where the HiLO lens comes in. It’s a right-angle lens that attaches to an iDevice’s existing lens, allowing users to shoot up, down or to either side while still being able to view the screen.
Created by New Zealand-based inventor Mark Hampton, the HiLO has an aluminum body, containing three glass lenses and a prism. It attaches to an iPhone 4/4S/5’s lens (or the lens of a third-gen iPad) via a sticky polymer pad that can be washed and reused indefinitely.
As an example of how it works, imagine getting a very low-angle shot, where the camera is peering through short grass. Ordinarily, it would be simple enough to get the unadorned iPhone lens down that low, if the phone were held perpendicular to the ground. However, the user would have to lie flat on their belly in order to see its screen.
Using the HiLO, the phone could be held parallel to the ground, with the user looking straight down onto its screen – although the phone’s own lens would be pointing down, the 90-degree angle of the HiLO would allow it to shoot to the side.
Similarly, for high-angle shots, the user could hold the phone horizontally up over their head. They could then look up into the screen, while shooting forwards instead of up.
Hampton also points out that it allows tables to be used as tripods – the iPhone can be laid flat at the edge of a table, with the HiLO hanging over the edge and pointing in the desired direction. Although he doesn’t mention it, another use could be for getting candid shots of camera-shy people. Unless they already knew about the trick lens, chances are that most people would pay no attention to a smartphone that wasn’t pointing at them.
The HiLO package additionally includes an app that corrects for optical distortions and flips the mirrored image around to its proper orientation. It also includes a shutter delay feature, so users can set the phone on a table and then get into a group shot or self-portrait.
Hampton and his team are currently raising production funds for the HiLO, on Kickstarter. A pledge of US$60 will get you one, when and if the funding goal is reached – the estimated retail cost is about $80.
It can be seen in use in the pitch video below.