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Mobile accessory review: HDHat iHat4

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HDHat iHat4 - compatible with Apple iPhone 4/4S
$99.95 

The iHat4 is a wideangle adapter for the Apple iPhone 4/4S which doubles the angle of view of the camera. Instead of building a mobile lens system from the ground up, as companies like Olloclip and Schneider have done, HDHat, a small Michigan-based company, uses available components to assemble kits created with real estate photography and video in mind. Their emphasis is on providing tools for the kind of wide-angle capture needed to show an interior space or a whole building facade. The iHat4 is HDHat’s basic wide-angle kit for the Apple iPhone 4/4S (no word yet on an iPhone 5 version), and includes a case, a lens and a lens cap.

The case is a flexible plastic SnapMount model that incorporates two sturdy brass tripod mounts and a lens mount. The lens mount is actually a step-up ring that HDHat has glued onto the case and secured with small metal fasteners. This gives the case a bit of a DIY look, but the lens mount is attached very securely. The flexible plastic and open-back design of the case body make it easy to take on and off the camera quickly. That’s a good thing, since it’s not really a case that’s meant to be left on the phone all the time.

The corner pieces that allow the case to snap on easily extend almost half an inch beyond the phone’s surface, which is not the most aesthetically pleasing design. On the other hand, it’s very practical when you’re using the phone as a camera, because the extended corners and tripod mounts allow the case to function as a stand. You can set it on a flat surface in vertical or horizontal orientation to stabilize the camera without having to use a tripod.

The HDHat’s use of relatively large, high-quality optics shows in the image quality captured with the standard wide-angle lens.
100% Crop (from center of image)

The rest of the HDHat kit is a straightforward affair: There’s a wide-angle lens that screws onto the lens mount and roughly doubles the angle of view. The lens is actually a two-part optic consisting of single-element macro lens and a single-element wide lens. Since the mount is a standard 37mm threaded ring, you could also use any other compatible accessory lenses on the case.

For $50 more, HDHat sells the kit with a super-wide lens that you can add on top of the wide lens. It’s fairly large and heavy, though. HDHat includes cloth-covered elastic bands for you to secure the case to your phone when you’re using the large lens, because its weight can cause the case to fall off. The rubber bands work, but at that point, HDHat’s handcrafted approach starts to feel a little kludgy.

The HDHat’s use of relatively large, high-quality optics shows in the image quality captured with the standard wide-angle lens. Like any accessory lens, it introduces slight overall softness compared to the results from the iPhone's "naked" lens, but it maintains decent edge-to-edge sharpness. In that respect, it’s noticeably better than some similar accessories on the market. It also keeps barrel distortion to an acceptable minimum. Some minimal color fringing shows up along high-contrast edges appearing in the outer areas of images, but not enough to be noticeable if you’re looking at them at a typical level of magnification.

Summary:

The iHat4 doesn’t offer the kind of sleek, ultra-portable design that some systems manufactured just for mobile devices do, but when it comes to image quality, it often outdoes them. If you value function over form and don’t mind carrying a comparatively bulky lens, put the iHat4 on your shortlist.

What we Like: High-quality optics show in image results.

What we don't like: Can feel bulky, especially the super-wide lens model.

 

 


Aimee Baldridge is a writer and photographer based in New York. For more than a decade she has specialized in covering imaging technology, digital media, and the world of photography. You can see more of her work at www.aimeebaldridge.com 

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