Phone Case Review: Tech21 Evo Check – Is it the Perfect Case?

I have a love-hate relationship with phone cases.  I love the different looks and feel they can give your phone.  I hate that they make my phone bigger and cover up the beauty of my iPhone.  I have used many phone cases over the years.  In fact, some people (my wife) have accused me of having a phone case problem.  They (she) may be right.  I am always on the search for the perfect case.  The holy grail of phone cases that satisfies my every need (desire) in a phone case.  I have come to the conclusion, however, that such a phone case does not exist.  While my idea of a perfect phone case has changed and evolved over the years, as of right now, I have four basic desires when looking at phone cases, and they are as follows:

  1. Bulk. I don’t like cases that add a lot of bulk to my phone.  I like my slim, sleek iPhone and I would rather not turn it into a fat cow of a phone.  My only exception to this rule is when I am hunting Pokémon and need to sport a battery case.  Bulk is kind of unavoidable with those cases.
  2. Design.  My iPhone looks awesome, so the last thing I want to do is cover it up with an ugly case!  This one’s a no-brainer, but I have sometimes had to sacrifice on this point in order to better meet the other criteria.
  3. Protection. I spend a considerable amount of money on my iPhone, so of course I want to protect my investment.  A case that only serves to look good isn’t going to provide much, if any, protection.  Unfortunately, the more protection a case provides, usually results in more bulk.  So two of my criteria are working against each other.
  4. Grip.  I don’t like slick, hard phone cases that are prone to sliding out of my hands. To me that kind of defeats the purpose of having a case!

So in a nutshell, I’m looking for a case that provides good protection, isn’t bulky, provides some grip and looks good.  I think that’s probably what most people want in a case as well. (Unless you’re my daughter.  She only seems to care about number two.  But that’s for another blog post on another day.) Finding a case that meets all four criteria, however, can be a challenge.

I used to really like Otterbox cases as they provide some of the best protection you can get.  However, my tastes have changed a bit and I don’t care so much for the bulk they add to my phone.  I carry my phone in my pocket and Otterbox cases do not exactly work well for that, especially for bigger phones like the iPhone 6/7 and even more so for the iPhone 6/7 Plus models.  When I upgraded to the iPhone 6S from my 5S, I did not want to put an Otterbox on what was already a larger phone than I was used to carrying.  So, I began looking for a smaller form factor case that would still provide good protection. And that’s when I came across a company called Tech21.

Tech21 makes phone cases that are made from a flexible rubber material that provides excellent grip when holding your phone with one hand.  Inside the edges of the case is a material called FlexShock™ that I believe they invented (I could be wrong).  At any rate, this material is nothing short of magic.  I watched a YouTube video of a guy wrapping the silly-putty-like substance around his finger and smacking it with a hammer to demonstrate the shock-absorbance of the rubber.  I also watched a video review of the case on an iPhone 6 being dropped from a second-floor fire escape onto brick pavement and the phone was unscathed.  I was sold!

So I purchased one for my iPhone 6S and immediately loved it.  My phone still felt slim and sleek. It no longer felt like it was going to slide out of my hand, and, while the case was not the greatest color (brown), it looked better to me than an Otterbox.  Plus, I was happy to have found a case that satisfied three out of my four criteria!

Well, fast-forward a year and I just upgraded to the iPhone 7 Plus. Yes, I gave in and got the iPad mini of iPhones.  I found my self once again looking for a case, knowing that this phone was going to be even more difficult to fit in my pocket, let alone hold in one hand!  Naturally, I looked to see what Tech21 had in terms of 7 Plus cases, and was happy to find that they already had a line of cases ready to go for the 7 Plus.  And not only that, they now had more colors to choose from, including white, which I thought would go great with my gold and white iPhone.  So I purchased the Tech21 Evo Check iPhone case in white.

Now that I got all the boring background out of the way (sorry about that), we can move on to the what you started reading this for! I’ll break my review down into the same categories as my four criteria.

1. Bulk

One of the things I love about the case is that it is thin and lightweight.  It almost doesn’t feel like there’s a case on the phone.  My phone still feels thin and sleek.

2. Design

With the additional color choices, the case looks as great as it feels.  I’m often hesitant to get white iPhone cases as they usually don’t stay white for long, and then you have a dirty-looking phone case. Yuck.  But the white case I chose is actually clear rubber with the white being the FlexShock™ material underneath the clear along the edges. So the clear rubber protects the white from getting dirty and stained.  Plus, the clear back allows the gold design on my phone to show which I think looks really sharp. The case is also available in black and light pink.

3. Protection

As I’ve already stated, the FlexShock™ material lining the inside edges of this case provide excellent shock absorption so if you drop your phone, the impact shock is absorbed by the lining and not passed onto your phone.  I can’t attest to this personally as I have yet to drop the phone with this case on (see the next category). But if you’re curious, just search YouTube and you’ll find a plethora of videos of crazy people throwing their phones with Tech21 cases on them across rooms with tile floors, cement, etc. with no harm to their phones.  The edges of the case also provide a small lip around the front of the iPhone so you can lay it face down on a table or counter with no fear of the screen getting scratched.

4. Grip

The rubber material that the case is made from has a nice “grippy” feel too it.  Some complain that it can get greasy if you’re hands are sweaty or oily, and they’re correct. However, I’ve never had anything on the case that couldn’t be quickly and easily wiped off on my pants or shirt (don’t judge me).  The material provides great grip in your hands.  I can hold my iPhone 7 Plus in one hand with no sliding whatsoever.  I can even tilt the phone to more than 45 degrees without holding onto it and it doesn’t slide off my hand (see images below).

So for now, my search for the Holy Grail of phone cases is over. Measuring by my criteria, the Tech21 Evo Check phone case is, in my humble opinion, as close to the perfect phone case as you can get.  It’s the closest I’ve ever found, anyway.

Product Images:

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Phone Case Review: Tech21 Evo Check – Is it the Perfect Case?

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode Reviewed

With the recent release of the newest iPhones, the iPhone 7 Plus is sporting dual cameras, one wide and one “telephoto” lens for bringing you a little closer to the action.  Taking advantage of the dual cameras, Apple announced that it was working on a “portrait” mode where the camera software would use the two lenses to determine depth in a photo and thereby create photos with blurred backgrounds, emulating the type of images you can get from a DSLR.  Being a photographer who also loves shooting awesome pics with my iPhone (at least I think they’re awesome, anyway!), I was very intrigued by this new feature.  Enough so that I pulled the trigger on switching to the larger form factor plus model of the iPhone 7.

This past week Apple released iOS 10.1 beta for developers and I was excited to see that it included the new portrait mode update.  My initial reaction to the first photos I snapped with it was one of shock at how well it worked.  The “fake” shallow depth of field looked pretty natural in most of the candid shots I took with it.  The first shot I took was of myself, blindly pointing the camera at my face and pushing the button.  When I turned the phone around and looked at the camera, I was shocked.  Shocked first of all that I actually framed the no-look selfie pretty well, but mostly that the image looked amazing!  The blurred background made my face pop out just like a DSLR shot would do. See the image below.

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First shot I took using the new “Portrait” mode on the iPhone 7 Plus

My mind was flooded with the possibilities this was going to open up.  As one who shoots photos with his iPhone a lot for social media and other uses, I am always looking for new tools to take the photos to the next level.  Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t going to render DSLRs useless.  I will not be using this to shoot portraits for my clients.  But as far as my hobby photography, this will definitely allow me to leave my bulky gear at home more often.  For instance, Friday night we went to a local high school football game.  I normally lug my camera gear along, but this time I left it at home and only took my iPhone.  Even though I didn’t have my DSLR, I was able to capture some really great images using the portrait mode.  Notice in the example below how the background is blurred out reducing distraction and making the subjects in the photo pop out. The blurring is not perfect around all the edges, but you have to look pretty hard to see the imperfections.

 

Processed with Snapseed.
Candid photo shot using iPhone 7 Plus “Portrait” mode

 

But I did wonder just how well this would perform on a photoshoot, so I convinced my wife to go out with me on a photo shoot.  She’s been my photo subject for many a photo shoot, but this was the first time I left my DSLR at home.  In the end, my belief that this would not replace DSLRs was confirmed, but also confirmed was my belief that this would allow me to leave my heavy gear behind more often.

iPhone 7 Plus on a Photo Shoot

Limitation 1: Speed
The camera in portrait mode performed well all in all, but it did have limitations.  The first limitation I noticed was that it’s not the fastest at taking successive shots.  Each shot takes a few seconds for the processing to complete and save the image, thereby limiting how quickly you can fire off shots.  As my wife was moving and changing her poses, I often missed great shots because the phone wasn’t ready to take another shot yet.  This is not a problem with a DLSR as they can fire off many shots per second to get those split-second moments that pass by.

Limitation 2: Distance
The second limitation I immediately noticed was the distance you are limited to.  You can’t be too close to the subject (about 2 feet) and the subject needs to be within 8 feet.  So that leaves about 6 feet of “wiggle room”.  I found it difficult to be able to get back far enough to take full-body shots as it uses the longer of the two lenses.  I could get far enough away to get mid-calf-up shots though.  But this is understandable, as the effect is pretty minimal when you get that far away from the subject, so I can’t really fault it for that.  But it is another reason that this feature will never replace a DSLR.

Example Images From Test Photoshoot

In the end I did manage to get some pretty publish-worthy photos using just my iPhone, which you can see below.  Again, the blur effect is not perfect along edges (especially hard edges) and you often get a bit of a halo around the subject.  But, unless you’re looking for it or zoom into 100%, you’re not going to notice it.  I did edit the photos for color, but all edits were done on my iPhone using Snapseed.  Click on each image to see a larger version.

In conclusion, I have to say I am very pleased with the performance of the new camera on my new iPhone 7 Plus and even more so with the new portrait mode.  DSLR killer? No.  Great addition to my always-on-me camera? A resounding YES!

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode Reviewed

New Gallery Collection

I have been doing photography for about ten years now. I’ve taken thousands (and thousands) of images over those ten years and recently began thinking that I would like to create a gallery collection of sorts of my personal favorite image I’ve captured over the years.

After some thought trying to decide what platform I was going to use I finally decided on using Instagram for this new venture due in no small part to its wide use by many people. I can’t say I won’t decide to change that at some point in the future, but for now that’s where I’m going to be posting my collection.

In setting up the new gallery the first thing I needed to do was to come up with a name. Long story short (I’ll spare you the boring details of my mind’s creative process) I came up with Studio Seventy3.  In addition to sounding cool (in my opinion), the name does have some meaning.  One of the definitions of “studio” is “a place for the study of an art”. Now while that usually refers to singing, dancing, acting, etc., in my case this collection is the place I will be studying my own personal art of photography. In culling my work to select photos to be included I hope to learn from the path my photography has taken over the years. My hope is that in seeing the less-than-stellar (read: bad) work that I have done along with the more improved work will help me to be more in tune with my identity as a photographer.  And, in singling out my favorite images into one place will help me to better identify and develop my editing style.  And why Seventy3? Well, I’m afraid the reason is quite boring and unoriginal…I was born in ’73! So, take “Studio” and “73”, throw it in a trendy blender and you get Studio Seventy3!

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Anyway, enough explanation. My main purpose behind this is for my own fun and growth, but I thought maybe some others might enjoy taking a look. Enjoy!

You’ll find the collection on Instagram here. Feel free to follow @studio.seventy3 on Instagram to see new images when I post them!

New Gallery Collection

365 Project – Week 4

365 Project – Week 4

365 Project – Week 3

365 Project – Week 3

365 Project – Week 2

Well, so far, so good! Two weeks down, 50 to go! I struggled at the start of this as to what I was going to make as far as rules for this project. All on DSLR, all on iPhone, a mixture, etc. and I think I’ve decided I’m going to make it all on iPhone.  That certainly is the easiest, and I want to further develop my creativity using the iPhone camera. So while the iPhone camera is best suited to everyday “snapshots” I’m going to try to push it to another level as much as I can.  Yes, many days will just be “snapshots”, but as much as possible I’m going to try to make photos that I wall-hang worthy, or that someone would want to look at in a coffee-table photo book, if that makes sense? At any rate, it’s a work in progress and in the end I’ll just be happy if I’ve succeeded in taking a photo every day of the year!

365 Project – Week 2

365 Project – Week 1

Well I’ve decided to try another 365 Project! I’ve attempted this 4 times (I think) and completed 1. We’ll see how this goes. I started it on my 42nd birthday and plan to do it until my next birthday.  It’s technically a 366 project since 2016 is a leap year, but I’ll still call it a 365 project ha ha.  I haven’t made too many rules for myself going into it, so some will be photos from my iPhone and some will be photos from my Canon 6D. Like the saying goes, “the best camera you have is the one you have with you.”  So far, after one week all shots were taken with my iPhone.

365 Project – Week 1