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<b>Down South, Out West</b><br><i>Sir Bob Harvey’s son Fraser walks New Zealand’s Karekare<br>Photo by Dana Edmunds</i>
Vol. 17, no. 5
October/November 2014


Extremely Cheap and Incredibly Close 
Story by Sonny Ganaden
Photo by Dana Edmunds

Daniel Fujikake and Mac Nguyen had Island problems. “We wanted to take pictures of each other surfing,” says Fujikake, but all they had was a smartphone. Smartphones have impressive cameras for their size; the iPhone 5 clocks in at eight megapixels, enough for a noob to capture a respectable Grand Canyon sunset or the whiskers on a cat playing the piano. But as Fujikake and Nguyen discovered, the lens is too manini (small) for telephoto images. Their surfing shots were a blurry mess of digitally enlarged pixels. One solution: invest thousands of dollars in a camera setup. “We realized pretty quickly how expensive a hobby it is,” says Fujikake, who proceeded to jerry-rig an inexpensive alternative. “We just aligned our phones with a cheap pair of binoculars, and we were surprised by the quality.” But physically holding a pair of binoculars up to a smartphone is clunky and difficult. If there were a better way, it hadn’t been invented yet.

“Within half an hour we figured we could make a business of it,” says the enterprising Fujikake. In the two years since, the O‘ahu-based partners have worked with designers on the Mainland, a manufacturer in China, competed in a San Francisco tech contest and raised $50,000 from a Kickstarter campaign to bring their idea to fruition. Snapzoom is a simple idea well executed. It’s an adaptor that connects any smartphone to the eyepiece of most optical devices: binoculars, spotting scopes, loupes, telescopes, even microscopes, giving you the ability to take professional-ish telephoto and macro images — whether the craters of the moon, the nucleus of a cell or, of course, surfing—cheaply. The Snapzoom costs about $75, and you can get a decent pair of binoculars for under $200. It’s compact, too, so even pros who don’t want to lug their big honking lenses on a hike to the volcano can still take close-ups of pahoehoe dripping into the sea.

There are other optical accessories for smartphones, but Snapzoom is one of the few without built-in obsolescence: If you upgrade your phone or your optics, the clip is fully adjustable. “The phones are only going to get better,” says Fujikake, who’s built an impressive portfolio of smartphone shots. “I’m not a professional photographer but this is close enough.”