Review: Canopy Kapok for iPhone 4
It's a case, it's a camera tool, it's a stand -- it's Canopy's Kapok for iPhone 4 ($70). After spending five or more minutes struggling to figure out how to open the packaging -- nice-looking, but one of the most confusing boxes we've seen -- we found a unique black matte hard plastic case and desktop stand inside. Kapok isn't your everyday iPhone 4 case; it's designed largely for frequent camera users who sometimes need the extra stability of a stand, and often would benefit from extra integrated camera control buttons.
Available in five different colors, the case has a slider-style design, and is a bit unwieldy. A narrow, long bump along the bottom portion’s back holds it together with the top. While the left and top edges have the same sort of thickness as most iPhone 4 cases, the right and bottom are much thicker; the latter adds 5/8”, extra bulk to house the electronic components contained in the case. Notably, there’s no button coverage, but there is a slight raised lip against the screen. Along the bottom of the iPhone 4 are grooves carved out for the speaker and microphone. Because the Dock Connector port is covered, there’s a Mini USB pass-through on the bottom edge, and a very short USB to Mini USB cable is included for syncing and charging.
Most cases that have a Dock Connector built in have it for battery charging. Kapok’s, on the other hand, is for connecting to the physical buttons on the case. Along the right side, there are two silver plastic buttons, designed to work in conjunction with the company’s free Canopy Camera Tools app. The button closer to the bottom is a shutter control—the first that we’ve seen integrated in to a case. It’s a pretty cool idea, but mostly unnecessary since the upcoming iOS 5 will repurpose the volume-up button to do the same thing. The other button locks and unlocks the white balance and exposure settings in the app. When pressed together, they hide and unhide the side menus in the app. Unfortunately the buttons don’t control the factory-standard Camera application or any others for that matter; Canopy hopes that other developers will adopt the buttons, but we wouldn’t hold our breath.
At the bottom of the case’s left edge is a 1/4” threaded opening for attaching it to a tripod. This is a universal size so users can connect to their own existing tripods, or use the base of Kapok’s packaging. A weighted black stand, it has an insert on one side that fits in to the case. There’s even an adjustable ball joint, though it’s more than a bit hard to loosen. Assuming you can get it into the right position, the whole thing is sturdy, and does just what it’s supposed to do.
It seems that Canopy had a good idea, but one that came too late and whose execution is too bulky. If Apple were still prohibiting the use of a physical shutter button, Kapok would make a lot more sense. Considering that there will be an official solution built in to the iPhone 4 and presumably the next-generation model, this case just seems unnecessary, and clunky besides. Similarly, while the tripod connectivity is appreciated, if you already own a tripod, there’s a pretty good chance that you won’t be using the iPhone 4 as your primary shooter; if you do, other solutions are available at lower price points. Lastly, we were a bit disappointed by the build quality, especially for the price: we saw plastic shavings falling from the case when screwing it into the stand, and cork shavings coming off of the thumbscrew mount. We would definitely have expected more resilient materials for the price.