The list of add-ons that let you to tinker with the photo taking capabilities of your iPhone is about to get even bigger with the launch of Magnifi. Rather than tacking a zoom or fish-eye lens onto the smartphone, Magnifi integrates an adapter into the case so that your phone can be hooked-up to most optical instruments with an eye-piece such as binoculars, microscopes or telescopes.
Using a similar approach to iPhone adapters for digital SLRs, Magnifi aligns the camera on your iPhone 4 / 4S to the eyepiece - something that's virtually impossible to do by hand.
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The device comes in two parts - the case itself and a detachable bayonet mount designed to precisely align the iPhone’s camera with the optical axis of the eyepiece by means of a latch that locks it in place.
The detachable bayonet means that the case itself remains slimline enough for everyday use while also aiming to make the system (partially) usable with not-yet-released iPhone designs.
The Magnifi system is billed as "universal," but there are some limitations in terms of compatibility. The adapter needs to slide down over the eyepiece at least 1 inch (25mm) and the eyepiece you are attaching it to needs to be 1-1.5 inches in diameter (25mm – 38mm), plus you need to be able to remove any large rubber seals. Silicon sizing bands are included in the kit to cater for smaller diameter eye-pieces. According to the inventors this provides enough versatility to cover 90% of microscopes on the market and "most telescopes and binoculars."
The case and bayonet are made from impact-resistant polycarbonate plastic and the case hugs the iPhone's stainless steel band to stop it interfering with the glass screen.
The inventors cite many possible applications including small parts inspection, bird watching, science education and astronomy, and while the results may not run a close second to strapping your full frame DSLR to a telescope, convenience is a powerful thing, and smartphone cameras are nothing if not convenient.
Xianne and Isaac explain Magnifi's workings and make their pitch in the video below.