iPhone 5 – The Ultimate Fly Fishing Camera?

| April 25, 2013

As a professional photographer going on 27 years, I notice things like major trends in camera hardware (yeah, we now use the word “hardware”), and nowadays I especially notice when those trends bleed over into the world of fly fishing.

I am one of those people, who for some unknown reason, spends a lot of time on the bleeding edge of all technology that falls within my needs. However, along the way, as “updates,” and “versions,” and “generations” became part of the almost daily discussion, and a sagging economy took its toll … I tend to skip a few “generations” before diving into a new phone, camera or computer.

Once my prison term was up with my previous carrier, I switched carriers and went for the new iPhone 5 (i5) as well. The switch in carriers – from AT&T to Verizon – seems to be a bad move if talking on the phone were my number one priority. The reality is most of my business comes through the internet not phone calls. AND the buzz about the camera / video capabilities of the I5 were just too much to ignore.

Absolutely none of that matters if you dunk your iPhone though. I killed one, must have been around 2011 or so, and if I am going to spend money on a new phone, I always spend money to protect it. The Otter Box didn’t save my first IPhone when I hit the washing machine on the San Marcos River, but it did its job last summer when I dropped it on the Ray Roberts flats. There it sat on the bottom looking up at me, and apparently I snatched it up quick enough to prevent water from penetrating.

This time I wanted more from my iPhone case. Enter LIFE PROOF, a company that promises big when it comes to their protective case for the i5. Here is their claim (from the LifeProof website):

Protective iPhone and iPad Cases Meet or Exceed These Specifications:
Military Standard 810F-516

MIL STD 810 F is the standard that addresses a broad range of environmental conditions, with MIL STD 810F-516 being the section of the standard that is specific to functional drop. This standard requires that the item can physically and functionally withstand the relatively infrequent, non-repetitive shocks encountered in handling, transportation, and service environments. This may include an assessment of the overall material system integrity for safety purposes in any one or all of the handling, transportation, and service environments.


IEL 60529 is the standard for Ingress Protection from water and dust for enclosures. IP-68 is the most rigorous classification in this specification. The first characteristic number describes protection from solid foreign objects. An enclosure with a characteristic number of 6 can withstand exposure to circulating talcum powder for 8 hours with no dust ingress after that period. The second characteristic number describes protection against water. An enclosure with a characteristic number of 8 exceeds all other water protection levels and is specified by the manufacturer. For LifeProof, number 8 signifies LifeProof cases will withstand immersion in water to a depth of 2 meters / 6.6 feet for 30 minutes.

They had me at “Meet or Exceed,” and when you add military standards (remember I own an FJ60 Land Cruiser), I understand that language perfectly clear.

LifeProof cases are available just about everywhere that the phones are sold, and as long as you are throwing down the big coin for a phone, in my opinion you should always buy protection (some kind of protection) for it at the same time.

The instructions, and salesman’s warnings are quite clear. The LifeProof case has to be tested before the phone is actually put into it, and if you don’t seal the edges of the case just exactly the same way with the phone in it (after it passes the test), you will be screwed. Take your time and use magnifying glasses to make that final seal, and you will be good.

REVIEW of iPhone 5 and LifeProof Case for iPhone5

FLYPhone5The phone is a fantastic piece of technology. It’s more powerful than my first Mac laptop – exponentially. The phone part of the phone – as far as I am concerned … whatever. The camera takes crazy good photographs and good enough video when pressed. I am still more interested in still images with this phone. We all know Apple form will be cutting edge, so I don’t even bother to talk about that anymore. Function, on the other hand … the phone is fast, the apps are still there – my Navionics and other fishing apps were almost immediately updated and function faster with the i5. I am a little perturbed with the battle between Apple maps and Google maps, and Google lately seems to have taken a great product (now available as an app) and mucked it up, but that may be my resistance to changes.

The phone also has the ability, through phone service or whatever, to now be its own hotspot for getting out on a laptop or other mobile device that does not have internal access. When I’m working out in The Middle, that’s priceless.

The LifeProof case is an interesting piece of hardware. It’s hard to imagine such a thin case standing up to the drop test. It’s hard to imagine the sound being as good going through whatever membrane that maintains the waterproof qualities. It’s hard to imagine the little swing door covering the female charger connection lasting more than a year. So far, so good though.

The initial problems I have with the case may not be surmountable though. The screen cover seems pretty thick, and I have the sneaking suspicion it leads to errors in keying on the keyboard. The sound is definitely effected by the case. Whether shooting through a lens without a filter or through a little plastic protector, the nature of the beast is to get fingerprinted. No matter what, you have to keep that piece clean!

If you want to use the LifeProof case to plug in your favorite earbuds (my favorite Etymotic HF5), you will have to remove the cover for the jack and plug in the extended jack that also has threads you screw in as well – still maintaining the waterproof properties. That extender comes with an extra plug, which I now need as I lost the original last night. Make no mistake, this entire process is a royal pain, and none of the conveniences of adapters work on the male end of the charger either (they just don’t reach in through the case). No adapter and no headphones you have will connect through this case as is. I’ll be contacting LifeProof after this story runs, to see if I can get them to send me a case of those little screw plugs that go into the earphone jack hole – I’m certain I’ll be needing them.

I haven’t submerged the camera yet, and haven’t shot any splits of fish, but as the season approaches you may recognize the shots as you see them. Truthfully, I would rather depend on the GoPro for going underwater than my phone, but once I’ve done it, I may change my mind.


As far as industry trends go, you probably already realize that phones, like the Apple iPhone 5, are completely wiping out the low end consumer (non weatherproof) cameras – they’re over, done and gone. Now, we are looking at pushing phone capabilities to the max, and the future looks bright. If you are an Apple user, you already own the i5. If not, I believe the best way to convert to Apple (for all your computing) is to start with the iPhone. It’s that good.
The LifeProof case comes with its own kinks. It’s too soon to tell how I am going to feel about this case. I need to shoot some underwater photos and video, and follow up. I do know that you better be ready to lose some little pieces (just like the GoPro system), and connecting through the case is NOT a no-brainer.

Phones are like prison terms these days. Once you’re in, you’re not getting out (unlike other industrialized nations), and a “new version” rumor will come out the day after you “upgrade.” At some point though, you have to pull the trigger. Cases either are, or are not waterproof. That eliminates all but a few of them. Right now, LifeProof is the de facto king of the hill, even if they have some kinks. All of this is the price we pay for having a phone that doubles as a fly fishing camera. If you do pull the trigger, you can put away all those “cheap” consumer cameras, and step up to some amazing images – courtesy Apple and iPhone 5.

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Category: Equipment, Photography, Reviews

About the Author ()

https://www.shannondrawe.com is where to find my other day job. I write and photograph fish stories professionally, and for free here! Journalist by training. This site is for telling true fishing news stories, unless otherwise noted.

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