Black Eye comes into focus
This range of attachable lenses is rapidly expanding the perspective of smartphone cameras.
Some bemoan the relentless advance of technology: public transport commutes crowded with people hunched over their smartphone display, favouring texting instead of calling or utilising online services instead of in person. Whatever your take on the man vs. technology debate, one community that won’t be complaining anytime soon is the extreme sports scene.
For years proponents of such have skilfully negotiated their boards and bikes over a range of inanimate objects, eagerly pursued by friends lugging heavy equipment in order to capture every move on VHS tape and 35 mm film.
Fast-forward to now and such technology fits comfortably into their pockets, with smartphones capturing 4K video and 40-plus megapixel images with ease.
“As a photographer myself I have always been looking for new things,” Black Eye CEO Arto Ekman explains. “When the phone started being so good that you could actually use them as photographing devices I started thinking of the possibility with lenses to use for different sports.”
After some time studying the market Ekman and his co-founders climbed through a window of opportunity in mid-2013.
“I saw a lot of things that could be fixed,” he recalls. “When we decided to establish Black Eye there were only a couple of products around, but nothing that big or well branded.”
So, first things first: they would need a name.
The eye of the beholder
The rule-of-thumb for companies when coming up with a suitable moniker is to utilise clever wordplay that evokes customer affiliation with brand identity. The self-financed Black Eye thus drew on the misfortune of co-founder and pro-snowboarder Eero Ettala. After a nasty spill on the slopes, rather than swear off snowboarding for the immediate future, Ettala, along with Ekman and their third co-founder Fredu Sirviö saw the dark ring under his left eye as a perfect fit for the company name.
With the title decided upon, initially the vastness of untapped potential in the smartphone camera market found the budding business taking a moment to find its focus.
“When we started we didn’t really have an idea what we were going for,” Ekman recalls, pointing to their initial line of power banks for phones that was eventually discontinued so they could focus solely on lenses. The ever-evolving nature of smartphone innovations would keep them amply busy, with new accessories such as the selfie stick presenting specific challenges to accommodating their lenses.
“We had to look how we can make a product adaptable for that kind of use,” Ekman explains. “We have to follow the trends. If there comes a new app, there is different kind of system needed to take the photograph.”
Capturing the market
Black Eye’s portfolio of lens-related products keeps growing, with eight different models currently on offer. When asked what makes the company stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace, Ekman points to the easy-to-manage screw-on, clip-on and magnetic attachment systems, as well as the quality of lenses.
Proof of this, the Black Eye website is brimming with snaps taken around the world, with their fish-eye, wide angle and macro lenses offering innovative perspectives on boarding, biking and travelling. Rubbing shoulders with celebrities is also not out of the question, with Finnish stunt quartet The Dudesons, rocker Michael Monroe and even The Hoff among the famous faces captured online.
“Black Eye opens a lot of new ways for photographing with your phone,” Ekman proclaims. “We are taking photography to the next level. The sky’s the limit.”
Text: James O’Sullivan
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