With more amazing apps and innovative accessories released each day, the iPhone has become a serious photography tool. People are nuts about iPhonography. And why not? It's the camera that's always with you. And always connected. Shoot, edit, share... done. Lotsa megapixels, convenient and socially connected - what more could you ask?
While it can mostly replace a point-and-shoot, the 4 / 4S camera could use a little more versatility. Interchangeable lenses, better stability and protection to list a few.
You'd like to protect it and outfit it for better photography - the problem is, you need a bunch of products that are not designed to work together. Most lenses stick on with adhesive or magnets and they're incompatible with protective cases.
So... need a case. And you want lenses. And a tripod mount would be nice. Oh and a handle for steady video shooting, please. Add all of these up and you're probably topping $150. You have to mix and match what you want to do, what you need to carry and where to carry it. The last thing you want is a pocket full of accessories and lenses scratching against each other or else just break out a gear bag and DSLR, right?
The iPro Lens System from Schneider Optics attacks these issues head-on with an amazing array of multiple, inventive ideas:
- Protective iPhone case
- 2 great lenses that bayonet mount
- A tripod mount with options
- A handle grip
- A storage case to protect the lenses
- It all fits in your pocket
Probably the top advantage over competing lens systems is iPro's ingenious design. The lenses stow neatly inside the handle which also holds the tripod adapter. Screw all the parts together and the entire iPro Lens System is a little fatter than a roll of quarters. But not as heavy. Since it's round, it's perfect for a pocket until you need it.
When you do, just twist open the handle, pick the lens you want, remove and mount.
Ok so how are the lenses?
Quite nice actually. Just like their bigger siblings from Century, they're made of anodized aluminum alloy on the outside and beautiful multilayer anti-reflective-coated glass optics on the inside. Serious lenses here, no gimmicks.
With any wide angle or fisheye lens, you're going to notice some distortion and the Schneider Optics are no different in this regard. Both lenses lose a little sharpness toward the edges but the center of the frame always comes out sharp as long as the iPhone focuses properly. And that's where they beat the cheaper alternatives.
Another thing that sets them apart is how nicely they render contrast and color. Plus the distortion actually makes for fun and inspiring photography.
The Wide Angle lens is a rectilinear type (they've tried to keep converging lines straight). Schneider has done a great job turning out a lens that renders the cool wider perspective that you'd normally see on a nice DSLR's wide angle. Twist this one on and fit everything in the frame.
The fisheye doesn't disappoint either. For stills it bends reality into the always dramatic photo-sphere shape. Pay special care where you hold the iPhone because it's very easy to get your hand in the shot with the near-180 degree view!
The 4S crops in on the sensor slightly when in video mode so the Wide lens is especially helpful if you find yourself backing up every time you shoot 1080p. The Wide feels very natural for video allowing the iPhone to match the perspective of the human eye more closely than the bare 4S optics. As a result, shooting video doesn't feel as closed-in and you can shoot in smaller spaces.
4S video shot with the fisheye takes on a very fun, GoPro-like perspective really complimenting sports and action shots.
Minimum focusing distance is extremely close with both lenses and allows a sort of macro capability. While you can't fill the frame with a bug or something, it's still useful for flowers and other things when you'd like to get a close, sharp photo. With the Wide Lens attached, the 4S will focus within about an inch. Without it, the 4S can only focus within 3 or 4 inches. Notice the 'ENTER' key below - both shots taken from the same distance.
For tripod mounting, iPro gives you a few choices. The top of the handle stores a small adapter which screws into the small hole on either side of the iPhone case. That small adapter is threaded on the outside to fit the iPro handle. Both the handle and the small adapter contain their own standard 1/4-20 holes for a tripod. So you can attach just the adapter for a smaller profile or you can attach the handle too and mount the whole thing to your tripod.
Maybe it was for flexibility or for a nice symmetrical design, but the case's dual mounting holes on either side have a third function: case removal. The case snaps on so tightly that the only way to remove it is to attach the adapter and handle to the right side and pull the case outward. It's tricky the first few times you do it but it makes for a very solid tripod mounting system. It's a very reassuring fit but the downside is if you haven't brought along the handle/mount, there's probably no way you're getting the case off.
If you want to get real creative, you can use those 1/4-20 tripod holes for lots of things other than tripods. Since its a standard mount you can attach friction arms, microphones, LED lighting, or even mount it to a shoulder rig.
A final small detail is just another example of Schneider Optics ingenuity. Many iPhone cases forget about the iPhone's built in LED flash, covering it up. The bayonet mount on the iPro Lens case positions an open hole strategically for the LED flash to remain useful as long as you don't have a lens mounted.
All in all, this is a case that's very comfortable in everyday use and ends up looking pretty slick with its aperture-inspired cutout revealing your beloved Apple logo on back. Everybody will know how serious you are about your photography, even before you take out the superb Century lenses to prove it.
It's the best iPhone lens kit we've used - we're giving it 5 leaves.
Here are a few more samples shots from this Highly Recommended kit:
Review by Larry Wiezycki. Larry works in TV and media production as part of an Investigative Team for a consumer advocacy law firm, James-Hoyer. He’s received 4 Emmy awards and has been an avid iOS and OS X user for years. Larry shoots motion and still photography for polyphonicimage.com.