OK, let’s just get this out of the way: yes this makes your phone look a little funny.
We laughed the first time we saw it too. But then we started using it at concerts on Fridays, our Little Bro’s T-Ball game on Sundays, and our office rooftop on Weekdays (brag-worthy views).
Simply put, our sheepishness turned to sheer addiction (the good kind, not the itchy-skinned paranoid kind) — and we started taking our iPhone Telephoto Lens with us everywhere.
Why? Because this little (big) lens gives our humble cell phone shots uber-telephoto powers (8x the powers to be exact). Powers we never thought possible with our dinky built-in lens.
Here’s how it works: each lens comes with a sleek, matte black iPhone case that you twist the lens onto. To compose your shot just twist the grip on the lens’ manual focus ring to make it sharp. Then snap!
When you aren’t using the lens you can just leave your nifty new case on and slip the lens in your pocket (try that with a 500mm Sigma).
It’s a lens and case in one, always at the ready.
The iPhone camera does not have a true zoom lens per se. It has a digital zoom. That means that the camera lacks the actual lenses to “zoom” you closer to your subject. Apple’s Camera app achieves a similar effect with a software zoom effect by cropping and resampling on the fly. As you zoom in closer — asking the iPhone to do more with essentially fewer pixels — your images become noisier and fuzzier.
An optical lens will nearly always give better results than a digital zoom. If you use the iPhone camera’s digital zoom often, you may want to consider purchasing an external optical zoom lens. The 8X Telephoto Lens for iPhone from Photojojo is a good — not perfect –optical telephoto lens for a value price.
The kit comes nicely equipped with a lot of stuff. In addition to the 8X lens you get two lens caps, a plastic iPhone case with a lens mounting ring, a bag to store the lens in when not in use, a small tabletop tripod, a quick release camera iPhone camera mount, and a microfiber cleaning cloth.
A window in the case exposes both the iPhone 4′s camera lens and external flash. However, the lens mount is raised about 1/8″ and may obstruct some of the light from the flash. This is really not an issue while you’re using this lens, as the lens itself covers up the flash. But it’s nice that you can leave the case on the phone and still get most of the usable light from your flash if needed.
The lens is lightweight and fits in your pocket. Once mounted to the iPhone, it affects the balance of the device far less than you would expect. It is not a zoom lens. It’s a fixed 8X telephoto lens. Visually, your subject should appear 6 to 8 times closer than if you had used the normal camera.
The lens body has a rubberized focus ring. The focus ranges from 3M to infinity, and is labeled in metric only. Just to let you guys know, the focus ring doesn’t work correctly. It scrolls way past the 3M minimum and is very inaccurate. It took me an afternoon to figure this out.
I’d read in other reviews of this lens that the reviewer had similar issues and just left the focus near infinity and let the iPhone’s camera focus. This did not work for me. I had to manually focus the lens using the iPhone’s viewfinder. I got the best results and the sharpest images when I did so. There’s a lot of guesswork focusing this lens, but the results are worth it.
The higher the zoom level, the more apparent little shakes become in the image. Fortunately, the kit comes with a small aluminum tabletop tripod and camera mount to help stabilize the camera while shooting. The aluminum tripod is pocket-sized and is fairly sturdy. It has a standard 1/4″ thread mount and will fit any camera. The spring-loaded, fast-release camera mount iPhone mounts quickly and securely holds and releases your iPhone. You can also use the included camera mount with any other standard-mount tripod. This rig is definitely worth the premium that you would pay for this kit over a similar lens kit from other retailers.
How does it work? Once I got the hang of the focus, results were visibly superior to the iPhone camera’s built-in digital zoom. In comparison shots, the lens made a noticeable difference. Details were visibly clearer and sharper, especially compared to similar shots taken with a digital zoom. Once I got the focus issues resolved, I got some clear, crisp images with this lens. Text from signs was sharp and readable with none of the resampling artifacts. Detail in leaves and grass were much clearer. If you nail the focus, it’s possible to get some impressive images. If you nail the focus…
For $35, it’s an inexpensive, good lens. Again, it is a $35 lens — you won’t be throwing away your DSLR anytime soon. The measurements on the focus ring are inaccurate and useless. You really need to visually adjust the focus. You’ll blow a few pictures until you figure it out. The lens has some chromatic aberrations and lens barrel distortions. There’s slight vignetting in the corners of the frame (it’s barely visible and can easily be cropped out). The iPhone 4′s rolling shutter effect is visible when using this lens. The rubber pull of the clamp on the tripod mount often slipped out of its slot. It was no trouble to reinsert, but it was a little frustrating. And I’m not sure if the lens actually gets you 8X closer to your subject as advertised. It looks more like 6X to me. These sound worse than they are. None of these are deal breakers for me. Just be aware of limitations of this lens.
Why would you even need a telephoto lens? Nature photographers will appreciate the ability to get in closer to wildlife without scaring it off. You’ll be able to take closer, clearer photography at concerts and sporting events. It’s a lightweight, fast mounting portable lens on a camera that’s with you nearly all the time.
It won’t turn your iPhone into a Sigma 1000, but it will definitely and visibly improve your telephoto images. Nothing beats actually getting the camera close to your subject. When that’s not an option, this lens is worth considering. It’s lightweight and much more portable than a DSLR lens. It has a few quirks, but it’s a definite improvement over the iPhone’s built-in digital zoom.
Here are a few pictures I’ve taken with the lens and without to compare.. You can see it does do a nice job of zooming…