iPro Lens System - compatible with Apple iPhone 4/4S
$189 / £179
The iPro Lens System is being marketed as a high-quality lens system for serious photographers shooting with the iPhone 4/4S. (A version for iPhone 5 is on the way, but no word yet on release date.) It’s made by Schneider Optics, who is emphasizing its status as an experienced lens maker to differentiate itself from all the newcomers who have been inspired by the iPhone to get into the optics business. So does all of that "industry experience" behind the iPro system pay off?
The small male mount at one end attaches to either of two threaded holes on the case, and the female mount attaches to a standard tripod head. That means you can use the tube to mount your phone on a tripod, or you can just attach it to your phone and use it as a grip. Using a grip can help you hold the iPhone steady, especially if you’re shooting video or panning. Unfortunately, both mounts on the case are on the long sides, so you can’t mount your phone on a tripod in vertical orientation. With most tripods, however, that’s not a big problem because you can adjust the head to change the phone orientation.
You also need the handle to put the case on the iPhone and take it off, which isn’t an entirely graceful operation. You slide the phone into the case at an angle and snap it in, using the handle to flex one side of the case outward slightly. Then you flex the case again when you remove the phone, pushing it out through a hole in the case back. The case material seems pretty strong, but the process made me wonder if repeated or overenthusiastic flexing could cause it to crack or break. The case adds very little weight and bulk to the phone, and gives it some protection, so it shouldn’t be a problem for most people to leave it on all the time. Be aware though that when mounted, the iPro's lenses do obscure the iPhone's built-in flash.
When you unscrew the end and middle section of the handle, you’ll find two compartments for carrying lenses. There are mounts and pads inside of them, so the lenses are secure and well protected. The tube’s tough exterior also completely protects them from impact and dust, which isn’t the case with a more compact competing system like the less expensive Olloclip. The tradeoff is that you get a bulkier package that has to be disassembled before it can be used. That said, you can easily carry the iPro system in a purse and most pockets without having to worry about lint getting all over your optics.
To use an iPro lens, you just open a handle compartment, take out the lens, and mount it on the bayonet mount on the case with a little twist. It’s very quick and simple. The mount feels very secure, so you don’t have to worry about the lens falling off if it gets bumped.
I tested the two iPro lenses included in the basic kit with the case and handle, the 19mm-equivalent wide-angle and the 12mm-equivalent fisheye. There’s also a 2X telephoto lens available separately, and Schneider says a macro lens is on the horizon.
The wide-angle lens adds a little all-over softness to images and is quite soft around the edges, but it reduced sharpness slightly less than close competitors like the Olloclip. It also stands out by keeping barrel distortion and chromatic aberration to a minimum.
The fisheye offers an impressive 160-degree view (according to Schneider's specs). This lens keeps things pretty sharp near the center of the image but gets very soft around the edges. It also produces some noticeable purple fringing along high-contrast edges. Still, in my testing, it maintains a slight edge over similar products when it comes to image sharpness.
So does the weight of experience brought by Schneider pay off in the iPro? As it turns out, yes. The image quality produced by the lenses is at least as good as the competitors that we’ve looked at, and in some cases noticeably better. If you’re looking for the optimal balance of portability, image quality and system expandability in a product that gives you both interchangeable lenses and physical support, the iPro should be at the top of your list.
What we like: Image quality is amongst the best we've seen.
What we don't like:Somewhat difficult to attach to phone, and rather bulky system to carry.
Aimee Baldridge is a writer and photographer based in New York. For more than a decade she has specialized in covering imaging technology, digital media, and the world of photography. You can see more of her work at www.aimeebaldridge.com
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