Surprisingly sharp: Inmacus 18mm HD Wide Angle Kit lens review
Review: Inmacus 18mm HD Wide Angle Kit
Inmacus is a fairly new player in the iPhone add-on lens arena, but its 18mm HD Wide Angle HD Kit shows some promise for expanding your iPhone's creative capabilities. The kit not only includes the advertised wide-angle lens, but also a circular polarizer and a close-up filter. All three attachments screw into a plastic mounting adapter that is specifically designed for use with either the iPhone 6/6s or the larger 6 Plus/6s Plus. Unfortunately, the macro filter and polarizer can only be used directly on the iPhone lens and do not fit onto the wide-angle. The ability to combine them could have been appealing, especially the polarizer.
The adapter does feel a little cheaply made but did not cause any problems in our test. What's more important is the optical quality of the lenses. The wide-angle lens is comprised of two elements, and offers an equivalent focal length of 18mm. It also accepts 30mm screw-in filters. This means you get approximately a 50% wider field of view than with the iPhone's standard lens. This makes the Inmacus an interesting proposition for those who like to shoot landscapes and architectural images. That said, the focal length also works well for the occasional quirky wide-angle portrait.
As you can see in the samples above and below, in terms of image quality the lens does a very good job. It tends to add a touch more contrast to the standard iPhone output but overall hardly any impact on color and tonality is noticeable. The same is true for image detail. The Inmacus lens is sharp almost into the extreme corners and image detail does not noticeably suffer compared to the standard image.
As you would expect from such a wide-angle lens some barrel distortion is noticeable if you have straight lines in your scene but it is well within acceptable limits. The lens' most critical optical problem is very noticeable vignetting. On our test unit it is most pronounced in the bottom right corner and quite intrusive in brighter scenes as you can see in the image below on the right.
If you unscrew the wide angle lens from the adapter you can replace it with the circular polarizer which works in just the same way as you are used to from your DSLR or system camera. The filter reduces reflections and increases contrast which tends to work especially well with blue skies. The effect can be adjusted by turning the filter's front element. Like with the wide-angle lens, there is no noticeable impact on image detail when using the filter as you can see when clicking through to the full-size versions of the samples below.
The third component of the package is a close-up filter that reduces the focusing distance to 5cm. With the iPhone's relatively wide lens this doesn't allow for the kind of macro shots you get from a DSLR and (say) a 100mm macro lens, but it lets you capture shots that otherwise would not have been possible on the iPhone. With such close focus distances depth-of-field can get quite shallow, creating a nice background blur and again image detail is very good. If smartphone macro photography is your thing Inmacus also offers a dedicated set of three macro filters that can be combined for extended magnification and that we hope to test soon as well.
You can see more samples from the lens and both filters in the gallery below.
Whether it makes sense to use add-on lenses on a smartphone camera is almost a philosophical question. If you have no problem with slightly reducing the "always ready to snap" factor of your iPhone and carrying some lightweight extra equipment, the Inmacus 18mm HD Wide Angle Kit for the iPhone 6 and 6s series is a versatile kit that offers very good optical quality across all components.
At a retail price of currently around $60 it provides an affordable way of increasing the creative potential of your Apple device without breaking the bank. Just make sure you can live with some vignetting on the wide-angle lens and be aware that the kit is specific to either the iPhone 6/6s or the respective Plus counterparts, so a future device upgrade might also mean a lens upgrade.
- Wide-angle lens provides very useful 18mm equivalent focal range
- Circular polarizer works efficiently
- Very good optical quality on all three components
- Very lightweight and easy to carry in a provided pouch
- Adapter feels a little flimsy
- Some vignetting on wide-angle lens
- Polarizer cannot be combined with wide angle lens
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