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The best iPhone lens kit: Put a little DSLR on the front of your iPhone

Dave Johnson | July 1, 2014
Looking to outfit your iPhone's camera with an external lens or two? Dave Johnson put five lens kits to the test to figure out which one reigned supreme.

Our test kit came with four lenses: a 2X telephoto, fisheye, macro, and polarizer, all of which fit in an elegant, rugged case. And there's a variety of additional lenses available as well, including a super wide-angle lens that's well on its way to being a fisheye—parallel lines noticeably curve under its gaze—and a 4X telephoto. (Optrix reports that in the future, the PhotoPro X kit will contain the wide angle lens in lieu of the fisheye.) Image quality is good, but not great, trailing the Olloclip in overall sharpness. Beware: If you're taking this rig underwater, you'll need to exercise care. Optrix includes a half-dozen O-rings; you'll need to ensure one is securely installed before screwing in a lens. If you goof, you can flood the case, ruining your phone.

iZZi Orbit Pro: All-in-one convenience, with limitations
iZZi's Orbit Pro ($230) takes a different approach. Rather than building a modular system with interchangeable lenses, the ORBIT Pro is an iPhone case with permanently integrated lenses on a rotating mount.

To use the Orbit Pro, you first slip your iPhone into a flexible plastic sleeve, then push it into the machined aluminum case, which features a camera-like profile, complete with an ergonomic grip and tripod mounts. One big plus: holding the Orbit Pro is a lot like holding a traditional camera.

To switch between the fisheye, wide angle, and 2X telephoto lens, just spin the lens assembly until the desired lens adapter is in position. There's also a macro lens under the wide angle lens; just unscrew the wide angle adapter to access it.

While there's an undeniable convenience factor to having the lenses permanently attached to your case, you won't want to use the Orbit Pro except when you're actually taking pictures; it's simply impractical as an ordinary case. More importantly, both the wide angle and telephoto lenses suffered from mild vignetting—the lenses cut off the corners of the photos, so zooming or cropping is a must—and the telephoto produced significantly softer photos than other tele lenses.

Smart Phocus: Good intentions, bad implementation
Not entirely unlike iZZi, Smart Phocus puts your iPhone in a case that resembles a compact camera. But where iZZi snugly form-fits the iPhone with a frame that's machined from aluminum, Phocus is a somewhat bulky plastic case that makes your phone about .75 inches wider.

And while iZZi places three lenses on a spinning carousel, Smart Phocus goes the interchangeable lens route. We tested the two-lens kit (telephoto and a combination macro/super wide angle lens, $75); a three-lens kit ($100) is also available and includes a fisheye lens. You also get individual lens bags and a heavy duty neoprene sack for storage.

 

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