Picture Ohio! – iPro Lenses for the iPhone

Schneider iPro Three Lens Kit
iPro Case, Carrying Tube, and Lenses

For most of my professional landscape photography I use a combination of Nikon D7200 and D800E cameras, a variety of Nikon and Sigma lenses, and a heavy-duty Gitzo tripod with a Kirk BH-1 tripod head. For exercise, I enjoy walking in the nearby Cuyahoga Valley National Park or Cleveland and Summit County metroparks, and on these hikes I prefer to leave the Nikon gear and tripod at home and carry a pair of binoculars and my iPhone 6.

The biggest limitation of the current iPhone’s camera system is the fixed focal length lens, roughly equivalent to a 30mm on a full-frame 35mm camera like my Nikon 800E. This is a moderate wide-angle lens, which is fine for general scenic photography. The iPhone’s lens can focus on a subject as near as 4 inches from the phone, so you can also take close-ups. However, the iPhone’s lens is too wide to be an ideal portrait lens, and the closer you get to a person’s face the more his or herĀ  facial features are distorted by the iPhone’s wide-angle lens. This lack of a longer focal length lens also makes it difficult to isolate a subject when composing a photograph.

What about the iPhone’s “zoom” facility, which allows you to spread your fingers on the iPhone’s screen to enlarge a section of the image? The problem with this is that it is a “digital” feature – the iPhone still takes the same wide-angle photograph, but simply crops out the part you don’t want, resulting in a significant loss of resolution and image quality. It’s best to ignore the iPhone’s digital zoom and “zoom with your feet” – get closer to the subject!

The rumor mill indicates that one of the new iPhone 7 models, probably the 7s, which are expected to be announced by Apple next month may be equipped with a second camera with a telephoto lens, but in the meantime, there are a number of supplementary lens systems available for the iPhone. After several hours reading on-line reviews, I settled on the iPro lens system, made by Schneider Kreuznach Optics. Schneider Kreuznach was founded in Germany in 1913 and produces some of the finest enlarging lenses, view camera lenses, and movie camera lenses in the world. The five lenses available for the iPhone are a 2X telephoto, a wide-angle, a super wide-angle, a fisheye, and a 10X macro lens. I own all of these lenses, but the three that I use regularly are the 2X telephoto, wide-angle, and 10X macro.

In order to use the iPro lenses you must buy the iPro case designed for the iPhone model you own. The case is well-made but is a very tight fit on your iPhone. This is needed to ensure that the bayonet mount on the case is precisely centered over the lens on your iPhone. If not, the image quality around the edges of the rectangular image will be impaired. The case is made from a hard rubber material and allows access to all the controls on your iPhone. Mine is fine after a year of use on my iPhone 6.

The iPro lenses are made from metal and glass, and have a bayonet mount that allows them to be attached to the iPro case with a simple twist of the lens. When in place, the iPro lenses cover the iPhone’s flash and prevent it from being used. Each lens comes with a lens cap, and when not in use the lenses screw together to form a lightweight, compact tube that has a screw thread and can be used as a handle for your Phone.

Rockefeller Greenhouse, Standard iPhone 6 Lens
Rockefeller Greenhouse, Standard iPhone 6 Lens (30mm)

Last winter, I visited the Rockefeller Greenhouse in Cleveland to check out the performance of the five iPro lenses. There is a great display of poinsettias in the Greenhouse during the holiday season.

Rockefeller Greenhouse - iPro 2X Tele Lens (60mm)
Rockefeller Greenhouse – iPro 2X Tele Lens (60mm)

The iPro 2X Telephoto lens roughly doubles the focal length of the iPhone’s lens, from 30mm to 60mm. This lens is very sharp, with very little distortion, and is my preferred lens for portrait photography.

Rockefeller Greenhouse, iPro Wide Lens (20mm)
Rockefeller Greenhouse, iPro Wide Lens (19mm)

The iPro Wide lens increases the coverage of the iPhone’s lens, in 35mm terms, from 30mm to 19mm. This lens is also very sharp, with some softening of the image at the edges, and some barrel distortion, but the latter can easily be corrected in Lightroom or Photoshop.

Rockefeller Greenhouse, iPro Super Wide Lend (12mm)
Rockefeller Greenhouse, iPro Super Wide Lens (14mm)

The iPro Super Wide lens increases the coverage of the iPhone’s lens to an impressive 35mm equivalent of 14mm, which is close to the limit for a rectilinear wide-angle lens. As you can see in the above photo, this lens produces a significant level of distortion, and the image is very soft around the edges. Lenses this wide are popular with architectural photographers, who pay around $1,900 for Nikon’s renowned 14-24mm f2.8 Nikkor and around $2,900 for Canon’s new 11-24mm EF f4/L lens. These lenses are big, heavy, extremely sharp and virtually distortion-free, with a price tag to match! At around $65, the iPro Super Wide is a bargain. However, I rarely use this lens, and prefer to use the Panorama capability on my iPhone 6, which produces a sharper image with far less distortion.

Rockefeller Greenhouse, iPro Fisheye Lens
Rockefeller Greenhouse, iPro Fisheye Lens (12mm)

I’m not a fan of fisheye lenses, but if you enjoy the fishbowl effect that these lenses provide you may want to invest in the iPro Fisheye lens, which costs around $70 and produces a circular image, as shown above. The center of the image is fairly sharp, but the edges are very soft.

Allium, iPhone 6 Standard Lens
Allium, iPhone 6 Standard Lens (30mm)

Finally, if the 4-inch close focus distance of your iPhone is not enough, the iPro 10X Macro lens enables you to take ultra close-ups of flower details, bug’s eyes, and similar tiny subjects. As you can see in the example below, the image quality is quite good.

Allium, iPro 10X Macro Lens

For more information on the iPro lenses, visit the iPro website.

An iPro case for an iPhone 6, plus a 2X Tele lens, a Wide lens, and a 10X Macro lens costs around $270. However, through the end of September, Schneider is offering a 25% discount on all their iPro products, which is an attractive deal if you would like to extend the capabilities of your iPhone.

I will also be bringing my iPro lenses to the iPhone Photography Walk at Lake View Cemetery on Saturday, September 17, 2016. For more information on this program, check my recent blog article.




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