The iPro Lens is an accessory that attaches to an iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S to augment the existing camera. There’s a starting kit with the necessary hard case for the phone and two lenses (wide angle and fisheye); and now the iPro Lens Master Trio Kit 4/4S, which adds a 2x telephoto lens.
The three lenses we tested came beautifully packaged in two very Applesque boxes. Included in the first box are the Wide Angle and Fisheye lenses, along wiht the iPhone 4/4S case and instructions.
Both lenses are packed in their protective plastic containers. One of these also doubles as a handle/tripod mount, and screws onto the iPhone case for easier handling and steadier shooting.
The second box includes the 2x telephoto lens, inside another protective container.
iPro Lens Master Trio Kit: Setup
You need to use the provided iPhone case to attach the lenses over the smartphone’s own camera lens, using a bayonet mounting system for fastening.
The wide angle lens is said to give a 35% wider field of view compared to using iPhone's lens alone. The fisheye is specified to give an impressive 165-degree field of view, although it does produce a circular frame on the longer edges.
With the help of the protective cases, you can also create a standard 1/4in screw-thread tripod mount.
The build quality of the lenses seems very good and we were quite impressed with the attention to construction detail. The protective lens containers are a nice touch and you can also use them as stands for the lenses.
The iPhone case is made of a stiff unyielding plastic which is good, but it's somewhat bulky and not very attractive compared to most iPhone cases.
Because it’s so difficult to snap the iPhone in and out of the case, you'll likely need to keep it in place on your phone most of the time. Given its appearance, we weren’t impressed about that.
Although small, the lenses still protrude from 10mm to 20mm from the phone case (depending which lens). This will make it difficult, if not impossible, to keep the phone in your pocket, unless you have large jacket pockets. And if you intend to switch lenses along the way, you will need to carry them in their protective containers, as the lenses don’t include any lens caps.
iPro Lens Master Trio Kit: Image quality
There’s no practical way to replace the built-in lens of the iPhone, so adding lenses such as these on top of the stock lens is the only option, and the combination will inevitably reduce the image quality.
In our tests the wide-angle lens produced decent images with slight softness around the edges of the image. Shooting into the sun produced noticeable lens flares which may or may not suit your taste. Contrast was very good, although we did see plenty of blown-out highlights.
The new telephoto lens showed the best image quality. Our photos looked very sharp, and colours were also very well reproduced. These was very little noticeable degradation compared to the stock iPhone lens.
You could of course just move up closer to a subject and get a similar result without needing this lens, but the lens does create a shallower depth of field, which the stock lens just won't give you. This is great for producing a nice arty look.
Unfortunately, we found our iPhone 4 struggled to lock focus when using the telephoto lens up close on a subject. This might be a limitation of the optics, as most telephoto lenses do need a good few centimetres distance to focus. That’s a shame, as it would have been useful to get a lot closer to the subject, for those miniature macro-like effects.
Despite the better image quality from the 2x telephoto lens, we must admit that the fisheye lens was the one we used more often. It’s certainly the most entertaining lens here and it produces fun and unique images.
It's great for both photos and video (although you lose the circular frame when shooting video, because of the crop factor when in video mode).
As fun, bizarre, unique and exciting as these fisheye images are, there are the inevitable side effects that such optics can't escape. Apart from the obvious extreme distortion, there is a lot of softness in the edges of the image, as well as purple fringing in areas of high contrast. Image quality is not particularly usable for anything other than wacky memories.
Shooting into the sun will produce extreme lens flare and softening of the image, while shooting away from the sun means you’ll struggle to avoid capturing your own shadow in every shot. With its 165° field of view, it’s very difficult to avoid photographing everything around you. And that includes your fingers holding the phone, although holding the phone carefully by the screwed-together Combi Handle will help here.
If you’d like to get more creative with your images, this kit, although pricey, is a good bet. The build quality is good and image quality not bad either considering the limitations of combining optics over the standard sensor and lens. You will need to use the unappealing phone case, and remember to carry all your spare lenses in their protective cases. They may have the word Pro in the name, but these lenses are far from what any professional photographers would use. Then again, they’d also be unlikely to be using an iPhone for serious work either. They may not be truly Pro but these are fun accessories for your iPhone if you can spare the cash.