Mobile / Hands-on Review

Hands-On Review: Schneider iPro Lenses for the iPhone

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The iPhone (any model) is a wonderful picture-taking device. How do you make it better? How do you make your iPhone capture what others cannot? Instead of relying on funky filters, you can add lenses in front of the iPhone optics. One of the best ways to do that is with the iPro Lens System by Schneider Optics.

The System

The iPro Lens System gives iPhone 5/5s/5se, iPhone 6/6s, and iPhone 6 Plus/6s users the ability to quickly affix one of five different lenses to his or her phone by attaching them to a specially-designed iPro protective phone case. These lenses provide wide-angle, telephoto, and macro shooting options to the iPhone user.


Cases are currently available for the iPhone 5/5s/5se, 6/6s, and 6 Plus/6s Plus.


The Lenses

Schneider Kreuznach, known in the US as Schneider Optics, is a legendary German lens manufacturer with a rich history of making top-flight optics. In 2000, Schneider acquired American cinematic and industrial lens manufacturer, Century Optics. Century makes the optics for the iPro system, which Schneider markets.

Super Wide.

Will putting premium optics in front of your iPhone lens benefit your image quality? This is definitely a topic of conjecture amid discussions with several companies that offer add-on lenses for mobile devices. The generally accepted thought is that, although the iPhone optics are good, there is not much to be gained by putting lenses of a higher optical quality before them. Of course, putting lesser lenses in front of the iPhone camera will certainly degrade your image quality. This kind of goes back to the old theory about putting a bargain-priced UV filter on the front of a premium lens—or a premium filter in front of a lower-end lens—generally not a good idea.

2X

The price point of the iPro system gives you the sense that the Century lenses optically compliment the quality of the iPhone optics—no more, no less.

2X Tele.

2X Tele Lens

The iPhone has a fixed focal-length lens. There is no optical zoom. Therefore, when you zoom on your iPhone, you are simply zooming into the image digitally and discarding data; you can accomplish the same zoom effect by cropping the image after capture.

The iPro 2X Tele lens effectively doubles the focal length of your iPhone, and allows you to reach out further to capture full-resolution images. 2X does not seem like an eye-watering magnification, but, on the iPhone 5s, it takes you from about 30mm (35mm-equivalent) to 60mm, and that is a fairly big difference.

Uncropped iPhone shot and then 2X Tele shot from the same position.

If the 2X Tele has one flaw, it is the amount of pincushion distortion. But, that can be easily overcome in post-processing.

2X shows off its pincushion distortion.
2X pincushion removed in post processing.

Super Wide

This is the fun lens to add to your iPhone. The phone’s lens is already on the wide-angle spectrum, but adding the iPro Super Wide allows you to get truly unique images that “regular” iPhone shooters are not getting.

Super Wide

The 0.45x magnification yields a fisheye-like barrel distortion at a 35mm-equivalent of around 16mm, but you can use that to your creative advantage. This lens is wide enough that even a centered square-format crop destined for Instagram looks wider than a standard iPhone image.

Uncropped standard iPhone 5s shot and the same shot with the Super Wide.

Macro

The iPhone lens focuses pretty close, but not really close enough for true and compelling macro work. The iPro Macro lens fixes that with 2.5x magnification that allows focusing down to 1.0”.

Macro lens window details.

The ability to do real macro work with your iPhone opens up countless photographic possibilities. It also ends the frustration of getting your phone too close to your subject, only to see the camera try—unsuccessfully—to focus, while you maintain that perfect composition.

Super Wide

Fisheye and Standard Wide

The iPro system also includes a standard Wide Angle (0.65x versus the Super Wide’s 0.45x) that provides a 35mm-equivalent field of view of approximately 19mm and a Fisheye Lens that gives your phone a 180o FOV. [Unfortunately, I do not have access to those two lenses. The photos in this article are from the Macro, Super Wide, and 2x Tele.]

Super Wide

The Case

As I mentioned above, in order to use the iPro lenses, you need to put an iPro case on your phone. The case and lens mount perform the crucial alignment needed for the best image quality when shooting with add-on lenses. Some clip-on lens designs permit off-axis mounting that can negatively affect the image.

Super Wide

I have an iPhone 5s, and the iPro Case for this model is OK. If I could redesign their mold, I would try to fortify the lens mount to make it a bit more durable—iPro did this to their new cases. A word to the wise: Do not put your iPhone into your pocket with an iPro lens attached. This was the culprit when I broke the mount on my first case. Luckily, the cases are not terribly expensive to replace. Another tip: In order to use the iPhone 5s case, I had to remove my phone’s screen protector.

Super Wide

The iPhone 6/6s case is much more rugged and better designed—more modern looking—and features a more robust lens mount.

It looks like Schneider is planning to keep these lenses relevant by continuing to make new cases for new iPhones—another benefit to the iPro system, as some clip-on lenses can only be used on a specific phone.

Tree stand via regular iPhone lens.
Tree stand via Super Wide.
Tree stand via 2X Tele.

Tripod Adapter/Handle

Rounding out the iPro system, the Combi Handle allows storage of a lens and provides a ¼”-20 tripod socket at the bottom so that you can mount your iPhone on a standard tripod. It serves a dual purpose in helping to steady your images, while also keeping your hand out of the frame when using the Super Wide lens.

Super Wide

The Photos

I’ve been spending a lot of time on commuter trains lately, and some of the rides are beyond scenic—especially for those of us who aren’t intently staring at his or her phone for the entire ride (don’t get me started on that rant). The iPro lens system has been the key to getting shots that not every other passenger can grab with his or her mobile device. Having three lenses to choose from lets me expand my creative vision beyond what I would normally have with the phone’s standard camera, and that is what makes the iPro system most valuable to me.

2X

Final Thoughts

The iPro system has its downsides (5/5s case design, optical distortion, overall ruggedness), but these aren’t detrimental to the experience. When compared to other add-on mobile lenses, the iPro system is more refined and versatile than most.

2X

If you want to add creative compositions and unique perspectives to your iPhone shots, the ability to optically switch from super wide to telephoto to macro with the small, portable iPro Lens System will help make your images stand apart from the pack.

Super Wide







 

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2 Comments

Test shots for lenses taken through train windows?  Really?

This seems unique.  Has anyone ever published a lens review with test shots taken through train windows?

Hey Kirby,

Thanks for your comment.

Isn't unique a good thing?

I wouldn't necessarily call these "test shots." If I was doing that, I would have shot a test target. But, I am not one to shoot a test target with my phone in the fear that I would be hugely disappointed when I start to pixel-peep to the point of putting gaffer tape over my phone camera!

For the record, only about 2/3rds of the photos were taken through Plexiglas train windows. The rest were taken outside the train(s).

And, finally, all of these images were taken long before I knew I was going to be writing a review on the Schneider iPro lens system, so they were never taken with the intention of being published as part of a review. When assigned the review, I thought they would illustrate the capabilites of the lens system nicely.

Be unique! Thanks for reading!

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