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Getting the most from iPhone camera: lenses for Macro iPhoneography

Macro Lenses for iPhone 4/4S

This is the second part of the iPhone lens adapters review (read the first one is here), and this time the test setup looked like this:

Choosing macro lens for iPhone

The idea was to shoot a subject as close as possible with each lens I got for this test.
Lets continue with Schneider iPro lenses system. Like I mentioned in my previous part of this review, iPro offers the best mounting and storage solution, and still has one of the best image quality from what I have tested.  

I was using the same camera app for iPhone, 645 PRO, as it shoots maximum quality TIFF images (each about 10MB).

For the reference, I started this test by snapping a macro image with “native” iPhone lens:

iPhone 4s native lens macro capabilities 

iPhone-macro-shots-native-camChoosing macro lens for iPhone -native-cam

Not bad, as I expected from iPhone. It even manages to blur the background with true optical DOF (remember, this is a as-is shot, only resized and sharpened for web). I was not able to focus really close though.

This is what I got with iPro Wide angle/macro lens:

Schneider iPro wide angle lens in macro mode

 Choosing macro lens for iPhone -native-cam-lens-macro-test

 

It was possible to get closer focus, and slightly less DOF (which is always good;-) Nothing extra spectacular. If you continue reading I’ll show you a true king of macro photography woith iPhone.

 

Schneider iPro Fisheye lens in macro mode

 

ipro fisheye lens-macro-performance-iphone

 

I am not sure why anyone would use a fisheye lens for macro shots, but who knows. So, I’ve included this shot with the iPro fisheye lens. As you see, it allows the camera to focus even closer.. but with very weird DOF: far trees on the left are in focus for some unknown (for me) reason, while much closer objects are blurred.

 

 

I must say that this lens was not designed to focus at close distance, so I had to move the camera iPhone far away from the subject. See below:

testting-macro-performance-iphone-telephoto-lens

 

What I’ve got is this:

ipro-telephoto-macro-performance-on-iphone

Looks cool, but you definitely don’t want to use this lens for macro shots. The lens is really great for portraits or landscaping photography.

Now, take a look at these shots below:

 

 

True macro lens for iPhone example shots

 

true-iphone-macro-lens1

true iphone macro lens

true iphone macro lens

all of these are untouched (beside ACR conversion) iphone shots. What a DOF! And this is our test shot:

supermacro-lens-for-iphone announce

 

So, what lens is this? Meet the hero:

 

 iPhone-5-vs-4s-test-reviw-lens-studio

Huge camera “case” with enormous lens (most likely from a camcorder extension lens). It looks like it’s made form cast aluminum, and it triples the weight and doubles the size of your iPhone 4S:

 Huge billet aluminum body and rubber internal case

Iphoneography-optics-reviews-iphone-5-4s

It comes with a rubber “internal” case and microphone. The mic does not really work. It’s sound quality isn’t any better than the iPhone’s built-in mic, but the lens.. Because this lens is huge, and the iphone captures the center area of the image circle this lens produces, it delivers amazing quality images. The only drawback in IQ I found is some significant barrel distortion. For example, iPro wide angle lens has much less barrel distortion, providing the similar angle of view.

 ALM lens come with external microphone

iPhone-5-test-review-lens-studio

The front element of the lens unscrews, and wide angle adaptor  turns to a macro lens:

 ALM lens in Macro Mode

iphone macro lenses-test-review

In macro mode, this is a very special lens. 

It will not let camera focus on anything from about half inch away from the lens and further. Meaning everything is quite nicely blurred… sort of “forced bokeh” :-) This is why this lens is unique in macro mode: I have never seen such behavior of any other macro lens for smartphones, and the closest one I know is Canon MP-E , which is super macro lens (5x magnification) and does not have infinite focus.

And what about wide-angle performance? Here you are, from the “original test”:

aim-wide-angle-lens-test-iphone

 

This image has some of the best corner quality from what I’ve tested, but still far from perfect, right? Meaning that for the best possible quality images we would have to use iPhone with no attachements.

Another great feature of ALM lens systems is it’s size and weight. Nobody with a normal mind would ever consider additional weight and size to be a good thing for a camera, so I’ll be talking for crazy guys like myself here: with such heavy and large attachment, the iPhone becomes a real camera. In fact, it gets larger than most point and shoot and mirrorless cameras. Mountend on a mini tripod, it makes a great videocamera.  Because of it’s weight it’s not as shaky as a “naked” iPhone, and it’s easy to use in harsh environments like on a beach.

I was writing this article in a hotel in Destin, FL, and that morning I took my iPhone 4s wrapped in it’s ALM aluminum armor to the beach and captured some cool shots you’ll see below:

 

Real life image examples with iPhone 4S and ALM lens system:

Action

iphone-lenses-test-real-life-perfomance

Landscape

AIM-lens-iphone-test-review-shot

Portrait

iphoneography-image-example

Super Macro

dead-crab-iphone-macro-photography-excample

 

Now can anyone tell me why would I ever need to carry another point-and-shoot camera with me? And if iPhone 5 has even better optics (hopefully soon I’ll test it), it will be a no-brainer for me to decide if I need another pocket camera or not.

And you haven’t seen the videos I took on the same beach with this system yet! They are amazing, and I’ll post them soon. :-)

Self-Interview on the beach with iPhone

talking-to-iphone-on-the-beach-review-iphoneography

 

Conclusion

So, which system is better? German super multicoated glass from Schneider (iPro Lenses) or ALM  mCAMLITE Mount for iPhone 4S with its huge camcorder-stolen lens and half inch thick billet aluminum body?

For everyday use I’d definitely go with Schneider iPro set: It delivers great image quality, it’s small, it has the best lens mount and storage for lenses (again, read my  first part of the review). The only real drawback is it’s price: $300 for a set of 3 lenses for your smartphone might be too much for many iPhoneography fans. From other point of view, the price was never a big deal for many Apple brand users, as they get use to paying 1.5-2 times more for things they love. If you are one of them, do not hesitate and get the iPro lenses, you’ll never regret it :-)

And what about  ALM  mCAMLITE lenses? With this monster you will forget that you use a smartphone:-) It feels like Leica (yep, we can think like this:-), it works great as a self defense device (try to drop it fully loaded with iPhone on your feet, and you’ll understand me), it attracts chicks  curious glances from strangers standing around, and it takes great photos and even greater videos! You’ll love it if you are not a “regular” consumer and prefer to find your own ways of enjoying the life… and if you have an extra $150:-)

Video Conclusion

Few more iPhoneography examples for your inspiration

You can even guess which lens I was using on each of this shots:-)

crab-iphone-macro-shot-ipro-lens-test

iphone-hdr-shot-ipro-lenses

iphone-4s-telephoto-lens-example

Choosing macro lens for iPhone  test review

 

Like it or not, smartphones and photography are getting merged together more and more: cameras run smartphone OS,  and soon will be able to make calls, and smartphones are getting 40 Mpx sensors and sophisticated glass. Life becomes more and more interesting, all you need is to open your mind for new ideas and don’t be afraid to do crazy things… like testing iPhone lenses instead of shooting with Hasselblad:-)


 

 

What next? 

Shooting video with iPhone: Techniques and Examples. Post-production for iPhone images: how to get the best sharpness, colors and not to get too much noise. Stay tuned!

BTW, I am thinking of creating a short but intense video course for iPhone/smartphone photographers (it does not matter which phone you use in most cases) where I can put together all that I’ve learned so far: from tips on how to shot, to what accessories to use, to the post-production part… all aimed to show you how to get the most from your smartphone camera. Would you be interested in such a video course?

 

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2 Responses on Getting the most from iPhone camera: lenses for Macro iPhoneography"

  1. Linda Mandy says:

    Thank you Alex, Interesting that we have been asked many times if in our classes we teach Iphone Photography. The way of things to come perhaps?

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