Alternative lenses for smartphones are nothing new. Lensbaby, Moment Lenses and even industry giants like Sony have all come out with their own iterations. These lenses fit over a smartphone’s preexisting camera, adding versatility in wide-angle, telephoto and macro options. And though these lenses aren’t likely to antiquate pro-level point-and-shoot and DSLR cameras any time soon, they certainly provide a fresh and easy-to-use POV for the generation(s) addicted to Instagram and Snapchat.
The most recently released, and most highly anticipated, alternative lens is the ExoLens with Optics by Zeiss 0.6x wide-angle lens ($200). The aspherical lens is a collaboration between mobile photography company ExoLens and Zeiss, whose beautiful — yet expensive — lenses can be found on many of the new top-grade Sony offerings.
The beauty of the lens is in its simplicity. Out of the package, the kit comes with two mounting brackets (fit for either the iPhone 6/6s), a lens hood and the wide-angle lens. The bracket fits right over an iPhone, the lens screws on, and that’s it. The next time you access the smartphone’s camera, the world is seen through the new lens. Also convenient: the bracket can attach to a tripod, so you can stabilize your phone or set up a long-exposure or self-timer shot.
Lens: Zeiss Mutar 0.6x Asph T* wide-angle lens
Bracket: integrated standard tripod mount (1/4″-20)
Compatibility: iPhone 6/6s/Plus
This wide-angle lens captures approximately 60 percent more than the iPhone 6s’s stock camera. (It’s roughly equivalent to an 18mm lens.) That means no walking backwards to capture a large party or an epic sunset in one shot. And the image is pristine. There’s no distortion, contrast, or anything to give away that there’s an extra lens attached to your smartphone. The photos and videos are saved directly to your iPhone’s Photo Stream, or any other app you use, all without the uploading delays that photographers transferring files have grown accustomed to.
Though the optics are great, the Zeiss Exolens doesn’t solve the problems commonly associated with attachable smartphone lenses. Wielding the camera can be a little awkward, as the lens inevitably makes the smartphone top-heavy and unable to easily slide into a pocket. And the lens blocks off the smartphone’s flash — though you can buy external flashes.
Ultimately, whether this $200 attachable smartphone lens is worth your money comes down to you and how often you use your iPhone’s camera. Will it replace your DSLR? Probably not. But if your smartphone photography game is strong, or you don’t want to carry around an extra camera, the Zeiss Exolens is worth it.
The ExoLens with Optics by Zeiss system’s full kit consists of three lenses: wide-angle, macro and telephoto. The wide-angle lens is available right now, while the other two are expected later this summer. Lenses can be bought for iPhone 6/6s/Plus, and are sold exclusively through Apple.
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