Home Cameras/Lenses Leica iPhone and Zeiss: Turn your universal camera into a pro outfit

iPhone and Zeiss: Turn your universal camera into a pro outfit


Stick-on lenses for iPhones and other smartphones appear to be big business these days. Yet I have never seen anyone using one in earnest. But when Zeiss get involved with one of the leading add-on-lens companies, ExoLens, I sit up and take notice.

Eventually there will be a range of three Zeiss lenses designed to fit the iPhone 6/6s and Plus. The lenses are described as wide angle (available now), macro and telephoto although I can’t find more precise details. The initial kit includes an aluminium mount which slides over the phone hold the lens firmly.

It’s encouraging to find that these Zeiss Exo lenses will be sold through Apple Stores; this means that you can buy and try with Apple’s usual no-quibble return policy. This is not a bad plan in view of the rather steep £199 or $199 price tag (something wrong there, I think…) for the kit.

Since I seldom leave home without a camera somewhere about my person I am not the ideal target audience. I use the iPhone camera in emergency and for reference shots but I do appreciate the quality of the camera. The forthcoming iPhone 7 will have an even better camera—especially the Plus version by all accounts—so we could see some adoption of these more versatile lenses.

The near-universal availability of smartphones with good cameras has transformed the photographic world. Camera manufacturers feared that smartphones would ruin the market but I’m not so sure. In fact, I believe the greater popularity of photography in general is benefiting the camera industry. Sure, the low-end point-and-shoot camera market has been all but ruined. But smartphones could well be helping the sales of more competent cameras.

The fact is that the iPhone and its friends flatter to deceive. Creating good photographs (at least photographs that look good on phone screen) is easy. Many people who had never aspired to becoming a creative photographer have suddenly realised that they can produce some great shots. Many, I am sure, move on to better cameras following their good experiences with the smartphone: “If I can produce such nice pictures with the phone what could I do with a Canon, a Fuji or a Sony,” they reason.

So all this emphasis on improving photography with smartphones could actually be good for the camera industry. Remind me to try an ExoLens Zeiss if I can prise one out of somebody’s hands.

But what won’t have escaped your notice is that a set of three lenses and the mount skeleton will likely cost the thick end of £500. That’s a lot of dosh to add to the cost of the phone, not to mention suffering the inconvenience of carrying all the stuff around. For that money you can get a proper camera, possibly one including a Zeiss lens, and almost certainly far more convenient than bolding lenses to your smartphone.


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  1. Personally I reckon that the quality of the digital images recorded by a device like the iPhone are (in context) as good as anyone would need…

    The point of the device is that it is convenient and it does everything that it attempts to do reasonably well.

    My iPhone 5 (which is due for an upgrade soon), acts as a SatNav, a P&S camera, a phone, an emailer, a messaging device… It acts as a remote control for my HiFi, where it can be used to adjust all the controls and choose the music. It is also a remote control for my Londinium coffee machine and my central heating… It is my address book and my calendar/diary, where it syncs with my desktop computer. It helps me to find myself with its built in maps and although I haven’t used it for this, I believe it counts how many staircases I climb and how many miles I walk.

    It is a clock and a light meter, it contains Chambers dictionary and Thesaurus and two internet browsers… It acts as a clock/program for developing black and white/colour film… I can look at my photos on it and watch video…. I use it to record and send my gas/electricity usage to my utility billing company.

    I like to get value for money, and so I have hung on to this device for longer than others might, but it still does all of the above reasonably well.

    Of course there are better devices for performing all of these functions, but the ONE thing that this does over all of the above, is that it does these things in a 5" x 2" x 1/4" box and the thought of carrying around loads of little accessories like earphones, or as I actually tried once… a Lumu light meter moves me not at all.

    However good the Zeiss tech above looks, it is not something that I would ever contemplate, as Mike seems to be intimating himself. Thanks for telling us about it Mike…. But er… Nah or Meh! Either will do. Sony employ Zeiss lenses anyway.

    Now as for that replacement… I am tempted by the Huawei/Leica implementation, but I will wait to see what the iPhone 7 looks like, since by design, the OS syncs simply and well to the macOS environment. I understand that they have dropped the dual lens system that was being talked about!

    • Yes I do indeed imply that I won’t be shelling out £199 on one of those lenses. You do a good job selling the multi-talented iphone and I agree with you. But then you spoil things by suggesting you might defect to an Android device.

      The iphone works seamlessly and does so many things without fuss. But Android brings fuss. I am currently in Germany and a friend was telling me o my this morning that he got a "free" Samsung with his Vodafone contests. Verdicts: The phone is good, even better than the iPhone 6. But Android sucketh big time. Back to Apple.

  2. I have not seen it mentioned very often, but I stumbled across an App, RedDotCam, that is fairly inexpensive, and does a fairly good job of mimicking the Leica rangefinder experience…..As far as such can be mimicked with an Iphone, anyway. Combine it with these Zeiss lenses and……..

    I have the app. And I like it. Yet, I rarely think about the Iphone as a camera. Frequently I will see something- while the Iphone sits in my pocket- and regret that I do not have a camera with me. I guess it is an "old guy" thing that i will never get past.


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