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.