If there’s one piece of technology that I love, it’s my phone. And as a photographer, always having a camera is convenient, occasionally saving myself from missing that once in a lifetime shot.
However the worst part is the fixed focal length of my phone’s camera.
Photojojo offers many solutions to this: The Magnetic, The Olloclip, and The Telephoto. Today I’m talking about Photojojo’s new Iris Lens System, which Photojojo has deemed “the best phone lenses on planet earth”. Let’s see if that’s true…
The system comes with three of the most basic lens types. A macro, wide angle, and a fisheye lens. Perfect for someone doing phone video or photography, this could be a great tool for a lot of people. Coming to mind immediately are the real estate agents and journalists in my life, few of whom have the time to be troubled with anything but their phone when creating content that needs to be delivered to clients in a few minutes.
Starting off with the mounting system I want to point out that the lenses sit in the holder via friction and this holder attaches to your phone via a elastic cord stretched over opposite corners of your phone. The cord works well enough but I wish the lenses were a little more secure in that holder.
A plastic alignment piece will slip inside your case and its small nub will poke out through the case’s camera port. This nub slips into the notch of the Iris Lens mount to securely align the Photojojo Iris lens with your phone’s lens.
That’s the basics of how this all works but this attachment type has it’s upsides and downsides. The biggest draw of this Iris Lens system is that the elastic cord will allow you to use nearly any phone, even with the thickest of protective cases (up to 3mm, which is pretty dang thick).
However it takes a little too long to initially strap the Iris Lens system on to your phone and get it aligned properly before you can make a picture. It’s actually kind of funny how tedious it can be to attach the holder and its cord — drawing a few sarcastic chuckles from people at my dinner table when I first used this system.
And because of this cord attachment style — wrapping around the face of your screen — doing simple things like, oh I don’t know, actually using your phone, is kind of a pain. On an iPhone the cord is comically in front of the camera app icon when you swipe up from the bottom to access the control center.
Oh… flash is useless as well. Yep, in case you ever want to use your flash for some reason, don’t. It just won’t work. The Iris System blocks it 100%
Annoying still is that this plastic mount point is meant to stay on/in your case full time, because who is going to pull their case off to slip that in every time they want to use the Iris system. The thickness of it is pretty much zero but it caused my power button to be misaligned just enough with the case’s that I had to press very hard on the case to trigger the power button.
Furthermore the aforementioned mounting nub protrudes and now your phone won’t lay flat.
When bundled together the footprint of the set is relatively small, easily slipped into an inside coat pocket or lost at the bottom of a large handbag.
With the potential to leave the lenses attached full time, those of you who always put their phone in their shoulder bag won’t have the same problems I’ve had when it comes to this mounting type.
I speak primarily on behalf of the photography side of things because if you’re doing video the concerns are mitigated, as this issue of mounting/remounting is moot if you’re shooting lengthy sections of video, going hours without ever stowing the camera.
Would I go through the minor task of attaching this Iris System for a day at the zoo? Gladly. Would I bother taking it to dinner? Mmm… Maybe toss it in my coat pocket, just in case.
Moving on to the actual lenses, I must admit that for their size they all feel quite nice in the hand. Sturdy and well constructed. Photojojo says they’re made from “high precision robotic lathe-cut aluminum,” which sounds fancy, but I’m pretty sure that’s how aluminum is cut by everyone these days. I don’t recall seeing many manual aluminum cutters on the factory line, chiseling away at a block of aluminum with a knife, fork, and their bare hands.
But I digress. The lens quality is actually pretty good. Flaring is minimal thanks to an anti-glare coating and “diamond polished internals”, sharpness is preserved. No surprise given the manufacturing of the three lenses was done by the same factory responsible for some Leica, Nikon and Canon glass.
Now obviously there’s no physical connection between the Iris Lens System and your phone. When coupled with mounting this system over a case this can lead to having a slight gap between the Iris lens and your phone. Neatly, the Photojojo Iris has a little mounting gauge designed to seat the lens at just the right distance from your phone depending on the thickness of your case. This ensures sharpness with the system no matter the thickness of your case (and therefore the distance from lens to lens).
I was very impressed and satisfied with the image quality from each of the three lenses. The macro quality is surprising and the fisheye is, well, exactly as it claims, a fisheye. The wide angle maintains superb clarity and sharpness, giving back that bit of width that’s lost when you switch from your phones photo to video mode.
I love Photojojo and their products but the benefits and negatives of this system are a trade off that will only pay off if you fit a certain niche of potential users.
Because of that, I have to recommend the Iris System as a major “if”.
If you’re the photographer who always has a bag with you or that loves taking pictures and video on their phone for long periods at a time or that doesn’t mind the slight inconvenience of this type of attachment system or that will probably have a new case/phone in the next year — then at this $99 price point, these lenses do a great job and would be worth every penny.
If the above niche description isn’t you, then you have to question whether or not you align with my opinion that this mount type may be too cumbersome to deal with over and over again.
Personally I feel that despite the tediousness of the mounting system, the range of picture compositions suddenly available on a device I’ll always have on me is fantastic. The Iris Lens System has found a permanent place in my coat pocket, hopefully this review will make it easier to decide if it deserves a place in yours.