Thursday, 18 August 2016

Taking better photographs with your iPhone - Review of the ExoLens Case

I love taking photographs and my phone is my most used bit of kit. While the photo quality isn’t as good as my DSLR my phone is always on me so it allows me to capture the moment where ever I am.

While my phone can’t be beaten on convenience it is rather limited in terms of what is can do. I have an iPhone 6 which allows me to change the area of focus, adjust exposure, and zoom in digitally. The problem with zooming in digitally is you lose some of the quality so you really need to get closer to what you want to take a picture of, but not too close, it needs to be about 5 cms away to be able to focus which rules out really good macro pictures. 

At the BML16 conference in June I was talking to Fellowes and I had a play with the ExoLens Case kit they had on their stall. I really enjoyed trying out the different lens quickly so when I was offered the chance to be sent one to try out the lenses at my leisure I jumped at the chance.

What is the ExoLens Case?


Designed to fit on the iPhone 6/ 6s the kit has 3 lenses and a polarising filter which attach on to a special phone case. The 4 attachments can be stored in the special padded case so they are safe and stay clean when you are out and about. You also get a wrist strap for the case and lens cleaner.
The ExoLens Case box front, inside, the 4 "lenses", and the lenses carry case

So what are the Lenses?


Macro

Always my favourite type of lens this macro allows you to get much more detail than possible with the iPhone's camera alone (12x zoom). You need to be extremely close to what you are taking a picture of (practically touching it), but you will be able to see a level of detail you didn’t know existed. 
A close up photograph of a ripe strawberry taken with the ExoLens macro lens
Taken with the Macro Lens

Wide-angle

The wide-angle lens connects on top of the macro lens. It allows you to get much more in the picture, effectively zooming out. The 165 degree view means what you see on screen is closer to what you see with your eyes. You can use it for some arty shots by focusing on something close to the lens with the background distorted in a fish eye affect, or focus on a subject further away or to the side and just get more in your picture. When you focus on an item nearer the camera you can get depth of field (the background will be out of focus encouraging people to look at your chosen subject).
Photographs showing a toy truck in the foreground and warehouses in the background. One taken with the wide angle lens showing more in shot
With just the iPhone at the top, with the wide-angle lens on the bottom (circles to provide anonymity)


Telephoto

This lens provides a little bit of optical zoom (3x) so you can get a better quality photograph of a subject further away. Like the wide-angle lens it gives you some depth of field so you need to ensure you tell the phone what you want to focus on (tap the screen to tell it where to focus). 
2 photographs of a pumpkin patch showing the difference with the use of the telephoto lens
With just the iPhone camera left, with the telephoto lens right

Polarising Filter

This filter can be used on it’s own or on top of any of the 3 lenses. I’ve not yet had the opportunity to really test it out, but there are so many times in the past I would have really found it useful. A polarising filter works a bit like sunglasses reducing reflections and suppressing glare. It can reduce the haziness you get in bright sun making your pictures look crisper and many colours will look darker or brighter.
Photograph of a pumpkin patch taken in August using the polarising filter
Taken with the polarising filter


What are the best bits about the ExoLens Case?


  • The lenses mean you can take photographs with your iPhone which you wouldn’t otherwise be able to capture.
  • The lenses are well protected in their case, it is light and doesn’t take up much space so it is great to chuck in your bag and have with you all the time.
  • I drop my phone at least once a day. The protective case meant my phone wasn’t damaged any of the multitude of times I dropped it.
  • Each lens comes with rubbery caps so if you have a favourite you could just take that out without worrying about it getting damaged. They all say what they are on the side so you don't need to get confused.
  • The polarising filter can be used on it’s own or in addition to any of the lenses.

 What are the worst bits about the ExoLens Case?


  • The lenses will only work if attached to the case so it's important the connector on the case doesn't get too damaged. With the tough conditions my phone goes through (I'm clumsy and have 2 children) the case did end up with quite a few scratches after a couple of weeks. After dropping my phone for the 20th time I decided I should save the case for when I was likely to be taking pictures with it rather than using it all the time. As mentioned above though, my phone didn't get any damage when using the case.
  • The small lenses can be a little bit fiddly. They twist on to the case with a bayonet fitting which is easy to use, but they are obviously small so large fingers may find them a bit fiddly when trying to attach on the move. The wide angle lens needs to be connected to the macro lens to take pictures and if you want to use the polarising filter with another lens you need to pull it apart. Finger nails are helpful. 
  • The macro lens has a small area of focus and needs to be very close to the subject, this means it can be difficult to capture anything which is moving in and out of shot. It is still my favourite lens.
  • It recommends using the square photograph option. This is because the area of focus and amount of distortion is more obvious with the rectangular picture, but it depends what affect you are going for on what you choose to use.
  • You can’t use the flash because the lens block it (I rarely use the flash on my phone so this isn’t a problem for me). It makes it clear on the packaging that they aren’t compatible with the flash.

What do I think of the ExoLens Case?


For very little extra weight or space I can have kit in my bag which gives my iPhone camera a huge amount of extra functionality. It means I can capture images which would not be possible with just the iPhone camera. I can take better pictures with my DSLR and I’m not about to get rid of it, but to have the same kit on me takes up much more space and a huge amount of extra weight. The cost of a camera with lenses which take wide angle and macro shots is significantly more than the ExoLens case so I’m also more likely to take the ExoLens places I wouldn’t risk taking my DSLR e.g. the beach.

I give the ExoLens case 9/10, losing a point because while really easy to use I did find it a little bit fiddly to use while being knocked by a small child and over time the connector could get damaged. 

The ExoLens case is a great little kit for anyone with an iPhone 6/6s who loves to take photographs. You can see the different ExoLens options here.


Lens demonstration photographs were taken at Cammas Hall Fruit picking farm.
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1 comment

  1. Thanks for sharing your review on #TriedTested this week x

    ReplyDelete

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