The use of a smartphone camera has always been considered “recreational” photography but, in the meantime and despite this denigration, it has continued to grow and develop, even becoming part of the world of professional photography.
Notable examples are the admittance to Magnum of photographers who capture their images exclusively through the use of smartphones, or the brazen entry of smartphone images to world-class photographic competitions, such as WorldPressPhoto, the Sony World Photography Awards and others.
And that’s not all; producers of photographic equipment have also started to develop gadgets and supports to help those who use smartphone cameras recreationally and also professionally.
One of these brands is Manfrotto. It has created, as part of a wide range of professional equipment, a cover and a series of additional lenses to make your smartphone stable and therefore enable you to produce improved photos, starting with the already excellent iPhone camera.
Intrigued by this idea, I started to develop field research projects involving the exclusive use of my iPhone 5 camera, continuing today with my iPhone 6.
This is definitely one of the main reasons for my continued and assiduous use of this device, not just in social situations but also for true professional photography projects.
It was really important for me to try to exceed the smartphone’s technical limits. Manfrotto (which had already created similar products with earlier iPhone models) was a great help to me in doing this.
The kit I received for the test (and that I continue to use today) consists of:
Black Protective Cover
3X Telephoto Lens
The items I tested can be found in shops selling Manfrotto photography equipment or directly from the online Manfrotto shop at this web address.
Having a wideangle and telephoto lens available for taking pictures, without having to adjust my iPhone 6 software, greatly improved the smooth running of my field research project.
The lenses are made of glass with metal surround; this makes them very solid and high quality.
The lens caps are made so that they fit snugly and are easily removed at the moment of use (front and rear clip-on rubber caps).
I can attach my iPhone to my tripod (Manfrotto 190XProB, which I’ve had for years now and is my inseparable companion) using the tripod mount provided, together with the LED light, giving me greatly increased stability for my photos.
You can also use the thread adaptor included as part of the cover, although it is much better used as an emergency stand to angle your iPhone.
The cover is very robust and allows you to mount your smartphone on the stand, and remove it, very quickly, whilst the thread attachment for the lenses, although made of plastic, is very good and I have seen no signs of wear, despite my frequent switching from one lens to another.
The lenses are excellent and there is no loss in quality of image; indeed, the quality is improved and is clearly seen in post-production.
There are a lot of other extra lenses for smartphones on the market but I have never been happy with the attachment systems and lens quality (of those I have tried).
The wideangle lens tends to create barrel distortion for reasons of optics/physics, but you can recover the form without loss of resolution using apps found in the Apple App Store (I normally use Photoshop Touch).
The (virtual) angle goes as far as 130° (thus comparable to a 15mm on a 35mm equivalent), which is decidedly wider than the normal iPhone lens which is a virtual 35mm.
The 3X telephoto lens, however, narrows right down to 38° (again, virtual), so you find yourself between 80mm and 85mm, the perfect lens for portraits or avoiding distorted elements in your photo. Basically, this means you achieve the focus you would normally get using the digital zoom on your iPhone, but without the loss of resolution.
The polarizing lens greatly reduces reflection and increases contrast in landscape shots, maintaining a high level of brightness (great for wide open spaces out of town – mountains, open country, sunsets, sunrises or other situations where the light isn’t linear).
The SMT LED light source, made up of 3 LED lights, has a total brightness of 225 lumens (thus comparable to a 60W light source) and has an internal battery, easily charged via USB adaptor (included with the kit), which has a stated life of 35 mins, though I found that it can run for around 45 mins if you only turn it on when you need it.
However, the best feature for me is the option of adjusting the 3 LEDs to 3 different power settings (adjusted according to brightness requirements, obviously) by pressing the power button different numbers of times.
The results obtained (where I didn’t focus on searching for quality, but instead focused on image content) were truly surprising.
I like to keep the social network square image format, even if the standard smartphone frame is in 3:2, so I always insert a white photo frame, simulating a square format that also allows you to view the content. The extra lenses don’t cause a loss in resolution when you insert the white frame (which does happen sometimes in low-light conditions with images produced using the original lens).
You can have fun with your iPhone taking silly photos, use it for photo features of your travels without the weight of a camera around your neck (perhaps for a weekend in a European capital city) and have more room in your suitcase for other things. But you can also use your iPhone for professional work, given the vast number of pro image applications available in the Apple Store, and with a helping hand from the Manfrotto Kit.
I normally use Photoshop Touch, which allows me to make use of the Adobe Cloud and thus create an archive that doesn’t interfere with my iPhone storage capacity.
Website: www.angeloferrillo.com – www.ferrilloshots.it