Camera phones, iPhone too, are usually equipped with a digital zoom feature to make distant details appear closer. Digital zoom is not accomplished by the camera’s optics, it’s all calculations of the software’s algorithms. What digital zoom basically does is cropping the original image, keeping its aspect ratio, in order to give you the impression to look at a magnified image. As a matter of fact, you are only looking at a small part of a whole. Using a digital zoom affects negatively the overall image quality because, to produce a larger image, the software interpolates new pixels to make up for the missing data. I personally never use the iPhone digital zoom, not even when I have no other choice. It’s totally useless.
To get rid of digital zoom, you can use camera add-ons, like Photojojo’s telephoto lens. The purpose of the telephoto lens is exactly to help you getting closer to your subjects without having to move and without resorting to digital zoom. Although Photojojo’s telephoto phone lens only allows a 2x magnification, the fact it uses optical features instead of software to achieve the same effect makes a great difference. The lens, with a narrower angle of view than that of iPhone’s and other camera phones’ native lenses, replaces the fake magnification enabled by the digital zoom, without lessening the overall image quality. Yes, of course, you can always get closer to your subjects instead of using a camera add-on. However, we all know there are cases in which getting closer is not possible for various reasons.
The telephoto lens fits most camera phones. Its metal body can be attached to your phone thanks to an adhesive magnetic ring, which allows quick and easy attachment and detachment.
Besides magnification, the telephoto’s most noticeable feature is a slight blur around the borders, which sort of conveys a tilt-shift look in some instances. The effect can be pleasantly surprising, if applied to the right subject and in combination with the right idea. I find the blur adds to images a charming analog toy camera touch that is much more convincing than similar effects you can apply in post-processing with specialized applications. With the scene you will be aiming at, camera movements are also magnified with the lens on, so the best way to minimize blur is to use a stable surface or a tripod to support the camera. In any case, if you want images to be less blurry, do not try to hold the iPhone or other camera while a 30 km/h wind is blowing, as I did…
Here are a few samples of images taken with the iPhone with the telephoto lens on (apps used: Camera+ and iCamera HDR): on the left is the original scene without telephoto, on the right the same scene with telephoto on.
The results lend themselves to many creative possibilities which is up to you to explore. I am quite enthralled by the suggestions evoked by images captured with the telephoto lens on.
The actual lens is so small (25mm of diameter and 15mm in length) that you can bring it anywhere in your pocket. The telephoto doesn’t allow focus adjustment, but it cleverly comes with protection covers, both for front (in plastic) and for the back (magnetic). With the lens also come two adhesive magnetic rings, so that you can use your telephoto with more than a camera phone, if you own more than one. The spare ring will also come in handy if you are like me and prone to losing everything.
The 2x telephoto is a nice add-on, especially for its price ($20); it can also be purchased bundled with wide angle/macro and fisheye. You can get it from Photojojo store. The quality of materials alone is enough to justify the purchase. And what about all the fun you can have with it?
Coming next, the other lenses in the kit: wide angle/macro and fisheye.
Photojojo kindly provided us with the lens for reviewing purposes.