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2016/06/25

Ditching the Big Rig? if only I could.....

 Fumbling with large camera bags, long and heavy lenses, multiple strobes/speedlights, memory cards and more has been the name of the professional photography game for the last 15 years.  Before that there was also film to keep track of.  A lot of photographers have ended up abusing and damaging their bodies from years of work.

Now there are other options for a lot of shooters. Things like the Sony live-view (AKA "mirrorless" cameras) and the even more easily carried smarthphone.

I am a member of the 365project.org site and I saw a member post that her entire series would be dedicated to images shot solely with her iPhone, and she sold her Nikon D7000.  Wow. Gave up her Nikon?

Can a photographer really work solely with a smartphone? As so many things in life, the answer is "it depends."  Two years ago my daughter gave me a couple of wide angle lens attachments which secured to my old iPhone 4s with a magnetic ring.  They were low quality and softened the images a lot (especially the fish-eye) but there was something nice about having them to play with.

Now I have moved on from the old 4s and am shooting with the iPhone 6s quite a lot. (If not for the camera and photo apps I would almost certainly still be using the old iPhone 4s).  And after looking around I found that there are actually a lot of optional lenses out there for the smartphones.  They range from the absurdly cheap sets you clip on to you phone with a clamp and can purchase for less than $10 all the way up to lens kit that can run you several hundred dollars.

I was about to pull the trigger on the Olloclip lens system but I hesitated because I can be a bit rough with my phone, and the clip really requires that the phone not be in a case to fit properly. I was also concerned that the iPhone 6s lens actually protrudes a bit from the back of the phone and worried that sliding the clip on and off might potentially scratch the phone lens.  Still, it seems like a good unit and has a lot of happy users, and I thought it would be the best option for price and quality.

Then just by chance I discovered the iPro Lens System from Schneider Optics.  I know that Schneider makes some good glass from back in the film days when the Schneider Lupe was the only one to have when editing film.

The iPro lenses are truly a system. You start with the lens case that is specific to your phone. The case has threading for connecting to a standard tripod head, which is a nice feature I have not seen in any other cases. And it has smaller threads on one side to attach their handle/storage case.  In the top image of this post there are my four lenses, and in the back row are the storage compartments. Each one holds a lens inside and then they all screw together to make a cylinder handle to help hold the phone.

Then there are lenses. In total Schneider makes 5 lenses for the system: 2x tele, wide angle, super wide angle, fish-eye, and macro.  I am not a big fan of fish-eye lenses, or at least not a fan enough to spend the money on one right now. 
As you can see from this second image, the lenses are quite compact in size and the whole kit can be packed up into a tube that is roughly the size of the cardboard tube from a roll of toilet paper.

The lenses easily mount onto the back of the cell phone case with a three pronged bayonet that is quick to add and remove the lens.

For the iPhone 6s the phone has a roughly 30mm lens on it (using the full frame/35mm film settings as a reference).  This means that the 2x teleconverter gives you an 60mm lens. Certainly not something you will use for a professional sporting even or wildlife photography, but it can be good for portraits or bringing that landscape shot a bit closer.

The wide angle lens makes the phone shoot at roughly 19mm and this lens seems to be aspherical, with very limited distortion. It is my favorite lens of the bunch.

The Super Wide angle lens to 14mm, and it has a massive amount of distortion to it. (see image 3) A photo shot of a straight horizon in South Dakota appears to show the curvature of the earth.  With this much distortion in this lens I doubt I will even consider needing the fish-eye lens.

The whole system gets to be a bit expensive, running close to $300 for the case, handle and three lenses, but they have just announced new lower pricing and Adorama is selling the kit for $229.

Now, back to the original question - can a professional photographer ditch the big gear for something like this?  In some cases I would say they could.  Especially street photographers and people shooting for online outlets.  I know I am grabbing the little kit on almost a daily basis and only using the big rig for sports, wildlife and weddings. The iPhone 6s has a lot of limitations, but this kit certainly does a good job of breaking past a lot of them and making the smartphone much more of the camera I want it to be.
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