From close-up to creative to downright creepy, new iPhone lens accessories arrive en masse


posted Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 8:22 PM EDT


If there's one thing we've seen a lot of here on the Imaging Resource newsdesk, it's accessory lenses for Apple's omnipresent iPhone. That's true of three offerings we spotted on Kickstarter today too, but the lenses themselves manage something unusual -- all three stand out from the crowd. Lensbaby, maker of lo-fi lenses for DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, hope to make a splash with a creative offering for iPhone users, while the folks behind the still-awkwardly named Micro Phone Lens have offered up a more powerful version of their microscope lens. Perhaps most unusual of all is the COVR Photo, a prism-based iPhone case that lets you take photos without tipping off your subjects to the plan.

We'll start with the most mainstream of the group: the Lensbaby. There's little question that the company has brand recognition amongst lo-fi fans and consumer interchangeable-lens shooters alike. The company is aiming to parlay that brand-recognition to the iPhoneography space, launching a Kickstarter for the Creative Focus Lens for iPhone. Like its lenses for dedicated cameras, this lets you unleash your creative side, focusing your viewers' attention on a subject by surrounding it with strong blur and distortion.

Introduction to the Creative Focus Lens.

The anodized aluminum Creative Focus Lens attaches in front of your iPhone's lens magnetically, and to achieve this, you must attach an adhesive-backed stainless steel ring to the iPhone. The other end of the Creative Focus Lens is also magnetic, allowing further accessory lenses to be stacked on top. And since the Creative Focus Lens inverts your image, Lensbaby are including a free app that flips it right side up again for easier framing. Kickstarter preorders are available from US$50, with estimated delivery from August.

More details can be found on the Kickstarter page for the Lensbaby Creative Focus Lens.

The Micro Phone Lens 150x, meanwhile, is a follow-on to last year's Micro Phone Lens -- but it's around ten times as powerful. Where the earlier lens was said to have a 15x magnification, the new one will have 150x magnification. It's still made of pliable, scratchproof plastic, but that's where the similarity ends.

Introduction to the Micro Phone Lens 150x

With 150x magnification, depth of field is razor-thin, so you now hold your subject -- most likely, a mounted microscope slide -- so that it touches three small, soft studs that protrude in front of the lens. You focus by pressing your subject against these, deforming them just enough to achieve the correct focus distance. And of course, a light source is needed -- so a small, positionable lamp said to have even, collimated light is included in the bundle. Results from prototypes don't match dedicated microscopes, but they come surprisingly close. And again, US$50 will get you on the preorder list with Kickstarter. Helpfully, six mounted slides and ten blank slides with cover slips are included in the price.

More details are on the Micro Phone Lens 150x Kickstarter page.

And so we come to the last offering: the COVR Photo. It's cool, it's covert, and it's just a little bit creepy. In essence, it's a phone case with a built-in prism that allows you to take photos while aiming your iPhone camera away from your subject -- so they're (probably) not aware you're taking their photo. Since it's a case, this one is specific to certain iPhone models -- the iPhone 5 and 5s. If you own one of these, though, you're set for unobtrusive shooting.

An introduction to the COVR Photo.

Of course, you're not always going to want to shoot at an angle. Ergonomically, it's more familiar to shoot with the LCD display pointed towards you, and the camera on the rear of the phone towards the subject. So if your subject is already aware of your presence, you can slide the prism aside to take a photo in a more traditional manner. There seems to be one big catch, though -- that pointy prism is still sticking out from the rear of the case all the time, whether you're using it or not. If you store your phone in a purse or coat pocket that's probably fine, but you'll likely not want to put your phone in a pants-pocket with the COVR Photo attached.

The COVR Photo is a little more expensive, at US$55 for a preorder. More details on the Kickstarter page!