Moving beyond 28mm - Reviewing the IMVIO iPhone Lens Kit

Mobile photography got really serious a few years ago and for the most part, there's no denying that using an iPhone even for some 'professional' work is a much more common sight than what people would have imagined just a few years ago. I myself have been challenged by how much of my image taking happens on my iPhone. At least when it comes to time spent by full time photographers like me using our phone cameras and Instagram etc, there's no denying that mobile phone photography is here to stay. I'm still surprised by how my last two exhibitions had a couple of important images shot on my iPhone and a GoPro (more on that in a future post). The quality was not just decent to but good enough that most people didn't know that they were not shot using ahem... 'pro' equipment.

And supporting the mobile photography movement are a flood of photography accessories available in the market. The most common among them being lenses for your phone. I jumped the lens bandwagon a few years ago with Photojojo's magnetic stick on lenses for my iPhone 4s and had a blast with it. As I wanted to move on to something better for my iPhone 6, I came across the IMVIO lens kit and here's the story of how I spent the last few months with them:

Official Company Photograph of the lens kit and iPhone case. Image © IMVIO

Official Company Photograph of the lens kit and iPhone case. Image © IMVIO

One of the main criteria I had while selecting a lens was that it should have a good protective case for my phone and for that I give IMVIO a 10/10.. Maybe even a 11. I shoot pictures on my phone in all sorts of environments and the case that comes wit can handle everything you throw at it and some more. In fact, this solid piece is better than the OtterBox cases I used to protect my older iPhones. And yes the edges are raised so your screen won't get scratched even when the phone is put face down. It does noticeably increase the thickness of your device but it's surely worth it considering the protection it offers. IMVIO makes cases in several colours but black was the best bet for me.

The two lenses come in a great little rugged slide-to-open case which was barely longer than my little finger.

The two lenses come in a great little rugged slide-to-open case which was barely longer than my little finger.

The lens kit comes with a 170deg fish eye and a 90deg wide angle (which is roughly equivalent to 21mm in 'full-frame' terms). These two lenses give you way more flexibility than the standard 28mm FOV of the iPhone and I love it! The lenses screw on to the IMVIO case (which has grooves in it's camera cutout) and once they're in... they're really in! There's no way it's going to come out no matter how rough you play with them. There's no macro lens in this kit and for me that's a total non-issue. The lenses come in a slick and sturdy slide-to-open case which is barely a few inches long. Just like the phone case, the lens case can take a beating. How do I know? Let's just say that I was absent minded enough to leave it in my pants while it went in the washing machine... Ouch... A hour and clean pants later... The case still holds up and barely a drop of water went inside! Great test but seriously folks, don't try this at home!

The safety and durability of my new toy has a sad ending though... More after the jump.. For now let's get to the pictures. The kit was purchased before a recent trip in December 2015 to Kolkata, Shantiniketan and New Delhi where I was part of an international Artists Residency about which i'll blog later.

 

When in Bangalore, make sure you have the roadside 'Chicken Biryani' which can be bought for less than 60 rupees or $1. Shot on iPhone 6 with the IMVIO Wide lens.

The infamous Bangalore auto ride. Shot on iPhone 6 with the IMVIO Wide lens.

Superimposed Double exposure using the DianaPhoto App. Shot on iPhone 6 with the IMVIO Wide lens.

Strand Road, Kolkata. Shot on iPhone 6 with the IMVIO Wide lens.

The classic ferry ride across the Hoogly RIver in Kolkata. Shot on iPhone 6 with the IMVIO Wide lens.

Here's one for the selfie crazy folks out there. The 170 degrees does make things crazy and surreal. Shot on iPhone 6 with the IMVIO Fisheye lens.

The beautiful St. Paul's Cathedral in Kolkata. Shot on iPhone 6 with the IMVIO Wide lens.

The beautiful St. Paul's Cathedral in Kolkata. Shot on iPhone 6 with the IMVIO Fisheye lens.

The beautiful St. Paul's Cathedral in Kolkata. Shot on iPhone 6 with the IMVIO Fisheye lens.

Howrah Bridge, Kolkata. Shot on iPhone 6 with the IMVIO Wide lens.

New Howrah Bridge (Vidyasagar Setu), Kolkata. Shot on iPhone 6 with the IMVIO Fisheye lens.

Saturday market, Shantiniketan. Shot on iPhone 6 with the IMVIO Wide lens.

Art Department, Shantiniketan University. Shot on iPhone 6 with the IMVIO Wide lens.

Art Department, Shantiniketan University. Shot on iPhone 6 with the IMVIO Wide lens.

Art Department, Shantiniketan University. Shot on iPhone 6 with the IMVIO Wide lens.

I loved all the exciting travel and the freedom and convenience of taking pictures on my iPhone during this trip. BUT. Now here's the unpleasant kicker....

I lost my lens kit during my stint in Delhi. I was using the carabiner to keep it in my belt loop but somewhere during my trip to a slum community and in the madness of shooting for the project, it got unhooked and all I was left was the carabiner ring hanging alone and lonely... So yes, that's something I wish was made better. Something like the locks on the Black Rapid straps perhaps? Now i'm left with just the iphone case and as of the time of writing this post, there's no option to buy just the lenses on IMVIO's website and I don't think i'll be spending on the entire kit anymore too. So summing up, here are the pros and cons of the IMVIO iPhone lens system.

Pros

  • Excellent sturdy Phone and lens case
  • Very well built lenses. Has a premium metal feel to them. Looks like these things will last longer than your phone!
  • Reasonably sharp in the center

Cons

  • Sharpness in and towards the edges are not great (but normal for most phone lenses in this price range)
  • Lens barrel is very smooth making them slippery while attaching them to the phone. Perhaps a textured/gripppy surface would help.
  • Unreliable carabiner. Better not to leave your lens case hanging outside your bag or clothes.

So there you have it. In a word, yes I would recommend this product as it offers a very good balance of value and quality. I wish I could post more image samples but the lens left me even without saying goodbye :P Hit the comments section for any questions and i'll try my best to answer them. For a more detailed look at my iPhone photography and what i'm generally up to, please follow me on Instagram at www.instagram.com/abhishekscariya

The IMVIO iPhone 6 lens kit and phone case are available on Amazon US starting from $70