Review: Optrix PhotoProX for iPhone 5
Compatible: iPhone 5
We first covered Optrix almost two years ago, when it released the Optrix HD Sport Case for iPhone 4/4S + iPod touch 4G. Now, it's back with PhotoProX for iPhone 5 ($150), combining elements of that earlier case with Olloclip-like interchangeable camera lenses. The package includes a simple opaque plastic shell that can be used alone, plus a larger mostly clear plastic casing that's IPX8 waterproof-rated, as well as capable of protecting the iPhone 5 inside from drops and dust. You can only use the lenses when the iPhone 5 is inside the larger casing; they cannot attach to the shell. When it comes time to switch between the lenses, you have the choice of macro, telephoto, fisheye, or "super-compact flat" lenses, all included in the package, along with a carrying case, cleaning cloth, and wrist strap.
The plastic shell core of PhotoProX is actually a bit more advanced than most standalone shells we’ve seen. Instead of leaving the buttons and top edge fully exposed, it protects a good portion of the top, stopping just short of the Sleep/Wake button, while covering the volume buttons—the first time we recall seeing that from an iPhone 5 shell. As with most shells, the bottom is left totally open.
PhotoProX’s clear plastic waterproof housing is significantly larger than the shell; in fact, it’s quite bulky. A hinged cap opens to let the shell easily slide into the housing’s top, with a latch on the back snapping the whole thing shut. That hinge actually sits right over the iPhone’s FaceTime camera, blocking roughly half of the lens, so front-facing photos are regrettably out of the question. Even though the earpiece is covered inside, audio from phone calls surprisingly sounded much better than we expected. You’ll be able to actually make out voices on the other end of calls, without much more interference than a decreased volume level. The bottom ports are covered by a hinged door, which can also let audio pass through better than we would’ve thought. Opening it gives you direct access to the headphone port, Lightning port, and part of the speaker. Both the volume and Sleep/Wake buttons can be pressed through raised grey plastic, but the tactility is significantly dampened, requiring more muscle than with a bare iPhone, or better cases.
A red rubber ring connects the plastic case to a sheet of screen protecting film, and extends over the Home Button, which clicks more easily than the other buttons. Rather than resting totally flat against the screen, the protector is somewhat raised, creating a gap of air between the case and the screen. Consequently, you must actively press down to touch the screen; light taps and drags won’t make a connection. The visibility of the screen isn’t affected, though.
We found the performance from Optrix’s lenses to be very close to that of Olloclip’s. Although the case ships with four lenses, there are actually only three that change the performance of the iPhone 5’s camera. As it turns out, the “super-compact flat” lens is simply a clear glass place holder that keeps water out of the case, without changing the image the iPhone 5 captures. The others all do their jobs, although two suffer from the expected distortions we’ve seen in Olloclip and other small lenses. PhotoProX’s 2X telephoto lens optically focuses on the center of the iPhone 5’s standard image, but adds blur distortion at the edges and corners, with colors that skewed ever so slightly darker. As for the 175° fisheye lens, it captured a very wide, round view, while adding obvious distortion at the edges, an issue that’s both expected with this kind of glass and nearly identical to what we saw in Olloclip’s fisheye lens. Finally, the 10x macro lens was very useful in taking detailed shots of objects a few inches away from the iPhone 5, although this lens performs better with very still subjects.
Olloclip sells its 3-in-1 lens kit for $70, or $100 with a case. At the higher price of $150, you’re clearly paying a premium for PhotoProX, but you’re getting a significantly more protective case. Most people would never want (or be able) to carry around the clear case or the whole collection of lenses in their pockets on a daily basis, but the ability to slim down to a somewhat-protective shell is appreciated. For users who need iPhone projection and rear lens versatility under conditions where the phone may be subjected to damage, PhotoProX is a pretty good choice, though expensive. Because that market is rather niche, and because you can’t use the lenses without the bulky case, or use the iPhone 5’s front-facing camera properly while inside the case, it earns a limited recommendation overall.