Review: Ztylus Camera Case + RV-2 Revolver Lens for iPhone 5/5s
Compatibility: iPhone 5/5s
The company name "Ztylus" may automatically trigger thoughts of styluses, but that's not what it makes. Instead, Ztylus is all about camera accessories for smartphones, including its Camera Case + RV-2 Revolver Lens for iPhone 5/5s ($100). Sold separately or as a bundle, we first got a peek at the add-ons at CE Week 2014. The base is a protective case, which makes the iPhone look like an old-school Leica camera. RV-2 Revolver Lens can be installed on top of it, adding a circular polarizer filter, a wide angle lens, a super macro lens, and an extreme fisheye lens that fold into a metal core when not in use. It's a novel take on the interchangeable lens market that Olloclip has dominated up until this point.
Ztylus’ case is mostly black or white plastic, with aluminum caps at either end. Unlike some protectors that incorporate metal, this one has no impact on either cellular or Wi-Fi signal strength. To install or remove the case, you must loosen a screw holding the bottom cap in place, pull the cap off, and then slide the phone in or out. Thankfully this can be done with your fingers, and doesn’t require any extra tools like some screw-together cases. The case is flat along the long edges, but curved at the top and bottom. A door opens to reveal the speaker, microphone, and ports on the bottom edge, while the Sleep/Wake button is protected up top. The volume buttons, on the other hand, are left exposed.
On the back of the case is a kickstand, offering two different landscape viewing angles. The phone can be propped up around 35 or 55 degrees, depending on your preference. It takes some effort to pry the stand out from flat against the case; this could stand to be improved in future iterations. The plastic disc holding the kickstand can be removed—again, it takes some elbow grease—revealing an opening made to work with the RV-2 Revolver Lens.
Lined up properly, all you have to do is twist the lens and it’ll lock into place. A lack of printed instructions in the box was something of an issue here, because it’s not necessarily obvious what goes where, but a video on the company’s website helped make it clearer. Hopefully a guide makes its way into future packaging. All four lenses are packed into the same 0.76” thick, 2.4” diameter metal disc. The way the system works is pretty ingenious. As you turn it, it’ll snap into place every few degrees. Three of those positions will allow you to flip out the corresponding lens, and press it against the iPhone’s camera to securely hold its position. In between, the arms holding the lenses will be locked, so they don’t accidentally become exposed to damage.
The three arms that come out of the disc are the circular polarizer, the fisheye, and a combination wide-angle/macro lens. That last lens works with a screw-in system that might not be obvious if you’re not looking for it; again, instructions would be helpful. By default, you’ll get a wide-angle shot, but if you remove the top lens by turning counter-clockwise, it’ll reveal the macro lens below.
We tested the lenses in a number of different shooting situations, starting with the fisheye and wide-angle lenses in comparison to the iPhone 5’s standard camera glass. They behaved as expected, offering much wider viewing planes than the iPhone does on its own. We noticed distortion and blurriness out towards the edges on both, but some degree of that is pretty standard.
The micro lens is very impressive. Although no multiplier is stated, it seems to be performing at about 20x. We were able to get crystal clear shots of a flower very close up, catching the tiniest details. In fact, we had to get so close to the flower we were shooting that the lens disc jutting out of the back of the case got in the way until we adjusted.
As for the circular polarizer, the results were a bit more mixed. Designed to help remove glare, it did just that. As can clearly be seen in the above images, the window on the passenger side is much clearer with the lens in place, albeit with a noticeable color shift to a more yellow tone. Results may vary depending on the type of light being filtered out, but some color correction might be needed. You may also get better or worse colors by adjusting the ring around the lens.
Overall, we’re very impressed with the system Ztylus has put together here. It solves the problem of how to handle multiple lenses in a clean and simple to use package that looks pretty nice, too. The fact that the lens disc can be removed and packed away when not needed makes the case more practical. It’s the same price as Olloclip’s Quick-Flip Case bundle, and we think this is a better option. We really hope Ztylus adds some instructions going forward, and the lenses could be refined a bit to eliminate some of the small issues we saw, but overall, this is a winner, worthy of our strong general recommendation.