The ExoLens Professional Photography System ($130) for iPhone 6 is a new camera accessory competitor to the more established Olloclip brand. ExoLens comes with two lenses — a 165-degree wide-angle lens and 3x telephoto lens — which can be swapped in and out of a machined aluminum bracket that slides onto an uncased iPhone 6. The total package also includes a lens hood, two outer lens caps, two inner lens caps, and a microfiber carrying bag.
Like Olloclip’s lenses, there’s no way you’ll be using ExoLens with any other case, but that’s to be expected. ExoLens’ foam-lined aluminum bracket easily slides onto an iPhone 6 and fits perfectly. A tripod mount is also included on the side of the bracket under the iPhone’s volume controls.
The two lenses can easily be screwed on and off — a lens swap doesn’t take long. While ExoLens’ sleek, sturdy design is more attractive and implemented better than Olloclip’s solution, it’s not as versatile. For $50 less, Olloclip’s 4-in-1 system offers more lens options, fits either the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus, and fits over the FaceTime camera, as well.
In the first set of photos below, you’ll see comparisons between the iPhone 6’s normal camera and the wide-angle lens on ExoLens — the iPhone 6 camera shot comes first, followed by the wide-angle shot in both cases. The lens has its intended effect, greatly increasing the field of view. As one might expect from an inexpensive wide-angle lens, though, there is distortion on the outsides of the photo, away from the subject in the center.
The distortion issue shows up again when using the 3x telephoto lens, which has a focal length of 90mm.
Here’s a closeup shot of a small subject — you can clearly see the distortion on the edges of the elephant figure. Moving the camera back will reduce the distortion on the subject, but at that point, you’re probably just better off getting closer with the iPhone’s camera.
It’s more likely the telephoto lens would be used in these kinds of situations pictured below — getting a better view of something far away, particularly in larger landscape shots. Though there’s still some distortion at the edges of the photo in the second shot below, one also gets a closer view of the river. The distortion doesn’t seem quite as troublesome in this case.
As ExoLens notes on its website, “The more powerful the lens the more the image will distort. ExoLens has one of the most powerful telephoto lenses on the market.” The company suggests centering the subject to minimize the effect, but doing so while shooting may certainly try the patience of some users.
ExoLens is a well-designed lens system with a nice telephoto lens for certain situations, but there are a number of drawbacks that give us pause.