Smartphone photography is fast becoming a significant genre within the industry. Many professionals actually use their smartphones for commercial purposes and for good reason. The portability and connectivity many smartphones offer, give it a great advantage in many scenarios.
We're now seeing a huge surge in the number of available accessories for smartphones and one of the more popular accessories are add-on lenses. Currently, some of the most popular manufacturers of smartphone lenses include Moment and Olloclip. Both of these companies aren't exactly cheap and Olloclip does not currently support the iPhone X, which renders their lenses pretty useless for me. Fortunately, there is an alternative which is not only cheaper but, surprisingly good. The RhinoShield 0.6X HD Wide Angle lens is the latest offering from RhinoShield, a company better known for making very durable cases. The lens works with their cases using a small adapter and for the most part, it's pretty seamless.
Build Quality and Usability
Although RhinoShield lens is the cheaper option, it is by no means cheaply built. The lens comes with a proper lens cap a removable lens hood and a soft pouch to carry the everything in. I wouldn't consider it to be heavy, however, it does have a really good and reassuring weight to it. Everything feels solid and well made, the barrel and threads are all metal and even the lens hood is solid metal. The thing I find really interesting and useful with this lens is that it has a 37mm filter thread. This means you can buy circular polarizing filters to create images that have a certain look to them. All in all, the build is very premium which is definitely a good thing.
In regards to usability, it's pretty straightforward, all RhinoShield lenses work via an adapter in their current cases. This is very useful because not only will your phone be protected but the operation is rather simple. My favorite case from RhinoShield is their SolidSuit because not only is great for protection but it's also is less fiddly compared to some of their other cases. The adapter slots perfectly into the SolidSuit and there it can remain, attaching and detaching the lens is then really easy. There is a slight issue I found in my use, the lens and adapter use a screw-on mechanism and the threads seem to wear out after some use. Fortunately the thread on the lens itself is very durable, however, I have found the need to replace the adapter and although it's pretty cheap it's still a little frustrating.
The image quality of this lens is excellent, smartphones, in general, aren't really known to have the best image quality, however, I can't perceive any loss in detail when using this lens. Many wide angle lenses tend to have some degree of distortion which is mostly in the form of barrel distortion. The RhinoShield will give an equivalent angle of view of around 17mm on full-frame. Even with that very wide angle view, I can't discern any distortion coming from this lens. This lens is absolutely incredible and due to the quality, it's opened a lot of doors for me when it comes to general photography. Flaring has not been a major issue with this lens. In my experience lens flaring has actually been slightly better with this lens on the iPhone.
Also in regards to exposure, I haven't been able to notice any difference. Shooting at the exact same settings and scenario both with and without the lens, I haven't seen any difference. I'm also not noticing any vignetting in the image with this lens which is definitely a good thing.
Due to the fact that it is such a wide angle lens, it may not be perfectly suited towards portraits and especially not for close-up headshots. With wide angle lenses in order to get a tight enough crop you need to be much closer to your subject and this will prevent you from getting enough compression in the image. Compression is a factor of how close or far you are from your subject, so, although environmental portraits could work where you would be at some distance relative to your subject, close up portraits are probably not going to be very flattering.
At this distance, facial features become heavily distorted, whatever is closest to your lens will be exaggerated in size. As you can see in the image above features like the nose and forehead a severely distorted and not at all in proportion. It's also worth mentioning that this lens will not work with "Portrait Mode" in the iPhone. I was hoping this combination would allow for some wide angle portraits, however, the iPhone can't seem to find focus with the lens attached. Of course, this is not an issue with the lens and more of an issue with this specific combination.
Ultimately, image quality is limited to the sensor and the actual lens in the smartphone. Add-on lenses like the one from RhinoShield can change the angle of view or how the camera focuses to help with macro photography and so on, however, the actual image quality can't really be improved. Nevertheless, it's great to know that image quality is not being negatively affected by the RhinoShield lens.
What I Liked
- Fantastic build quality.
- Seamless compatibility with RhinoShields cases.
- Incredible image quality.
- Compatibility with polarizing filters.
- Cheaper than the competition.
What I Didn't Like
- Some cases from RhinoShield are quite fiddly making the usability less pleasing.
- The lens adapter thread wears out and needs replacing from time to time.
Smartphone photography seems to be something that's here to stay and personally I welcome it. The fact that you can take such good images from a device that so pocketable is nothing short of amazing. The popularity of smartphones has paved the way for many companies to develop new and interesting accessories to help get even better results. RhinoShield is a prime example of a company that's pushing ahead in developing great products to help improve photography. Their cases and lenses have been a pleasure to use so far and I really do enjoy using my smartphone due to their wide angle lens. Prior to having this lens, I didn't actually use my iPhone to take any images that were significant in nature. As an architectural photographer, I now have the ability to take images with my smartphone that I enjoy, due to this lens.