As Apple’s Shot on iPhone ad campaign illustrates, the iPhone is a capable camera in the right hands. Many people find that it’s the only camera they ever need.
But if you’ve ever wished it could do just a little more without carrying around too much extra bulk, the Manfrotto KLYP+ kit may be worth a look. It’s an iPhone case (available for a range of models) that comes with two screw-on lenses and a combination light and tripod mount. The whole kit comes in at $125 …
Look & feel
The case itself is very plasticky, and to be honest feels a little cheap for something made by a manufacturer of Manfrotto’s standing. For those unfamiliar with the company, it’s a company serving the pro photography market. The company made its name in tripods, before branching out into lighting, bags and more.
The plastic feels brittle, and I was always half-concerned it might break when inserting and removing the phone. It also looks cheap: I wouldn’t be happy leaving my phone in it all the time. That said, it feels solid enough once the phone is safely in place.
The lenses, in contrast, are made from solid aluminum and optical glass, and feel like quality kit – but we’ll see later if they deliver. The light, too, is predominantly aluminum and feels like decent quality.
Using the kit is very simple. The two lenses screw easily into the case, overlaying the lens of the iPhone itself. The combination light and tripod mount slides into place (slightly awkwardly until you are used to it, but easily once you get the hang of it) onto either the short or long edge of the case.
I’m using it here with the extremely neat Manfrotto Pixi Mini Tripod ($30). Clip the mount to the short edge of the case to shoot in landscape mode:
Or long edge for portrait mode:
Both hold the iPhone securely in place without in any way obstructing the screen. As always when using a tripod, it’s best to use the self-timer to ensure you don’t move the camera while pressing the shutter release – or you can use the Apple Watch as a remote if you have one.
To illustrate the different views provided by the two lenses, I put the phone on the tripod to ensure I was shooting from the exact same position each time, and I’m showing the shots straight from the camera:
So that’s quite a range of views. As it was a rather boringly grey evening (welcome to London), I’ve converted the shots to black and white and cropped them to give an indication of what the end result could look like. Standard iPhone lens:
Finally, to show you just how wide the fish-eye view is, here’s a straight-from-camera shot in landscape mode. The Shard (the tall pointy building) and the inside carpet are a full 90 degrees apart:
Which brings us to image quality. Despite Manfrotto’s pro background, and talk of ‘high clarity glass,’ the image quality falls a very long way short of pro quality. You expect distortion in any fish-eye lens – that is unavoidable, and part of their charm – but there is distinct softness outside the central area of the telephoto lens too.
So this falls very much into the ‘fun lens’ category. And I have to question the point of the telephoto lens: with this much compromise on image quality, my view is you’d be better off with digital zoom. But the fish-eye lens is another matter: this gives you views you simply cannot get any other way.
There are many tripod mounts around for an iPhone, but this is definitely one of the highest-quality ones. It’s solid and well-made, while still being extremely pocketable. If you already have a tripod – full size or mini – this is a neat option.
Whether the light will be useful to you depends on the things you photograph. If you’re a flower type of person, I can see that it could be useful for macro shots. The light offers three brightness levels, and on the highest setting is considerably brighter than the iPhone’s own flash. But the 60-degree spread is fairly concentrated, so you do get noticeable shadows. Here’s a comparison of the same shot, first without the light:
And second with it:
The relatively narrow spread gives a high-contrast, heavily-vignetted look, which will work for some shots better than others. Here’s another example, with one of 9to5Mac‘s furrier members of staff on a windowsill. With the light coming from behind, without the light her face is in darkness:
While the light does the job well:
Again, you’ll notice it falls off very quickly on her body.
I think this one will be a very personal decision. For me, the fish-eye lens would be extremely handy on occasion. Not for anything artistic, but it would definitely create some fun shots for Facebook, especially when travelling. The telephoto lens, in contrast, I would say is almost pointless.
The tripod mount is an excellent product: small, solid, well-made. Coupled with that Pixi Mini tripod, it’s a very portable, high-quality solution. The lights are great for close-up shots if you don’t mind shadows and heavy vignetting.
However, the kit is expensive, and I wouldn’t personally be happy leaving my phone in a case that plasticky. If you wanted all three features – fish-eye lens, tripod mount and light – then it’s a neat, if rather pricy, package. If you only wanted one or two elements, however, I think the price is just too high.