I’m always intrigued when a company takes a successful existing design and sets it aside in favor of something that they believe is better, rather than continuing to iterate on what they already have. It is often a brave decision that leaves the safety net behind and shows a company’s conviction in their ideas and designs. A notable example of this from the tech world would be Apple and Steve Jobs’ decision to kill off the wildly successful iPod Mini in favor of the new iPod Nano in 2005.
I was reminded of this example from Apple’s past when I got the new Ztylus Revolver M6 Lens Kit for the iPhone X for review. Just to give you a little background, I reviewed both the Revolver RV-3 Lens Kit and the Switch 6 from Ztylus for the iPhone 7 Plus last summer. I came away impressed with both products in different ways but the overall design of both of them was strong. I’m not the only one who agrees, as the Revolver won a CES Innovation Award back in 2016.
If you look back at either of those previous reviews, you can get the full details on either camera lens kit. I was particularly impressed with the overall design of the Revolver, as its innovative lens system protected the glass when not in use, got it into position quickly when you were ready to shoot, and was even removable from the back of the case when you didn’t need it. I also really appreciated the fact that the case was well made. It was hard plastic and felt like it would really protect my iPhone in the case of a drop. In fact, thanks to the insert that Ztylus included to fill the hole in the back of the case when the lens set was removed, I had no issue keeping it on my iPhone for stretches when I wasn’t using the lenses.
However, despite all of the really intelligent design that went into the original Revolver, there were some drawbacks. Primarily, it was heavy and bulky, and could be difficult to get in and out of a pocket. While it was better and offered a more organized solution to carrying than most external lenses and lens kits for the iPhone, you still had to work around the size and weight a bit. It was a worthwhile trade-off for me, but it definitely was a trade-off that couldn’t be ignored.
Also, the original Revolver wasn’t designed to work with a dual-lens phone. While it was adapted for use with the iPhone 7 Plus, it was limited to shooting with the phone’s wide-angle lens only. Since it was easy to retract the Revolver’s lenses while using the iPhone’s telephoto lens, there was never a problem of it being stuck in the way. However, when Ztylus released the Switch 6, which included separate super macro and telephoto glass for the iPhone 7 Plus’ telephoto lens, it made the Revolver setup seem a little dated in comparison.
Don’t live in the past
When I saw that Ztylus was releasing a dual-lens Revolver made for the iPhone X, I immediately reached out to see about reviewing the product. I was so impressed with the Revolver RV-3 and the Switch 6 that I knew this new lens kit could be a huge boost to an already impressive iPhone X camera. However, since I knew a lot about the previous version, I didn’t delve too far into the details in the press release. When I got the package containing the Revolver M Series from Ztylus in the mail, it was so different from what I expected that I thought there might have been a mistake.
As you can see, it came in a small and very lightweight pouch. I thought maybe I had only received part of the lens kit for some reason. Then I opened the package, and to my surprise, everything was there. There was a case and a lens section included, but they were definitely not the same as the original Revolver. Ztylus had completely changed the award winning design of the new M6. While the original core idea of a removable, retractable lens system is the same, the execution is completely different this time around. The result is a lens kit that is far lighter and easier to pocket than anything I’ve ever used. Let’s get into the details.
There us a key difference in the design of the Revolver M6 that changed everything about it, and really simplifies the entire experience. Where the original Revolver lens set mounted into an opening in the back of the case and turned via mechanical means, the new Revolver M case uses magnetic force to hold the new lens set securely in a round indention in the back of the case.
The magnets keep the lenses firmly seated and steady at all times, and I have not had any issues with them wiggling, moving around, or falling off. They hold tightly enough that I can pick my iPhone X up by the lens section and shake it. The phone doesn’t budge.
This shift changes everything else about the lens kit’s design. The case no longer has to have an opening in the back that needs to be plugged with an insert when the lens set is removed. Even more important, the lens set no longer needs a built-in mechanism to handle rotation so that you can access the different lenses. You rotate the lens kit by hand until a small protrusion on the lens section locks into one of three indentions in the case. The magnets then hold the lens in place. This is as simple and easy as it gets.
This change means that the lens section can be thinner and lighter than before.
Ztylus also redesigned the spring mechanism from the original to keep things thin and light. Now, the user has to retract the lenses manually most of the way open. The lens only “springs” into place in front of the iPhone’s lenses after being opened and rotated around 3/4 of the way there. While this requires a tiny amount of extra effort, the end result of these changes is a lens kit that is so much thinner, lighter, and more pocketable than the original that it feels completely fresh and new.
I really enjoyed using the original Revolver RV-3 and really loved how innovative the overall design was. However, the M Series kind of mops the floor with it, and it should come as absolutely no surprise that Ztylus won yet another CES Innovation Award this year as a result.
If you haven’t used the original Revolver, it would be hard to understand how different the Revolver M Series is, and how how much the user benefits as a result of the design changes that were made. Kudos to Ztylus for the willingness to make such sweeping changes to an already award-winning product.
If anything suffers a bit in the transition from the old Revolver design to the new, it is the case. It certainly isn’t bad, by any means. In fact, if you like softer, more flexible, lighter weight cases, you might actually prefer it to the original design. That version, which had a harder plastic shell that the iPhone had to be slid into, provided more protection in my opinion. However, this newer version is lighter, easy to put on and take off, and also very easy to hold.
The aforementioned magnetic notch design for holding the lens set is definitely the case’ strongest feature. The fact that the case can be used with no limitations without the lens section attached also warrants an A for versatility. It was awkward having to put the insert in the hole in the back of the older case design every time I removed the lens section, so this is a big improvement.
Another good quality of the case is its textured edges, which are easy to grip. This is very important for a camera lens case, as a slip and drop from eye level can spell disaster for an iPhone X.
I also like the way the case looks. Even though the Revolver logo stands out, with white lettering on a glossy black background, it still looks appropriate and isn’t gaudy.
Ztylus also has several different artistic pattern options available, so if basic black doesn’t stand out as much as you would like, there are plenty of other interesting choices.
The only real issue that I had with the case is that the glossy back did scuff in a couple of places after a three weeks of constant use. However, they weren’t substantial enough to be visible without really looking for them close up, so I don’t think this is unreasonable or any kind of design flaw. Just be aware that the back of the case will show a little bit of wear over time.
As long as you are ok with using a lighter weight case, the one that comes with the M6 should do, whether you are using the lens section or not. If this type of case isn’t your cup of tea, then at least it is easy to get the phone in and out of for when you need to use the lenses. It is definitely better than some other lens case solutions I’ve tried, including Ztylus’ own Switch 6 case.
Lens Section Design
In case you haven’t seen a Ztylus’ Revolver lens kit before, the lens section design is a standout feature that makes it easier to transport, protect, and use external camera lenses than any other product that I’ve tried.
As I mentioned at the outset, the lens section attaches to the back of the included case via a strong magnet, so there is nothing mechanical involved in this part of the process. In the case of the M6 model, this circular accessory holds three sets of two lenses. In each set, one lens works with the iPhone’s wide angle lens, and the other pairs up with the telephoto.
The Revolver M6 lens kit includes the following paired lenses:
- Wide Angle and 2X Telephoto
- Fisheye and 2X Telephoto
- Macro and Super Macro
To use a pair of lenses, simply rotate the lens section to the pair that you want until the notch on the bottom pops into place on the back of the case
The lens set can be folded out of the lens section, and when you get around 3/4 of the way open, the arm will snap the Revolver’s lenses into place over the iPhone’s.
When you are finished, simply fold the lens set back to the center, where it stays in place and is protected during travel.
The thing that really stands out about the Revolver M6 lens section is how thin and light it is. Take a look at the picture below to get a feel for how much Ztylus has trimmed down the new revolver series M6 over the original revolver RV-3.
It is really impressive how much power Ztylus has packed into such a small package.
While I can’t overlook the fact that the new lens section design feels a little less solid than the original, especially the lens extension arms, the change was made for a good reason. After my testing, I feel like the new design is still going to be rugged enough for most users, so you really aren’t losing anything in this exchange. At the end of the day, customers will be more apt to buy a product they will get more use out of. They will get more use out of a product that they can keep with them often and isn’t awkward or difficult to use. By making the Revolver M6 slimmer, lighter, and easier to carry, Ztylus has made it a much better value proposition for buyers.
The Revolver M6’s design is a key selling point, but when it comes to camera lenses, performance is what really matters. Thankfully, Ztylus packed this lens set with substance, as well as style. Since pictures are worth a thousand words, here are some examples from my time using the Revolver M6.
iPhone Wide Angle (for reference)
Revolver Wide Angle
As you can see, this Wide Angle captures a noticeable wider range, which is particularly useful in landscape photography. It is also notable that the M6 Wide Angle lens adds far less barrel distortion to pictures than the RV-3 did. That means more pictures will be usable right from the camera, without additional editing. The edges of the photo are a bit “soft,” but this isn’t unexpected for a small wide angle.
Revolver Fisheye Lens
The Fisheye Lens is more of an extreme effect, but it can bring in so much width. As you can see, it reaches even wider than the Wide Angle, creating an almost panoramic single image. It may be less versatile than the Wide Angle, but this Lens definitely has its uses.
iPhone Wide Angle (for reference)
iPhone 2X Telephoto (for reference)
Revolver Telephoto 2X (4X in Total)
If camera phones still have one weakness in comparison to a good point and shoot or mirrorless camera, it is in the area of zoom. The iPhone 7 Plus, 8 Plus, and X have brought us 2X Telephoto thanks to their dual lens setups, but they still pale in comparison to what an interchangeable lens system can provide.
That said, the M6’s 2X Telephoto Zoom Lens, which works in combination with the iPhone’s 2X lens to bring you a 4X shot, really adds a different dimension. The photo above was taken from the same spot as the iPhone Wide Angle photo at the beginning of this set, which shows you how much closer that 4X can get you. This lens definitely fills an important role and is likely to see a lot of use in the hands of many iPhotographers.
iPhone Wide Angle (for reference)
Revolver Super Macro
I’m going to be honest. Macro shots really aren’t my cup of tea. However, if you really want to be able to get close to a subject and still shoot in focus, the M6 has you covered with the Macro and Super Macro. Just note that focus can be a challenge, and it is a good idea to either shoot with a tripod or a camera grip to help steady the shot.
Grab Bag- Here are a few additional shots from my testing.
No external camera lens for the iPhone is perfect. They all have different flaws and trade offs, and some are better values than others. However, thanks to its very innovative and easy to use case and lens section design, Ztylus’ Revolver M6 stands out as one of the best, and most well-rounded options available. It is thin and light enough to carry in a pants pocket, which was much more difficult with the previous Revolver RV-3 lens set. The picture quality from the lenses ranges from very good to great, and the Wide Angle and Telephoto Lenses definitely add a lot of versatility to the iPhone X’s dual lens camera.
The Revolver M6 is also a good value, as a quality lens set can easily cost $99 and up, and many don’t have a case included. Ztylus’ Revolver M Series Lens Kits have a very reasonable standard retail price of $70. However, Ztylus is currently running a sale, and the iPhone X version of the M6 is reduced to $59,95.
If you have a dual-lens iPhone and are looking for a way to take your mobile photography to the next level, give the Revolver M6 plenty of consideration. It brings a lot of strengths to the table, and is definitely worth the price.
The Revolver M6 Lens Set for the iPhone X was provided by Ztylus for review on iPad Insight. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the About page