Ztylus has stepped forward as an interesting competitor to olloclip in the market for higher-end enhancement lenses for iPhone cameras. There are plenty of knockoffs and cheap alternatives available from Amazon, eBay, and other online outlets, but Ztylus’ products show a level of creativity and polish in their designs that the lesser products don’t. However, good design alone does not a good picture take. Does the picture quality from Ztylus’ lenses match up to their case and lens design? Read on to find out.
As I mentioned in my Ztylus Revolver photo post from New Orleans, I’ve actually had this lens attachment for a while now, so I had a good idea of its strengths and weaknesses before I took it out again last week. Pulling it out again served to confirm and also to extend what I already knew about it. However, it also provided an interesting contrast with the Ztylus Switch 6, which I used a day later and will post a review of in a few days.
I really appreciate the design and the quality of construction of the Ztylus Revolver case. First of all, the case itself is substantial enough to provide adequate drop protection. Since the phone slides in, with a small top section snapping over the top, the fit is very secure. Despite this, the case is able to work with most screen protectors, which is a big plus for me. In contrast, while the olloclip’s iPhone case isn’t incompatible with screen protectors, their lens clips that fit over it are.
The insert also includes a small metal kickstand, giving the case an added touch of versatility. I also like the inclusion of a small drawstring bag included to hold the lens section when not in use. The bag is even made of sheer, lint-free material that can be used to wipe the lenses down.
As good as the design of the case is, the lens section is the reason the Revolver has won awards. The extend and retract mechanism keeps all of the lenses within easy reach, but simultaneously protects them when not in use. It’s definitely the most creative external lens setup that I’ve seen for any smartphone. It has been reliable in my use over six months, as I’ve never had any issues operating it in the field.
The one issue with the re-purposed design of the Ztylus Revolver is the fact that it was originally built with the single camera of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in mind. Since the iPhone 7 Plus has a dual camera setup, the four external lenses only work with the primary wide angle lens. The telephoto lens is covered when an external lens is extended, so if you hit the 2X button in the camera app, you won’t see anything but a black screen. However, since the Revolver’s lenses retract into the circular lens attachment, you can use the iPhone 7 Plus’ built-in lenses and flash without any obstruction.
One aspect of the Revolver’s design that does take some getting used to is the added weight and bulk on the back. I wouldn’t say that the lens attachment is overly heavy. However, it does make the phone a little harder to hold because the balance is shifted significantly. The protrusion of the lens section on the back also makes your iPhone far less pocketable. However, since the lens section is removable, this can be overcome fairly easily. Also, the case has two lanyard attachments built-in, so you have the means to protect against drops, if you choose (a lanyard is not included with the Revolver). As for my own experience, I haven’t had any issues with drops, and haven’t had to use a lanyard to feel secure holding the Revolver case, but it’s good that they included it for those who do prefer a little extra security.
All things considered, the design of the Ztylus Revolver case and lens attachment is top shelf. This is the kind of accessory that really fits with the great design of an Apple iPhone. All aspects of both the case and the lens attachment have been thought out and designed to work smoothly together. There are a couple of drawbacks with the Revolver’s design, but they are far outweighed by the positives, in my opinion. However, when we are talking camera lenses, design only goes so far. It’s the quality of the pictures that will be the deciding factor. On that note….
The Ztylus Revolver RV-3 has three lens retractable lenses: a Wide Angle lens, a Fisheye lens, and a CPL (Circular Polarizing Lens). The Revolver becomes a 4-in-1 kit because the Wide Angle lens has a magnetically attached extension that when removed, reveals a Macro lens. Here is a brief breakdown of each:
The Wide Angle lens is typically the workhorse of these types of external lens attachments for an iPhone, at least in my case. I love landscape and architectural photography (as you can probably gather if you looked at my pictures from New Orleans), so bringing more subject matter into the viewfinder is a big deal for me,
The Wide Angle lens on the Revolver does just that, but with a bit of a negative effect. The shots taken with the Wide Angle lens are clear and focus isn’t a problem. However, unlike some other competing products (including Ztylus’ own), the Revolver’s Wide Angle lens adds a noticeable amount of barrel distortion to pictures taken with it. This is at least the case on the iPhone 7 Plus. You can see this effect by looking at the unnatural curvature of green post on the left of the picture below.
It’s a little offputting, but thankfully, this is a common issue that photographers are used to. Anyone who shoots in RAW formats on a DSLR has likely had to add software correction to remove barrel distortion. You can use tools such as Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop to do this. I was also able to download an iOS app called SKRWT. This app has a distortion correction mode, and I was easily able to straighten this photo out a bit.
You might notice that the bottom-left of the video was slightly elongated in exchange for straightening out the post. However, I think the trade-off here is worth it. As for the lens, other than the barrel distortion, the images come out looking very good. There can be a little softness at the edges, but that is pretty common for Wide Angle lenses.
Here’s another set below for comparison:
These photos were taken about 30 seconds apart from the exact same spot. As you can see, the Wide Angle lens widens the field of view significantly.
The Fisheye lens on the Revolver is less dramatic than a traditional fisheye, and feels like more of an Ultra Wide Angle Lens to me. However, it is still very useful for bringing even more subject into the picture with its 180 degree field-of-view, and for its dramatic edge distortion effect. With a Fisheye lens, you expect barrel distortion and a little fuzz at the fringes, but you can use it to your advantage in the right shot.
For comparison, here is the same shot as above taken with the Fisheye lens:
As you can see, the Fisheye reaches further than the Wide Angle and pulls part of the adjacent tower of St Louis Cathedral into the shot. You can also see the more extreme barrel distortion at work here. You can either use the distortion to your advantage, or you can crop images to capture a nice wide angle view without the distortion.
Here’s a shot where I think the effect of the Fisheye really works, adding extra depth to the photo:
The Circular Polarizing Lens works well, but it isn’t nearly as dramatic in its effect as the Wide Angle and Fisheye. If you aren’t familiar with a polarizing filter (this “lens” is really just a filter that is added to the iPhone’s built-in Wide Angle lens, rather than a lens itself), it allows you to remove reflections from pictures and affect the color contrast of the sky. This is done by rotating the filter/lens to change the level of the effect. Here are a couple of examples:
As you can see above, the CPL was able to even out the blue tint of the sky across the shot. This lens wil be most effective on extremely bright days where the HDR camera feature isn’t enough to even things out, and also to add contrast between clouds and the blue sky on a cloudy day.
The Macro lens is just as dramatic as the Fisheye, but going in the opposite direction. It allows you to get up close and VERY personal with your subject with its 10x magnification.
Here you can see a close up of a Crepe Myrtle flower. The only issue that I had with the Macro Lens was that you can only get a small amount of an uneven surface in focus, as you can see above. The lens is more suited to flat subjects, such as coins, stamps, etc.
Another tip for the Macro Lens- you may want to try an alternate camera app that will allow you to set a manual focus area. This should allow you to get the focus of the shot set right where you want it. This was more of a challenge with the stock iOS Camera app, which I took the above picture (and all other pictures in my photo posts and this review, for the sake of consistency).
The Ztylus Revolver RV-3 for the iPhone 7 Plus isn’t a perfect accessory by any means. It wasn’t designed specifically for the iPhone 7 Plus, and as such, doesn’t work with the Telephoto lens. It alters the balance of the iPhone when the lens section is attached and also makes your iPhone a little less portable. The Wide Angle lens also adds more barrel distortion than it rightfully should. However, despite these issues, the Revolver is more versatile than any other iPhone lens accessory that I have tried, and is also a very nice value for the price. Most importantly, it actually does a very good job augmenting the iPhone 7 Plus’s camera, which is the whole point when you get down to it,
I have had the Revolver for a while now, but after using it for a full day during my trip to New Orleans with my wife, I have a much better feel for what it can and can’t do, I really looked for diferent opportunities to use it, and I came away even more impressed with it after this trip than before. I really like the case and the overall design of the product. I also love that the lenses are protected on the go, but that they can be quickly and easily engaged to shoot when needed. I also appreciate the fact that I can remove the lens section and make my phone more pocketable and portable again.
However, the best feature of the Revolver is that it really does give you the means to take better pictures. It hits most of the major needs you might have to extend the capability of the iPhone 7 Plus’ Wide Angle lens (which is already VERY good on its own), and its design allows you to still be able to use the built-in Telephoto lens without the Revolver lenses getting in the way. Add in the fact that Ztylus has other accessories that fit the Revolver’s case, such as their LED Ring Light that works with the iPhone’s built-in cameras, and you have even more potential flexibility.
At $99.95, the Revolver RV-3 is also a solid value in comparison with the more expensive and less versatile case and lens sets from olloclip. Despite the few drawbacks of this camera lens case, I came away a fan of this product and will continue to use it in the future to augment and extend the photographic capabilities of my iPhone 7 Plus.