Photographers and videographers using iPhone will soon have a new set of tools available to expand their creativity. The lenses, developed by Zeiss, offer ambitious mobile phone users with high-quality tools to support their creativity.
While Zeiss has been associated with names like Nokia, in the past, developing lenses that would go into Nokia’s smartphones, the partnership never reached the “professional studio quality” Nokia marketing people so many times claimed in the hey days of the company. This time, though, things may be a little different, simply because the lenses are external elements that attach to the smartphone through a bracket, so Zeiss is not limited by the tiny size of a lens inside a smartphone.
Lenses to attach to smartphones are not exactly new. ExoLens, from Fellowes Brands, is an example of such systems. They already have their own lenses, but now, through the partnership with Zeiss, future lenses branded ExoLens will have a Zeiss heart. The collaboration between Zeiss and ExoLens represents an important step in the development of accessory lenses for mobile phones. The joint goal of Zeiss and ExoLens is to bring never before seen quality and versatility to this rapidly growing market.
The companies presented their first jointly developed accessory lenses at the Fellowes booth during the CES 2016 in Las Vegas. The first three lenses – wide-angle, telephoto and macro – are scheduled to be launched in late Q2 2016. The wide-angle and telephoto lenses offer excellent image performance with outstanding edge-to-edge contrast. The macro lens features a zoom function – unique for accessory lenses of this type – for flexible image composition. The new lenses can be used on the Apple iPhone with customized mounting brackets.
“We are thrilled to announce our new relationship with Zeiss, who has been setting standards in optics for almost 170 years,” says John E. Fellowes, Chief Executive Officer of Fellowes. “Following the launch of our new ExoLens mobile phone photography line last year, our partnership with ZEISS will enable unique and innovative consumer lens solutions. ExoLens with optics by ZEISS will redefine quality in the mobile photography space, providing professional-grade results for end users.”
“The impact of an image is decisively influenced by the lens and its technical properties,” says Dr. Winfried Scherle, Executive Vice President of Carl Zeiss AG and Head of the Zeisss Consumer Optics business group. “The collaboration with ExoLens gives us the opportunity to tap into new target groups and provide ambitious mobile phone photographers with high-quality tools to support their creativity.”
The new lenses are characterized by their leading-edge design featuring smooth surfaces made of black anodized aluminum with white labeling. This is a systematic continuation of the distinctive, innovative product design that typifies current families of Zeiss camera lenses. The modern design offers excellent optic properties and the lenses meet even the highest aesthetic standards,” Scherle says. “The lenses of ExoLens with optics by Zeisss are the best currently available on the market,” he adds. “We have achieved the best possible technical balance between a small size, light weight and high image quality.”
All lenses incorporate the proven T* antireflective coating from ZEISS, which minimizes reflections at the glass-to-air surfaces and improves the transmission of light.
The lenses are attached to the device-specific ExoLens machined aluminum bracket using a screw thread. The ExoLens bracket features a standard tripod mount (1/4”-20) as well as a cold shoe for mounting accessories. At launch, ExoLens with optics by Zeiss will be available for Apple iPhone 6/6s and Apple iPhone 6 Plus/6s Plus, with the goal of adding more devices in the future.
The jointly developed lenses turn the integrated mobile phone lens into either a wide-angle or telephoto lens. The optical design used for both lenses bears the name Mutar. This stands for an afocal system and is therefore different from traditional interchangeable lenses for system cameras. The lens has no focal length, i.e. the focus is set at infinity. This enables photography of objects from infinity to the close-up range, the limits of which are defined only by the technical properties of the mobile phone camera. This makes this optical design suitable for both landscape and detailed photography.
According to the information provided by Zeiss, “distortion would impair the composition as straight lines which are not imaged through the image center would be reproduced as curved lines. This adverse effect has been offset by the use of aspheric lenses in the optical design. Both lenses therefore offer image excellence and outstanding contrast rendition right to the edges. Chromatic aberrations are also corrected. Bright-dark transitions in the image, and highlights in particular, are largely free from colored artifacts. Protection against dust and water spray makes the wide-angle or telephoto lens perfect for the challenges of outdoor use.”
The macro lens complements the wide-angle and telephoto lenses and enables currently unparalleled close-up photography with a mobile phone camera. The optical design of the macro lens bears the name Vario-Proxar. “Vario” stands for the variability of the focal length (zoom), and Proxar for proximity. Like the wide-angle and telephoto lenses, the macro lens offers edge-to-edge image excellence and no discernible distortion or chromatic aberration. It is currently also the only accessory lens for mobile phones to offer a continuous zoom function, permitting the full-frame capture of objects with diameters of between three and twelve centimeters. An optionally attachable and semi-transparent diffusor serves as a spacer, allowing light to shine evenly on the object to be photographed and enabling convenient focusing, even with a short object distance and shallow depth of field.
Four of Zeiss Lens Ambassadors had a chance to test samples of the ExoLenses before the official launch. Even though they are used to working with professional camera equipment they were open to the idea and very interested to see the actual performance. The first comments in support the idea that the new lenses are a good addition for smartphone photographers and videographers. Photographer Topher DeLancy even wrote this: “When I show these photos to people they look through and say, “wow, great shots” then I tell them they were shot on a smartphone with the ExoLens and their jaw hits the floor, they can hardly believe it… I can hardly believe it!”