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Photojojo Iris Phone Lens review: Decent lenses but attachment system is difficult to master

This article is part of our roundup of iPhone camera lenses.

Three lenses make up the Photojojo Iris Phone Lens ($70 on Amazon) system. The 10x macro lens punches well above its weight, delivering an excellent crisp picture across a range of short distances, unusual for most macros which have a very pronounced sweet spot. The wide-angle lens has noticeable blurring and spreading at about 10 to 15 of the edges of a full-frame image, but distortion is minimal and the quality is high. I don’t recommend fisheye lenses, as they’re not useful in many circumstances.

Photojojo

Now onto the Iris’s attachment system that uses bungie cord and pressure to hold a lens in place. It’s a clever case-free system that works across many smartphone models, but it drove me to distraction. I could never get the knack of locking it in place. I referred repeatedly to the manual. I watched an instructional video several times. I used the Iris system in multiple locations. When I did figure out how to lock it down, any slight motion dislodge it.

If you want to use the lenses with a case, Iris comes with a drop-in component that fits under a case and has a peg onto which to mount the lens before putting the bungie cord in place. That should ideally make it easier to use Iris lenses, but I didn’t find that any easier. And dropping that element in place requires rotating an insert to ensure the proper spacing distance to keep the Iris lenses in focus. Tens of minutes of trying and testing didn’t get me to an in-focus result.

Swapping lenses is equally frustrating. The three lenses are paired with two sets of quite lovely rubberized front and back covers, and one set of hard plastic covers that are part of the bungie system. However, maybe for aesthetic reasons, the lenses have a flat notch in their perimeter. That’s where a not-totally-intuitive icon is silkscreened to help you tell the lenses apart.

But all the cases also require you orient the lens a particulate way to slide the notch in. The lenses aren’t, to my understanding, astigmatic—you don’t need to orient them to work correctly—so it becomes a hassle in management rather than a boon. And when you have the lens deeply and firmly positioned in the hard case so the focal distance between the built-in iPhone lens and the Iris lens are correct, it’s very, very difficult to pull the lens out to swap it with another. I invariably lost my bungie arrangement in the process.

Bottom line

The short story with Iris? The lenses are better than one could hope at this price, but a process of using them that drove this reporter possibly to tears of frustration.

IDG Insider

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