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Accessory review: The iPhone Lens Dial

At 10 ounces, the iPhone Lens Dial is over twice the weight of an iPhone 4S.

Turtleback’s iPhone Lens Dial (available through Photojojo for $249.00) offers three lenses in one package that we found worth a closer look. To test out the capabilities of the case, I took the iPhone Lens Dial out for a day in Yosemite National Park in California.

I reviewed the iPhone 4S version of the iPhone Lens Dial — this version has a x.33 Fisheye, x1.5 teleconverter and x.7 wide angle. The iPhone 5 version (available for the same price) also includes a macro lens. 

The overall feel of the case is solid, but is also little cumbersome. It’s “aircraft-grade” aluminum body is very heavy. At 10 ounces, it's more than twice as heavy as the iPhone 4S that I put inside it. Additionally, the lens dial made it way too bulky for everyday use. I went on a short, 5-mile hike with the case in my jacket pocket and I was definitely aware of its weight the whole time.

If you’re spending $249.00 on the iPhone Lens Dial, odds are that you are concerned about the optics, maybe even more than the overall functionality of the gadget as a case. Made out of coated glass, the lenses on the iPhone Lens Dial are nice, but you'll have to deal with all the shortcomings you would expect from this type of accessory - extreme corner softness, heavy vignetting and distortion on all three lenses, not just the fisheye-variant. Essentially, the Olloclip which is $179 less than the Lens Dial, offers similar optics at a much cheaper rate.

As you would expect from a fisheye this lens distorts the image and produces a border.
The wide-angle lens is extremely soft in the corners. Only the center of the frame is really acceptably sharp.
The telephoto lens still produced very heavy vignetting, but I kind of liked the effect and because it is only a 1.5X zoom, it can be easily handheld without causing camera shake.

That said, I did not take a single photo and look back thinking, “oh man, that dial really messed up my image.” On the contrary, the iPhone Lens Dial allowed me to take some great shots that I would have never been able to take without it. 

The 1.5x zoom lens allowed me to fill a larger proportion of the frame with this deer across the road. (Photo edited in Snapseed.)
The fisheye lens allows for some fun compositions like this one of my husband in a hollowed-out tree. (Photo edited in Snapseed.)
The wide-angle lens stayed on for most of my day in the woods. It did a good job of including more of the scene then would be possible with the iPhone's standard lens. (Photo edited with Snapseed.)
The wide-angle lens let me include the babbling brook in the foreground, Mirror Lake in the middle and the granite peaks in the back. (Photo edited in Snapseed.)

The case allows for access to most major button except for one glaring omission: the iPhone Lens Dial makes it almost impossible to touch the hold button on the top of the device. My mobile photography routine relies heavily on stopping what I’m doing in my phone by pressing the hold button and opening my camera from the lock page. By doing this, I keep my current app open and active while quickly taking a photo. After I press the hold button once more and slide to open, I’m back where I left off. The iPhone Lens Dial made it really hard for me to do this — even my tiny fingers could not easily reach.

Home button access aside, the iPhone Lens Dial is a good option for folks who want a solid case with multiple lens options. It’s a lot easier to switch lenses than the twisty-turny Olloclip and it will protect your phone while providing access to the dock connector port and side buttons. However, the premium price tag won't get you any better quality optics than the Olloclip or even cheaper similar accessories.

What we like: The iPhone Lens Dial provide three different perspectives that add a unique look to iPhone images. The wide-angle lens does a great job of including more information in the scene without overly distorting subjects.

What we don't like: If it were made of a lighter material, I would figure out a way to carry around the iPhone lens dial all the time, but because it is so heavy, I can't see it as an everyday accessory. And while most buttons and ports are available, the hold button is way too hard to press. The distortion and vignetting -- and $249 price tag -- may be a deal-breaker for some photographers. 





Total comments: 17

for 250$ you can get yourself a compact camera, (more compact than the iPhone + attachement) that works A LOT better than this abomination and actually takes good photographs.
And the best part? your iPhone remains something you can hold in your hand and use as a phone - without basically having to snap it out of the (silly) case.

Just a thought though: I guess the Chicago Sunday Times will be all over this item for their newly trained iPhone-Photographer-Staff.

Comment edited 36 seconds after posting
1 upvote
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I like this product, but the excess of distortion at the corners itself is already a deal-breaker for me, and the vignetting this tele produces, having a magnification of only 1.5 times, ah, come on!, makes it useless. Better off zooming 1.5 x digitally.

Robert Austin Fitch Maternity Photography

I don't see this as being very useful. I'll stick with my iphone for snapshots & video and my DSLR for everything else.


This is the stupidest thing I've ever seen... Why would anyone want to carry this horrible contraption when they can get a real pocket digital camera instead?
My iPhone 5 takes nice photos but without a zoom or manual exposure or aperture controls, it is just not ready to replace a real camera.
I just bought a Canon Powershot N. 12MP, 8X optical Zoom with built-in WIFI, a 2.8" swivel touch screen and a free Canon iPhone App that lets you transfer photos wirelessly to your phone for $299... This thing is ridiculous!

1 upvote

Put an icecube over your iphone lens and you can get the same quality photos.


"You CANNOT be serious!"


Pete peterson

The dumbest fanboy review I've ever read.

"The distortion and vignetting -- and $249 price tag -- may be a deal-breaker for some photographers. "

Some photographers. :-o


Extremely poor review of an extremely poor product. The reviewer totally fails to take into account the ridiculous price when saying this like "Home button access aside, the iPhone Lens Dial is a good option for folks who want a solid case with multiple lens options."

No it isn't because it's a rip off. Ok, token mention of the prices but come on, it should have been slated as an over expensive gimmick.

1 upvote

If you're looking for a set of toy lenses for fun effects, this product is ridiculous. High price, heavy weight and clumsy. And $250 for goodness sake.

FYI, I bought the VicTsing fisheye/wide angle/macro kit from Amazon for around $15 and the pics I take looks as good as or better than the samples here.


What is the point? Buy a proper camera for the same money.


FOUR stars? I think Ms. Crabbe was just excited to be given a free toy to review. This thing is obviously garbage.

Comment edited 11 seconds after posting

Can I agree with almost everything that has already been commented?! Except I think that the argument about not using smartphones to take pictures isn't valid any more. On the other hand, the gadget reviewed here looks a little silly and I wouldn't use it. That's coming from someone who loves phones, gadgets and photography!


I agree Chris, the game is slowly changing. Phone cameras are changing and better phone cameras are being made now, but I'm not going to spend a dime making my smartyphone take better snaps. I carry my LX7 and my GN2 wherever I go.


Just buy a 300$ travelzoom cam that goes from 22-500mm and don't make yourself miserable by using a mediocre phone with lousy accessories and apps. A phone is a phone so use it as a phone. If it can take pictures so be it. If you want better pictures, buy and use a camera that can do the job properly.


Can you really call a 1.5x lens with heavy vignetting a telescope lens? To me, it is more like a filter. Just cropping an image will give you 1.5x easily.

1 upvote

Had to check the article date, but it's too late for April 1st. That is one remarkably bizarre gadget.


Fire sale in six months.

Total comments: 17
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