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People often ask us what the “best” camera is. While you can debate the merits of various pieces of hardware, when it comes down to it, the best camera is the one you have with you when you want to take a photograph. Which, for a lot of people, ends up being an iPhone. The iPhone camera is great for snapshots, but what if you could use all the glass from your SLR to push your iPhone to even greater creative possibilities? For that, you’ll need Turtleback’s iPhone SLR Mount.
When we saw the mount featured on the always clever photography site photojojo.com, we knew we had to take it for a spin. We didn’t expect the mount to replicate the quality of our DSLR cameras, but we did hope it would give us another way to use our SLR lenses creatively. Installation is fairly straightforward, although aligning its included focusing screen was a little tricky. Switching lenses as you shoot is also a bit cumbersome, requiring you to take off the lens, remove a lens ring mount, reattach the ring to another lens, and reattach that to the mount. It’s not so bad, except you have to do it all without getting dust on the focusing screen. It takes a few times before you get the hang of it.
The same photo, 3 ways: with the iPhone Lens Mount and Nikkor 14mm f/2.8 lens, iPhone 4, Nikon D200 & Nikkor lens.
Taking photos with the lens mount wasn’t the most expedient process either. You have to manually focus and adjust aperture settings, which doesn’t always produce the fastest results. But then again, if you’ve got DSLR lenses in the first place, you’re probably at least moderately versed in how to use them. But it’s worth noting that you’ll be shooting manually here.
Framing shots, on the other hand, can be particularly challenging. Lacking a mirror to properly orient the image from the lens, everything you see on the iPhone’s screen will be upside down. You can remedy the situation with a free app called Almost DSLR, but it was so buggy and unreliable that it was easier to stick with seeing everything inverted. And since everything is upside down, you’ll have to manually rotate images after the fact.
Undaunted by usability quirks, we used the mount with a variety of fixed lenses, which were the least bulky on the already large mount. Our test lenses included a 50mm f/1.8 lens, a wide angle 14mm f/2.8 lens, and an ultra-wide 10.5mm f/2.8 lens fisheye.
Using a 50mm f/1.8 lens with the iPhone Lens Mount produces depth of field effects that would otherwise be unachievable.
Unfortunately, the fisheye showed so much of its hood in the iPhone viewfinder that it was ultimately unusable. With the others, focusing was difficult. The fine folks at Photojojo told us that the trick to focusing is to use the iPhone’s screen to focus, and make manual micro-adjustments with our lens. Sometimes, this process worked great. Other times it was nearly impossible to focus at all. And it was moderately cumbersome all of the time.
When it comes down to it, we really liked the photos we took with the mount, although dust was a constant problem. Using an f/1.8 lens got us some satisfying bokeh, our wide angle looked especially wide on the iPhone, and the included UV filter produced beautiful blue skies.
The bottom line. It’s an interesting iPhone add-on, but given the usability issues, we’re not entirely sold on the iPhone SLR Mount. It doesn’t really replace an SLR, and it all but obliterates the easy portability and usability of your iPhone, leaving us scratching our heads to find a reason to use it besides “because you can.”
iPhone SLR Mount
iPhone, Nikon or Canon SLR lenses
Allows you to use your existing SLR lenses with your iPhone.
Gigantic lens attachment mount. Hard to focus properly. Viewfinder and resulting images are upside down. Takes too much time to switch lenses. Mount accumulates dust inside.