Design: A bounty of accessories
CamKix gives you everything you could possibly need to set up your own iPhone photo shoot. The kit features four lenses and a slew of accessories. Included in the kit are fisheye, macro and wide-angle lenses, along with a ridiculously long 8x telephoto lens. You also get a case with threaded lens mount, phone clip with tripod threading, minitripod, felt carrying bag, and not one, but two cleaning cloths. Tripod aside, all this gear fits neatly into the included bag.
At first I thought I had lost a lens, but upon closer inspection I noticed that the macro and wide-angle lenses are screwed together. The wide-angle, fisheye and macro lenses are constructed out of durable brushed aluminum.
The monstrous 8x telephoto features a plastic body and has its own focusing ring, something that you will have to get used to if you hope to take advantage of the sizeable lens. I really liked the phone clip that not only works with the included minitripod, but also with any standard tripod, as well as with other smartphones.
The iPhone 5s fit snugly into the case, which is on par quality-wise with many basic cases that cost $20 or more just by themselves.
Ease of Use: Each piece in its place
Each element in the CamKix kit is straightforward and works as advertised. Lenses screw into the mount without issue. Even the large telephoto stays securely attached, although the tripod (or any other tripod) becomes a necessity. Otherwise, camera shake with the 8x lens quickly becomes unmanageable.
One hitch occurred with the combo macro/wide-angle lens. In the office, I had no trouble separating the two, but during testing outside in the summer heat, I found myself completely unable to unscrew one lens from the other. Don't screw them together too tightly.
The telephoto lens also has a couple of issues aside from its silly appearance when attached to a phone. The 2.75-inch-long lens juts out from the case, providing a sharp contrast to the other, smaller and more innocuous lenses. Focus adjustment can also be a little finicky, as you have to battle both the telephoto's manual focus and the iPhone autofocus.
Quality of Images: Wide-Angle, Fisheye, Macro, and Telephoto
First, check out this control photo using the stock iPhone 5s, so you can see how the lenses change the view and affect aspects like sharpness, distortion and color accuracy.
Wide-Angle Lens: Blurry
CamKix produced our least favorite wide-angle shots. Even with a perfectly seated iPhone, and many attempts, the photo suffers some cropping on the top and bottom left. While focus on the details in the arch is mostly sharp, it falls off quickly the farther you get from the focal point. The photo also features significant chromatic aberration — the inability to focus colors correctly — something that all CamKix lenses displayed.
CamKix does better with its fisheye photos. In this picture, the man in the purple shirt is well defined, even though he is far from the focus point on the arch.
8x Telephoto: Extreme close-up
CamKix's huge, 8x telephoto lens is both fun and frustrating to use. Focus is difficult to nail, and the edges of the images are quite soft. Focus in the center (in this case, the man in the red shirt) is good, but distortion quickly encroaches outward from him, with chromatic aberration creeping in near the edges.
Annoyances aside, the telephoto lens is a lot of fun to use, and delivers a sort of undercover surveillance feeling with its massive, 8x magnification. It can even double as a spyglass, sans phone, for bird watching or getting a better view in a play or concert.
We have included below a test shot using the stock iPhone 5s camera, so you can see what the Camkix macro lens add.
Photos of the $2 bill feature good quality in the center, but with focus falling away quickly to the sides. I liked being able to see where the ink bled out along the text during printing, but I wish the sides appeared sharper.
At about $43, the CamKix kit is easily one of the least expensive lens kits around. We just wish it were easier to separate some of the lenses. Overall, the assortment of accessories and four different lenses make the Camkix one of the better values in this category.