During CE Week 2014, we met the creators of the Ztylus, which I heralded as one of my favorite products of the event. The Ztylus is a fancy-looking and inexpensive “lens revolver” kit that attaches to your smartphone via a sturdy case. It did not take long for me to grab my own Ztylus so I could give it a try and see if it was as good in my hands as it was when I hyped it in my head.
Currently available for iPhone 5/5s and 6, as well as the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3, the Ztylus is two parts which you can buy separately. There is the camera case itself, which is made from polycarbonate plastic and aluminum, and features a two-position kickstand, which is removable for the lens revolver. Speaking of, the lens revolver is the second piece, which houses your four interchangeable lenses – macro, wide angle, fish eye, and a CPL filter, a lens that essentially reduces glare from the sun.
You might notice from the product image on the top of this article that there are only three lenses visible on the revolver. That is because the wide angle lens is housed in the same spot as the macro lens, which is accessible by gently unscrewing the wide angle lens on top to reveal the macro lens underneath it. The macro lens offers a 10x multiplier on whatever your subject is, and requires you to get extremely close to the subject to make it work best (if you were not close, what would the point of macro be?).
The fish eye lens gives you a 160 degree field of view, which adds a very wide distortion intended to create that distinctive panoramic or hemispherical image (so you can finally take photos like you were in a Busta Rhymes music video). The wide angle lens offers a slightly wider view with your lens, although I recommend not using the zoom on your phones and keeping it a fixed distance, or physically moving closer towards your subject. Lastly, the CPL attachment improves saturation while reducing glare, giving your photos a brighter and more colorful appearance, while making the lighting more natural and subdued. This is very good for bright landscapes or waterfront, but is good for general use to give you nice colors without adding digital filters.
Here are a few examples to show you the differences:
Fish eye lens
Wide angle lens
Macro (this was a shot of some Tamarind candy)
I did not include any shots with the CPL attachment since none of them were as interesting as the other lens, and most people who purchase this kit would be more interested in the more dynamic lenses anyway.
The fish eye lens is a ton of fun and definitely gives you some of the most stylish photos. The downside is that you do have a cropped look to the pics and can see the edges of the lens in your photos, but that is the price you pay for that look.
The macro lens is my favorite of all the lenses in the revolver. With insane amounts of detail, the macro lens is a powerful little guy that provides gorgeous textures that would be otherwise impossible to achieve with any other iPhone lens, and especially with your phone’s digital zoom. Despite the digital zoom improving on smart phones, nothing can beat a physical lens that is built for a specific purpose, and this lens revolver kit offers you some very distinct photo looks that beat the pants off your average instagram photo.
Fish eye lens with lunch? Why not.
How about a side of fries with that? Here they are a la fish eye…
And here they are at wide angle…
And here they are, macro style.
Cherry italian ice shot with fish eye?
How about cherry italian ice macro? Now that looks delicious!
The lens revolver kit is just as great as I hoped it would be. As for the case, which we have barely discussed, I really love the look of it. I was reviewing the iPhone 5S version of the kit, which makes it look like an old SLR camera like my grandfather used to use, and I love the vintage look. The Galaxy versions look more futuristic, but both serve the same function. They are very solid cases that are scratch resistant and very hard, while not being brittle. Putting the case on the phone was incredibly simple, but you should be warned that the single screw you have to turn to loosen the case enough to slip your phone onto it will be extremely tight. Some hot water should loosen it up if that is a problem for you, but otherwise it was unbelievably easy to use. Same goes for putting the revolver onto the case – just remove the kickstand and gently screw the revolver kit into the empty spot.
This lens kit can stand up there with the competitors and not only go toe-to-toe with them, but might be the next big innovation in camera attachments for smartphones (until they can start putting real camera lens onto your phone). The Ztylus did not disappoint in any way and is a lot of fun to use and play with, both for pros and casual smart phone users who want to take some cool pics.
You can order the Ztylus ZGS-4K Camera Case & Revolver Lens Kit for Samsung Galaxy S4 or the Ztylus case & Revolver 4-IN-1 lens kit for Apple iPhone 5S from Amazon at these links here. Separately, the case is around $30-40, while the lens revolver kit is about $60-70, so it makes sense to buy them as a pair, and is a very good price when you factor in getting a case that will last the lifespan of your phone and a lens kit that keeps on giving.