Beyond the Canon
I’m not a photographer, but I like taking pictures. For many years I’ve relied on my small, simple, Canon PowerShot, and I continue to recommend this camera to people who are looking for an easy way to get great photos in most situations.
But there is one situation I’m in every week that my little Canon struggles with: church. I administer my church’s Facebook page, so I try to take photos at every service and post them the same day. The photos I take are “okay,” but many of them turn out grainy or blurry, mainly because of the size of the worship center and the low lighting. I have to be sitting within the first 10 rows, preferably in the center section, in order to clearly capture what’s happening on the stage.
So when I learned that there are lenses you can attach to your iPhone camera, I started investigating.
Researching new options
I wasn’t exactly sure what type of lens would most improve my low-light, big-room church shots, but it seemed like telephoto was the way to go. That decision eliminated the Olloclip 3-in-1 lens kit—it reviewed well, but the kit doesn’t include a telephoto lens.
Eventually I found the Vtec lens kit, which reviewed well and also included the three options offered by Olloclip (macro, fisheye, and wide-angle) as well as three telephoto lenses, a small tripod and clip, and a little pouch to safely carry the lenses around in.
Trying to buy
I’m not sure why, but the kit can be difficult to find. I bought mine from a place called USBfever, whose interface made me a little nervous: the overall look is dated, and the shopping buttons are less intuitive than, say, an Amazon experience. The first time I tried to place an order, it didn’t go through, and I ended up on an error page. I summoned the courage to try again, and when I returned, the kit I had selected was still in the cart, and this time my order went through.
Once my order was placed, the experience was much more reassuring. I received an email confirmation from USBfever, and then a shipping notice. I received additional notifications throughout the shipping process, which I appreciated. The item was coming from Hong Kong, so I expected it to take weeks to arrive, but it was on my doorstep in exactly a week!
Now, there is no indication on the box or in the paperwork or on any of the items that this is a Vtec product. Either Vtec’s branding isn’t very good, or I received a Hong Kong knock-off! The online images I’ve found of Vtec lenses seem to match the product I received, but the Vtec name is completely absent from everything I own. That’s unfortunate, because I really like the product and would love to be able to look at it and know who made it! Anyway…
I have to admit, it’s a little more obtrusive to take photos during church with a telephoto lens stuck on the back of your iPhone. But the lenses easily screw into the special iPhone case that comes in the kit, so connecting them and disconnecting them as needed is not a big deal.
The 9x telephoto is the only lens I brought with me the first Sunday I tested my new capabilities. It took some getting used to! The lens has to be focused manually, and when the focus is sharp enough, the iPhone’s auto-focus can take over. Many of my pictures were blurry until I got the hang of the manual focus, and I still need to improve my focusing skills. But I appreciate the new options a telephoto lens can provide.
I’m not sure how much use I’ll have for a wide-angle lens, but I might start taking it to church with me for those occasions when a large group is gathered on stage or the musicians are standing far apart.
I’ve never used a macro lens before, so I was impressed to see the kind of detail I am now able to capture with my iPhone camera.
To sum up…
I love these Vtec lenses! I’m sure they are not good enough for a serious photographer with a big-money camera, but for an amateur like me—who often needs a camera handy and always has her iPhone with her—it makes sense to find a way to take these lenses along as well. My guess is, I won’t need all of the lenses in the kit (what in the world do people use a fisheye lens for?), but the per-piece price of the kit was good enough to warrant my getting them all, and then experimenting and learning. If you already know what kind of lens you would get the most use from, you can buy that lens separately and not waste money on lenses you don’t need.
If you want to purchase from USBfever, here’s a [non-affiliate] link directly to the full kit: Vtec iPhone lens kit
And if you do decide to trick out your iPhone or other smart-phone camera, let me know in the comments below!