If you craft the right semi-trolly headline, you can get anyone to read almost anything.Cult of Mac writer Charlie Sorrel certainly succeeded with this head-scratcher, "Why iPhoneography accessories are sort of a waste of time."
I care quite a bit about photography, even the comparatively limited kind you can get from most smartphones and wondered why Sorrel would slam one of the few options we have for vastly improving iPhone photography.
First of all, iPhone 5S photography is pretty damn good. Not SLR-good, mind you, but good enough that virtually any photo you view on another iPhone or larger-screen iPad is going to look pretty sharp (prints look good, too, but who prints anything anymore?). There are, naturally, unavoidable limitations that come with a tiny auto-focus-only lens, some of which I can partially ameliorate with a decent lens accessory, just the kind that Sorrel seems to dismiss.
Choosing the right camera
Sorrel is right. The iPhone is a point-and-shoot replacement and it will never be equivalent to the best photography has to offer. People like me (and probably him), who have been taking pictures since before we could shave our whole face and can still remember the smell of fixer (part of the old analog development process), also own higher-end DSLRs or mirrorless cameras with big, interchangeable lenses. Those are great for when, say, we want to get the beauty shot or when we want a big enough lens (200mm will do) to get an up-close photo of a rarely seen snowy owl.
Charlie, though, is just plain wrong about iPhone photo accessories. I have taken some of my favorite shots with my collection of Olloclip lenses (most of which I have reviewed). I love, for instance that that little, barrel-shaped telephoto lens gets me twice as close as the iPhone. You have no idea what a difference that can make. There is, obviously, always the option of using the iPhone's built-in zoom, but then you're choosing the ultimately image-destroying digital zoom as opposed to the consistently superior optical zoom.
I admit that I have seem some iPhone telephoto lenses that add 10x to 15x magnification and wonder why. The lens is almost as big as the iPhone is long and, at that point, I'd want to switch to my Sony NEX-5 and its optional 200mm lens. One bit of guidance here: If you have a choice, always choose lenses over pixels.
I could never get a picture of snowflake or up close with a tiny spider with the iPhone 5S's standard lens, but Olloclip's 20x macro and tiny, plastic cone (for positioning the subject at just the right distance) makes it possible.
Charlie calls these accessories "bulky." Sure, they make the iPhone larger, but only as large as is absolutely necessary to make these lenses work. Perhaps I don't get his argument because I don't wear pocket-miser hipster jeans like Charlie. When I'm on assignment, I might have two or three Olloclips in my roomier jacket pocket. Usually, though, the lenses are all in my backpack and I simply fish out what I need when the mood or situation strikes me.
The fisheye lens, for example, is perfectly suited for capturing towering skyscrapers or my Vine uboxings, where I want to get close, but also pull in a lot of visual information.
Boo hoo, so hard to use
Another core part of Charlie's argument is that these lenses make the iPhone less convenient to use than a traditional camera. He defends this position with an analogy that's so off-point I won't bother repeating it. Suffice to say that Charlie thinks that using an iPhone to take a snapshot and then deciding to add an accessory like an Olloclip defeats the whole purpose of getting a candid photo. It will take you so long to find the accessory and attach it that you will miss that once-in-a-lifetime moment.
Perhaps, or you could, as I have done on occasion, leave a go-to accessory on you phone so that when you take it out of your pocket, you'll avoid fumbling with the lens while that rare Dodo toddles out of the picture.
If you think about what you'll be photographing in advance, however, you may be ready with an accessory, anyway. For a surprise image like the Dodo, well, don't be a dodo and try to grab an accessory. Get the shot with your accessory-free iPhone. If you plant your feet, hold steady and be sure to tap the screen to properly expose your subject, you'll snap a decent shot. Plus, the 8 megapixels of resolution the iPhone 5S provides is usually more than enough quality visual information for some zooming in and post-processing in iPhoto or your favorite social photo app.
Cut the bulk
At one point Sorrrel calls the accessories bulky and then says they're "so small, you’re almost guaranteed to leave a greasy fingerprint on the elements." Okay, so are these accessories small or large, Charlie? In any case, each lens ships with a case that ably doubles as a lens cleaner. There is a problem with Olloclips and other attachable accessories: Because they're often carried about in pockets and bags, they do build up some dust on the clip side, in the place where the lens should be closest to the iPhone lens. There is no easy way to clean that.
Charlie obviously doesn't hate these accessories or really even want you to stop using them. Look at the "sort of" qualifier in his headline, for heaven's sake. I suspect he was just looking around for something to write, shoved his hand into one of his skinny jean pockets, dug out an Olloclip and thought, "Eureka!"